Tuesday, September 22, 2020

Tech Tuesday - Customizable Progress Indicator Charts

 Today I'm going to show you how to have an easy to update progress indicator chart on your web page to keep track of points or stars or whatever incentives you use to keep your students happy and engaged.

In my mythology class, we complete old Medusa Exams and every question correct is a slain gorgon my hero students can claim victory over.

Now that I am in Remote Learning mode, I am using it in my English IV classes to give points whenever someone participates in our Remote Learning Showdown.  I am giving them the ability to spend those points to get things (bonus points on a quiz, homework pass, etc.).

Now, I did NOT figure out how to do this myself.  I found this on Flippity.net.  You can get the template here: https://www.flippity.net/ProgressIndicator.htm

The instructions for how to put it on your class page are all there.  You can post the chart on your class page and you update it just by accessing a simple Google Spreadsheet.  Change the numbers and the web version automatically updates.  That's simple!  Whoever made this chart rates as Extreme! in my book!

If you have some other way of keeping kids engaged, or if you use this/plan to use this - let me know in the comments!

Thursday, September 17, 2020

Why You Should Try Using Edpuzzle to Read Aloud for Asynchronous Learning Based on Unmotivated Student's Recommendation

So I, like so many of us, am trying to get my head around teaching a novel with my students while we are in remote setting.  I chose to start with The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time since it is a book almost every student enjoys, regardless of their love or ability to read (can't say that about many books, that's for sure).

The book does very well with in class reading, so I tried some reading over Zoom.  That works OK.  So then I decided to record myself reading on Edpuzzle to see how that works.

After each chapter I added the questions  I would normally want them to answer (though I must confess for this trial run I made most of them multiple choice for ease - I know, I know... lazy teacher....).  I have some students who are reading ahead, so I took off the PREVENT SKIPPING option so that they could read on their own and just skip to the questions when they needed to do it.

Before I had a chance the next day to ask students how they felt about it, I had one of my less motivated readers ask if we could do that again because it really helped him.  Let me make sure you understand this - a student who normally keeps his mic muted and camera off and hates to read, took the initiative to unmute his mic and make an unsolicited comment over Zoom about liking a reading assignment.  See why I took notice now?

So, what are YOU doing that is getting your remote learners involved in reading?

Monday, September 14, 2020

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 next week, 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!

Thursday, September 10, 2020

Damn Spot

 A friend of mine posted this on her Facebook page.  I don't know who this Miss Robinson, but she is an EXTREME ENGLISH TEACHER and I would feel awesome if I found out she reads this blog!

Tuesday, September 8, 2020

Tech Tuesday - Drag and Drop Google Slides

Hello all!  I wanted to create something different for my students to complete for vocabulary practice, so I made a Google Slides Presentation that they can manipulate in a drag and drop sort of way.  The video below is quick and painless and then I have a quick breakdown for follow up directions:

Quick Directions:

  1. Create a Google Slides Presentation.  Go ahead and write and put images on the screen that you do NOT want to be moved by the student.
  2. Go into PRESENT mode and take a screen shot.  Edit it to trim away anything but the presentation screen.
  3. Back in Slides, pick a fresh slide, hit BACKGROUND and CHOOSE IMAGE.  Put your screen shot as the background image.
  4. Place your manipulatives by either adding text boxes or images to the screen.
It's that simple!

If you want to use my sample presentation, you can find it here: https://docs.google.com/presentation/d/1A1f3Lh1z3F8WIbGjuXhKnCgGE_Pe8hcAcwFsRFrMvwo/edit#slide=id.g96e2764824_0_116

If you have any other manipulative idea, let us know in the comments!  We love hearing from our fellow Extreme Teachers!  

Oh, and here is a handy way to grade these things - below is a red X that I use to put over a wrong answer so that students will know what to work on.  Once I import the image into one, I just copy it and paste it whenever I need it.

Of course, feel free to use Darth Vader yelling, "NOOOOOOOOO!" or Gandalf saying, "You shall not pass!" if you are feeling cheeky.

