Wednesday, September 28, 2022

Spider-Man Unmasked!

Here is a great creative writing prompt to get kids pushing their thoughts a bit.  You do not need to be a comic book fan to participate (although if you are, there is that much more interest in it).  All you need is the ability to think divergently.

Show students this cover:

Now, supposing that everything shown on the cover is true for the story inside, how could this happen and Peter Parker still keep his identity secret?  We have these characters on the cover:

  • Dr. Octopus - his four extra mechanical arms are just as strong as Spider-Man and allows him to reach far away.
  • Peter Parker - the true identity of Spider-Man.  He has the strength, speed, and agility of a spider and has a nifty spider-sense that warns him of danger (which didn't help as the cover shows).
  • Four random police officers
  • Betty Brant - she is a secretary for the newspaper The Daily Bugle and Peter Parker's girlfriend at the time of this comic.
  • J. Jonah Jameson - a newspaper editor who hates Spider-Man with a passion.
Let students write out how Peter Parker is able to keep his identity secret even though seven people clearly see him unmasked.  Give prizes to the most creative and the closest to the original.

So what is the real story?

Peter Parker has a cold, so he has lost all his spider powers.  Doc Ock, however, wants revenge on Spider-Man.  He notices that the Daily Bugle seems to get all the press on Spider-Man, so he breaks into their building, tells the editor, J. Jonah Jameson, that he will print a challenge to Spider-Man to meet him at a certain location.  He then kidnaps Jameson's secretary to insure that it gets done.  Peter Parker, fearful for his girlfriend's safety, dons his Spidey suit and goes after Doc Ock, even though he doesn't have his powers anymore.  Doc Ock beats him easily and unmasks him.  When he sees it is a teenager, he exclaims that the real Spider-Man is too scared to fight him and sent this kid in his place.  Figuring that was why Spider-Man's punches were so weak and why he was so easily beaten, Doc Ock throws Peter to the ground and leaves.  Betty and Jameson both think that Peter is quite the hero, albeit rather stupid, and the police, after toying with what to charge Peter with, finally leave them alone.

Thursday, September 15, 2022

Active / Passive Voice with Macbeth

 Here's a freebie for you - 

Active and passive voice are concepts that, to students, sound much more difficult to grasp than they really should be.  Usually it just takes a quick practice to click it in their head.

Since we are reading Macbeth right now, I created a practice centering around that story.  The example sentences are original, but the format of this practice is not.  I forgot where I originally got this practice.

Here it is free for the taking. If you like it, just hit FILE then MAKE A COPY.

While we are on free stuff and Macbeth, here is a Blooket on Macbeth vocabulary words if you want it:

Tuesday, September 6, 2022

There Art Thou Happy

One of my least favorite Shakespeare plays is Romeo and Juliet.  The last year that I taught the play I swore that the next time I did, I was going to start in Act V with Romeo stepping over Paris's body and reaching for the poison.

However, a former colleague of mine had a killer lesson idea for Act III scene iii.  Romeo is whining about how awful his life is and the Friar, speaking for us, I guess, has had enough of it.  He lists off a few things that Romeo should be grateful for and ends with this line:

A pack of blessings lights upon thy back: Happiness courts thee in her best array; but, like a misbehav'd and sullen wench, thou pout'st upon they fortune and thy love.  Take heed, for such die miserable.
 Not wanting her students to "die miserable", she has them as a homework assignment, list out their "pack of blessings".  Puts a bit of a positive spin to her class.

Friday, July 22, 2022

Need Another White Board? (Updated)

 So, as I mentioned in the previous post, I moved schools and with the move comes adjusting to a new classroom.  This is both exciting and frustrating as I had a gloriously huge room before.  When I got to my new space, I noticed a big problem.  See if you can spot it:

OK, I guess the title of the post is a slight giveaway.  Yep, No white board on the front wall.  I do have one on the side wall, so I could make the class go lengthwise, but now I have no screen on the front wall.  I really need to have both available.  So what to do?

I thought about asking for one to be installed, and I probably will eventually, but since I am new, I didn't think that was the best first option.  Even if they were agreeable, doubtful I would be able to get it before school started.

I looked into buying a white board, but HOLY COW!  Those things are expensive!  A 5' by 4' board will cost you at least $200.  A good size one can go over a thousand!

I looked into using chalkboard paint, but wasn't sure that was allowed and also didn't see anything immediately on the quality of it.  I might still pursue that on the other side of the TV.  Eventually.

Looking at chalkboard paint made me start looking at making a white board.  I knew there was white board paint out there, but when I started looking at that, I found that both Home Depot and Lowes sell 8' by 4' white board panels for $20.

But how good could they be?  Well, a quick look at the comments told me that people were VERY happy with the quality of the project.  In fact, the big complaint was that they splintered if you cut them to size, but as I wasn't cutting them, I was fine with it.  By the way, if you do cut one,  just put a strip of tape front and back over the area to be cut and it helps to prevent splintering - or, even better, just ask the good people at Home Depot to cut it for you.  They usually cut the first two cuts for free, but even if you have to pay, it is not much per cut).

My biggest concern was over ghosting.  If I erased material on the board, I expect it to erase.  In order to prevent ghosting, I waxed the board with ordinary car wax (Turtle Wax, to be exact, mainly because that is what I remember my dad using to wax his car).  I went with the paste because it seemed like a better way to go.  I waxed the board twice.  I read that this really does wonders to make the board erase better.  The guy who wrote it said that at some point after six months, he noticed the board was getting a little harder to erase, so he waxed it again and it lasted another six months.

