Thursday, September 28, 2017

Not a Super Teacher? That's O.K.

I read this article on Bored Teachers and thought I would share it.  I don't want to steal the link away from the author so here is the first paragraph, and if I grabs your attention, hit the link to keep reading.

Image result for not so superhero

The internet has ruined us. Everywhere you look these days you see viral videos of these “Super Teachers” as if they are the new Batman or something. I’m here to say this isn’t real. The new age of “super teachers” has created a larger gap in the teaching profession than a timed multiplication test does in our classrooms. There are a select few of these “super teachers” in every district that are so extra in their teaching life that it makes the rest of us look inferior or that we aren’t trying. I am all for reaching the kids and finding something that sticks, but this is a tad bit unrealistic for the other 99% of us.

"I am not a Super Teacher and I'm okay with that. I don’t need a cape. It doesn’t match my wrinkled khakis anyway."

Keep Reading

Wednesday, September 27, 2017


The Timeline seen above was created using Tiki-Toki.  I present it here for two reasons:

1. It shows a timeline of challenged books over the years and gives why they were challenged.  It is interesting to see how values changed over the years.

2. This is another bit of tech that you may wish to incorporate into your classroom (consider this a Tech Tuesday a day late).  Tiki-Toki is not a site I have ever used, but it seems similar in many respects to Padlet.  I love Padlet, so my feeling is that this site has some value for class use.  I would love to hear from anyone who has used it.

Monday, September 25, 2017

Banned Book Week 2017

Banned Book Week Is Here!

Here are the most challenged books of 2016 (according to the ALA):

1. This One Summer written by Mariko Tamaki and illustrated by Jillian Tamaki
Reasons: challenged because it includes LGBT characters, drug use and profanity, and it was considered sexually explicit with mature themes

2. Drama written and illustrated by Raina Telgemeier
Reasons: challenged because it includes LGBT characters, was deemed sexually explicit, and was considered to have an offensive political viewpoint
3. George written by Alex Gino
Reasons: challenged because it includes a transgender child, and the “sexuality was not appropriate at elementary levels”
4. I Am Jazz written by Jessica Herthel and Jazz Jennings, and illustrated by Shelagh McNicholas
Reasons: challenged because it portrays a transgender child and because of language, sex education, and offensive viewpoints
5. Two Boys Kissing written by David Levithan
Reasons: challenged because its cover has an image of two boys kissing, and it was considered to include sexually explicit LGBT content
6. Looking for Alaska written by John Green
Reasons: challenged for a sexually explicit scene that may lead a student to “sexual experimentation”
7. Big Hard Sex Criminals written by Matt Fraction and illustrated by Chip Zdarsky
Reason: challenged because it was considered sexually explicit
8. Make Something Up: Stories You Can’t Unread written by Chuck Palahniuk
Reasons: challenged for profanity, sexual explicitness, and being “disgusting and all around offensive”
9. Little Bill (series) written by Bill Cosby and and illustrated by Varnette P. Honeywood
Reason: challenged because of criminal sexual allegations against the author
10. Eleanor & Park written by Rainbow Rowell
Reason: challenged for offensive language

I have not read any of the books on the list this year.  Have you?

You can get banned books lists going way back, plus lists for specific types (classics, young adult, etc.) by going to

Friday, September 22, 2017

What If Teachers Were Treated Like Professional Athletes

Here's a funny video my nephew shared with me a while back on Facebook.  The comments other people put below it were rather awful, but the video itself if very funny.

Unfortunately, since it is not a YouTube video, I'll just have to pass the link onto where you can watch it.

That's pretty much everyday here where I work.  Enjoy!

Wednesday, September 20, 2017

Writing Wednesday: Texter

Here's a quick and fun writing web site for when you are teaching a poetry unit or teaching creative writing.


Texter allows you to take your text and draw with it.  

It's fun to play with at the very least.  At its best, it becomes the medium for a beautiful work of visual poetry.

Monday, September 18, 2017

Arrgh, Matey! Shiver Me Timbers!

Don't forget!  Tomorrow is International Talk Like a Pirate Day!  Time to get your pirattitude ready!

If nothing else, it is a great way to annoy your students (or remind them of this day on their way out and have them annoy your colleagues!

