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5 TED Talks to Use with the Theme of Fear and Mystery

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I can’t believe I’m about to talk about fear and mystery right after Valentine’s Day, but here goes.



1.What Fear Can Teach Us by Karen Thompson
Really great TED Talk about how instead of shying away from our fear, we should embrace them, turn them into stories, and then act upon them.

2.Vampires- Folklore, fantasy, and fact  by Michael Molina
An animated vampire talks about the mythology behind vampires.  It’s kind of corny, but it’s interesting to see the origin and various country interpretations.

3.Zombie Roaches and Other Parasite Tales
Ed Yong describes a parasite that attaches itself to its host and takes over their body.  He also talks about the tapeworm and other such gross things.  The talk is entertaining and actually changed the way that I think about the creepy crawlies that I’m afraid of.  Especially the ones that might take over my body.

4.Where Do Superstitions Come From? By Stuart Vyse
In this TED talk, several popular superstitions are dissected.  There’s not much els…

Using Mulan to Teach Gender Stereotypes

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I love Disney.Honestly, at this point, it’s probably a bit irrational.My husband doesn’t understand it.My kids don’t understand it.But Disney movies in the 90s were the companion to an only child, i.e. me.So anytime I can go back to my happy place I will.Therefore, I use a lot of Disney in my teaching.
When I do my big unit on gender stereotypes, I reference Mulan a lot.One year, I had almost an entire student group tell me that they hadn’t seen the movie.I dreamed that night about all the lessons I could plan around the movie.Besides viewing it as literature, I had the students identify any point in the movie that supported the idea that gender norms/ stereotypes can be beneficial, and any point in the movie that supported the idea that gender norms/ stereotypes are not beneficial.I had them transfer those into a graphic organizer that also had a bubble outline for a persuasive essay.They then had to choose a side and write a draft using the movie as evidence.Pretty easy.
If you’d l…

Audience: Teaching Persuasion

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There is a certain time of the year where I feel like I eat, breath, and dream ethos, pathos, and logos.State of Texas, can I please teach mythology? Or archetypes? Or WHOLE NOVELS?I’ll even take Julius Cesar at this point.
But alas, it’s always coming up persuasion.
Anyway, audience is always a tricky subject.Either the kids get it, or they don’t.Either I have time to teach it fully, or I don’t.Depending on the group of students and depending on the year I’m either dedicating a few days to the concept or barely making it a topic of discussion.
I guess my point is to say here is a worksheet that I use to evaluate if the kids get it.If they do, I move on.If they don’t… well, then I use more in-depth measures.

Advertisement Project: Teaching Persuasion

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I know that everyone who has to teach persuasion has done this at least one time in their teaching career.So I’m not proposing anything new.I’m just putting mine out into the ether.


Hands down, the best way to get teenagers to understand persuasion is to appeal to their hungry little consumer on the inside.  It seems like, for about of month out of the year, I become an expert in commercials.  And once the kids begin to break it down, see how advertisements work, see how marketers use formulaic methods to get people to buy their stuff even without realizing their being marketed to, the kids want to try their hands at it. 
The Advertisement Assignment is pretty simple: the kids work in pairs to create a print ad or a commercial for an assigned product.  They get a blurb of what the product is about, and they have to create a name, a logo, and a tagline with a clear message, all while using persuasive elements that they’ve learned from over the course of the unit.  Other than those in…

Using Hashtags to Retain Information

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Last week I mentioned hashtag summaries and then realized that I had never mentioned them before. 

Sounds about right...

Anywho... #hastagsummaries have changed my life: they're quick, they're fun, they're creative.  And I've had quite a few kids tell me that this is the easiest way for them to retain information when it comes to those long boring essays that they have to read for the state.  So #winwin. 


Here's the process:
Whenever we have a nonfiction article, I have the student's number the paragraphs.Read the paragraph.Come up with a cute, clever #hastag that summarizes the paragraph in a way the student would remember.           For example, we were reading an article about the 1920s.  Here's the paragraph:


Women were delighted by the ratification of the 19th Amendment, which gave them, at long last, the right to vote.  Feeling emancipated and in rising demand on the labor market, young, urban and fashionable flappers joined men in boycotting the Proh…

An Introduction to Gender Stereotypes

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I'm not going to get on my high horse about what happened to Cracked.com.  That isn't what this post is about.  It is, however, a post about one of their articles that I've been teaching for a while.

