Friday, September 24, 2021

Doth the Hoke Poke Forsooth!

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

Tuesday, September 21, 2021

Sleepy Hollow Lesson - Context Clues and Literary Terms

 This is a lesson that provides context clues practice along with literary term identification.  If you have ever seen the Disney movie The Adventures of Ichabod and Mr. Toad, though you might only remember the second half as "The Legend of Sleepy Hollow", then you know Bing Crosby is laying out all sorts of high-end vocabulary words for this cartoon.

The story works well with a short story unit or with American Literature.  The lesson works well for practicing context clues and literary term identification.  That means no matter your grade level, this may be right for you.

First of all, let's talk about showing the video in class.  I'm sure you are familiar with Disney's relentless pursuit of copyright violations.

So is it legal to show a Disney movie in class?  The answer is yes, with a 'but'.

Here is the legal copyright information:

(1) performance or display of a work by instructors or pupils in the course of face-to-face teaching activities of a nonprofit educational institution, in a classroom or similar place devoted to instruction, unless, in the case of a motion picture or other audiovisual work, the performance, or the display of individual images, is given by means of a copy that was not lawfully made under this title, and that the person responsible for the performance knew or had reason to believe was not lawfully made;

What does this mean?  It means you CAN show a video in class as long as:

1. it is in a classroom or room specifically designated for class in face-to-face teaching,

2. it is used as a part of the curriculum and teaches what is consistently taught in the course,

3. it is a legally obtained copy.

Don't believe me?  Read the actual law here.

Those of you old school might remember that we were told no video can be shown in the classroom unless PPR rights were obtained (which meant a $20 video suddenly cost you $99), but that was never the case.  Fair Use kicks in with ANY movie.

The problem for teachers comes in when teachers pop in a video as a day off rather than as a part of the lesson.  You guys here are all EXTREME teachers and I know you don't do amateurish hacks like that.

Your district may have beefed up the rules for their own purposes, so you may want to check with them or just beg for forgiveness rather than ask for permission.

Go back and look at #1 - this only applies to face-to-face teaching.  There are rulings about virtual teaching, but they are different and if this is you, then I encourage you to find that out.

So, with it being literature, vocabulary, and terms, this checks all the boxes for #2.

That brings us to #3 - the legal copy.  Purchase the DVD. This does NOT apply to streaming Netflix or Disney+ since they have in their end-user agreement that you agreed to when purchasing the subscription, wording that prevents use for classrooms for whatever reason.

The portion of the movie that we would watch is 25 minutes long, which means you are only using 37% of the total run-time of the actual movie (the first 63% being the Mr. Toad segment).

I guess you could skip the video portion and go straight to the lesson, though I think it would be harder to do in the class.

The lesson can be found here:

I tried out the lesson platform on Quizizz rather than the basic quiz platform.  It is nice.  Think of it as merging Google Slides and Quizizz together.  Turns out I didn't really need it for this particular lesson, but it didn't hurt.  I do know a lesson that I will want to use it for in the future, though.

Last thing - two of the questions are poll and they do not count toward the grade (if you wish to take this for a grade).  The polls ask students to make predictions/guesses on the story. One of them is to make a guess on what they think the actual story says when it comes to who Katrina picked at the end of the party.  That is not given in the movie.  The correct answer is - Brom.  She is never really interested in Ichabod and merely uses him the entire story to make Brom fight harder for her.

Speaking of the original text, you may wish to pair this up with it.  Here is an abridged copy of the original story: The Legend of Sleepy Hollow Found Among the Papers of the Late Diedrich Knickerbocker

And, if you wish, here is a transcript of all that is said during the movie.

Wednesday, September 15, 2021


Looking for a poem to teach, a way to teach literary terms, or just want a  quick lesson to fill a gap?  Look no further than "Metaphors" by Plath.  I'm sure you've read and may have taught it before, but in case you are not familiar with it, here it is:

by Sylvia Plath

I’m a riddle in nine syllables,
An elephant, a ponderous house,
A melon strolling on two tendrils.
O red fruit, ivory, fine timbers!
This loaf’s big with its yeasty rising.
Money’s new-minted in this fat purse.
I’m a means, a stage, a cow in calf.
I’ve eaten a bag of green apples,
Boarded the train there’s no getting off.

This works really great with a SmartBoard-like projection or even an overhead since marking up the poem as you read it as a class is easier for the students to visualize.

Students tend to be intrigued by it when you build it up as a mystery to be solved.  You can even up the ante by putting something up to win for the first person to figure it out.  With that objective, I do not tell them this is about a pregnancy.

First thing, have students read the poem to themselves and have them write down what they think the poem is about, just so they have an reason to try and process it.

Title - Metaphors are often missed by students because, while it is easy to understand most comparisons, many metaphors leave off what is being compared, like in this case.  We get one of the objects for comparison, but not the whole thing.

Line 1 - Plath wastes no time handing out the clues.  I say to the kids, "This poem is way over nine syllables!  What is this about?"  Eventually some student will figure out that the line is nine syllables long.  Then I have students check the other lines and yep, all are nine syllables exactly.  A clever student might point out that there are nine lines.  A super clever student might point out that there are nine letters in the title.  So we mark on our clue board that nine must be important.

