Tuesday, December 15, 2020

Common Lit


Want a pretty easy-to-use, but also effective reading comprehension activity?  You need to look no further than https://www.commonlit.org/

Common Lit has thousands of reading passages with questions ready to go.  Once you set up an account, it is pretty easy for students to use.  You just give them your access code.  You can make a separate code for all of your periods to help keep that grading from getting muddled.

Fiction Passages - Unlike many other online reading comprehension sites out there (I'm looking at you, Newsela), Common Lit has fiction as well as nonfiction.  In fact, they have a lot of fiction - and from well known authors too.  The passages are from classic authors like Frost and from contemporary authors like J. K. Rowling.

The Difficulty Level - You choose how difficult you want this to be.  Passages are labeled by grade level, but the students do not see that.  My seniors are not strong readers and I usually give them passages between 8-9 grade level.  They do not know.  Sometimes I'll go as low as 4th grade and as high as 12th grade.  Whatever level I find useful for the moment.

Passage Length - How long do you want it?  Some passages are poems as short as three lines long.  Some are full length short stories going of for pages.  For my purposes, I usually find ones that are about a half to a full page in length.

Selection - You can sort passages by a variety of filters - Lexile level, grade level, genres, themes, literary devices.  You can even search by the novel you are reading in class and find supplementary texts that pair nicely with the book (they even suggest where you should be in the book before assigning the article).

The Questions - They have some that are multiple choice and some that are short answer.  You can choose to assign both or just the one or the other.  The multiple choice questions are automatically graded while you need to grade the short answer.  Students will not see the grades until you release the scores.  That way you can make sure everyone has had a chance to submit the questions before the correct answers are floating around.  You also have the option to exempt students or assign a passage to a particular student or group.

Here's How I Use It - Each Monday I assign two articles for students to work on that week.  They have until Sunday at midnight to work on them (well, that is what I tell them - it really is until Monday morning when I come into school).  On Monday morning, I go through those assignments and exempt students who haven't attempted it yet (it's an easy two click process).  This makes it so that they students will no longer have access to those articles.  Then, when I have the time, I input their grades into PowerSchool and release the score tot he students.  I also, each week, assign one optional make-up article to replace a bad or missing grade.  With this set up, if I have a sub or need to fill some time, one of my go to lesson plans is to give students time in class to knock out a Common Lit article or two.  

Oh, I may have forgotten to tell you this - IT'S ABSOLUTELY FREE!  Guys, it doesn't LOOK like a free site.  There are no ads.  They could easily - EASILY - charge school a few thousand a year for access to this tool.  But they don't.  They are EXTREME!

I'm interesting in hearing from anyone else who uses it or has another online reading comprehension tool that they use.  tell me in comments!

Wednesday, December 2, 2020

Writing Wednesday - The Hemingway App

Online Proofreaders are hit and miss.  The Hemingway App is different than most.  It doesn't concern itself with  punctuation and spelling, but rather readability.  And it is super simple for your students to use and does not require an account.

Here's how it works:

Students go to http://www.hemingwayapp.com/.  There is no log in or account to set up.

Students replace the existing text with a copy of their paper (just a copy and paste job).

Immediately, the site will highlight certain things:

  • Blue - Adverbs- It gives students a certain number of adverbs to aim for. The goal number changes by how many words are in the essay.

  • Green - Passive voice verbs - Just like with adverbs, it gives an acceptable number of passive voice verbs.

  • Purple - Phrases with simpler alternatives - Students need to use this one with discernment.  It suggests some phrases that maybe should have just been worded better.

  • Yellow - Hard to Read Sentences - Again, students use with discernment.  Maybe the sentence is just overly long.  Maybe the sentence is a run-on.  

  • Red - Very hard to Read Sentences - Students are rambling here, have a run-on, or both.  Most of these will need to be addressed.

The last two are what I find to be invaluable when trying to get students to proofread their work.  The red finds some many things that would have been marked as "Awkward Wording" and helps students to eliminate confusing their readers.

Do you have a good online proofreader?  Share it in the comments!

Monday, November 23, 2020

Famous Last Words

 I don't know how much you know about this guy:

His name is Thomas de Mahy and he was the Marquis de Favras during the French Revolution.  He was arrested and condemned to death on the testimony of two men, but without corroborating evidence.

