Monday, November 20, 2023

Gotta Catch Them All (Emily Dickinson Poems, of Course!)


As we go toward the end of the year, we may find ourselves with some awkward pacing.  You can't always test on the last day (and that provides some headaches when students are absent and now have to wait until January to be tested on material they have forgotten) and you don't want to start something new just to have a two week interlude.

Here's a lesson that can be in about half a period.  It's fun and it is content relevant.

If I were teaching American Lit, I would just do this when I get to Emily Dickinson.  But as a British Lit teacher and an AP Lit teacher, we still talk about meter, iambic pentameter, and the effect these have on the poetry.  This especially works well after trying to teach a Shakespeare play if you focused any on how iambic pentameter works.

This presentation has students read three Emily Dickinson poems.  Feel free to go into whatever detail about Emily Dickinson's life you would like to add (she had a killer cake recipe and if done her way is coated with brandy and lasts quite a long time!).  Have the kids experience the poetry and get their thoughts.  They are short and different from what many kids are used to, so can be quite fun for discussions.

Then hit them with the common meter lesson.  This will seem boring until they get to the next slide - 

 I've taught this to standard and inclusion kids and they really perk up to this part.  Once you explain to them that all the above poems can be read to this song because of common meter, they are awed.  You are the cool teacher!

Want more cool points as a teacher?  Break out the karaoke machine and have the kids sing the poem into the microphone.

I provided slides to encourage the re-reading of the poems Pokemon-style.  Then we hit them with a few more songs they may be familiar with to wrap it up.  This can take you anywhere between 15 minutes to 30 minutes (maybe more) depending on how conversation goes.

Have fun with it!  

Friday, November 17, 2023

Freebie - Macbeth Background Slides

 When we read Macbeth, I like to make it as immersive as possible.  We have the fog machine for all the witch scenes, sound effects students, etc.  I am still looking for an affordable lightning and thunder strobe, but none fit the bill (either in what I want from it or the price).  I also need to get my hands on a few items for students to wear or have on their desk while reading (like a crown for whoever is king at the time, etc.).

One thing I do is to have images on our screen to help set the mood.  None of the images are mine, but if you like them, each slide has a link to where the image came from. You can get the slides for free here:

I would love to here what you do to make that Scottish play work in your classroom!

Tuesday, November 14, 2023

Image Quiz

 Today's my birthday, so in the spirit of the hobbits, I'll give you a gift!

Don't get too excited, it's a small one, but I think it is something you haven't seen.  I am always on the lookout for alternative online quizzes to compete with Kahoot and Blooket.  This isn't on their level, but is very different, which gives it a nice twist.  Introducing Image Quiz!

The idea behind this is the old adage a picture is worth a thousand words.  I teach a mythology class, so I took an image of the Egyptian death journey that we study in class.  Then I uploaded the image and picked areas on the image to label.  It was super easy to do so.  When students bring up the image, they select START and it will start to give them the labels and they click on the part of the image that reflects that label.  For example, if it says Ammut, they will click the part of the image that has Ammut in it.  

If you want to give it a test run, try my Death Journey one:

This isn't perfect.   While it is a competition for speed, it is not as easy to figure out a clear winner as the top scores list only goes by number correct and not time, so your students may get a faster time than what is on the Top Scores page, but not be listed in the top scores.  Also, tying an image into English isn't as easy as biology or some other lesser course.  :)  However, when you have an image that could be labeled, say a character chart or something, then it serves as something different than what every other teacher in your school is using.  I use this for this one activity only and the students get a kick out of it.   

Give it a shot, and if you create on that could be useful to English classes (or various English electives), then post a link for us in the comments!

Friday, October 20, 2023

Freebie: Racehorse Multiple Choice

 This assignment was done in my AP Lit class, but it works just as well in any class that works with multiple choice reading passage questions (AP Lang, English classes with standardized state tests, SAT/ACT prep, etc.)

Students picked names for their horses and we were off to the races!

TLDR Rules: Students are put into groups and work together to get multiple choice questions correct.  each correct answer moves their horse up a slot.  Each wrong answer moves the teacher's horse up a slot (limit three slots per question).  First to arrive at the finish line gets prizes.

More details are provided on the presentation slides I set up.  You are welcomed to copy it for yourself - no charge!

I would love to know any tweaks you make to make this a better experience for your students!

Wednesday, October 18, 2023

Frankenstein Kahoot!

 For a little fun this Halloween, try giving your kids this Kahoot! I made based on the book Frankenstein.  

They do not have to have read the book - in fact, it is designed specifically for students who have not read the book.  The clever students will soon realize that much of what they know about popular culture Frankenstein's monster has little to do with the monster in the novel.

You can get it here:

Wednesday, October 11, 2023

Jack's Lament and Teaching Allusions

If you have not seen the movie Nightmare Before Christmas by Tim Burton, you really should.  It is excellent for middle school age children and older.  As far as class goes, there is a particular song in it that is useful for instruction: "Jack's Lament."

