Monday, January 30, 2023

Shameless Plug: Formal Emails and Cover Letter Writing

 Here's are two lessons that:

  • Give students ready-to-use skills in real life
  • Are easy to grade
  • Can each be done in a day  
  • Can each be left with a substitute
What is it?

It's a bundle pack of two of my more popular lessons.  The presentations can be set in SLIDESHOW mode and the students can walk themselves through it or you can go through it as a class.  It's simple and both are skills students (and I know some faculty that could use a lesson in email writing) will need as they end their high school years and move on to the "real world".

You can get it here:

Don't need both?  Then you can get them separately: 

Monday, January 23, 2023

Smash Mouth Macbeth

 Found this online, so thought I'd share.  Sing it to the tine of "All Star" by Smash Mouth:

Wednesday, January 18, 2023

Freebie: Black Out Poetry

Here's a quick warm up activity that you can use for a poetry unit or in creative writing or just for some fun.


This is a simple and fun exercise to get students going.  You need a book you don't mind destroying and enough black markers for every student.  Cut pages from the book.  I prefer to cut the pages in front of the students because it is a weird feeling for them to see a book defaced in an English class by the teacher.

Tell them we are going to take the Michelangelo approach to poetry.

The poem is in that page.  They just have to find it and mark out all the words that do not belong in the poem.  The presentation has several examples (all from other sources linked in the presentation notes), but here is one for you to check out:

If you are a creative writer teacher, you may even want to get fancier with it and have the blacking out done in colors and decorative.

The presentation is here:

If you want to make use of it, be my guest.  If you want to make changes, just make a copy of it first and then it is all yours.  If you get a really good one from a student, I would love it if you snapped a picture of it and sent it to me at!

Friday, January 13, 2023

Follow Your Whims

 My friend, The Creative English Teacher, posted a blog entry today that I think merits a link to.  It is about following your whims in teaching and sums up a lot of what has worked for my own teaching.  Please pay his site a visit and check out this post:

And, if you are looking for reader's theater scripts that will fit middle schoolers or low level high school readers, then I recommend anything that he produces.  I have used quite a few of his mythology scripts in the past with much success - in fact we are currently reading the Perseus and Medusa one in my English II Inclusion World Lit class.

Wednesday, January 11, 2023

Freebie: Teaching Juxtaposition

 Juxtaposition is a fun technique that is used quite often in literature. This term is used when two things (actions, colors, settings, words, anything) are placed side by side for contrast or comparison purposes. For honors or AP students, it could be an entry point that leads into a thorough breaking down of the text.  For regular level students, it can be quite intimidating of a concept, though once explained properly, can be as easy as basic symbolism. 

That poses the problem - how to teach this effectively and easily to students?  I have a solution.  This will take anywhere from 20 to 45 minutes depending on the amount of discussion  you class is willing to put into it.  


If you want to make changes to it, just click FILE then MAKE A COPY.  

The presentation starts with a song.  The song used is "The Letter" from the Macbeth soundtrack.  Have students listen to the first part of the theme,  It is very harsh with the violins but tell them to wait for the piano.  Once the piano hits, it is a soft and gentle sound, made all the more so by the fact that the composer uses juxtaposition with the harsh violins.  If you've read Macbeth in your class, you can point out that this particular song is played when Lady Macbeth is introduced for the first time.  She receives Macbeth's letter and we get contrasting portrayals of her.  The first is rather harsh.  She gives her whole "unsex me" speech and reveals her first thought is to murder the king.  However, more subtly and often over looked is the fact that Lady Macbeth and Macbeth have a very loving relationship.  It is often overlooked since it is overshadowed by her power move here.  Think about this - when something big happens to Macbeth, what is the first thing he does?  He writes a letter and sends it off to his wife.  He wants her to be the first to know.  When they talk, he values her opinion.  This isn't a shallow Romeo and Juliet type deal' Lady Macbeth is his partner. his confidant. his closest advisor.

The presentation follows up with a few still images that show juxtaposition.  This should help students that are more visual learners.  Next  it shows two video examples of juxtaposition.  The first is used for horror.  It is a scene from Jaws.  The whole scene shows what should be a relaxing day at the beach, yet the whole time the sheriff is uptight and nervous - a stark comparison to the care-free activities around him.  You get other examples that are hard to miss as well.  In once scene, a child is building a sand castle and singing "Do You Know the Muffin Man?" while in the same shot a guy is frantically searching for his dog.  Then again when the shark attacks another boy and in the same shot, you see other kids happily playing in the water, blissfully unaware of the carnage right behind them. 

It's followed up with another video from Seinfeld that uses juxtaposition to show humor as poor Elaine struggles on an airplane in coach while Jerry lives it up in first class.

Finally, there are four examples of juxtaposition in text, each one a little longer and more complex than the first.  

Hope you are able to use it and enjoy it in your classroom!

Friday, January 6, 2023

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!

Wednesday, January 4, 2023

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!