The 6 weeks before STAAR become STAAR prep.  Therefore, all of the units that we work on become debatable thematic units.  The first one I usually tackle is gender stereotypes.  For some reason,  it is super engaging (more than I thought it would be) and the kids enjoy tackling an issue that is very much applicable to them.  However, they don't understand that gender norms are a fluid thing.  The things that we have come to associate with a particular gender aren't the things that have always been associated with that gender.

Back on track...

... I start my unit off with an article from Cracked called 5 Gender Stereotypes That Used to be the Exact Opposite as an introduction to the above idea.  It does have bad words in it (I print out an edited version for my student…

Six Videos to Use While Reading Anthem

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I've talked about my love of TED Talks both here and here.  When we did our Anthem unit at the beginning of the year, I found more in the other channels that I subscribe to on YouTube than I did on TED that related to the book.  So here they are: six videos I used to supplement Anthem by Ayn Rand.  If you're interested in the PowerPoint I use, you can find it in my TPT store here.



#1: "Changing Educational Paradigms" by Ken Robinson
This is the RSA Animate version of the longer TED Talk "Do Schools Kill Creativity" by Robinson.  In it he discusses the idea that culture and learning have changed, therefore schools need to adapt to the way kids are learning.  The whole video is an interesting watch, but what I used to relate to Anthem was the bit about divergent thinking.  We had a whole group discussion about divergent thinking and how it relates to Equality.  The students were also able to relate other parts of the video (such as the assembly line idea) to

Using "Race: The Power of Illusion" to Dispel Racial Ideas in Preparation for Desiree's Baby

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Every year I teach Desiree's Baby.  It's my favorite short story to teach students; the look of shock on their faces at the end... it's awesome.

The first year I taught it, I was shocked at how little the kids knew about race.  A lot of my students know what race FEELS like: they know what it feels like when someone underestimates them because of the color of their skin, they know what it feels like to see people praise a person who villainizes them, they know what it feels like to grow up having a different experience than the ones they see in the shows they watch.  But a lot of them don't KNOW race: the history, the science, the misconceptions.

Enter my favorite Webquest thanks to PBS!



Race: The Power of Illusion is an interactive website that explains almost everything you could ever want to know about the idea of race.  And it was just what I needed to get my point across in as little time as possible.

I needed the students to understand that race is just a constru…

3 TED Talks to Pair with A Midsummer Night's Dream

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I don't know if I've said this before but I love TED Talks.  My kids watch one every Tuesday that relates to our main text.  Last six weeks we read A Midsummer Night's Dream, so here are the TED Talks I paired with it and why.



1.  Mandy Len Catron: Falling in Love is the Easy Part
A Midsummer Night's Dream is filled with the idea of love: what is it, is it serious, or is it a flight of fancy? After falling in love using a questionnaire, Mandy Len Catron discusses the idea that it doesn't take much to fall in love, but staying in love takes work.  I use this talk at the beginning of the unit to hit the theme of love and to also get the kids thinking about what it means to truly love someone.
2.  Amy Adkins: Why Do We Dream?
I love mixing facts with fiction.  The loss of reality and dreams are major themes in the play.  This video gives real-world theories as to why human beings dream.  I ask the students to choose one reason and use it as a defense for the Athenians.…

Groovy Greeks: An Overview of the Ancient Greeks for Context

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I love reading A Midsummer Night's Dream with my kids.  Over the years I've realized that a lot of them do not have the context to understand the first scene of the play.  I discovered the animated show Horrible Histories while searching for a quick way to give them that context in a way that they'd actually pay attention.  To make sure that they did while watching, I created a guided questioning handout.  I also realized that the video wasn't going to be enough.  So I found an article on CommonLit that dissects the class system.  Because students need to understand Hermia's plight and why the mechanicals are the comedic relief (I use a subsequent lesson to drive this idea home), the assessment is two paragraphs where they have to use both resources to explain what life was like for women and the working class.  
The lesson plan is below.  If you're interested in the handout I use, you can find it in my TPT store here.


