Wednesday, January 26, 2022

Anglo-Saxon Riddles, Cheating, and The Hobbit

I love taking on Anglo-Saxon riddles in class.  I'm sure you already know these and what these are, but I have a tiny bit of a twist in mine.  

I like to use them as our first competition.  We break into teams and play a game through the first quarter.  Teams win and lose points for various things along the way.  The first competition is this presentation:

I have seven Anglo-Saxon riddles on the slides presentation.  At this point, we have already talked about Beowulf and so I explain to them that we have very little from the Anglo-Saxon period since most works were written and stored in monasteries, which were often burned by raiding Norsemen and those that survived had a difficult time making it past King Henry VIII's monastery burning phase.  We have some poems (which I just cannot subject my students to - if you like those poems, more power to you!), one surviving copy of Beowulf, and riddles.

The problem I ran into was that when competing, students would often quickly type the first few words into their phone and find the answer.  So I have altered these.  Wasn't sure that would do it at first, but there you go.  For all intents and purposes, they are pretty much the same as you would find on any web site, but the slight alterations seems to have squashed the kids looking for the quick answer.

If I have time, I often try to work in the "Riddles in the Dark" passage from The Hobbit, which is taken from this idea.  Watching the scene from the movie works well, or the cartoon if you are mean.  I also give those who are into it a chance to see the original chapter.

If you ever read the book, unless you have one of the first printings, you have a revised edition.  Maybe you read the introduction where Tolkien says that he didn't write the book, just found the works and translated it.  He goes on to say that he had to make changes because he discovered that Bilbo had lied about his initial encounter with the ring.

What happened was that the original had Bilbo having just as much as a happy-go-lucky time in the cave as pretty much everywhere else in the adventure.  When he went to write The Lord of the Rings, he needed to make the ring a bit more dark, so he changed this chapter.

If you want to read the original, you can find a side-by-side comparison of the two chapters with the different parts highlighted in blue.

Thursday, January 20, 2022

The Daily Dose

The Short:

If you could use some simple, quick reading comprehension questions that gets updated daily, go here!

The Long:

When I switched schools about 15 years ago, I was hired specifically to work with kids who were destined to not pass the English I EOC.  For those of you not in North Carolina, an EOC is just our state exams.  Students need a 3 out of 4 to pass it and my students were predicted to make a 1 (based on previous state tests from elementary and middle school).  I did have a few 2s.  My principal flat out told me when he hired me that my job was to get these kids to pass the test.

Back then, if you failed the state exam, you failed the entire course.  Lots of pressure for kids who struggle with reading.  Lots of pressure for the new(ish) teacher.  I started looking for samples, test specs, etc. and ran into a brick wall. I managed to pick up a few scraps from here to there.

I also realized that having the kids read a whole passage was one task and having them figure out how to answer a reading comprehension was a completely different task.  The biggest problem with the second task was that I was struggling to get them to complete the first task.

So I started writing short reading passages on the white board with multiple choice questions.  Super short reading passages.  Super super short reading passages.  That way we could spend time focusing on how to break down that question, how that literary term worked, etc.

But I'm lazy.  It's rule #1 in my class.

Ok, there is a story behind the "Lord Alford" thing that I do not have time to get into now.  Maybe later.

I didn't want to have to keep writing those on the board.  So I began putting it on a blog so that I would have it year after year.  Then I realized that other teachers were finding it and using it because there was just NO RESOURCES FOR THE STINKING NCEOC! 

The test has changed, somewhat.  It is now in the 10th grade (poor kids who had to make that transition and get it two years in a row) and students no longer need to pass it to be promoted.  I also no longer teach the test, but I have decided to keep the blog going.

Over the years I have had quite a few people tell me they are happy that the blog is there.  Some shoot me emails when I forget to update it (I do it in chunks, recycling the questions each semester), and some who have sent me questions to add to the mix (I love those teachers!).  I also have quite a few that have seen fit to get mad at me because they didn't like the answer or do not like the daily format because they wanted to find one specific question or other.  People like to complain. I also got reported to my principal, superintendent, and state superintendent for "teaching to the test" by some person I've never met, but that's a story for a different time too.

So, take some time to enjoy the questions (or send me a nasty email about the way I am doing it), make some of your own and share it, or have your kids create some themselves and share with me the good ones to be immortalized forever and ever.

Friday, January 14, 2022

Shameless Plug - Curious Incident of the Dog Chapter-by-Chapter Breakdown and Unit Bundle Pack

 New product on the Extreme English Teacher Store!

There is no book that I have found that generates student interest than The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time. You know the students I teach - seniors who have given up on the thought of enjoying a book, struggling with reading, generally ready to be done with school to start a life that will never ask you to find the symbolism in that chapter - yet, this book has them reading ahead on their own time, jumping into class discussion, and getting passionate in class.  If you don't know why you should be teaching this book, read this and come back.  I'll wait.

What I have done is to break down this book chapter-by-chapter.  This is not a book summary. This is a guide to how to teach it.  Each chapter has my what-to-look for moments, what to emphasize, a heads up on what may throw off a student, how long it takes to read it aloud, which chapters work best read aloud, and along the way, I throw in fourteen activities - some in class, some for students to do on their own.  The students will immerse themselves into the games that Christopher plays, find the constellation he looks at, make predictions, read parts, and learn a quite a bit about how to treat others who are different.

It is exactly how I have taught this book for years, tweaking and adding along the way.  If you teach high school kids, especially ones who do not believe reading can be an enjoyable experience, YOU NEED TO TEACH THIS BOOK!  And this guide will help you to do it.

And, in case you want the whole deal, you can get the Unit pack that includes:

  • Chapter-by-Chapter Guide (with the 14 activities)
  • Pre-Reading Activity
  • Questions for every chapter
  • Tests (both paper and online)

Thursday, January 6, 2022

Teacher Needs a Drink

 I'm at the end of my semester about to head into exams, so pardon the lull in posts, but I thought I would share with you a podcast I found recently for teachers.

These guys take a no-nonsense approach to talking about their careers.  They love being teachers, but do not hold back on things that might be frustrating.  If you want to extend that camaraderie you have with your hall-mates or English department, then give this podcast a listen to!  

Below is the blurb that plays at the beginning of each podcast to give you an idea of what they are all about.