And, of course, you might find the check mark helpful as well:

*Up Date* - While I am never one to want to do a 'gotcha' on students (in fact, I often set up assignments to where cheating can actually be a learning experience - I'll have to go into that on a later post), I also do not like being bamboozled.   It is easy for students to share a copy of their graded assignment with a student.  I graded one recently with a word I have moved in another student's copy.  It seemed odd to me that this student's copy also had that word moved.  I did a quick version history and saw the original he started with, complete with my red X marks for the other student.  I do not want to NOT take late work and I know that whenever I grade assignments and hand them back (either paper or digitally), the ability for students to copy work is abundant. So here are few ways you can tell if a student's digital Slides presentation is just a flat out copy of a graded submission:

- In the notes section on the first slide, just hit enter five or six times and type the student's name.  This way, if you pull up a student later and do NOT see the 'Click to add speaker notes', then you know it was copied and you have a record of who allowed their work to be copied as well.

-Change the background color of the last slide.  You won't know who allowed their work to be copied, but it will be easy to spot that you have a copied version.

Thursday, September 3, 2020

Adding Someone to Your Canvas Account (without having to wait for IT)

 We recently ran into a problem - my wife and I are both teachers and we cannot access our daughter's Canvas page even though we followed the guidelines for parent observers.  The problem?  Every time we try to access Canvas, it reverts to our teacher account and then we no longer have parent observation status.  My wife asked IT and they were not much help.

So I figured a work around.

This method should work for ANYONE who you would like to add to your Canvas page - a co-teacher, a mentor, a parent, an EC case manager - whoever you would like.

FIRST STEP - Open your page and choose PEOPLE

SECOND STEP - Click the blue +PEOPLE button on the right side of your screen.

THIRD & FOURTH STEP -  Put the email of the person you want to add in the big box, then select the role drop down menu

FIFTH STEP - Choose what role you want that person to have then click NEXT.


SEVENTH STEP - Make sure your observer has your link to your course (just grab that from the URL).  Relax!  You’re done!  You should get a tech credit for doing this!

Need this in a handy dandy print out?  Here you go! https://docs.google.com/document/d/1NgBpMH5npFbe6-x60FDh4VO30XYaMpPVQaza-vnfXhg/edit

Friday, August 28, 2020

Friday Film Festival: The Lord of the Flies - Modern Classics Summarized

Overly Sarcastic Productions breaks down literature classics in a rather sharp manner!  Watch their take on Lord of the Flies:

Check out my Lord of the Flies survival game you can play in class (if we ever safely get back to a classroom setting, that is). http://lordalford.com/lotf/lotfframeset.htm

Do you do anything special for Lord of the Flies when you teach it?  Let us know in the comments section!

Tuesday, August 25, 2020

Online Grammar Practice at Grammar Bytes

Several months ago, I told you about letting Grammar Bytes challenge you and your students each week.  Grammar Bytes is more than just a Twitter challenge, though.

You can also use their online practice for some low-stress grammar work.  Students can just do it online, or you can print out the Grammar Bytes answer sheet for them to record their responses (though since the site gives the answers away, it is not a good assignment for grading and assessing). 

Each practice explains what the concepts are that it is practicing, then provides questions like this:

If the student gets it right, they win a prize!

Plus a satisfying "WOW!" from the computer simulated audience!

If your student is wrong, they still get a prize, but...

Not bad for some formative assessing and for some laughs as kids hear "WOW!" or "MOO!" ringing out from various computers across the room.

Thursday, August 20, 2020

Mythic Monday: The Hero Journey's Guidebook


I learned about Zak Hamby back when I was doing a mythology based blog many years ago and he was known as Mr. Mythology.  His work he gave away on his site back then was awesome and I enjoyed our email chats about this god or that monster.

Since then he has moved on to open up a site and store called Creative English Teacher.  He doles out helpful advice, shares materials, and offers up books and units for sale from time to time.

He is best known for his reader's theater.  I have used some of his plays for my mythology class and have yet to be disappointed in a purchase.  I see he has a new book out and thought I would throw a little advertisement his way.

The Hero’s Journey Guidebook is a great resource for middle and high school literature and mythology classes as an explanation of Campbell’s Hero’s Quest and as a guidebook to help students write their own hero’s journey in an English or a creative writing class.  This is not a textbook, it is a guidebook engages students (it did me!) to think about the hero’s journey with characters they know, characters they create, and their own lives.  