And if you need some guidance, here is a list of pirate phrases from

All hands hoay = Everyone get on the deck
Avast ye = Pay attention
Black spot = Death threat
Dungbie = Rear end
Hornswaggle = To cheat
Shiver me timbers = An expression used to show shock or disbelief
Abaft = Back area of the boat
Duffle = A sailor's belongings
Head = Toilet on board the ship
Monkey = Small cannon
Poop deck = Deck that is the highest and farthest back
Freebooter = Refers to an actual pirate
Landlubber = A person who is not incredibly skilled at sea
Davy Jones' Locker = Refers to death
Ahoy, matey = Hello, friend
Batten down the hatches = A signal to prepare the ship for an upcoming storm
Blimey! = Something said when one is in a state of surprise
Blow the man down = A command which means to kill somebody
Booty = Treasure
Buccaneer = Name for a pirate
Crow's nest = The place on the ship where the lookout stand is built
Feed the fish = Meaning that an individual or group of individuals will soon die
Heave ho = Instruction to put some strength into whatever one is doing
Jolly Roger = The famous pirate flag with a skull and crossbones on it
Man-O-War = The name used for a pirate ship that is all set and ready to go to war
Old salt = A sailor that has a great deal of experience on the seas
Scallywag = A name that is used as an insult to someone
Scuttle = To sink a ship
Seadog = An old sailor or pirate
Shark bait = Going to die soon
Thar she blows! = An expression used when a whale is spotted from the ship
Walk the plank = A punishment which entails someone who walks over the side of the ship off of the plank. Their hands are often tied so that they cannot swim and they drowned.
Yo Ho Ho = There is often used to express some sort of cheer but also can be used to call attention to the speaker.

Thursday, September 14, 2017

Yes, Virginia, There Is a Santa Claus

On September 21st, 1897, The Sun ran this letter to the editor and its famous response:

DEAR EDITOR: I am 8 years old.
Some of my little friends say there is no Santa Claus.
Papa says, 'If you see it in THE SUN it's so.'
Please tell me the truth; is there a Santa Claus?


VIRGINIA, your little friends are wrong. They have been affected by the skepticism of a skeptical age. They do not believe except what they see. They think that nothing can be which is not comprehensible by their little minds. All minds, Virginia, whether they be men's or children's, are little. In this great universe of ours man is a mere insect, an ant, in his intellect, as compared with the boundless world about him, as measured by the intelligence capable of grasping the whole of truth and knowledge.

Yes, VIRGINIA, there is a Santa Claus. He exists as certainly as love and generosity and devotion exist, and you know that they abound and give to your life its highest beauty and joy. Alas! how dreary would be the world if there were no Santa Claus. It would be as dreary as if there were no VIRGINIAS. There would be no childlike faith then, no poetry, no romance to make tolerable this existence. We should have no enjoyment, except in sense and sight. The eternal light with which childhood fills the world would be extinguished.

Not believe in Santa Claus! You might as well not believe in fairies! You might get your papa to hire men to watch in all the chimneys on Christmas Eve to catch Santa Claus, but even if they did not see Santa Claus coming down, what would that prove? Nobody sees Santa Claus, but that is no sign that there is no Santa Claus. The most real things in the world are those that neither children nor men can see. Did you ever see fairies dancing on the lawn? Of course not, but that's no proof that they are not there. Nobody can conceive or imagine all the wonders there are unseen and unseeable in the world.

You may tear apart the baby's rattle and see what makes the noise inside, but there is a veil covering the unseen world which not the strongest man, nor even the united strength of all the strongest men that ever lived, could tear apart. Only faith, fancy, poetry, love, romance, can push aside that curtain and view and picture the supernal beauty and glory beyond. Is it all real? Ah, VIRGINIA, in all this world there is nothing else real and abiding.

No Santa Claus! Thank God! he lives, and he lives forever. A thousand years from now, Virginia, nay, ten times ten thousand years from now, he will continue to make glad the heart of childhood.

So as the anniversary of this printing comes forward, you may wish to incorporate it into your classroom.  If nothing else, expose the kids to this bit of American culture.  Use it in journalism class to discuss the responsibility of the newspaper.  Just give the class the original letter and let them respond to it before showing the editor's response (could be a great way to teach audience). Use it for a reading comprehension practice (I have one here that I used for ninth grade regular level: Reading Comprehension Practice).  Use it to spark a letter writing exercise and then write letters to editors of your newspapers.

Anyone else use this letter in their class?  If so, how?

Merry Christmas!