Line 2 - We take the time to figure out what ponderous means.  I usually at this point do not point out that people live in a house.  I wait and let someone pick up on that or we just move further.

Line 3 and 4 - We take the time to look up what "tendrils" means.  Then maybe draw a quick doodle to get a visual.  Students usually focus on these first few lines about she is fat.  We do focus on the tendrils are pale because they must not be getting sunlight.

Line 5 - So they start to put together that whatever she is, she's getting bigger.

Line 6 - Students often have to be told what minted means.

Line 7 - We touch on what it means to be a "means to an end".  My more rural students at this point figure it out since they know what it means for a cow to be in calf. I sometimes skip over this clue to prolong it a bit, if no one points it out.

Line 8 - While apples do come in the green variety, I ask them if we take the idea that apples are typically red, what do you think happens if you eat a bunch of unripe one?

Line 9 - With abortion being in the spotlight, you can choose how close you want to dance on this line that there is no getting off.  However, I do like to talk about getting on a train is an archetype for a major life change/decision (like Polar Express).

If students figure it out early, you may want to see if they notice how her viewpoint of this situation seems to spiral downward as the poem goes on.  At first, she talks about how fat she feels, but by the end, she feels trapped with no way out of the situation.

I often do this with ninth graders, since the idea of being pregnant isn't the first thought that pops into their mind, but I have used this before with other grade levels with much success.

If you are looking for more texts to use in order to teach students inference, try Ordeal by Cheques.

Monday, September 13, 2021

Eclipse Crossword

If you have not found Eclipse Crossword, you need to.

It is a crossword maker that is easy to use and free.  There are no ads, no spam, nothing.  It allows you to customize it and it leaves you wondering, "How can this be free?"

Just go to

*WARNING* If you've bought a crossword maker program - do NOT go to the Eclipse Crossword web site.  You will curse yourself for wasting money.

Let's take a moment to review it's features:-

  • Free
  • Allows you to use your words
  • Allows you to save your word lists to access easier in the future
  • With a mere click of a button, it will create a new lay out.  I will create ten or more crossword puzzles for each class.  Sure, the clues are the same, but students are forced to at least read the clue before cheating and finding the answer from a friend, which is the whole intent of assigning the puzzle to begin with - to make the students read the clues and attach a word to it.
  • You can tell it to print out a variety of formats - Empty puzzle grid, word bank, clues, answer key, and a list of clues with answers (I like this last feature - just the other day I had a student who lost their notebook and with it, their vocabulary lists so I just printed this up and viola!  She had all the words and all the definitions and it took me less than one minute).
  • You can save it as a webpage both static for printing and interactive for completing online.
  • You can even save it in a format that allows you to open it in Microsoft Word (fun for making the border look nice).
Plus, It's an easy to create assignment for when you have a sub or a review session.   You also do not need an account nor do you need to have your students create an account to use it.

No, I do not work for them nor do I know anyone there.  I found it several years ago and have used it often.  What a great program!

Grade for Eclipse Crossword . . .    A+

Tuesday, September 7, 2021

The Six-Question Literary Term Quiz

Here's a simple little exercise that is useful for a lot of reasons - the 6 question term quiz.

I find it is easier to talk about literature if we understand the same terms.  I use these terms and sometimes add to them if a particular term comes up in class discussion.

To help drive these terms home, I sometimes let them play Quizlet Live or Blooket with them.

Step 1 - Keep it simple

I keep it just six questions.  Typically, I ask four or five questions that are just a definition that they should write the term to (for example: A comparison using like or as - they just write down SIMILE).  For the remaining question or two, I sometimes give questions from the Daily Dose of EOC - simple and short reading comp and literary term identification practices.

Step 2 - Keep it safe (grade-wise)

This is meant to be a practice (despite my quiz wording) so I keep the weight of this low and as non-punitive as possible.  This is my scale:

The fact that they could miss a few and not fail gets them to buy into it and try a little.  I typically teach the lowest level and the highly unmotivated.  I also started the grade of 40 for trying to answer all six, even if they get it wrong, back when I taught 9th graders.  I noticed many freshmen developed a "if I don't try, then I didn't fail" mindset.  This gives them a reason to participate.

Step 3 - Make it fun

Once we complete question #6, I give them a quirky extra credit question and then have them turn their papers face down and drown a smiley face.  The first time I do that, they usually don't draw or just put dots and a smile.  I started using the smiley face method long ago to prevent people from looking onto other people papers since I would always have a few kids ask me to repeat questions.  When I took the time to repeat, other students took the time to look around for answers.  Now, I know some teachers have a real problem with extra credit.  My philosophy is that a few points here or there doesn't do a lot in the grand scheme, but can do wonders for a kid who doesn't normally score high on school work.  When we grade it, I say, "If the smiley face has..." and then insert whatever I feel like that day - a nose, teeth, hair, shoes, etc.  If there is a question about if what the kid drew was actually the correct feature, I always allow the grader to decide.  I'll have kids miss all the questions, but they get excited when they get the 3 points because they included freckles!  Plus, once I see that everyone is working on a smiley face, I know that we can move on to the grading.  If one of my answers is onomatopoeia, I always have the grader throw in an extra 3 points if it is spelled correctly - but I never take off for spelling on these as long as we can figure out what term the kid was trying to spell.