Here is what you get in this guidebook:

  - Examples for each stage of the journey from mythology, classic stories, and modern pop culture that will make it easy for students to grasp.  In fact, on one page, there are allusions to Aladdin, Hercules, Star Wars, Cinderella, Norse mythology, The Little Mermaid, and Harry Potter.

  - Guiding questions for each section that encourage students to think about where they have noticed this element before in movies, games, and books. The questions are centered around a hero of the student’s choosing so that they will be invested even more.

  - Writing tips for every stage and section of the journey so that students can apply what they are learning in their own stories.  A teacher could easily build a whole creative writing unit around the hero’s journey using this book’s writing tips.

  - Original illustrations by Hamby that are pleasing to look at and make the overall feel of the book fun and inviting. 

Zak doesn't just write about the journey, he talks to the students throughout the book.  I'm going to put some of this to practice in my mythology class next semester.

You can buy it off of Amazon or cut out the middle man and go straight to the source at his store.

Tuesday, August 18, 2020

Tech Tuesday: Playing a Video Clip on Zoom without the Lag

 You are an extreme teacher and as an extreme teacher, you know that sometimes the literature is meant to be seen!  Shakespeare was meant to be experienced!  Grammar is more interesting with cartoon characters! You can't teach 'plethora' as a vocabulary word without using the clip from The Three Amigos!

Alas, you are teaching remotely and video clips on Zoom are laggy and frustrating to watch.  So, guess you'll just have to forego the clip.

Not so!  There are three things you need to do.

1. Get some decent Internet - Easier said than done in my neck of the woods.  I have such poor service (on a rare good day, I'll have 3 mbps) that I can't always watch Netflix.  When my two kids and wife are also online and all of us are streaming our lessons, it is impossible.  But, if you can work from your school or you have good service at home, you're golden.  You will need a recommended 1.5 Mbps upload speed.  You can test your computer's speed by typing SPEED TEST into Google and clicking the first link.

2. Click the box - When you go to SHARE SCREEN, make sure to click the box below for OPTIMIZE SCREEN SHARING FOR VIDEO CLIP

Yeah, it was right there the whole time, but don't beat yourself up for not seeing it - no one does!  Plus there is another step, young Padawan.

3. Ignore Zoom's Advice and only share a portion of your screen - Zoom tells you to make your video full screen, but in my tests, there was still a small lag happening after I optimized it.  Click the ADVANCE tab top middle of your share screen.

When you get to that screen, click PORTION OF SCREEN

When I share my screen, I'll get a color box.  Arrange that color box over the video you wish to show.  

See that green box?  Anything that is in that green box will show to the students.  It will make it full screen on their computer.  Once we did that, we had no lag at all.  

Now, only use the optimize button for when you show video clips.  If you are like me and you have two monitors, when you optimize, you will stop seeing the gallery view, chat, participants, etc. on your first monitor.

And there you go.  If you have another Zoom tip or you just want to talk about how awesome The Three Amigos is, then leave a comment!

Friday, August 14, 2020

It's that time of year again

 It's that time of year again when district takes up all of your workdays with important workshops and meetings so they can help us be the best teachers ever!

Tuesday, August 11, 2020

Tech Tuesday: Using Socrative to Take Attendance in Remote Learning Classrooms

My district is starting back 100% online for the first quarter (at least).  We are to take attendance with our synchronous classes, but that is going to be easier said than done.  With kids coming in and out due to Internet issues and whatnot, this will be no checking the seating chart and marking absent the empty seats.  Plus, with the shorter class time, we need to make the best use of the time we have.  

Enter the exit ticket. Now, I've never been a big fan of exit tickets in my classroom (or for PD I attend), but I think the move to online makes this more relevant to me.  Socrative makes this pretty easy.  There is no account for the student to apply for, no passwords or usernames to remember, and no lengthy log in.  

First, you will need to set up an account.  It will ask you to create a room name.  Make it interesting and easy since this will be how students find you.

Second, pull up Socrative so it is ready.  When you are ready to open the exit ticket, just click Exit Ticket.