So why does he get his own post on Extreme English Teachers?  Because of his last words.

Upon reading his death warrant, his only response was, "I see that you have made three spelling mistakes."

Ha!  THAT is AWESOME!  If you've got to go, might as well go out in style.

If you want to know more about this guy (sadly, his life isn't full of grammar and spelling zingers to his enemies), you can read more at History 101.

Thursday, November 19, 2020

Wireless Microphone

 My district is looking at returning to in-person, but we will be teaching a virtual class at the same time.  Teaching virtually ties me down to the laptop since if I move too far away from it, the remote students can't hear me.  Sticking right at the computer diminishes my ability to teach the kids in the room.  So what to do?

I decided to look into a wireless microphone that would work with my computer.  I found this one on Amazon and a video of a guy testing it out.  He was a whole block away and I could hear him perfectly!

Now if you only watched a portion of video, you may have seen him using it, but his mouth not synched up.  Later he said that was because he was using the phone instead of the laptop.  He then recorded off his computer and his voice was synch with his mouth.

The downside?  It runs about $50.  

I'm going to keep looking to see if I can find one a little cheaper, but I'm thinking that $50 might be worth it if it works and gives me some freedom to move around the room.

I'd love to hear from any of you who are teaching both in-class and remote at the same time and hear what your problems are and solutions, if you've thought of them yet.  Or if anyone has used a wireless mic - are they worth it?

Wednesday, November 18, 2020

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.

Thursday, November 12, 2020

The Daily Blog - Something from Remote Learning that I Will Keep

There are quite a few things that I am ready to get back to once school goes back to normal, but one thing I am doing during this time will be a mainstay in my class.

Students are struggling to keep up with their assignments and parents like to know what is going on too.  To that end, I created a Daily Blog.

The idea is simple.  Information that I would normally keep on my white board, I put here, along with links to find everything.  I have a few sections:
Holidays - because everyday can be celebrated for something!
The Week's Work - I list day by day what we are doing that week and put in the relevant links.  I might have to make a few corrections along the way, but it is easy to update.
Homework, Missing Assignments, Bonus Assignments - I put links here for students to find work that I will still take late and such.
Common Lit Articles - Since I do these weekly, it is a nice reminder for them.  If you aren't using Common Lit, you should look into it.  I'll have to make a post about that here.
Upcoming Due Dates - Especially good reminders for major projects.

When the new week comes up, I just copy the previous week, paste it in the new post, and change up the details.

I started by making it a daily thing, but soon realized that it was too much work to update every day and students would not scroll to find what they missed.

Now when students ask me for this link or that assignment or how to do this - I just refer them back to the Daily Blog.  It's easier for me and quick for them.  Parents love it too.  I found out this morning that I had a kid last night email me after I went to sleep asking for the link to the make up test.  About thirty minutes after that was an email from his mother saying to nevermind because she told him to check the Daily Blog.  :)

I would love to here what inventive ways you guys are keeping your students informed or what remote learning ideas you'll be bringing back into the classroom when things go back to normal.

Thursday, November 5, 2020

Remote Feedback

 One thing I've found difficult to do is to give feedback on remote work.  If it were paper, I would just jot a note in the margins, and I can some with the comments section on a Google doc.

But I want an easier way to do it that grabs student attention.  So right now, my students are embarking on the research paper, but since we are remote, I can't just have my students bring me their note cards each day for me to thumb through looking for common mistakes.  So I created a Note Sheet template for them to use.  It's far from perfect, but I think it is getting the job done. 

For feedback, I am going to use some ready made images:



And I'll make others as I notice certain trends.  I have these on a google presentation that I have open on a second monitor so i can easily copy/paste them into their note sheet.

You can find all sorts of starburst balloons and other stuff on royalty free sites like https://pixabay.com/

Not ingenious, but making my work load a little lighter while making the feedback something bright for the kids to see. Of course, some feedback can't be a cookie-cutter response, so those get the individual treatment.

So, help us out, fellow extreme teachers, what are you doing to give remote feedback?