Groovy GreeksIntroduction to the Ancient G…

Teaching Plot and Inference with Harrison Bergeron

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I love teaching Harrison Bergeron.  I take a whole week to go through it.  And my kids seem to love it too... which makes me love it even more. Things You Will Need to Teach This Lesson:·Instructions ·Harrison Bergeron PowerPoint  ·Index Cards ·Bill of Rights ·Day 1 Opener Handout  ·“Harrison Bergeron” ·Harrison Bergeron Plot Points  ·Harrison Bergeron Plot and Inference Chart  ·Harrison Bergeron Plot and Inference Chart Answer Key  ·2081  ·Harrison Bergeron vs. 2081 Handout 
Lesson:Activity One: What is your best quality? As the students walk into class, hand them an index card.  Using slides 1 and 2, introduce the story that you’re about to read.  Have the students write their best quality on the index card.  Once students have completed the task, split them into four different groups based on their best quality: ·Those that said some type of athletic is their best quality·Those that said their best quality has something to do with their beauty·Those that said something musical or artistic is t…

Getting a 4

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Is everyone feeling it?  That current of tension that runs through the English Department right before the STAAR test?  I'm feeling it again, and I have to admit that, this year, it's getting to me.

But this post isn't about that.

This post is about something I created.

I wanted my kids to understand the key term UNIQUE in the STAAR rubric.  And so I created a worksheet where kids can reflect on what made each of these 4s unique and how they can incorporate that uniqueness into their own writing.  Since we're all a little burnt out on the right vs. wrong mentality, I made this worksheet subjective.  As long as their answer is thoughtful and shows true reflection, they receive full credit.

Click here for the worksheet.

Author's Purpose Short Analysis Lesson

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One thing that my kiddos are constantly struggling with is author's purpose.  Despite the initial P.I.E. lesson that I know they all receive in middle school, coming up with a reason why an author writes the things that she/he does is difficult.  So... we practice it a lot.

Also on the list of things they need to practice are short answer responses, or analysis paragraphs.  After an entire term in which we discuss persuasion and how advertisement works, I show them the following video.


We then have a discussion about what the video is trying to achieve.  Is it informing?  Is it persuading? Is it trying to entertain?  And how does it achieve that?

Then I have the kids write a short answer response answering the question: What is the purpose of "This is a Generic Brand Video."  It's that simple.  It takes an entire class period and usually garners great discussion about advertisements, brands, and how they use images to convey their messages. 

If you're interested …

6 TED Talks to use with Animal Farm

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Ok, so I cheated a little.  Not all of them are TED Talks. But... that's not the point.  I use TED Talks every week.  Some of the kids love them, some of them hate them, but every Tuesday for about 10 minutes at the beginning of class (sometimes they run a little longer) the kids watch a TED Talk where they have to identify the title of the talk, the speaker, the speaker's thesis, how it relates to whatever we're reading, and how the speaker uses ethos, pathos, and logos.

So here are the TED Talks I use for Animal Farm, in no particular order:

1.  Karl Marx I like to start the unit off with this one.  It explains who Karl Marx was and his philosophy.  It also lightly touches on the Russian Revolution of 1917.  Just a note: the creators of this video use art to make their point, and some of the art is nude.  Use at your own discretion.

2.  Is Capitalism Bad for You? Wisecrack is amazing.  And this series takes heavy abstract theories and uses video game images to illustrat…

'Tis the Season

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We had three weeks this month: the first week was taken up by STAAR retesting.  The third week was all about semester exams.  This left me with only the second week of December for anything instructional.  It also meant that December was going to be a themed WEEK instead of a themed MONTH. What better than the true meaning of Christmas!?
[ DAY 1 AND 2: FREEWRITE AND ARTICLE ] I first posed the question: What is the true meaning of Christmas?  I made sure to tell the kids that there was no right or wrong answer; I only wanted to know their opinion.  Then I gave them some guidelines: They had to write for 5 minutes.Their answers had to be thoughtful.They needed to write at least three sentences (I know… I know… but for some of these kids writing is torture.). Then we shared out.  And oh boy.  Most answers included presents, spending time with family, and getting time off from school.  I did have one kid explain that Christmas wasn’t about presents, but about charity and love and giving.…

Visualizing Persuasion

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One of the biggest issues we have in getting prepared for the STAAR is the writing portion of the test.  Lucky for us (or unlucky; the tides have yet to determine) they took the analysis paragraph away, so when it comes to writing, I can put all my energy into the persuasive essay. Before ABYDOS, my students had written an essay for timed writing.  We had done a two week unit on over overcoming adversity and the essay was the conclusion.  I was worried about feedback, convinced I don’t dedicate nearly enough time on the idea, convinced that it’s probably the most important element in getting them to where I need them to be, convinced that maybe, just maybe, that was the reason they’re all horrible at writing. However, during ABYDOS, I went to a session where she explained that her Pre-AP students were having some of the same problems mine were.  She also expressed the power of visual learning and color. She has the students self evaluate using highlighters.  Yellow= transitions.  Gre…