Tuesday, September 6, 2016

Extreme English Teacher

Hello fans of Hard Core English Teacher!  We are moving this blog to a new title (as it appears that many school spam filters block the title of Hard Core as something that is not safe for work).

The new and improved site is Extreme English Teacher and will up and running soon.  You will be able to find it at this address:

We are hoping to make it a more interactive site with opportunities for feedback and even guest posts from other extreme teachers like you.  There will be some of the better posts from this site re-published over there, but for the most part, it should be all new material.

We do want to keep reviews of interactive sites going to keep you on the cutting edge, but we also want to add a movie review segment where teachers review movies with the idea of usability in class.  More practical ready-to-use lesson ideas will be featured as well.

So go ahead and bookmark the new site and check it regularly.  Together we will be able to take our classes to new levels.

Thursday, October 23, 2014

Hard Core Satire

Satire - what a wonderful rhetorical device!  So cutting edge, so avaunt guard, so...offensive.

Well, you could play it safe when teaching satire, but what is the fun of that?  If you really want to spice up that "A Modest Proposal" lesson, you'll need to hit students where they are today.  Six months ago, Stephen Colbert gave us the best example of satire since 1729:

Now - here's the tricky part - when you show this video, start at 4:50 to isolate the topic of the Redskins and at 6:27 you may wish to mute the rest (hey, we're hard core, but we still want to keep our jobs).  Once the Ching-Chong character clip is over, turn back up the volume.

Well, satire is offensive, and just like people in Swift's day felt that it was offensive to suggest they eat babies, Twitter responded with the outrage for this clip.  Here is the tweet that the Colbert show had that started the craze:

Without the context, some people really got angry and started the #CancelColbert trend on Twitter.

Not to sit it out over the weekend, Stephen joined in with the outrage:

So, use this to lead your students into making the connection how he makes people find this racist in order to make his point about the Redskins - just like Swift made the British recoil at eating human beings just so he could turn around and say, "Oh, well, if we are to treat them as fellow human beings, why are we treating them like animals in every other instance."

Thursday, October 2, 2014

A Super Simple Classroom Management Technique #1

Getting a class full of students who want to volunteer to read or come to the board is a blessing for any teacher, but oftentimes it is a struggle to get students to put forth the effort of walking all the way to the front of the classroom (play sad violins here) or to read a whole paragraph aloud (more sad violins here).

When a teacher calls on students, they sometimes feel picked on or pointed out.  Students with poor social skills may react poorly causing classroom disruptions.

I have a solution for that.  I did it without thinking and once I saw the effect, I've done it every year, every class since then.  I call it the


You like the alliteration, don't you?

Like I said before, it is super simple.  First get a container that you can designate for this purpose for the rest of the year.  Write each student's name on card stock or index card, cut them out into similar size rectangles, and put them into the box.  Next time you want a student to do your bidding and there are no volunteers, reach into the CONTAINER OF KISMET and draw a name.  You would be amazed at how well this works (granted, there are about 1% of kids who are going to react negatively toward anything).  They don't feel called out, because it is random.  Kismet picked them.  It's their destiny.  It's fate.  Who can argue with fate?

To keep the more mischievous kids from removing their name from the box, I will sometimes after a quiz pull out a name and grant that person 5 bonus points.  In fact, the first thing I used the box for is to do something nice.

I am constantly awed by the power of this thing.  Students will argue with me over what color the sky is (Carolina blue, by the way), but will accept their kismet without a whimper.

Plus you get to teach them an SAT / ACT word while you are at it.  Always fun stuff.

I have a few more little tricks up my sleeve that I will share with you in the next few weeks.  If you have any alternative methods for maintaining your little gems, leave a comment!  If you try this in your room, let me know how it worked for you.

Tuesday, September 30, 2014

Two Resources for the SAT

Ah! The joys of the SAT!  The smell of freshly sharpened #2 pencils, the smell of fear oozing from the forehead pores of frightened juniors.  There's nothing like it.

Oh course you want to prepare them for the beast.  You could go out and buy one of those super thick prep books, but even you - an English teacher - do not want to wade through that boring quagmire.  Do we just leave kids to the wolves?  Of course not!  We're not just English teachers, we're EXTREME English teachers.

Resource #1
I used to teach an SAT prep class and I swear by this book.  Up Your Score

It is not only the thinnest SAT prep book on the market, it is the only one that students will actually read.  I cannot keep one in my classroom.  Students steal it all the time (well, they borrow it and start passing it around to friends and I never get it back).

It was made by four kids who score perfect or near perfect scores on the SAT and realized that it was pretty easy for them, but not for their peers.  So they decided to make a prep book that would actually be used.  These guys are old now, so every two years they hire one or two students who also made top scores and have them update the book (we don't want any Growing Pains references in there, now do we?).