Monday, October 26, 2020

Grade Calculator

 I give this to my students at the end of the first quarter of each semester.  Since we are on a block schedule, their grades average to this formula -

1st Quarter - 40%

2nd Quarter - 40%

Final Exam - 20%

I'm sure you school district has a similar set up with only minor differences in the weight of each thing. The problem is, students often do not fully grasp how this works both for them and against them.  Many will come into the new quarter with an idea that they will work extra hard after slacking off and pull their grade up to a B, when mathematically, that is just not going to happen.  

I decided long ago to be a bit more transparent so that they can formulate a plan and know EXACTLY what it is they need to get.  That involves understanding both why they didn't get the grade they may have wanted (was it test average, was it missing assignments, was it poor grades) and what they need to get now.

I often start them off with a worksheet (will be doing it a bit different this year with it being remote - still working that one out) and the first question I ask is what number grade do they want for the whole course.

Then I give them their number grade for the first quarter.

Then I give them this chart:

You can get the whole chart with the link.  The thing is, no matter how much your percentages are for the final exam, this chart still works!  Here's why:

Each quarter will weigh the same in regards to each other.

The two quarters are ALWAYS much more weighty than the exam.

The two quarters are the thing that students have the most control over.

The exam, while weighty, is not nearly as important as the quarters to determining overall grade and since most students will score within 15 points of their averaged quarter grade, the impact to the final average is low.

So now the students can look at the chart, run their finger down the left side to find what they they have, run their finger across the top to find out what they want, and then follow the row and column until they intersect, which is the grade they need this quarter to get that.  

For example, a student has a 73.  He wants a B, which in my state is an 80.  His fingers follow the lines until he sees that this quarter he must make an 87 for that to happen.

The formula is super simple - basically for every point your first quarter grade is BELOW what you want, your second quarter must be that many points ABOVE what you want.  

Conversely, for every point ABOVE what you want, you can go that many points BELOW what you want.

This saddens some students, but it also gives them a solid number.  There is no guesswork.  They know they NEED a 68 or they aren't passing the course going into the exam.  Then you can have them check their grade periodically against their magic number.

About the exam?  Well, if you have my district's percentages, then the exam will affect the final grade 1 point for every 5 points above or below the quarters averaged together.  I tell my students to add three to five points to their target second quarter grade just to be a buffer in case the exam is not what they want it to be.

Tuesday, October 13, 2020

Tech Tuesday - Cosmobuzz - Alternatives to Kahoot!

 Want some fun gaming in class, but also want to vary it up for yourself and your students?  This is an ongoing series of alternatives to Kahoot! so that you can experience variety (which is the spice of life, you know).



Cosmobuzz does one thing and it does that one thing well!  Instead of you needing an account, you just click the link and open a room.  when you choose to Host a room, it gives you a room number to share with the students.  

The game play is simple - you ask a question and the students hit the buzzer.  The site shows you who hit the buzzer first.

Here is what they see:

Here is what you see:

When a buzzer is hit, it not only logs in the time (down to the thousandth of a second!), but it also numbers responders in order to help you quickly find.  Or you can just set it to only show the first person who buzzed in.

Students can type in an answer or you can just make it oral response.

This is super easy to do in class or remote!  Plus, my school filter was giving me some issues, so I contacted the guy who runs the site.  He responded within minutes.  We quickly found that the problem was not on his end at all, but the school filter.  If only my school IT worked as fast!  After four weeks, they came through and I am loving this new way to play in my classroom.

Give this one a whirl, guys!  People pay $$$ for buzzer systems and this one does it all for free and does it extremely well!

We will continue our search for ways to change up your online quizzes.  If you have a site I should check out, or if you have or will try this site, leave a comment!

Friday, October 9, 2020

Eat One of These and You'll Find How Far Down the Rabbit Hole Goes

 So someone left a waterlogged copy of Alice in Wonderland in a dark place and this happened:

I saw this all over Reddit and Pinterest, but most of them had no attribution for the photographer.  It is clearly a professional photo, so I finally found it on a site with the name Igor Siwanowicz watermarked on it.  

I checked for a web page of his and the closest I found was his Photo.net page, but I could not find this image on it.  He has tons of closeups of bugs of all sorts and are pretty interesting.  However, i did see am image when I was looking for his work of what appears to be Medusa's skull, so if you are into mythology, you might like this:

Wednesday, October 7, 2020

10 Day Blitz

 Just a quick thought here - many of us are working in some sort of remote or hybrid schedule and it is difficult for the students to sometimes get their head around it.  Even though they are doing (most likely) less work than what you would be assigning if you were in class as normal, they are feeling like it is more work than ever.