Step 4 - Make it easy on you

Have the kids switch papers and grade it right there in class.  I always have them write their own name at the bottom of the paper they received.  Do some kids try and cheat with their friends?  Possibly.  It's not much and usually I can spot that pretty easy.  Having the kids grade it in class does three things: 

  1. It gives the kids instant feedback.  This is super valuable for them and helps them to remember the term better, especially if you repeat a few particular terms often over several quizzes.
  2. Adds a little, not a lot, of peer pressure.  That sounds like it would be a bad thing, but they tend to trade papers with people they feel comfortable with, so I'll hear friends encouraging/ribbing each other, which increases their performance.
  3. Makes it a quick grade for you!  These things take about 15 minutes or less, so they are also great time fillers if you realize that your planned lesson didn't take as long as you thought it would.

I also do not worry about making these up.  If a kid misses the quiz, it just goes down as an exempt or omit.  Why?  I give so many of these things that it is not worth making up.  The more of these a kid does, the better it is for their grade because it provides more grades to fill out their average.

It's simple, but it works wonders for the students and for me.  Give it a shot and let me know if you have similar exercises.

Thursday, September 2, 2021

Shamed by Your English?

Several years ago, I came across this ad in a 1967 comic book.  I cannot remember which comic book, but knowing me, it was probably a Spider-Man one!

You may have seen it in other magazines.  It ran for about three decades in various comics and magazines, all with differing opening titles.  Sometime Don Bolander is holding his glasses to the right, sometime left.  It even got plagiarized and used in England!

You can still buy it!  No, don't print out the advert.  You will need to go to Amazon where it continues to get rave reviews!

Actually, in all fairness, my copy wasn't very clean, so I found a crisper image on the Internet (because everything is on the Internet!) here.

Tuesday, August 24, 2021

Middle Ages - Check Your Humors!

If you find yourself teaching Canterbury Tales, doing a fly-by of Middle Ages literature, King Arthur, or just want to start class off with a little something different, then Try out this online quiz to see what your humors are.

I have been going through my filing cabinet (yes, I'm old enough to still have quite a bit of my lessons in the filing cabinet) and trying to purge multiple copies of things.  I ran across this find your humor quiz that I have no memory of ever seeing before.  Most likely I stole it off of some other teacher that has impacted my life in some way shape or form (I'm betting Ms. Tyndall or Mrs. Brock).  Anyway, I have no idea what workbook they got it from since that part did not photocopy.  It also have no explanation of what the humors were.  

So I put it the questions in an online personality quiz generator ( and did a little research to give what each humor means, what it says about their personality, their looks, and whatnot.

Thursday, August 19, 2021

Beowulf Characters Visualized

 I am a visual learner and it helps me to see the character interactions laid out.  Here are the characters of Beowulf laid out for your students:

I think I got them all!  Did I miss someone?

I have it on this Google doc if you wish to have an easy to print version.

Wednesday, August 11, 2021

New Teacher? Read This!

If you know a new teacher or a student teacher, you may want to think about sharing this with them.  This is the perfect metaphor for a teacher's first year.

It follows the opening to the movie Raiders of the Lost Ark, perhaps the finest movie ever made. Shakespeare would have been proud to produce this movie.

If you haven't seen it, take the time to watch it now:

Best. Movie. Ever.

Now, getting that elusive first job is akin to Indiana Jones getting the idol.  What we didn't see in that clip was all the booby traps that he had to by pass to get to the idol to begin with.  He's confident and a bit smug.  "I got this!"  That's the first week of school.

Then all hell breaks loose.

You noticed that the cave started to fall apart, so Indiana Jones quickly just decides to cut out of there, but he forgot about all the darts in the sides of the wall shooting at him, so he runs like heck.

Your first discipline problem.  But you'll survive it, just like he did.  That's when the betrayal hits.

By betrayal, I'm not meaning anything major, just the realization that not all teachers in that department or school agree and there are some bitter ones there that will resent your youthful idealization (mainly because it reminds them of better days when they had that youthful idealization - lesson to learn - do become like those guys).

You'll survive it, maybe even see them get theirs.  It is the mid course break and you think you have it mastered.  Indiana Jones did too.  That's when the ball started rolling.  He runs to keep ahead of the ball until he leaps out of the tomb just in time.

You'll feel that ball.  You'll feel that you are so busy grading and going to workshops that you can barely stay up with the planning.  You will do everything you can to stay one step ahead of the ball and at exam time, you'll be leaping through the exit.

After catching your breath, you'll be ready to try it again.  This time it will be easier.  By your fifth time, you won't even noticed the ball.  By your tenth time, you're doing it with your eyes shut.

This is not meant to scare a new teacher, but instead to give them peace of mind.  Too often that new teacher thinks that it's just them.  It is helpful to know that it happens to us all.  Remember, you are being put into a job as a first year teacher and expected to do the same job as a thirty-five year veteran.


Thursday, May 20, 2021

It's that time of year again! STATE TEST TIME!

  Do you have a state mandated reading comprehension test for your course?  At this point you have done everything you can do to increase their ability to read, now it is time to supercharge their test taking ability!

There is no charge for this activity, just download it from the Extreme English Teacher Teachers-Pay-Teachers store.  If you like it, I would appreciate a positive review.  Those really do help!