Their tips are top notch and they know their audience.  When my son is about to take his SAT, he will get a copy of this from me.

They also have an ACT version.

Resource #2

A teacher friend of mine shared this with me.

This guy put together a rather extensive site on how to write the essay for the SAT.  He has a structure to the madness so that students can go in already knowing how they are going to write their essay.  There are links to get into his concept deeper if you want.


Do you have any great resources to add to this list?

Friday, September 19, 2014

Feedback and Corrections

I am working on a statewide project called the Govenor's Teacher Network.  The idea is that we are picked because we have shown to be great teachers (they picked me anyway, so their methods must be a bit flawed).  What would be the first thing you would do if you assembled teachers known for creating great lesson plans in order to create more lesson plans to be included on a state-wide database?

If you answered, "Let the teachers create plans for the database," you would be wrong.  The first thing you do is teach these teachers what they should be doing.  I've sat through several workshops and webinars on how to be an effective teacher and some of the information is good, some of the information is common sense, and some is just educational jargon.  With that in mind, I want to point out the following quote which was thrown out a lot in our initial training:

Intensive correction, where the teacher marks every error in every paper a student writes, is completely useless. Marking all errors is no more advantageous in terms of student growth than marking none of them.

-Hillocks, 1986

Now, I just have a hard time believing that marks on a student paper is completely useless.  Personally, I remember marks that were put on my paper way back in my high school days.  Could it be that not making any marks is just as helpful as taking the time to show students what they did wrong?  Is the real statement more about making too many marks?  That's not how it was being taught in the webinar.  Surely more marks are still better than no marks.  Right?  How else is a student to grow if not being shown where they went wrong?

However, I am not so narrow minded as to not at least consider that I could be wrong.  I did date that girl in college that was really a poor decision on my part, so I could be wrong again.  I decided to find the source Hillocks, 1986.  However, there was no works cited page (or whatever you call it in APA) and when I searched for it on the Internet, I found several references to this same quote, but no link to the original article.

So, what do you think?  Take this poll:

web polls

Leave a comment if you have some elaboration upon it, agree with me, or know where the quote came from.

Wednesday, September 10, 2014

Easy Symbolism

One of the best things about teaching lower levels is that you get to see that light bulb come on when they get a difficult concept.  Symbolism is a literary term that is found in almost all stories, movies, TV shows, and music videos, yet many students have difficulty pointing it out.  There are some great stories for teaching it: Lord of the Flies, "Hills like White Elephants", and Excalibur.

I'm going to talk about the movie Excalibur today.  It is a great movie for getting through King Arthur in a fast manner.  It takes several of the existing myths and tries to tie as many of them together.  It gets rough a few times (the Uther and Ygraine scene, the Lancelot and Guinever scene), but students like it, for the most part.

The symbol that runs through this movie the most is the color green.  For the first part of the movie, there is no green at all.  Then Merlin gets the sword Excalibur from the Lady of the Lake and from this point on, there is a green light reflecting off the sword and the armor of the knights.  As long as there is a green light, there is hope for Arthur and England.  At one point, Merlin makes sure the audience gets it, for when Arthur breaks Excalibur, Merlin says, "You have broken what cannot be broken.  Hope has broken."  Then there is no more green light until Arthur has a character developing moment and the Lady of the Lake fixes the sword.  Cue green light again.  Later, while the knights are looking for the grail, the light is missing again except in key moments (crazy Lancelot, grail sequences) until Arthur is restored.

Once you point out the green light, the students get it.  They grasp the symbolism and it is an easy reference point for the rest of the year.

Do you have a great text to use for teaching archetypes or symbolism?  Leave it in the comments.  I would also like to hear from those of you who also teach King Arthur and how you do it.

Friday, August 29, 2014

The Animated Bayeux Tapestry

Teaching the events of 1066?  You should.  I love that year.  Maybe I'll go into a history lesson later.  For now, if you are in the midst of the Bayeux Tapestry, you might find that your students find it a bit boring.  Tapestry appreciation is not what it used to be (ah, the good old days).

Never fear!  Some chap by the name of David Newton sat down and animated the tapestry.  It is truly remarkable (look closely and you'll see (and hear) the seasick sailor).  Of course, no animation is complete with out a musical score and Marc Sylvan puts together a good one.  It says it is produced by Potion Pictures, which puts together all sorts of videos.

For those not familiar with this tapestry, it is like the world's longest comic book panel that illustrates the main events of the year 1066 AD, when William the Conqueror comes and pays England a visit - the last time England is ever successfully invaded.

Watch it here, and if you are not wowed, then you'll need to take a nice long look at your life (either that or just stick to teaching American Lit).

If you want more on the story of 1066 and do not want to wait for me to get off my rear and and type it up here on the blog, check out my class page.  It starts off with information all about it.
Since February 15, 2014