You'll notice the question options at the bottom of the screen.  I'll talk about that in a later post.

The Exit Ticket Screen is now ready.  It is as simple as that.  The questions are already pre-generated so while that takes away some autonomy from your planning, I think you will see it still allows for that.  Here are the questions:

1. How well did you understand today's material?  This is a multiple choice question.

2. What did you learn in today's class? This is open-ended and gives students a chance to alert you if they were confused on a topic.

3. Please answer the teacher's question. This is your chance to make it fun , engaging, thought-provoking, or just silly (Who would win, ninjas riding sharks or pirates with lasers?).  You can use this to find out more about student's understanding or use it to find out more about students in general.  You do not enter your question into Socrative.  Just tell your students what the question of the day is.  I will be using it to ask questions to help me get to know students better.  I suggest trying to make a goal of shooting out a quick email to a student now and then based off of their response.  This will serve two purposes - 1. students will know that what they are doing is being read (and therefore has some value), and 2. it will help you establish rapport with students in a manner similar to how you would engage in conversation before and after class.  Need some ideas?  Here are some ready to go thought-provoking questions

The REPORTS page automatically saves the results from ANYTHING you do on Socrative.  I did not know about that feature until looking at it for exit ticket abilities, and when I pulled it up, there was every question I ever asked on it going back to 2015.  Never once did I save anything intentionally.

What does your student have to do to log into this?  Simply go to socrative.com and click student.  It will ask for their name and the teacher room name.  No accounts.  No passwords.  It is super simple.

The end result for you looks like this (but the students do no see it unless you share your screen with them):

Since the ticket is only available for as long as you keep it open and students have to be present to know what the question is, I think this might be a good way of having a record of who was present for that day's class.

If you have an exit ticket idea, platform, or experience you are willing to share, drop it into the comments section!

Wednesday, August 5, 2020

New Teacher? Read This!

If you know a new teacher or a student teacher, you may want to think about sharing this with them.  This is the perfect metaphor for a teacher's first year.

It follows the opening to the movie Raiders of the Lost Ark, perhaps the finest movie ever made. Shakespeare would have been proud to produce this movie.

If you haven't seen it, take the time to watch it now:

Best. Movie. Ever.

Now, getting that elusive first job is akin to Indiana Jones getting the idol.  What we didn't see in that clip was all the booby traps that he had to by pass to get to the idol to begin with.  He's confident and a bit smug.  "I got this!"  That's the first week of school.

Then all hell breaks loose.

You noticed that the cave started to fall apart, so Indiana Jones quickly just decides to cut out of there, but he forgot about all the darts in the sides of the wall shooting at him, so he runs like heck.

Your first discipline problem.  But you'll survive it, just like he did.  That's when the betrayal hits.

By betrayal, I'm not meaning anything major, just the realization that not all teachers in that department or school agree and there are some bitter ones there that will resent your youthful idealization (mainly because it reminds them of better days when they had that youthful idealization - lesson to learn - do become like those guys).

You'll survive it, maybe even see them get theirs.  It is the mid course break and you think you have it mastered.  Indiana Jones did too.  That's when the ball started rolling.  He runs to keep ahead of the ball until he leaps out of the tomb just in time.

You'll feel that ball.  You'll feel that you are so busy grading and going to workshops that you can barely stay up with the planning.  You will do everything you can to stay one step ahead of the ball and at exam time, you'll be leaping through the exit.

After catching your breath, you'll be ready to try it again.  This time it will be easier.  By your fifth time, you won't even noticed the ball.  By your tenth time, you're doing it with your eyes shut.

This is not meant to scare a new teacher, but instead to give them peace of mind.  Too often that new teacher thinks that it's just them.  It is helpful to know that it happens to us all.  Remember, you are being put into a job as a first year teacher and expected to do the same job as a thirty-five year veteran.


Wednesday, July 15, 2020

Weird Cover Wednesday

Yes, this is an actual story about a little girl who told so many lies that the fire station didn't believe her and did not come to her rescue.  A "The Boy Who Cried Wolf" updated.  If I ever write about some horribly oppressed kid (like a Harry Potter type), this book is so going on her shelf.