Standardized reading tests are a joke, if you ask me.  We are requiring students to spend an hour and a half to two hours focusing on boring reading passages. What this activity does well is to give students the ability to focus a little longer to get another passage in before their brain fries from your oh-so-wonderful state test.  The methods in there were honed in my classroom and I consistently had my non-motivated non-readers score higher than expected on the NC English II EOC and the NCFE for English IV (my scores were in the blue repeatedly, if you are a fellow NC teacher and knows what that means).  The method works! 

If you used it, let me know in the comments and again - positive reviews on Teachers-Pay-Teachers is ALWAYS APPRECIATED!

Tuesday, May 18, 2021

Merging Quizzes in Quizizz

 It's no secret I love this website (check out why it is a great site here) and with remote students, I have found myself relying on it more and more.  It is the easiest way to give a remote test plus it is grade immediately and I can easily reset it for makeups and retests.

But now I am looking at making an exam for my mythology class to take remotely.  Unlike my more involved English IV exam, I don't mind this one being multiple choice.  So I'm looking to Quizizz.

It's a good move for me since they have taken all their tests in Quizizz, so they are used to this format, but I am busy grading research papers, so the idea of taking more time to create a new exam that will only be used this one time is less than thrilling.

That's when I found that you can merge different Quizizzes together.  To do this, create a new quiz and find the TELEPORT option at the top of the screen.

Next you can search your own Quizizzes or any of the public ones by typing in a search keyword.  Unclick the PUBLIC QUIZZES option if you only want to search your Quizizzes.  

Once you select a Quizizz, then you just choose which questions you wish to add.  You can always go back later and re-order the questions to fit your new format.

Do you have a different way of remote testing?  Leave a comment!

Tuesday, May 11, 2021

Inference Using "Ordeal By Cheques"

We are doing the research paper, so I am strapped for time to update the blog right now, but here is an oldie that you might not have seen.

One of my son's middle school teachers gave this to him and I think it is absolutely brilliant.  I've used it ever since in my ninth grade short story unit.  Students who do not read well, can handle this one.  It is an excellent story to work inference skills.  I like to put it on the SmartBoard and do the discussion about what is really happening and who are the characters.  I do have to review a little bit about what are the components of a check, since these objects are becoming obsolete.

"Ordeal by Cheques" by Wuther Crue is a visual story that must have the entire plot inferred as we only get to see a series of checks written over a period of 28 years. The checks look like this:

Over the course of the story, little things change, such as the name that signs the check, the date, etc.  The students are left to figure out why these check are being written and who these people are that are having checks written to them.  Certain people get checks in the same amount while some checks are way too high for the time period.

Here is a copy of the story.  It is not long and if you teach inference skills or short stories, I encourage you to give it a shot in your class.  Let me know if you have any stories similar to this.

Thursday, April 29, 2021

Archie the Future-Telling Oracle

 I'm sure by this point you've seen this little gem. I have verified with Archie Comcis that it is indeed true and not Photoshopped.  

Look at the following panel:

Veronica and Betty skip school, making sure to fool the teacher first:

Ah, for the days when thought and care was put into deceiving the teacher.  So much more respectable than just logging in and walking away.

The kids even have detention rooms in their house (their closets) in case they get into trouble!

You may see a similar panel but with the year 2104 AD on it.  That was in a reprint in 2015.  I guess the publishers wanted to to still feel futuristic!  The comic originally ran in February of 1997 in Betty #46.  If you want to read the whole thing, Archie Comics has you covered on their website!  Read it here!

Monday, April 26, 2021

Norse Mythology

 If you have a chance to teach Norse mythology in your class, do your best to get your hands on a copy (or even class set!) of Neil Gaiman's Norse Mythology.

It's Gaiman, so you know it is fantastically written.  Should you do this, you are welcome to use my Quizizz questions to give a story check up:

Thursday, April 22, 2021

Dally Not, Sirrah! Talk Like Shakespeare Day Is Upon Us!

Tomorrow is Shakespeare's birthday - and TALK LIKE SHAKESPEARE DAY!  Aye, a great day to annoy thy students, indeed!

Let them insult each other with Shakespearean insults. You probably already have a version of this pdf somewhere.

And for your own enjoyment, here is a comedian doing the Shakespeare version of Three Little Pigs:

Monday, April 19, 2021

Blooket: An Update


A few months ago, I published a review of the gaming site Blooket.  I cannot tell you enough how awesome this site is for alternatives to Kahoot!  I have explored it a bit more and want to point out two more features.

1. You can give students a link to let them practice on their own time.  This is pretty neat way to encourage them to study.  You can also increase the chances to study for a test by maybe giving a few extra credit points if they can send you a screenshot of a particular score or higher (if you are into extra credit points, that is).