Wednesday, September 13, 2017

Weird Cover Wednesday

I know we all have a book in us.  The point of weird cover Wednesday is to serve as inspiration.  If these books can get printed, surely you can get one out there!  Creative writing teacher?  You can use these as a warm up writing assignment.  You can give them the title and cover picture and tell them they have fifteen minutes to start the story or to write a summary of it.

Our first one is a cautionary tale for children:

Tuesday, September 12, 2017


During the summer, I teach at Duke Young Writers Camp.  It is a blast being around students who love to write.  One of my colleagues there just published a book.  It is out today, as a matter of fact.

Nyxia, by Scott Reintgen

Here is the back of the book:

Every life has a price in this sci-fi thriller that has the nonstop action of The Maze Runner and the high-stakes space setting of Illuminae. This is the first in a new three-book series called the Nyxia Triad that will take a group of broken teens to the far reaches of the universe and force them to decide what they’re willing to risk for a lifetime of fortune.

Emmett Atwater isn’t just leaving Detroit; he’s leaving Earth. Why the Babel Corporation recruited him is a mystery, but the number of zeroes on their contract has him boarding their lightship and hoping to return to Earth with enough money to take care of his family.


Before long, Emmett discovers that he is one of ten recruits, all of whom have troubled pasts and are a long way from home. Now each recruit must earn the right to travel down to the planet of Eden—a planet that Babel has kept hidden—where they will mine a substance called Nyxia that has quietly become the most valuable material in the universe.

But Babel’s ship is full of secrets. And Emmett will face the ultimate choice: win the fortune at any cost, or find a way to fight that won’t forever compromise what it means to be human.

I'm hoping that he makes it big and can't wait to get my hands on a copy.  Good luck Scott!

Buy it here!

Wednesday, September 6, 2017

Writing Wednesday: Inkle Writer

You remember those books -

  • If you press the red button, turn to page 67 
  • If you press the green button, turn to page 98
  • If you just sit down and cry, mourning the bad choices of your life, turn the page
When I was a high school student, I wrote one of these as a class project.  It was super hard to do back in those ancient days.  It was still a lot of fun, though.

Well, now the fun got easier.  Inkle Studios has a web site that is free to use which sets up the process for writing an interactive story.  It is called Inkle Writer.

You can find this at  It is free and you don't even need to make an account to use it, although you cannot save it without an account.  I've had it for a few days now and not once have I received an email or even a blast of emails from them pestering me to do this or that, as often happens when you sign up for free sites.

When you want to write the follow up to a choice, just hit the little arrow and it pulls that section up to write.  It even keeps track of your loose ends (parts of the story you did not finish).  When it is time to share the story, move over to READ MODE.  

When you are ready to share it, they give you a web link.

Creative Writing teachers can find uses for this right away, but even regular English teachers can use this a free write practice or project possibilities.  Rewrite Romeo and Juliet, Macbeth, or The Odyssey in an interactive form.  

This is also a good way for young writers interested in writing for video games to practice getting used to the interactive story they would need to be able to tell.

Monday, September 4, 2017

Bayeux Tapestry

I love 1066 and the whole story of that year.  I use it with my seniors to teach note taking skills (along with other things) and I lecture the story.  I've written about that before when I mentioned creating a sound board to give lectures a little more umpph.

If you cover 1066 and the Bayeux Tapestry at all, here are a few resources you can use.

1.The first is an animated version of the tapestry.  These guys made a video that appears like they took a camera and panned the whole tapestry.  On top of that, they added a little background music and with the wonders of technology, made the art move.  This way your students can see the art style, but it may hold their attention a second or two longer.

2. There is also a site where someone has broken the tapestry into 35 easier to see sections.  An extra credit assignment I offer to my more artistic students is to take a piece of cloth 8" by 30" and recreated in someway a section from that site.  My hope is that one day I'll have all 35 sections hanging on my wall.  The site is found here:

3. Create your own.  A quick search on the net allows you to find several false sections of the Bayeux tapestry, such as this one:

Unfortunately, no longer seems to work.  However, you can still use the Wayback Machine to find a working version.  It is quite clever and allows you to pull in images from the tapestry and recreate them for the tale you wish to tell.  The dashboard and working space look like this:

I saved it by taking a screenshot.  Students can use this to play around on or as a project for a later story where they use the images to make a Macbeth version of the Bayeux tapestry or something similar.

4. An while we are on a Game of Thrones kick, here is Game of Thrones in Bayeux Tapestry style.