Friday, June 26, 2020

The 'Why I Teach' Folder

So today I'm in my classroom (I know, it's summer!) resetting the room after HVAC work and painting was done.  In the process of moving things around and putting things away, I ran across a folder I created a long time ago called the "Why I Teach" folder.

I do not remember why I started it.  It was early in my teaching career and maybe an older teacher told me about hers or maybe I just had an inspiration. Whatever the case, I stick all sorts of notes and cards and email printouts that meant something to me.  Students telling me what a difference I made, parents letting me know how thankful they are for this or that. 

When I was a younger teacher, I used to go through the folder often.  I am more confident in my teaching skills now, so I don't pull it out so much.  We all reach some kids and parents and we all clash with some kids and parents.  I cannot advise enough, especially if you are a new teacher, to have one of these folders.  I had forgotten most of the notes in that folder and it really made my day to see them again.  There was even sheet music in there - we had a project where we created a Utopia world and one group had come up with a national anthem for their utopia.  The kid later went off to college as a music major and wrote out all the music for it and sent it to me in a letter! 

So get yourself a folder.  Stick the little things in there that make your day and on days you have that makes you wonder why you went into this profession - pull out the folder!

Stay healthy out there!

Thursday, June 18, 2020

Fortunate Creative Writing Idea

"Your characters are enjoying a fun evening at China Garden Restaurant when the end of the meal fortune cookies arrive.  There is the usual comment made by one character who wants to point out that fortune cookies are an American invention, but it doesn't stop the enjoyment factor as everyone grabs one for themselves.  Your protagonist opens one to reveal this fortune, which is strangely prophetic..."

At this point students can go to https://secondfortune.com/ or present them with their own fortune cookie that you either saved up from a year's worth of eating take out Chinese or that you got from a box of fortune cookies, which are available at your local supermarket for around $2 or less for 12 cookies.

This random factor requires the writer to adapt and make a move in a direction that maybe he or she wouldn't have otherwise.  Plus, eating a cookie in class is always a blast.  What sort of adventures will that fortune go or what impact will that fortune have on the character's current romantic relationship?  Worse yet, what if that character opens the cookie and there is a blank fortune?  Is that a good omen or a bad one?

Or even put your own sinister fortune in like, "Leave now!" or "meet me at Bennington Park midnight - come alone" using a custom made fortune cookie company: https://www.amazon.com/50-Custom-Fortune-Cookies-Individually/dp/B07JR15BS3

For those of you more extreme than others (and are handy around the kitchen), you can make your own fortune cookies with whatever messages you want inside - https://www.fifteenspatulas.com/fortune-cookies/

If you are using actual cookies or the second fortune, be ready to have a backup fortune, just in case they get a dud for story writing purposes.

Wednesday, June 10, 2020

Best. Grammar. Book. Title. Period.

Buy it at Amazon.  Has anyone out there read this book?  I would love to hear if it is worth getting.  Leave a comment.  Know a better grammar book title?  Leave a comment.

Thursday, June 4, 2020


Need  something a little different to add to your Beowulf unit?  Here is a video short (much like Pixar has before their movies) created by students at BYU that shows Grendel in a bit of a different light:

Grendel from BYU Animation on Vimeo.

For your own enjoyment, assuming you are a Tolkien nerd, J. R. R. Tolkien has a prose translation of the epic poem complete with his own fan fiction short story at the end ("Sellic Spell")! You can get your own copy here:

Tuesday, June 2, 2020

Macbeth Done Right

The following account is not mine.  I picked this up from Slow Robot.  Whoever this teacher is, he/she is most certainly daring and I would say - EXTREME.

Thursday, May 28, 2020

Paper Airplane Research Challenge

Students struggle in English for a variety of reasons.  One of those is learning styles.  Many student I have had are great learners when it comes to working with hands.  Put this kid in a carpentry, auto mechanics, or electrical trades class, and they are showing amazing learning.  Sit this kid in a desk and make him read, well, the learning declines.

Providing opportunities for kinetic learners to shine is not a new concept.  Science sees this in labs and math with manipulatives.  However, this is much more difficult in an English class.

The following activity is designed to help kinetic learners excel at researching by giving them something physical to do with the research.

Extreme English Teacher presents: The Paper Airplane Challenge!

