Monday, November 29, 2021

Think about adding this book to your classroom library.


Author: Jaime Adoff


The Death of Jayson Porter

Back of the Book
Sixteen-year-old Jayson Porter wants to believe things will get better. But the harsh realities of his life never seem to change. Living in the inland-Florida projects with his abusive mother, he tries unsuccessfully to fit in at his predominately white school, while struggling to maintain even a thread of a relationship with his drug-addicted father. As the pressure mounts, there's only one thing Jayson feels he has control over-the choice of whether to live or die.


Students/Teacher Reaction
My students really like this book.  The crazy thing is that it is written in stream of consciousness, not a style that you would think lower level ninth graders to get turned on by.  The author does an excellent job of making this style accessible and really plays it up.  For example, Jayson becomes unconscious and during that part of the story there are several pages that are blacked out, since that is all that is going through his mind for a while.  This is stream of consciousness, but this is not a boring As I Lay Dying.

Book rating:
A

Monday, November 22, 2021

Shameless Plug - Teaching Students to Write a Formal Email

I've posted this one before.  It is currently the best seller in the EET Store.

We all know students can write emails, but we also know that they often lack formal protocols needed for communicating with professors in college, potential employers, or even when asking teachers and counselors for letters of recommendations.



I uploaded this lesson on the Extreme English Teacher Teacher-Pay-Teachers store.  This is a self-paced lesson (although easily adjusted to be a teacher-directed classroom activity) that is ideal for students stuck at home (as during the pandemic), for homework, for when students are working on assignments at their own pace, or when there is a substitute.  Plus, it is an easy assessment for the teacher.


 The presentation is 20 slides long, but many of them are short.  All in all, it will take a student anywhere from 10 to 20 minutes to complete the slides and all activities.

The presentation starts with the students sending an email to an address and getting back a standard response.  Then it moves on to some famous humorous email fails and shows the students step-by-step what they need to do to make their emails look professional when they need it to be.  Areas addressed:

  • email address
  • subject line
  • salutation and the importance of knowing who is reading the email
  • the body
  • the signature line
  • the follow up

I have used it both in class and at home, both with much success. Find it here:

You can also buy it in a bundle with a crash course on cover letters and resumes here: https://www.teacherspayteachers.com/Product/EET-Formal-Emails-Cover-Letters-and-Resumes-6531189

If you have a Teacher-Pay-Teacher store you would like to promote, do so in the comments!


Tuesday, November 16, 2021

Adjectives

 So the other day, I ran across this fun article from the BBC on adjectives.  The title of the article is "The Language Rules We Know - but Don't Know We Know."  

The article pulls from the book The Elements of Eloquence by Mark Forsythe (Amazon).  One paragraph has started trending from this and you may have seen in on various social media platforms. Here it is:


Of course there are exceptions to the rule, this is the English language after all, but the reason is usually because another rule is superseding the above rule (think about it like Asimov's three laws of robotics).  The author of the article uses 'big bad wolf' as an example.  Accroding tot he above rule, it should be opinion (bad) before size (big), but we prefer the sound of 'big bad wolf' over 'bad big wolf'.  Why?

Mr. Forsythe has an answer for that as well.  In words that have similar sounds (big and bad, for instance) we always prefer the sound of our vowels to follow a particular patter: I - A - O.  

If any of you have read the book, I'm interested in your assessment of it!  Also, got any other clever English language rules we know but don't know we know?  Just leave a comment!


If you want to read the entire article, you can at: https://www.bbc.com/culture/article/20160908-the-language-rules-we-know-but-dont-know-we-know#:~:text=%E2%80%9CAdjectives%20in%20English%20absolutely%20have,ll%20sound%20like%20a%20maniac.

Thursday, November 11, 2021

BA


While looking for an image of Othello to go with our movie unit a while back, I ran across this thing of beauty:



The back cover reads:
He's a bardass brother with the love of a fine woman. That is until some cloven hoofed honky starts talking crazy about variously hued sheep tupping the hell outta each other! You gotta pity the fool who gets shafted by the green eyed monster. Let's hope Othello can work out who to trust before it's too late...

So this site, Pulp the Classics, sells regular copies of the books and plays, but with old pulp fiction-esque covers.  AWESOME!


Tuesday, November 9, 2021

For the Daring

My former IT guru had her job changed from IT to Digital Coach.  You may have one of these individuals at your school.  You may be like me and have no real idea of what a digital coach does.  I had assumed it was for helping teachers who were not tech savvy to get through mandatory technology needed for the school year.  That's only partly it.

I asked her how it was going in the new job and she said that she likes it, but it is boring because once the school year gets going, teachers are so swamped with day to day planning and grading, that they are not making use of her abilities to help design lessons using the different tech resources the school had available.

