Thursday, October 14, 2021

Keeping Your Smart Kids Busy While You Are Gone

 Ok, we've all been there - we are leaving work for a substitute and we know that the three A+ students will be finished before the bell rings. So what do you do?  Give more work?  That stinks for the kid who is struggling to get everything done.  Give those kids extra work?  Way to punish them for being bright.  

I have a slew of things that I use for extra credit, advantages in whatever game we are playing in class, etc.  They take up time and are both fun and frustrating - exactly the type of torture those kids love!

Without further ado that I present to you:

This website is found here:

What this Josh Worth guy does here is show us exactly how big the solar system is by showing it to scale.  The moon is the size of one pixel.We start at the sun and start scrolling all the way to Pluto.  It takes a while.  Along the way, he throws in little statements about how much space there really is in the universe.

So what does this have to do with English?

Somewhere between Saturn and Uranus we get this:

I challenge my students and reward them with whatever I feel like at the time with finding the Shakespeare quote and telling me what play it comes from.  The site doesn't say what play it is from, so they will have to look that up themselves.

If you have any little throw away fun activity, then share it with us in the comments!

Tuesday, October 12, 2021

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.

I even have an Edpuzzle on it I am willing to share, though it is much more fun to engage the students in class.  You can find the Edpuzzle here:

Happy Halloween!

Thursday, October 7, 2021

Introducing Othello Using the Dating Game

I got this idea from a website that no longer exists (or was at least down when I went back to check it).   I took the idea and tweaked it to add music and make it a presentation.  It's a freebie I'll hand to you and you can get it here:

If you are wondering how to get a soundtrack to your Google Slides, you can catch how to do that here.  For that matter, I always check the Slides before using them because the YouTube videos for music often change and need to be updated.

The idea is simple.  I merged the concepts to The Dating Game and The Bachelor to see who Desdemona will choose.

I use it to help them understand the characters before we start watching the Laurence Fishburne version of Othello.  My struggling readers really get into the movie (and isn't Shakespeare meant to be seen?), but the language can be difficult.  If they feel like they know the players ahead of time, it is a little easier to get them to buy into it just long enough for Iago to step in and hook their attention.

Her bachelors to choose from are Cassio, Othello, and Roderigo.  There can only be one winner, but ...

I wrap it up with a character list for them to fill out their notes with.  I've found it super successful in the past and hope you will get some use out of it too!


Wednesday, October 6, 2021

Fair Is Foul and Foul Is Fair - Teaching that Scottish Play

While Othello is a close second, I just have so much more fun with Macbeth than any of Shakespeare's other plays.  Here are a few suggestions for ramping up your teaching of it, if you're game:

1. Judge a book by its cover - Show them these covers/drama posters for Macbeth and let them point out what they think is going to happen  These covers will also give them clues to what imagery to look out for when reading the play.

2. GET A FOG MACHINE - borrow it from your drama or dance teacher at your school.  Buy one at Wal-Mart during Halloween time.  For that matter, you can pick up a jug of fog juice cheap in the Halloween section at Wal-mart.  Get one for yourself and one to give to the teacher you borrowed it from.  Then, when it is time to read the first scene, wait for the narrator to read the setting and hit the button (works even better if the kids don't know it is coming).  Voila!  Perfect setting.  I also suggest letting your hall and principals know what is going on so that no one reports a fire on the hall (fog machines do not set off smoke alarms).  Yes, that I learned that the hard way.

3. Watch three interpretations of Act I scene i -  After reading the scene, let them watch these three movie versions of scene one and have them tell you which is more effective:

4. Point out that it is cursed -   If you are teaching seniors, let it drop that you hope this doesn't interfere with their graduation....  If you want some good information on the curse, listen to this podcast from Stuff You Missed in History Class.  It is only 20 minutes long and you can skip the first 2 and a half minutes if you want to jump right on into the curse discussion.

5. Encourage in-character reading - When reading out loud, offer something to the kid who reads his/her part with the most enthusiasm.  I offer team points (their teams compete against each other throughout the semester), but if you aren't doing teams in your class, modest extra credit, a point on the test, anything.  This way kids put more effort into the part and you have less boring, blah, blah, blah readers.  Also, try making one of the reading parts sound effects.  Every so often, you;ll get a kid who will really go all out to add sounds of people entering/exiting, owls, battle sounds, etc.

6. HAVE FUN!  Otherwise, why teach it?

What do you do to bring the play to life in your class?

Thursday, September 30, 2021

Banned Book Week 2021

 In honor of this being Banned Book Week, here is a graphic showing the Top Ten Most Challenged Books of 2021 as charted by the ALA:

Tuesday, September 28, 2021

Shameless Plug - Teaching Inference Using Proverbs and Wise Sayings

 There's a new product on the Extreme English Teacher store:

When I was in sixth grade, Mr. Lewis wrote this saying on the board:

A dog with a golden collar is still a dog.

Then we had to each say out loud what we thought it meant.  My last name starts with A, so when I was in elementary school, that meant I was first on the list.  I said I thought it meant that no matter how a person dresses, they are still the same person inside.  Everyone else in the class said it had to do with a dog and Tommy (my particular bully in elementary school) went out of his way to make me feel stupid for thinking it was about a person when obviously it was about a dog.  It was a traumatic experience for me at the time, being called out like that in front of my peers.

Mr. Lewis let it go until everyone had spoken and then revealed that it was indeed about people, not about dogs.  He had some lesson to go with it that I long forgot (I told you, the class bully made me feel miserable and the justification of being right was a smaller reward than the price of feeling stupid for ten minutes of class time).  Though the lesson never left me, I did not think much about it until I became a ninth grade teacher and saw that my students were much like Tommy and friends (sans bullying).

Why did that seem obvious to me back then?  Well, I am quite the clever clogs, but I think it had much more to do with me being an avid reader.  I was just to reading between the lines.  My struggling students, however, were not.  So I resurrected the idea a few times over the years.  Once with Celtic proverbs, once with the teaching of Confucius, and once with the wise sayings as Saadi.

I've had great success with these and have used them as individual assignments, group work, and sometimes before a state test as whole-class activities.  They are great for getting kids to think figuratively.  Since the sayings are all short, struggling readers can focus in on the exact phrase and not get lost in a paragraph or page of text.

Or just keep some ready for when you have a 30 minute section of time that you need to fill or in your emergency sub plans folder.

So head on over to the store and try it out! 

Get the activity HERE!

Become a follower of the store (I promise not to bombard you with emails - I hate that and that is certainly NOT extreme!)

Friday, September 24, 2021

Doth the Hoke Poke Forsooth!

 Found this on Facebook today and thought it was worth a share!  Enjoy your weekend!