2. We tried out a few more of the games in my Mythology class (I always use them to test run material before using it in my English IV class):

  • Tower Defense - You know those mobile game ads where you have an army approaching your castle and you have to build turrets to stop them?  That is what this is.  My students were not as thrilled for this one as the others.
  • Gold Quest - THIS IS AWESOME!  Students answer the questions and when they get the right answer, they get to open one of three chests.  The chest will either give them gold, allow them to steal some gold, or allow them to swap with any player.  What makes this amazing is that the game is on a timer, so they can go for as many questions as they can within a certain minute limit (that you set) or you can say until someone gets x-amount of gold.  This allows slower students to move at their own pace.  It also inflicts a bit of randomness to the game.  Since players can swap gold, then it is possible for the kid who only knows one answer to be able to steal all of the gold away from the number 1 position.  I thought my kids would get angry at that, but they loved it because now my smartest student isn't always winning.
  • Racing - The students liked it, and I was surprised.  It's just a game where when they get an answer right, their character moves forward and when they get it wrong the character moves backward.  First one to the finish line wins.
  • Battle Royale - My favorite - either individuals or teams have lives and they are paired up with another individual or team.  First to get it right keeps the life until finally on one remains.
  • Tower of Doom - A Pokemon Go meets D&D - not my favorite because it is all individual and not class-wide play.
  • Classic - It is you run of the mill online quiz game format.

So, if you haven't yet, give a try.  If you have a Quizlet list, you can just import those terms in and make it even easier on you.  

Tuesday, April 13, 2021

Tech Tuesday: How to Add Music to Your Google Slides

Google currently doesn't have an "Add  Audio" feature for Google Slides.  What it does have, though, is an "Add Video" feature.  So I pull up a song I want for background music off of YouTube. You probably are aware already, but if not, you can find all sorts of background music to match whatever mood you wish to establish.

OK, so when I made a Slides presentation on Norse Ragnarok for my mythology class, I wanted to tell the story of Odin's fight with Fenrir.  So I found a great image to post on the screen and I wanted some cool music in the background while I'm in story-telling mode.  After a search on YouTube (and getting way too sidetracked on listening to several different awesome background songs), I found one and copied the URL.  Then I hit the INSERT option at the top of my Google Slides and chose VIDEO.  You can search YouTube right there on Google Slides, but I prefer to find it on YouTube, catch the URL and then stick that into the URL search.

However, when I place it in the slide, it is way too big.  That's OK.  We will take care of it in a minute.

Now, we want the music to start automatically, so we need to click on the video, select FORMAT, and then FORMAT OPTIONS.  

Under the FORMAT OPTIONS tab, click VIDEO PLAYBACK.  Notice that here you can choose a time in the video for your song to start or you can just start it from the beginning.

Now you need to click the AUTOPLAY WHEN PRESENTING box and it will start immediately.

Extreme Pro Tip - It is a good idea to select the AUTOPLAY option when presenting and slide that has a video.  It makes for a smoother presentation.

Now we need to get the video out of sight.  So we will now shrink the box down and move it to a corner.

It will not be completely out of sight, but when the slide presents, it will be virtually unnoticeable and, at the very least, unobtrusive to those that do notice it.

This is what your audience sees.

Now all that is left is for you to drop a link for the music in the notes section of your slides right under your image attribution.

Extreme Pro Tip - Each semester, before presenting the slide, do a quick run through to make sure your songs are still active on YouTube.  Sometimes people's accounts go down or they didn't have permission to host that song and the link is now dead.  Of course, it is a good idea to do this anytime you have a video, for viewing or for listening, in your presentation.

Have a cool tip?  Share it!  Have a different way of putting music on the slides?  Share it!  Found it useful?  Let me know!

Monday, April 5, 2021

New Quarter - New You!

 With the new quarter approaching, here is a tip to help keep struggling students focused:


The math on this is not hard (and is based on a semester-length class) - once they know what grade they want to get in the course (for some it is bare minimum passing, others it is a 70 or 80) and once they have the first quarter, all they need to do is to figure out how many points away from their desired grade and then add that (or subtract if they are ahead of the grade) to the desired grade.

Example 1:

Student A wants to pass with a 60.  He has a 47 currently.  That means he is 13 points away from passing (60 - 47 = 13), so he has to be 13 points ABOVE his desired grade (60 + 13 = 73).  If Student A does not get at least a 73 this quarter, he is not passing the course.  This is helpful to know because Student A may work harder and get a 65 and think he is doing much better, which he is, but he is not doing enough.

Example 2:

Student B wants an A in the class.  She already has a 94.  Since she is four points OVER her desired grade (90), she can afford to go as low as four points UNDER her desired grade (86) and still come out with an A for the course.

When you do this in class, you will find that many students have completely unrealistic understandings of how grades are factored.  I'll have a student with a 74 who wants to make an A for the course.  That's mathematically impossible.

You can use this chart to help you out or just google search grade calculators.

What about exams?

Well, exams have an impact, to be sure, but if you are operating on a grading scale of 1st quarter = 40%, 2nd quarter = 40%, exam/state test = 20% (or something similar), you'll find that the exam rarely does more than impact their grade five points or more.  Why?  Most students will score on their exam close to what they make for the two quarters averaged together.  An exam, using the 40/40/20 method, only moves the final grade 1 point for every 5 points it's away from the quarters average together.


Student C has a Q1 grade of 82 and a Q2 grade of 76.  His average is 79.  He would have to make an 84 on the exam to pull the final grade up 1 point to get a B (80).  Conversely, he cannot score so poorly on the exam to pull his 79 down below a passing grade of 60.  

Since most students are going to score within 15 points of their average grade, the impact is nearly as impressive as we often believe.

 A student who knows exactly what grade he/she needs to get is more likely to stay on target throughout the year, especially if you keep your online grade book up to date (which you really should, by the way).