I thought about that for a while.  I felt bad that she was in a place that she felt wasn't going where she wanted it to go.  So I approached her a day or two later and said, "OK.  I'm teaching ninth grade again after quite a few years of not teaching it.  I hate teaching Romeo and Juliet.  Wow me and show me something tech I can do with it."  She took the challenge.

A few days later, she had several ideas ready to go for me.  The thing that caught my eye was making use of the iPads and green screen in the school learning commons (that's Newspeak for 'library').  I had, many years ago, allowed a class of seniors to remake the end of Macbeth in the Lord of the Rings setting.  We were inspired by the (then) relatively new Star Wars Macbeth.  It was a lot of work, but a lot of fun.  They painted my back wall blue (yes, I was teaching before the invention of green screens).  The kids really got into it.  I had actually offered it to my honors class at the time, but they were not very interested.  When someone in my regular class heard, they asked if they could do it.  I was skeptical, but they really wanted to do it.  It was fantastic.

So I was excited to find out that we had a green screen.  My librarian showed me the program and where the green screen was.  I decided to make a video myself to introduce the students to the program, with the benefit of giving me the chance to figure the equipment out.  It came out OK, but there was still a lot of work to be done:


While it is far from perfect, it was a lot of fun to make.  How did the project work out?  It was a lot of fun.  Will I use this again with low level ninth graders?  No.   Too much down time for most of the group to handle.  However, there was a handful that really dove into the project, including a young man that is not very interested in any school assignments who went above and beyond editing his group's project.  I will be using this idea for my mythology class next year and maybe even let my seniors make a 2 minutes hate when we do 1984 again.

So what is the moral of this post?  Go to your librarian or digital coach.  Ask them to wow you with the technology they have available.  I'll bet you'll be surprised.  Be daring and try a project or two.  You'll make their day, your students' day, and probably even your own (even if you do find yourself in a homemade Wonder Woman wig...).

Wednesday, November 3, 2021

Shameless Plug: _The Lord of the Flies_ Interactive Survival Game


 I love this book with a passion!  As far as teaching symbolism, this book really gets reluctant readers to "get it".  The book has great characters, plenty of action, and lots of good, wholesome violence to keep teenagers happy.  The only problem is that it starts so slowly.

Anyone who teaches reluctant readers knows that if you cannot hook them immediately, you've lost them.

So, while sitting in church one day when I should have been listening to the sermon, I had an idea for a game to get my students into the book.  I made it all by hand with maps, cards, the whole nine yards.  As the years went by, I get tired of replacing lost cards or materials that were marked on by various students and started to take it online.  It took a few more years to perfect it, but I think I finally have it down pat.  It has by far been the most popular page on my class web site by other teachers and it is the most mentioned lesson of mine when other teachers contact me.

https://www.teacherspayteachers.com/Product/EET-_Lord-of-the-Flies_-Interactive-Survival-Game-6933163


I break my students into groups and each group represents 20 island-stranded kids.  The students decide how many rescue fires they will have, where they will be sheltered, who goes hunting, who goes fruit gathering, and if they want to go exploring.  Each round is a 'week' in the game.

First thing we do is have each group draw and Act of God card.  These cards sometimes bring good things to the group, have no effect on the group, or (more likely) bring bad karma to the group.  Then we draw cards to see what happens when they go hunting, fruit gathering, and exploring.  At this point we tally up the morale.  The morale goes up and down depending on many factors like having shelter for everybody, getting food, people dying (there are a lot of people dying), etc. 


If the morale goes below 10, then the group leader has to draw a Revolt card to see what happens.  Sometimes something good happens, but most likely something bad will.  Then it's off to see if you get rescued.  

For the teams that are left, they do it all over again for the next week with the remaining people they have left.

Sometime groups have everything perfect and it is more like a Gilligan's Island episode than a Lord fo the Flies scenario.  Many groups get a good Lord of the Flies type experience, and some have so much bad luck that they make the book seem like a pleasant fairy tale.

Students are encouraged to think outside of the box and try things that are not expected. The teacher is the final say-so for what happens, so when students get creative, roll with it.

Whatever the outcome, the students experience situations that prep them for the action in the book.  Whenever I have used this game, I have found that students are more connected to the reading.

I always like it when teachers send me how their students came up with something new.  Sometimes I adjust the game to match it.  when my students started sabotaging the game to try and make their leader draw a Revolt card, I introduced a new element - Mutiny.  With some groups, that is very popular!



The game comes with the choice to either have it all online (in which case they would move objects on a screen), or to have printables for students to physically manipulate.

https://www.teacherspayteachers.com/Product/EET-_Lord-of-the-Flies_-Interactive-Survival-Game-6933163