So, how to mount it?  Well, I read varying methods.  My biggest problem was that I didn't know anything about the construction on the wall I was going to put it on.  It was some sort of drywall, though it seemed thicker and a harder than the drywall in my house.  I didn't know what was behind it and when I tried to use a stud finder, that was giving off all sorts of odd readings.

I went with two methods to keep up the board.  The first was double-sided mounting tape.  I found some at Walmart rated to hold up to 30 pounds.  The board itself only weighs 18.  So I bought a couple of rolls of that.  I put it on the back of the board and let it sit overnight to bond. 

Then I bought some mirror mounting clips (you, know, the small clear plastic things that hold a mirror to the wall?).  I drew a line three feet up from the floor and screwed in about four of those clips along it using the white plastic dry-wall anchors that come with the clips.

Do I need the clips?  Probably not, but between the clips and the mounting tape, I don't see this going anywhere anytime soon. 

I recruited my son to help me take off the cover of the backside mounting tape and slide the board into the mirror clips.  Then we pressed the board against the wall to make the mounting tape do its job.

Now came the truth time - does it write and erase?  See for yourself!

Do you have to be DIY savvy to pull this off?  I don't think so.  The only tools I used was a drill and a level.  The drill I used was nothing more than a glorified electric screwdriver.  You do want use of a truck, though.  That 8' x 4' panel is not going to fit in the back of your Honda Accord.

So, how much did it cost?

8' x 4' White Board Panel - $20

Some rolls of mounting tape - $24

Turtle Wax - $4

Mirror clips - $3

Total - $51

Is it is worth spending $51 to get a white board where I want it?  It is to me.  Make it cheaper by screwing the board directly into the wall to avoid the extra expense of mounting tape.  I just didn't want to see the screws in the board and was a bit paranoid about what I would be drilling into. 

The only drawback is that it is not magnetic and I do not have a marker tray (though I am seriously considering building one this weekend).

If, after some time, I notice that the board is not worth it, I'll be glad to edit this post as a fail.  If you are finding this well after the post was written and there are no updates, write a comment or shoot me an email at and I'll be glad to tell you to go for it or not!


Important to know - use Expo markers on this board.  They will erase, but the knock off marker I used had to be scrubbed off.

Also, I gave in and added a wooden tray.  The tray cost me more than I thought it would because the thin piece of lattice that I used as the "guard rail" to keep the markers from rolling off was $1.28 per foot, not for the board itself.  Still, I do like this look better than the mirror clips at the bottom.

The bottom board was $6 and the lattice board cost me $9.  The three right angle supports under it cost less than $3 for the lot of them.  Add in the finish nails to secure the lattice board to the bottom board, and you put in another $18 to the project.  In hindsight, I would have chosen a different type of "guard rail" board to save money.

*Update* - Two months in and it is still working great!  No problems with ghosting or writing.

Wednesday, July 13, 2022

A Few Changes

Big changes in my life coming up - I just changed schools!  With that comes the excitement of new possibilities and the pain of having to switch all my programs.  With that in mind,  let me give you some advice - 

  • Create a separate email address for all your subscriptions.  Thankfully I had started doing that a while back, but it was still a pain to have to switch all of my subscriptions away from my school email address.  While I had already put Kahoot!, Blooket, Socrative, etc. under a different email address, I started this blog  under my school account.  Once they deactivated my school account, I lost a majority of the images on this blog.
  • Be prepared to not be able to easily switch your Google Drive.  More on this later, but if you find yourself in a need right away, let me suggest the website  It will let you move your drive from one cloud to the other.  I'll do a whole post on that later.
The other change is my course schedule.  I now find myself teaching Honors English II (never taught that as an honors class before), Honors English IV (never taught that as an honors class before), and AP Literature and Composition (never taught any AP before).  I will still keep this blog aimed primarily at teaching kids who struggle in English, but we may see a few things I'm working on for the Honors and AP popping up here and there.  I am swamped with trying to get these new courses taken care of (especially the AP one), so new blog posts will probably be a bit sporadic than normal this year.  Bear with me!

Thankfully, Jeff Goldblum is here to keep me from feeling overwhelmed!

Here's hoping everyone is having a great summer!

Monday, July 11, 2022

The Zipf Mystery

 It's summer and here is an interesting (if you are an English teacher, that is) video on the frequency of words.  The video is long, but the first few minutes is what will grab your attention the most.

Wednesday, June 1, 2022

PowerPoint Games

 We are here at the end of the year and I've not updated this blog in a few weeks due to research paper grading and a few life things that just get in the way of other life things.  However, I ran across this site full of PowerPoint games that can be fun reviews and give a little variety of the same old online quizzes all the time.

As my students are taking a teacher-made exam today, I was going going to have screenshots of them all posted here for you, but when I got to school this morning, I found that my overpowered IT Internet filter categorizes this as a game site and has it blocked.  I will refrain from going on a rant about how I feel about the school Internet filter and my IT department in general, but this pretty much sums it up:

I guess I should be thankful for all the woes that my Zscaler saves me from.  Wouldn't want me to get distracted by games, Spotify, or anything of interest on the web.

Anyway, you don't need my screenshots - just check it out for yourselves.  These are probably not games you want to use regularly, but work well for an old fashion test review or just something a little different.

If you know of a game dump like this elsewhere, please share it in the comments (even if you are finding this post 5 years after posting)!