We get that.  We see it in our own daily schedule.  Who would have thought teaching remotely would take this much effort?

So I've been doing something to help my students get their head around their work.  I looked at what was still left to do and what was most commonly needed to be made up and I broke it down for them by days of the week.  This way, it doesn't feel so overwhelming.  It went something like this:

Monday - do the first Common Lit article; work on vocabulary.com for 5 minutes

Tuesday - do the second Common Lit article; work on vocabulary.com for 4 minutes; if you did not complete the vocabulary crossword then do that today (link to online crossword)

Wednesday - If you are missing a past Common Lit article, do the make up article; work on vocabulary.com for 3 minutes (test tomorrow); work on Author Revision paper for 10 minutes

Thursday - If you did not do the Edmentum Reading Diagnostic test, do that today; if you are missing the Quizizz for chapter 25, do that today (link); if you did not need to do any of the above, work on you Author Revision Paper for 10 minutes

Friday - If you did not do the Grammar Blast, do it today; work on your Author Revision Paper for 15 minutes (you should be done with the 950 words requirement); I will give a make up vocabulary list 2 test at 12:00 - look in your email for login information; Vocabulary 3 test make up will be given at 12:30.

Saturday - If you are missing the Email Etiquette assignment, know that out today.

Sunday - Take a break!

And so on for ten days worth of work.  

This does a few things:

  • Helps the student who is feeling overwhelmed to get his/her assignments together.  It is much better for them than to just give them a list of missing and upcoming assignments.
  • Model for students how to keep up with assignments, especially those who are looking to go to college in a year or two.
  • Helps the parents to assist their child at home by giving them what to remind their child to do (I send this to the students AND parents).
  • Helps you in case an administrator wants to know what YOU  did to help the student.
I try to get the students to Zoom with me one on one and work out a specific schedule just for him or her.  that's always better than a generic one, but a generic schedule is better than no schedule.

It is a bit more work on your already overloaded shoulders, but in the long run, it is time spent that pays off in several ways.

Tuesday, October 6, 2020

Tech Tuesday - Triventy

Hello fellow Extreme Teachers!  I'm starting a new series that I will put up here every so often called Alternatives to Kahoot!  Her's the first in the series!

Looking for alternatives to Kahoot?  It is hard to find one that is better, but there are others out there that offer a variety.  EVERY teacher is using Kahoot! (and well they should), but here is one way to stand out from the crowd a bit.

Pit Triventy head to head against Kahoot! and Kahoot! wins hands down int he flash and pizazz department; however, there are quite a few standouts that makes Triventy worth looking at:

1. Score doesn't decrease if it takes a student longer to answer.  You have only three scores - 2 points for the first one to answer, 1 point for a correct answer, 0 points for a wrong or no answer.  If you teach students who struggle with reading a question fast enough to get the big points in a Kahoot! or Quizizz game, then you've seen these students give up during these contests (that's why it is always good to call out the people that marked as on fire or on a streak but aren't in the top five).  Triventy doesn't care how long it takes to get it right once the first person has answered.  This evens the playing field some for your students who just need more time.

2. Students aren't penalized for getting hints. When making your questions, you have the ability to add a hint to give students a boost.

3. Fun 'Did You Know' statements. These pop up after the question is finished for a little bonus between questions.

4. Collaboration.  This one is the biggie.  Triventy knows this is their selling point and even puts it in their title.  You can open up a quiz to be created by multiple students.  So how is this useful?  Put students in groups.  Have them come up with a review quiz that another group will have to take (and they can take the other group's quiz).  Another way to do it is to have every student create a review question then you go through and weed out the bad ones and give the quiz to your class the next day.  Students have the incentive to come up with good questions since if you keep it, they are more likely to get it right (one would hope, at least).  

5. It's all free.  No upgrading to fancier options.  If they have it, they give it to you.

I like to use different quizzes just to keep things fresh.  Before all is said and done, we'll take a look at Quizizz, Socrative, Quizlet Live, Vocabulary Jam, and maybe a few others.  If you have an online quiz site I should put in for consideration, then post it in the comments!

