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My first blog post

Well hello there!  I will eventually have something terribly poignant to say, but for now I’m just practicing.  I’m a slow learner when it comes to technology, so come visit again in a month or two.  Thank you!  Teachers Pay Teachers Store

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Are You Fascinated by Your Students’ Fascination with Their Smart Phones?

I had a student ask me if we were “doin’ anything important today.” When I ask him why he would ask, his response was, “Cuz I’m right in the middle of a movie, and I wanted to watch it in here.” Yep. He wanted to finish his movie in English class, wanted to listen with ear buds and watch a movie on his tiny screen. I cannot be the only teacher who is utterly mad over kids’ transfixation on their stupid phones!

Interestingly enough, the lesson that day focused on characterization. In the middle of our activity I spontaneously asked, “What songs do you think Daisy would have on her playlist? Do you think Tom follows the news? CNN or Fox? How about Nick? Do you think he has an Amazon wish list?

It then occurred to me that I could turn kids’ obsessions with social media and phones to account.  I created activities for a variety of literature that require students to imagine the cell phones of characters, historical figures, and even some contemporary characters in the news.  The reaction was enthusiastic and the response was overwhelming.  Students love this activity.  I get great results with accurate content to represent characterization and tremendous creativity.

Please visit my TpT store to browse these Creative Characterization Cell Phone Activities!

Creative Characterization Cell Phone Activities

 

 

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oh what a year!

 

Orwell’s “1984” and Trump’s America

In January of 2017,  The New Yorker published Adam Gopnick’s article, “Orwell’s ‘1984’ and Trump’s America,” comparing Orwell’s Oceania to today’s America.  The author begins with a confession that he was never a real fan of the novel. Potnick quotes the British author Anthony Burgess who long ago, noted that “Orwell’s modern hell was basically a reproduction of British misery in the postwar rationing years, with the malice of Stalin’s police-state style added on.” Potnick also takes a stab at another popular dystopian novels in our high school classrooms, Huxley’s Brave New World, calling it a permanent playground of sex and drugs persist[ing] in a fiercely inegalitarian society. Gopnick perceived Huxley’s England, AF 632 the better representation of our contemporary world. That was then…this is now.

It’s a year later, and we’ve amassed quite a collection of parallels between 1984’s society and our own.  Beginning with Kellyanne’s “alternative facts,” staggering through “fake news,” and crashing up against “the wall,” we been reminded of Orwell’s novel almost daily.  But what can we do with these parallels? How can 1984 and 2017 serve as a lesson to Americans?

If you never read the novel, read it.  If you’ve not read the novel since high school, read it again now.  If you not taught the novel in your high school English classroom, do it (or at least consider it). 1984 is an intense novel, and there are challenges to preparing and executing lessons that engage students and expose them to those ubiquitous and ominous parallels.

I am just wrapping up the 1984 unit with my seniors.  Their culminating activity is a group research and presentation project where they find the parallels between Oceania and America.  This past year’s coverage by real and fake news outlets has made the research component effortless.  Students are astounded, then afraid and often furious about their discoveries. The topics they are exploring include: Thought Control, Relationships, Propaganda, and Patriotism.  Their presentations are amazing and cannot be contained in the 45 minute period allotted to each group.  The conversations that this activity has initiated are some of the most intelligent and insightful exchanges that I’ve experienced as a teacher. When asked if our society would end up as oppressive and rigid as Oceania’s there was a resounding, “NO!” followed by comments such as “we’re too aware,” “we aren’t that weak,” and “not under my watch!” These responses demonstrate the power of teaching dystopian literature such as 1984 and Brave New World in high school.

Consider teaching dystopian literature.

It’s compelling.

It’s motivating.

It’s necessary.

Visit my TpT store for resources for teaching 1984 and Brave New World.  Enjoy!

1984 Resources

Brave New World Resources

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A Bundle of Activities for Christmastime

Here are SIX beautiful and engaging PowerPoint presentations in a bundle.  They are great for when the kids get wound up in anticipation of the holidays.

Bundle of Christmas PowerPoint Presentations

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It’s beginning to look a lot like Christmas!

Christmastime is here!  Merry Christmas everyone!

Don’t you love the traditions of Christmas? Finding the perfect tree, laughing over the crafted ornaments from the kids’ elementary years (the wreath made of puzzle pieces with a picture of my beautiful toothless kid in the center… Bless you, elementary teachers!), lining up the nutcrackers, wrapping garland around the bannister, hanging stockings, writing greetings, displaying the santas, the snowmen, the angels, unraveling the light strings that we say every year we’re going to bind so they don’t get tangled but we’re too tired to bind in January because of the many Christmas traditions that have demanded our attention….

And at school, midterms. Ugh, perfect timing: sitting at my desk watching kids complete the mediocre essays that I will have to grade, thinking about how school is an obstacle in my day, keeping me from sustaining those Christmas traditions at home.

However, Christmastime is a wonderful time to sneak in some lessons about being a decent human. That’s a concept not addressed on any midterm. And…a good activity or movie will clear some time for me to do some grading. Genius! (I realize I am not the first teacher to strategize this way). The traditional sources of those lessons reminding kids of their humanity are the best. I have a few in my TpT store that can help.

“Yes, Virginia, there is a Santa Claus

This is the letter from a little girl, Virginia, asking the newspaper editor if there is a Santa Claus.  His response is perfect and universal.  The activity diminishes the cynicism that’s become too prevalent among our kids.  It’s appropriate for middle school kids, but I’ve used it with my seniors!  It’s just a great message about believing in the good in the world.

Truman Capote’s A Christmas Memory

This is not a very well known story or movie.  It’s the tale of a young boy, Buddy, living with his older distant cousins. There’s one who is is particularly fond of, his cousin, Sook, who is a bit dim-witted, but has a huge heart.  The movie is fun to view and has a beautiful message about appreciating love, growing up, and the beauty of Christmas traditions.

Dickens’ A Christmas Carol Movie Guide

To me, Christmas is not complete without a dose of Scrooge. Too many of us are muttering, “Humbug” these days.  Our students aren’t muttering, “Humbug,” but they are indeed muttering. Too many kids have reason to be sad; however, A Christmas Carol brings perspective to those who complain for the sake of complaining. Look at Tiny Tim! Does he complain? No! A Christmas Carol is an annual reminder of our responsibility to be human, what that means, and that we must sustain our humanity throughout the year.

 

There are other activities available in my TpT store; please browse.

Holiday Resources

Merry Christmas!

Click here for free gift tag/bookmarks for holiday gifts for your students!

Free Holiday Gift tag/Bookmarks

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