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).

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 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!