If  you want to give it a test run, but don't want to put in the time to create it, then give this Spider-Man themed literary term practice a whirl and see how you like it! http://triv.in/17361

Monday, September 28, 2020

Presidential Debates - 2020 -- The Assignment

Hello fellow EETs!  The debate season is upon us and you are probably wary of wading into it (and rightly so).  However, there is such a gold mine of communications assessment here.  The most powerful job in the world being decided in a large part on how a person can communicate!  I may not know your state standards, but I can bet there is a communication aspect there.  So how do we tap this resource without getting fired?

By removing the political opinion from it completely.  You don;t need to know who your kids will vote for (assuming they are seniors and can vote).  Your kids don't need to know who you vote for.  Use this handout and your students can do a quick assessment of the candidate's speaking skills plus you are putting them into the situation where they can hear for themselves what the candidate has to say and make up their own mind.  I would say that is pretty extreme indeed.

Just make a copy of it and give it to your students.  I know I waited late to share this - the first debate is tomorrow!  I let it slip up on me!

Also, I know this is a very basic analysis of communication skills.  This is where my students are at.  Feel free to adjust it for your own purposes - just be careful if you get into anything that is requiring a student to reveal to you their political preference. 

Friday, September 25, 2020

Friday Fun Day

 A friend of mine shared this on Facebook, credited to Jill Thomas Doyle:

Thanks to Kelly Arnold for being extreme enough to sharing it with me!

  • An Oxford comma walks into a bar, where it spends the evening watching the television, getting drunk, and smoking cigars.

  • A dangling participle walks into a bar. Enjoying a cocktail and chatting with the bartender, the evening passes pleasantly.

  • A bar was walked into by the passive voice.

  • An oxymoron walked into a bar, and the silence was deafening.

  • Two quotation marks walk into a “bar.”

  • A malapropism walks into a bar, looking for all intensive purposes like a wolf in cheap clothing, muttering epitaphs and casting dispersions on his magnificent other, who takes him for granite.

  • Hyperbole totally rips into this insane bar and absolutely destroys everything.

  • A question mark walks into a bar?

  • A non sequitur walks into a bar. In a strong wind, even turkeys can fly.

  • Papyrus and Comic Sans walk into a bar. The bartender says, "Get out -- we don't serve your type."

  • A mixed metaphor walks into a bar, seeing the handwriting on the wall but hoping to nip it in the bud.

  • A comma splice walks into a bar, it has a drink and then leaves.

  • Three intransitive verbs walk into a bar. They sit. They converse. They depart.

  • A synonym strolls into a tavern.

  • At the end of the day, a cliché walks into a bar -- fresh as a daisy, cute as a button, and sharp as a tack.

  • A run-on sentence walks into a bar it starts flirting. With a cute little sentence fragment.

  • Falling slowly, softly falling, the chiasmus collapses to the bar floor.

  • A figure of speech literally walks into a bar and ends up getting figuratively hammered.

  • An allusion walks into a bar, despite the fact that alcohol is its Achilles heel.

  • The subjunctive would have walked into a bar, had it only known.

  • A misplaced modifier walks into a bar owned by a man with a glass eye named Ralph.

  • The past, present, and future walked into a bar. It was tense.

  • A dyslexic walks into a bra.

  • A verb walks into a bar, sees a beautiful noun, and suggests they conjugate. The noun declines.

  • A simile walks into a bar, as parched as a desert.

  • A gerund and an infinitive walk into a bar, drinking to forget.

  • A hyphenated word and a non-hyphenated word walk into a bar and the bartender nearly chokes on the irony.

Bonus points if you knew what a chiasmus was without having to look it up! And even more extra credit points if you know anything about this Jill Thomas Doyle. I've seen this all over the Internet always with a reference to her as the creator, but never anything about who she is.

Thursday, September 24, 2020

Try this Pro Gamer Move

 If your school has Chromebooks for your kids, then here is a little tip they can use to turn their single screen into a double screen.

I'm betting there is a similar technique for pretty much any computers out there.  Google "split screen for" and then type in the computer your students have.

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?

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!

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, 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.