“Yippee ki-yay, zombie apocalypse.”

For one of my grad school classes, we’ve been working with some gifted 9th-graders from minority backgrounds. I love these kids. They’re hilarious. We’re working on a unit to promote social change through journalism, specifically blogging, so we’re attempting to improve their writing skills, both informative writing and argumentative writing.

To introduce informative writing, we started with a game. It’s like one of those ice-breakers you may have played, where you write a story as a group, each person writing the next sentence. Except for this one, the prompt is an actual lead paragraph from a news story, and they each need to write the next few sentences of what might have appeared in the newspaper.

We encouraged our kids to be creative with it, and they were. More than one story suddenly turned into a report on the zombie apocalypse. Like this one:

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Like I said, these kids are hilarious. If you can’t read it from the picture, you can get the jist of it from the title of this blog post, an alleged quote from Bruce Willis, of Die Hard fame.

However, the assignment proved to be more useful than simply giving the kids a creative outlet; we gained valuable information about how their writing skills currently stand. Not bad, in my opinion. I think we’ll have fun with this unit.

You can find a free download of the prompts we used (taken mostly from the Chicago Tribune) after the jump.

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Modals and Advice Columnists

I recently took on a long-term subbing gig as an ESL/ELL teacher at an inner-city charter school. The previous teacher left nothing behind, so I’m starting from scratch, and developing my own curriculum as I go. Heaven help us.

How I feel after only the first few days.

How I feel after only the first few days. These kids ain’t easy.

I’ve decided to start with an “advice column” unit, in order to teach modal verbs (can, should, might, etc.) and to develop writing skills. There are many great resources online, such as this quick how-to on teaching modals on Busy Teacher, but I wanted to add my own touch to it.

I took an existing advice column, found here, answering the letter of a girl whose boyfriend refuses to shower. The poor, unfortunate soul. Add an assignment to find some modal verbs… finish it off with some reading comprehension questions… and… VOILA! A worksheet to drill a mundane grammar concept in a slightly fun way.

Snatch the free download after the jump:

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Shakespeare’s Bad, Bad Reputation

Shakespeare for his entertainment value. Nice.

The Whiteboard

William Shakespeare not only has a reputation, he has several of them.  From a disloyal husband to a filthy-minded jokester to the greatest writer who ever lived, Shakespeare has been called just about everything.  His plays have gone from England’s banned performance list (1642-1660) to the required reading list in every major living language.  He has acquired a bad reputation among some parents, preachers, and traditionalists for being an inappropriately hilarious comedic genius.  He has acquired an even worse reputation among many students who accuse him of being insufferably boring.  Wait, what?

How can Shakespeare be “too entertaining” and “too boring,” all at the same time?  Such extreme misrepresentations occur when an author’s work is taken wildly out of context.  As seen in blockbusters like Shakespeare in Love, Hollywood popularly portrays Shakespeare as a dreamy-eyed young artist waiting to be galvanized by the spirit of inspiration.  Literary critics like…

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Substitute teaching in pictures

YES ON ALL COUNTS. I started subbing this past week. I am so exhausted now…


My first day in the classroom

first day

When the other teachers see that I am the sub


Any time a kid has to pee


When I threaten to take away recess


When I see a kid eating his own booger


When fifth graders have a writing assignment


When I call a rowdy kid out by name


When I ask a high schooler to do anything


Me 10 minutes after the bell rings


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Make it work!

The New York Times recently had an interview with the fabulous Tim Gunn of Project Runway fame!

What really stood out to me was how much of an introvert he used to be! He writes, “The first week I would get physically ill and throw up all over the parking lot. And in my studio I would have to brace myself against a wall, because if I didn’t, my knees were shaking so badly I would just tumble over.” and to add to that, he even had a stutter in high school. Personally, I never would have guessed.

He has some great thoughts on listening, inspiring, and his own motivation for teaching. Check it out here.

Desdemona has been poked by Iago.

The omnipresence of social media in our students’ lives is simply a reality. No use denying it. Might as well take advantage of that to help them connect with literature by putting it in a context they are already quite familiar with!

Come on, admit it. You’ve seen them. Those funny fake Facebook profiles and conversations between fictional or historical people. You’ve seen them and chuckled at them. Well, your students have seen them, too. Might as well make ’em learn something from it.

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