Research methods are what they are.  You teach these methods with any subject.  The paper airplane challenge takes kids through five different research sites to find the best way to fold a paper airplane.  Students will search out and five five ways to fold using five different search methods, then pick one and put it to the test.  After taking kids out of the classroom to compete against each other to find the farthest flying plane, students can also compete for the best and oddest looking.

The lesson comes with directions on how to present the different search methods and a worksheet for students to fill out while searching.

If you like this one, you may also like:
The Movie Report: https://www.teacherspayteachers.com/Product/EET-The-Movie-Report-5452641Ben Franklin Quotes: https://www.teacherspayteachers.com/Product/Extreme-English-Teacher-Ben-Franklin-Quotes-5279912


Tuesday, May 26, 2020

Tech Tuesday - Timers

Another little classroom hack I've stumbled across recently:

Sometimes you just need a set amount of time for an activity.  Maybe you're practicing timed tests.  Maybe you need to make sure you get finished with your class discussion at a set moment to have time for something else.  You could just tell a student to keep an eye out on the clock for you (that usually works pretty well).  You could try and keep track yourself (but if you are like me, you often get sidetracked and forget the time).

Never fear, the Internet never lets us down.

An easy and fairly discrete one is on Google.  Just type in TIMER into the search bar to get an adjustable timer.  It has a rather annoying beep until you turn it off.  The pros - it's quick and not distracting.

You could also try these classroom timers: http://www.online-stopwatch.com/classroom-timers/  They are much more fun, but also distracting as all get out.  I imagine my eyes as a student would be constantly on them.  However, if you are doing a long group activity where students are being loud anyway, this might actually help keep them on track.  If nothing else, pick the snail race and let students bet grade points* on which snail wins.

If you have any good timers or time keeping system, don't be stingy!  Share in the comments.

*Facetious is the only word in the English language with all five vowels in alphabetical order.  Facetiously includes the sometimes y.  It is also what I am being when I say "bet grade points", no matter how much fun that would be.

'Nuff said.

Thursday, May 21, 2020

Macbeth and Joker - Making Connections

So I watched Joker this weekend, finally, and my English teacher nerd brain immediately thought of Macbeth. 

****Spoiler Alert if you are planning on watching the Joker movie anytime soon***

Joker is an excellent movie to watch - once.  I can't say I would want to watch it again.  I'm sure you have heard that is addresses the issue of mental illness in a way not many movies can encapsulate.

That's an issue for another post (and probably a different blog).  I want to bring in comparisons to Macbeth.  Both are delusional - Joker seeing the woman next to him in his time of need, Macbeth seeing the dagger, the ghost of Banquo, and quite possibly the witches at the end (I always let me students argue if he really does see them in the big apparition scene especially since Lennox comes on stage right where they leave and states that he did not see them - my struggling readers get a kick out of figuring out what is real with Macbeth and not and love to float conspiracy theories).

We can also see how both characters are victims of their own making, even though there were outside forces at work.  Joker certainly has mental illness, a failing government health system, a history of being abused as a child, and just rotten people all around him to push him into action, but when it comes down to it, HE is the one who actually acts.  Same with Macbeth.  Certainly we can lay some blame at the feet of the witches, Lady Macbeth, and even some at Duncan for being such a poor judge of character, but in the end, it is MACBETH that chooses to kill.

But I think the biggest parallel is the type of people they both kill - and the order in which it is done.  let's look at Joker's murders compared to Macbeth's:


  • The two guys on the train - self defense - perfectly justifiable
  • The third train guy who was trying to get away - a little less justifiable since the guy no longer posed a threat, but we can see and excuse Arthur (Joker) at this point.
  • His  mother - certainly past excusing, but we can see where he is a victim of his illness here.
  • Randall - now we see Joker going down a road toward senseless murder.  Randall did him wrong, but that seems to be an excuse to murder him at this point.  Arthur still has some sense of himself, though, when he lets Gary leave.
  • Maury - similar to above, but less so since the guy is now giving Joker a chance to succeed at being a comedian, Arthur's goal.  Unfortunately, from this point on, I think we can safely say that Arthur is no longer a character.  Only Joker.
  • The health care worker at the end - here there is no reason to kill her.  She is only trying to help and this murder is irredeemable.  
  • Macdonwald - brutal killing, but an act done in war and in defense of his king and country.  Perfectly acceptable and even lauded as an act of a hero
  • Duncan - inexcusable, but there is a reason for this murder - Macbeth wants something  and this is the way to get it in his mind.
  • The Guards - logical under the circumstances.  If Macbeth is going to get away with his former act, this is what needs to be done to prevent them from telling others that Lady Macbeth was the one who got them drunk.
  • Banquo - Macbeth has a reason, but we are getting further away from it being a logical reason.  Here we see Macbeth is beginning to become obsessed with killing.
  • Lady Macduff and Little Boy Macduff - here Macbeth crosses the Rubicon.  Up to this point, he at least had a reason to kill, albeit often a flimsy one, but a reason nonetheless.  This killing, though, is not only useless, but only gives Macduff MORE reason to come after him.  
Both go through a progression where the murders get further and further away until we can no longer hope for the protagonist's redemption.  Both of these stories puts the audience in the camp of the villain.  We want to root for Arthur and Macbeth.  It's the nature of the protagonist to have the reader/viewer on his side.  But both stories takes us down a path with the lead character until we feel in a traitorous situation by no longer agreeing with his actions and wanting him stopped.

If you have any good book to pop culture pairings, list them in the comments.

Tuesday, May 19, 2020

Let Grammar Bytes Challenge Your Class All Year

Once a week for each week in 2020, Grammar Bytes is putting out a one question grammar quiz on their Twitter page.

Go to their page at: https://twitter.com/grammarbytes and you'll see questions like this posted each Wednesday:

Except, of course the answer isn't shown until your pick it, then it shows the breakdown of answers.  You'll want to keep this in mind if you are putting it up on a SmartBoard or projector, since once you answer, the results will be shown when you pull it up again for the next class, which may influence their choices.  This a quick way to get your students to try it out.  You can put the link on your page so that students can click it and have everyone try it out at the same time.  This could lead into discussion of why that comma is needed or why it isn't right to put 'of' in that sentence. You could also let them put their name down for choice 1, 2, 3, or 4 if you have some extra board space and allow people to have bragging rights if they are correct.

The following Wednesday a new question will appear along with an explanation for last week's question.

The nice thing is that sometimes the majority of people get the question wrong.  Why is that nice?  Your students who struggle with grammar will be relieved to know it is not just them.

2020 may have brought us everything from fires to pandemics to murder hornets, but it also brought us weekly grammar quizzes!  Things are looking up! 

Thursday, May 14, 2020


I don't remember where I found this, but I was cleaning out my folders and ran across this image of gun shot onomatopoeias.  I imagine it might be a fun image to use in explaining the literary term 'onomatopoeia' or for a creative writing class.

Going to the tumblr site on the first panel shows this guy James Chapman has a couple of "in other languages" cartoons like this.  Check it out!

Also, while writing this post on an onomatopoeia, a memory of a video game commercial from the '90s resurfaced.  I think the message of the commercial is "Don't be an English nerd, play video games instead," but I might be wrong.  :)

Tuesday, May 12, 2020

Time Idioms

Need something easy to demonstrate idioms?  I found this image on Facebook a few years ago.  I have long since forgotten where.  The site it came from originally is www.grammar.net, which seems to have stopped posting new material last year. 

This is a very effective and quick way to help your students understand the literary term 'idiom'.

Tech Tuesday - Use Blogger to Make an Easy Homework Blog for Students and Parents

Communication with parents is key for a variety of reasons.  Here is one more way you can be more transparent - a homework or upcoming events blog.

The idea is simple - a blog that has either the daily work posted or the weekly work posted so that students who are absent can find what is expected of them and parents can stay up on what is going on without having to sift through all of that Canvas or Moodle page of yours.

The problem - who wants the hassle of having to login, write the post, format the post, and publish the post everyday or even every week?

Well, Blogger has an easy solution if you use them.

Once you have a blog set up, go to your design page (where you would go to create a new post).  Scroll down to SETTINGS and select EMAIL.  See that option to post using email?