A quick bit of background information for those who have never seen the movie. Jack Skellington (pictured to the left) is the Pumpkin King of Halloween Town (every holiday has their own town).  He has just had another successful Halloween.  He has, once again, won all the praise of the inhabitants of Halloween Town.  And he is bored out of his mind.  This is the song he sings to express how unhappy he is, even though everything is going great.

Why show this song clip in your class?  To teach allusion. There are several examples and depending on the level of student that you have, they should be able to pick out most.

Here they are in order as they appear in the song:

  1. Sally, the rag golem is an allusion to Frankenstein's monster.  Students might be able to figure that out from the stitch marks.
  2. He is walking through a pet cemetery (Stephen King's Pet Cemetery).
  3. Zero the ghost dog - easy Rudolf allusion
  4. There is a grave stone figure that looks like Mushu from Mulan.  If students make that connection, that's great.  However, The Nightmare Before Christmas came out in 1993 and Mulan came out in 1998, so no true allusion there (though perhaps it inspired the look of the dragon?).
  5. The horse head tombstone is actually an allusion/pun.  It looks like the chess piece knight.  Use the homophone reference for night.
  6. You have two versions of the Scream painting by Edvard Muench.  One tombstone looks similar to the painting and the other looks similar to the Halloween mask designed after the painting.  To really drive it home, he even says that he, "grows so weary of the sound of screams," at the same time that he drapes his arm around one of the tombstones.  Students might recognize the tombstone from the movie Scream, which has a mask based on the same painting.
  7. He calls himself Jack, the Pumpkin King.  Maybe an allusion or at least a play on the idea of a Jack o' lantern?
  8. As Jack stands in front of the moon, it is a reference back to Tim Burton's Batman, when the batwing flies in front of the moon for a special visual effect.
  9. And of course, the Hamlet allusion as he takes off his skull and holds it to recite "Shakespearean quotations."
O.K., did I miss any?  I feel like I did.  If you notice any more, please leave a comment so that I can add it to the list.  I'll give you full credit!

If you have the movie, you'll find this song starting at about 6:10 and ending at 9:45.  If you don't, here is a You Tube version:

You can find the lyrics here if you would like to do a lesson on assonance.  Every second and fourth line of each stanza uses assonance to fake the rhyme.

Happy Halloween!

Tuesday, September 26, 2023

Who Is the Third Murderer? - The Most Awesome Answer Ever

In Shakespeare's Macbeth, Macbeth hires two murderers to kill Banquo; however, three murderers show up to the scene.  The original two even make a note of it by asking this third interloper who sent him?  The answer that he was sent by Macbeth himself has a few flaws.

It would seem that Shakespeare meant to do something with this third guy, but never got around to fleshing it out, leaving English teacher geeks around the globe speculating here and there.  This third murderer recognizes Banquo, understands his habits around Macbeth's stables, and was able to give at least some of the original plan to the other two murderers so that they would accept him.  Yet he doesn't seem to know all of the plan since he was unaware of the light going out, and as a result, the main target got away.

You can find some more awesome images from Macbeth (including some really freaky looking witches) by going to the artist's (Amy Hood) web site.

So in my class of regular level students, I use this as an opportunity to get them to think deeper.  They find the clues and facts, list off everyone who could have been the murderer, and then find evidence to support their favorite suspect.  We get into a discussion over what the third murderer's motive was - to help kill Banquo and Fleance or to help Banquo and/or Fleance get away.

I tell them that on their test, they are going to have to accuse one character and then defend their statement.  We joked this year about people putting down Banquo as the murderer - a major feat since he was the one being killed at the time.

One student took this as a challenge and on the test stapled an extra sheet so that he would have enough space to properly accuse Banquo for being the third murderer of Banquo.  Here is his answer:

Banquo.  Banquo fakes his death in a simple process.  He knew from the witches that his child would be king and not Macbeth's children.  He knew that Macbeth was willing to kill to be king.  When Macbeth became king, Banquo knew it was only a matter of time before Macbeth would kill him. Banquo then got body doubles of himself and his son and sent his son out of Scotland.  When he heard of suspicious people meeting with the king, he knew it was time, and trailed the two murderers.  He declared his double to be himself so that the others wouldn't think otherwise.  When his son's double got away and met with Banquo for payment, Banquo killed him to tie up loose ends.  I believe that after the play ended, Banquo got his son to take over Scotland and then ruled through the shadows.

Flawed?  Sure, but he was so excited to prove that I was wrong when I said that Banquo COULDN'T be the third murderer.  It's not often that you get a regular level student to get this passionate about a test answer.  

This same kid followed up this response with the answer to this question:
Who is most at fault for what has happened in this play?

King James I.  Shakespeare wrote this play because of the big stink James made about a supposed "witch" visiting him.  If he had stayed calm and not made a big deal out of it, this play would never have been written.

Folks, it's hard to argue with this kind of logic.  :)