Wednesday, March 24, 2021

Kahoot! Update

I saw this about a week or two ago and am not sure how long this has been an option.  Kahoot! now lets you show the answers on the student's device, which is great for remote learning and takes away one of the biggest flaws in Kahoot.

I figured I was just behind on the times, but when I started using it, the students acted like they had not seen any other teacher do that before, so maybe it just came out.  If so and in case you are further behind than me, here is how you do it.  Right before starting the game, just click the option:

I'm curious to know if you've seen it before or if anyone knew when this option came about.  Let me know yea or nay in the comments!

Tuesday, March 16, 2021

New EET Store Product - Questions (and Answers) for Every Chapter of Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time


Hi guys!  I have a new product on the Extreme English Teachers Store - questions and answers for every chapter in Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time.  The chapters are short (mostly) and that makes for very adaptable lesson plans, because let's face it - you can plan out the semester all you want, but between special assemblies, drills, inclement weather days, and just the differences in the speed of each class, those plans are usually off track sooner than later.  This book is great in meeting your needs on the fly.  

The chapter by chapter questions let you  mix and match to meet the speed of your class and can be used as review, reading questions, check up quizzes, or moved into an online quiz format like Quizizz or Blooket pretty easily.

These questions were written for struggling readers in mind, so most are plot level, with a few deeper thoughts.  Some are opinion questions and most are aimed at helping the students focus on what will be important later on in the book.  A favorite tactic for me to use is to ask my students why I asked that particular question.  Gets them thinking.

If you haven't taught Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time, you should!  Read this post on why.

You may also be interested in this one: Before Reading - An Introduction Activity for Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time

I have plans for more activities for this novel to come out.  If only I wasn't so busy teaching, I could spend more time on this!  :)



So I ran across this in an article by Olivia Rutigliano on Literary Hub.  It was just too funny not to pass on to you guys to check out!  So if you want to read the article and find out what Samuel Taylor Coleridge called him, please do over at:

Sunday, March 14, 2021

Happy Pi Day

"3.141592," Tom said piously.

Well, math teachers shouldn't get all the fun!

Tuesday, March 9, 2021

Mythology Memes

 So I teach a mythology elective class which is so fun.  I decided to give them a meme contest and these are a few that they came up with:

As you can see, Zeus' shenanigans were a favorite topic!  I put these and the others in a Google form and let them vote on the winner.  Here is the grand champion:

So have some fun and before your next novel test, have your students create some memes on it.  Then let them vote before taking the test.  It's fun for them and fun for you and maybe, just maybe, helps them to remember and make a few connections they wouldn't have before!

Friday, March 5, 2021

How Do I Love Thee?

Tomorrow is Elizabeth Barrett Browning's birthday.  She is known almost as much for love letters as she is for her poetry.  For those of you who need a refresher, Elizabeth (and her ten siblings) was forbidden by her father to ever marry and have children.  When Robert Browning read her poetry, he fell in love with her and began to write her.  Between the two of them, they wrote 570 letters to each other before they ran away and eloped.  They both kept all the love letters and the door to the Barrett house which half of those letters came through, was saved before the house was torn down.  I believe it is kept at Wellesley College Library and was a popular place for college students to slip Valentine cards until it was sealed shut.

So why did Elizabeth's father want to stop his bloodline?  Well, according to one scholar, Julia Markus, in her book Dared and Done, It might be because either her grandfather or gear grandfather has a child with a Jamaican slave. Either he was such a racist that he did not want his bloodline tainted or, being an abolitionist, he was ashamed of his white bloodline and wished to end it.

Either way, it was the reason for Elizabeth and Robert's secrecy.  Her father never forgave her for running off and getting married and having a child.  She wrote to him often and he always returned her letters unopened.

Here is a reading comprehension practice for her poem "How Do I Love Thee?"

Monday, March 1, 2021

Blooket - Alternatives to Kahoot!

 I love Kahoot! - Who doesn't?  But I also like variety and testing out other online quizzes/games/reviews.  Today's Review - Blooket

Blooket is quite easy to use and if you already have Quizlet, you can just import a list, rather than making up more questions.  It can also be made as a multiple choice question set, too.

When you choose a set of terms, it give you these game you can play:

So far, I've only tried the Tower of Doom and the Battle Royale with my Mythology class.  The Tower of Doom is a longer, individual sort of challenge, whereas the Battle Royale pits students against students in teams or individually.

At first I was concerned that it would look too elementary school-ish for my high schoolers, but my Mythology students loved it and requested to play it again the next day.  So if you are looking to review some vocabulary words or literary terms and have found that Quizlet Live is just not as effective in a remote or hybrid setting, or just want something different, try this out!

Tuesday, February 9, 2021

Radio Garden

 Here's a nifty little site you might not be aware of:

What does it do?  Well, it gives you a map of the world like this:

You can spin the world and see all parts of it.  See the little green dots?  Each one of those is a radio station that is currently broadcasting.  When you roll the cursor over one of them, it starts playing whatever is playing on that station at that time.

Pretty cool!

