10 Best EdTech Tools for Teaching Essay Writing

When teaching their students how to write essays, educators have a great responsibility. Young learners are rarely interested in the process of writing, so the way you inspire them is of crucial importance. You cannot give plain instructions and tell your students to write an essay; you need to make the challenge more attractive and creative for them.

With the following apps and tools, you can rely on educational technology to turn ordinary writing lessons into imaginative learning experiences.

Story Bird

1. StoryBird

Your students’ words can be turned into amazing stories through the beautiful art featured on this website. You can start introducing StoryBird into the classroom by exploring the work of other authors. Then, your students will be motivated to experiment with their own imagination. Continue Reading ›

March’s Teacher’s Corner: Blended Learning

Untitled-1

In the olden days—really not that long ago—technology in the classroom was an intercom connection with the office and a 16mm projector that showed black-and-white documentaries. When film strip projectors arrived on the scene, they represented real innovation; a film strip machine with audio and auto advance was cutting edge. The term “blended learning” didn’t exist because there was nothing to blend. Continue Reading ›

Buried Under Papers: 5 Grading Survival Tips

Stacked files

It’s that time again. Actually, if you are an English teacher, it’s always that time. You feverishly comment on 45 drafts, hand them back to students…and receive 50 more. In the meantime, 3rd period’s pop quizzes are getting moldy, six student presentations need to be assessed, your two sections of American Literature need tests corrected, there’s a handful of letters of recommendation that need to be written, and three (or four, or more) classes need to be planned—all by Friday.

Sound familiar? I don’t have the answers, but I do have sympathy and a few tips that have helped me weather a storm of essays for a decade and a half. Continue Reading ›

Food for Thought: 10 Symbolic Dishes from Classic Novels

Food makes everything better. Using it as a motif, or repetitive symbol, in literature makes reading all the more delicious. Who would not wish to take a bite out of  Madame Bovary’s ultra-chav wedding’s Savoy cake, or know for themselves exactly how bad that gruel was in Oliver Twist. Check these ten famous literature munchies and see why they make great food…for thought!

by Michelle Ossa

10. Cucumber Sandwiches- The Importance of Being Earnest by Oscar Wilde

Oscar Wilde’s 1895 play The Importance of Being Earnest opens in a glamorous West London bachelor’s pad belonging to the dandy Algernon Moncrieff.  “Algy” asks his butler to prepare cucumber sandwiches for his aristocratic aunt, Lady Bracknell. Algy’s best friend Ernest asks, “Why cucumber sandwiches? Why such reckless extravagance in one so young?” The issue concludes with Algy’s mindless eating of all of his aunt’s sandwiches prior to her arrival, only to claim to her later that there were no cucumbers in the market “even for ready money.”

So why are cucumber sandwiches considered extravagant? Although cucumbers originated in India over 4,000 years ago it was not until Queen Victoria’s appointment as Empress of India in 1877 that the influence of the national products, such as the cucumber, fully entered the British culture. Once the sandwiches hit the royal table for the first time, the upper and middle classes caught wind of it and made them their signature afternoon tea snack. Following the very Victorian tradition of imitating everything that the Queen did, these once-dubbed “beautiful” people solidified the connection between the cucumber sandwich and “poshness.”

9. Eggs- Angela’s Ashes by Frank McCourt

In Frank McCourt’s 1987 Nobel prize-winning memoir Angela’s Ashes, the egg symbolizes hope, wishes, and indulgence. This guileless motif is juxtaposed to the dire living conditions of the Irish Catholic McCourt family. Young Frank tells us in chapter IX that he has plans for “that egg” that he would get the Sunday after his father gets the first paycheck from his new job.  The plan: To “tap it around the top, gently crack the shell, lift with a spoon, a dab of butter down into the yolk, salt, take my time, a dip of the spoon, scoop, more salt, more butter, [and] into the mouth”. Yummo! Eggs are described with particular candor, as they represent a luxury that the McCourts, with their never-ending financial woes, could hardly afford.