It's the first one.  Pick your secret word.  Now, if you send an email to that address, it will automatically post your email to the blog.  No more logging in. No more formatting.  Easy-peasy!

Thursday, May 7, 2020

Daily Reading Comprehension Questions

In my state, we have two English tests that are practically the same.  One is the North Carolina Final Exam (formerly called the MSL, formerly called the Common Exam) for freshmen, juniors, and seniors.  The other is the End of Course for sophomores.

They are quite horrid tests, as I am sure you can relate to in whatever state you are in.  It is more of a test of a student's ability to stay focused for two to three hours rather than an accurate measure of a student's reading comprehension.

I have two daily reading comprehension blogs for you.  While one is labeled for the NCFE and the other for the EOC, they have the same type of questions and will fit most any reading comprehension tests.

The first is the Daily Dose of NCFE:

And the second is the Daily Dose of EOC:

They hit literary terms, vocabulary, author's purpose, inference, and basic plot understanding. 

Currently, they each run for a semester and then recycle the questions. Next year they may be merged into one blog, since supposedly my state is doing away with the NCFE, which should mean I can pick from the best questions on both.

I have had great success on my state reading comprehension test scores.  I've spent a lot of time understanding these beasts.  I do have a free resource on my Teacher-Pay-Teachers store that helps you walk students through prepping for the test.  I usually use it a week before the test.  It gives students a way to stay focused longer during the test.  I know  you probably do not have a state test for your students this year with all the shut downs, but feel free to download and give it a look for next year.  And if you like it, please leave a review for it. It helps me out a lot as a fledgling store owner.


Tuesday, May 5, 2020

Tech Tuesday - Get Creative with Images on Google Slides

Ok, let's have some fun with masking images to give them a little flair.  Take this rather boring slide:

Now, let's fix the Spider-Man image (my good friend Peter Norbot).  We are going to mask it, which means we are going to cut out some of it and make it into a shape.  This is super easy to do.  We will also put a nice strip of color behind to make it look like it is a part of the Google Slides template.

Easy-peasy!  You can make it any shape you want.  So give it a try!

Monday, May 4, 2020

Are Students Viewing Your Google Slides?

Anytime you give a Google Slides presentation for a student to look at during this time of asynchronous learning, how can you know if a student is viewing the lesson?

Well, you can make it in to an "Answer this question" type deal.  In my case, that doesn't work because my state has said my seniors have passed and cannot be penalized or rewarded for work completed or no completed (really makes it worthwhile to keep producing lessons....).  So a student may look at the lesson, but may not answer any questions or complete any activities.

If you are in a similar situation or you just want to know who is looking at your lesson, well, you may be in luck.  Pull up your Slides and see if you have the crooked arrow at the top of your screen.

If you have that, then your IT guys have enabled some analytics.  Click it and you get this screen:

This doesn't tell you how much time they spent on the presentation or what effort they are putting into it, but at least you get an idea of who is at least putting forth some effort.

Hope this helps!

Friday, May 1, 2020

A Free Lesson to Use - How to Write a Cover Letter and Resume

Here's a lesson I gave my seniors.  It is one that I created for complete on your own and one that I will use in the future for self-pace work or when I have a substitute, since they will not need me to walk them through it.

It is just a crash course in what a cover letter does and some help in creating a resume.  Each one of these could be a whole unit in themselves, but the goal here is to give the students a bit of a heads up on what these things are and how to write one if the need arises sooner than later.

The cover letter portion is a video from Indeed with a few extra tidbits along the way.

I've got to say, I'm pretty impressed with the animation pausing I did to time the tidbits to the video.

The resume portion takes students to Resume Genius where it will not just walk them through setting up a resume, but it will format it for them as well.  It even has a focus on resumes with no job experience.

There is a small follow up video on how to gain confidence going into a job interview, but there is so much more to the  interview process than this even begins to scratch the surface.

All in all, a student can watch this presentation and come out with a concept on what a cover letter is, a working resume, and a few job interview tips.  Not too shabby!

You can find it here.  Feel free to make a copy and adjust and modify to fit your students!


If  you have a better way to to do this or another similar lesson you'd like to share - say so in the comments!  We all get better by helping each other.