So what does this have to do with English class?  I'm thinking if I am teaching World Literature and I want the students to get a better understanding of a particular part of the world, then why not, as a part of my introduction, let them listen to a few radio stations from that corner of the globe and see what's playing?  It is amazing how much American music is playing around the world and how many songs they might not recognize by the words, but recognize the tune of.  Then there are some radio stations playing music so far away from what students are used to, that it gives them a nice dose of culture shock.

Another use might be to spark a discussion on what does it mean when there are sections of the globe with no green dots?

Or just use it for yourself (it's not all about the students, right?).  

If you can think of some other good uses, let me know in the comments!

Wednesday, February 3, 2021

The Cover Letter and Resume - New Resource at Extreme English Teacher!


I've posted a new resource on the Extreme English Teacher store - a lesson on how to write a cover letter and resume!

I teach seniors and many of them do not know how to write either one of these.  Writing and communication falls under the purview of the English curriculum and it is a lesson that many of them can use right away.

It is a short lesson (will take about a class period).  The lesson has bonus slides to include if teaching it asynchronously and it has an assignment should you wish to take it from an introduction lesson to an activity.

As an added bonus, there is a slide with interview tips!  I have sat on enough hiring boards to know that people NEED these tips!

I also have it as a bundle so that you can save some money by buying both this lesson and Writing Formal Emails lesson.

If you try it out, let me know what you think and leave a rating on the store.  I try to keep all of my products highly affordable (we're all in this teaching game together, you know) and the ratings help me get noticed!

Visit the store at: Extreme English Teacher

Friday, January 29, 2021

Tired of Little Black Boxes? Try the Ten Minute Virtual Face to Face

 So last semester, I taught several students that I still have no idea what they look like.  I do not require students to turn on their cameras because we live in a rural area, so many of their Internet connections are spotty enough as it is and many have homes that they do not wish to show in their backgrounds.  It's frustrating to teach to a screen of black boxes, but I can do it and I utilize the chat feature in Zoom for interaction.

But graduation is coming and I will not even recognize the majority of my seniors when they come by in our drive through ceremony.

So I am trying something new.  I am reserving a day for ten minute virtual face-to-face meetings.  I broke the classes into small groups and the students only need to log on that day for their ten minute slot.  Depending on who else logs in, they may be alone or may have up to five others in their group.  I get each one to show me what they look like and they can decide to keep the camera on for the rest of the ten minutes or not.  We talk about what they like and dislike, sports, clubs, art, and what they plan on doing after high school.  It's a chance for me to make a connection.  

Yes, I do give up a day of instruction for this.  Why?  Because I feel that if I can make connections with some of these kids, they will be more active in my class, in which case they will learn more than what we would have had in one class session.

What are you doing to connect with your virtual students?

Thursday, January 28, 2021

Separate Setting Tests - Do This to Minimize Singling Kids Out

 If you teach inclusion classes, you are familiar with the process of taking out a portion of the students who have Separate Setting accommodations on their IEP.  The problem is, some students who really need the smaller class setting for testing, are quite embarrassed by being singled out for removal from the classroom.

Not in my class.  My inclusion teacher (who also happens to be my wife) came up with the strategy years ago and it has worked very well in my class.  The separate setting accommodation is NOT about the different room, it IS about the smaller number of students.  Check with your state about what that number is, but I am betting it is larger than you thought.  Ours is 15.  

On test day, my inclusion teacher either takes all the girls, all the boys, picks randomly, or just asks which students want to go with her.  Once she takes about half the class, both rooms now meet the separate setting guidelines.  No one is called out.  Students who are not labeled often choose to go to the different room to test.  No one is embarrassed.

Let me know if you have any Inclusion class hacks in the comments!

Tuesday, January 26, 2021

Tech Tuesday - Do You Use's Free Service? Read This!


There are some changes coming to the free service.  If you are like me, you've been using their free service because your school wants to spend money...elsewhere.  The free service is FANTASTIC and the only drawback is that you cannot see student performance, but that is easily rectified by having students show you their screen or screenshot.

I noticed a little while ago, I had been given a free trial for premium service.  I did not think much about it until a teacher friend of mine said he was blocked out of his classes and that he had heard was ditching their free service.  I could still access mine, so I contacted the company.  They responded very quickly on a late Friday afternoon.  That impressed me.  Representative Srob O gave me this reply:

Hello Mark​​,

Thank you for your message. Your friend is right, due to our parent company's vision for us, we've made some changes to the way basic accounts on can use the program. The ability to create classes, assign work, and track data for your top three students will no longer be available with a basic account. You'll still be able to play The Challenge, create lists, host Jams and log-in to your account as a user.

One thing I do want to point out is that these changes will not affect the program for your students. They can still log in, find lists connected to your class, and do work on their own. Additionally, you will still be able to create lists and share the URLs with your students externally to have them work independently. To get the URL for Practice, just click on a list then click the "Start Practice" button. The URL will always be the list ID /practice. For example,

My apologies for any inconvenience this may have caused. If you have any additional questions, let us know. We're happy to brainstorm more ways to make use of new more limited free version. I'm confident we can find a way to create continuity in your students word learning. Let me know a time and best number to reach you at and I'd be more than happy to call you to discuss these matters.

So what does this all mean?  Well, I plan on continuing my use of their free service even though I cannot assign a list to a class.  If I can just assign a link, that should work, but I won't know for certain until my premium service runs out.  