Sadly, no one gets any eggs. Malachy, Frank’s father, ends up squandering all of his paychecks, leaving his family to fall deeper into their cavernous money hole. But lady luck helps Frank once he leaves Ireland and reaches America: he gets to work at a restaurant, and hunger is no longer an issue for him! After hunger is satiated in the novel, food becomes a motif for American excesses, complete with dreams of a jumbo shrimp chasing Mrs. Angela McCourt down the street. The novel is not about food, but you get the idea.

Continue Reading ›

You Don’t Know Dickens

7 lesser-known facts that may make you see the beloved author and philanthropist of the Victorian era in a new light…

by Michelle Ossa

10

1. He suffered from Post Traumatic Stress Disorder from his time at Warren’s Shoeblacking Factory and Warehouse

At the age of 12 Charles Dickens suffers a life-changing event that forever marks his life. His father, John Dickens, was arrested for debt, and sent to Marshalsea Debtor’s Prison in London. The able-bodied, older male Charles was considered old enough to work and earn some wages. For this reason he is forced out of school and sent to Warren’s Shoeblacking;  a place fully-described in the semi-biographical novel Oliver Twist. Similarly, Charles works under grueling and cruel conditions that predate any workers’ rights movement.

Moved by these sad events Dickens used his talent to publish in mass and expose these realities. Through literature, he gave a voice to orphans, destitute children and mistreated workers using them as motifs that recur in his body of work.  According to Dickens’s most reliable biographer, John Forster, the author had “an attraction of repulsion” that rendered him more effective when dealing with topics that directly describe images of his sad childhood.  Therefore, this repetition of misery and pain during childhood as a central theme denote a need to continuously cope with the traumas of childhood.

Illustration Depicting Oliver Twist Asking for More Food by J. Mahoney

2. He was likely manic depressive

According to his own letters, Dickens suffered consistent bouts of “depression” that would start when beginning to write a new work, and would then developing into a “mania” that powered him to complete them.  It was a “balance” between deep, debilitating sadness followed by periods of acute impulsivity.  According to Hershman and Lieb in the book Manic Depression and Creativity  (1998), Dickens’s explosive creativity was a result of the maniac state that makes sufferers of bipolar disorder feel indestructible (p. 106).  An example of Dickens’s mania is what is known as the “Dickens Summers”. According to Manic Depression and Creativity Dickens would rent a spacious summer home and have sumptuous parties for large quantities of people on a daily basis. Dedicated to the very last detail both at home and work, Dickens would also spend hours insisting on completing massive amounts of work until the last word was written.

The book explains how bipolar disorder renders those who suffer from it extremely oblivious of the wants and needs of others. The need to be the center of all attention, and the extreme shift in mood certainly profile Dickens as bipolar.

Continue Reading ›

The Study Drug: Why Adderall Use Is Never Worth It

For those of you on the quarter system, finals are just around the corner. You’re likely feeling stressed at the end of this long year, and only just over the hurdle of your most recent midterms. You’ve heard stories of a friend of a friend who was able to stay up all night on energy drinks and Adderall, then aced his Organic Chemistry final. Sound familiar? What you may not be familiar with are the risks of  falling into such behavior yourself, the least of which is getting caught for a disciplinary offense. 

Adderall is a widely misused drug commonly referred to as the “study drug.” It’s most commonly abused by college students, though it is rapidly gaining in popularity with high school students across the country. In fact, according to data from Monitoring the Future, “10% of high school sophomores and 12% of high school seniors take these attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) drugs without a prescription from their doctor.”

It’s unclear why many college and now high school students turn to Adderall use, but some claim it is the high expectations set upon them to get betters grades in school.  Many high school students also begin to feel the pressure to perform better on finals at the end of the year. This pressure can be from parents, academic advisors, or just the increased competition to get into the right college. No matter where the pressure comes from, students will often use Adderall to help them to focus better, have more energy and motivation or spend hours awake cramming in last minute studying.

If you or  your friends are thinking about trying Adderall to help you cram or write a last minute paper, know the facts first:

Continue Reading ›