Let me know if you are using it the new way, any problems you might have or solutions to them, and if you know of other comparable services in the comment section.

Wednesday, January 20, 2021

Writing Wednesday: The Random Dialogue Assignment

Writing random snippets is a challenge for young writers (and old) that helps to focus on voice.  This particular assignment is timed, so the writer must think fast and not be hung up on being "perfect".  

First, on paper or computer, students write down four numbers between 1 - 10.  They can be the same numbers. 

Got them?  Now, scroll down below the picture and you will find that your first number will be the first character.  The second number will be the second character.  The third will be the setting and the fourth will be the subject of the dialogue.

First Number - Character number one
  1. a mom
  2. a kid
  3. an alien
  4. a dog
  5. a rich man
  6. a grocery store owner
  7. a soldier
  8. a baby
  9. a superhero
  10. a vampire
Second Number - Character number two
  1. a dad
  2. a teenager
  3. the President of the United States
  4. a cat
  5. a poor woman
  6. a cowboy
  7. a spy
  8. a wizard
  9. a super villain
  10. a werewolf
Third Number - Setting
  1. morning at the beach
  2. in a grocery store
  3. in the White House
  4. on a city building rooftop
  5. nighttime in a graveyard
  6. on a golf course
  7. by the pool in winter
  8. in a school classroom
  9. in a fast food restaurant
  10. Christmastime in a house
Fourth Number - Dialogue Subject
  1. how much something costs
  2. the latest video game
  3. deciding on where to go for a date (not necessarily with each other)
  4. politics
  5. a dream the first character had last night
  6. what to have for the next meal
  7. character two is not happy about something character one did
  8. character one is excited about something that just happened
  9. a sporting event
  10. a movie they just watched

Now, you decide if they are arguing, being silly, serious, discussing, fighting, happy, etc.  You had ten minutes, so no time to think ready...  GO!


Have you got any fun writing prompts that you would like to share or did this in your class with some good results?  Let us know in the comments!

Tuesday, January 12, 2021

Tech Tuesday: Copying Events onto Multiple Google Calendars

 Hey guys!  Exams are this week, so I'll make this post brief.  

If you have multiple class calendars for your class and you want to add the same event to multiple class calendars, you can't do it in one swift click, but you can at least use this short cut to save you some typing time.

Good luck with your exams and the start of a new semester!  We are about to try out hybrid learning.  I can't say I'm too thrilled about the new challenges that is going to bring, but at least we can say teaching is never boring!

Thursday, January 7, 2021

Ace the State Test!

 Do you have a state mandated reading comprehension test for your course?  At this point you have done everything you can do to increase their ability to read, now it is time to supercharge their test taking ability!

There is no charge for this activity, just download it from the Extreme English Teacher Teachers-Pay-Teachers store.  If you like it, I would appreciate a positive review.  Those really do help!

Standardized reading tests are a joke, if you ask me.  We are requiring students to spend an hour and a half to two hours focusing on boring reading passages. What this activity does well is to give students the ability to focus a little longer to get another passage in before their brain fries from your oh-so-wonderful state test.  The methods in there were honed in my classroom and I consistently had my non-motivated non-readers score higher than expected on the NC English II EOC and the NCFE for English IV (my scores were in the blue repeatedly, if you are a fellow NC teacher and knows what that means).  The method works! 

If you used it, let me know in the comments and again - positive reviews on Teachers-Pay-Teachers is ALWAYS APPRECIATED!

Tuesday, January 5, 2021

Befana - The Christmas Witch

At first I was thinking that the early Christians had the right idea to celebrate Christmas for twelve days, but then I started to realize that today we start the Christmas season the day after Thanksgiving and celebrate a lot longer than twelve days!

Back to the twelve days, on the twelfth day (January 5th), not only are you supposed to give your true love twelve drummers drumming, but children should prepare for the coming of La Befana. In Italy, on the Epiphany (Jan. 6th), La Befana, or sometimes known as the Christmas witch, brings fruits and small goodies to stuff in children's stockings that they hang by their bed. If you're a naughty little chap, she'll give you charcoal. She travels by either broomstick or on the back of a donkey, and so doesn't have the capacity for large toys like Santa. And for the adults, she sweeps the floor before leaving (Nice!)

Speaking of Santa, she also doesn't frequent malls for kiddies to hang out with either. She is a witch - ugly nose warts, rags, haggish cackle, and all. But children in Italy seem to love her all the same. She is rather rotund and it is common to leave her, not milk and cookies, but a glass of wine and a small doll.

How did she get her start? Well, according to legend, she was cleaning house when these three wise guys showed up looking for Jesus. She thought they were full of it and chased them off, only later to have some second thoughts. She ran out to help them, but had dallied too long. They were long gone. Distressed that she missed her chance to help the baby Jesus, she began handing out gifts to children hoping that one of them was the baby Jesus.

An alternate version is that her son was one of the babies killed by King Herod. She doesn't believe he is really dead, so she goes out in search for him every Christmas. Personally, I like the first one better.

Regardless of the origin, her search turned her old, gray, and into the hag-like appearance she now has. Finally, she found Jesus and laid all her gifts (or her son's belongings) before him. He called her "Befana" (giver of gifts or the White Witch) and gave her the ability to deliver gifts each year on night before Jan. 6th.

So, get those socks hung up!