Jun 282013

In attempt to bring Gamification to my class this year, I am turning my Advanced English 10 class into a survival game. The world has been ravaged by a plague that has turned the dead into reanimated bodies – zombies! I introduced the summer scenario to the students prior to the summer and explained how the point system would work in the Zombie Apocalypse version of the class. In the class, each student came up with the name of their town in which they will act as defender. Each student is responsible for keeping their townspeople alive, well, and thriving. At the beginning of the summer, the students were told their town had 300 inhabitants. This 300 points represents the 300 points the summer work is worth. I thought it was an awesome way to look at your class points – as living breathing entities! Every point counts because each point has a face! (Maybe, that is a little creepy) Each activity or exercise represents a skirmish or an all-out battle. The activities are accompanied by a number of townspeople in danger of being…well…eaten by the zombies. If a student receives a 10 out of 10 on the activity, they have saved their townspeople and survived the attack. If the student receives a 7 out of 10, it is as if three of their townspeople met their demise at the hands of the undead!

The students are required to read three novels and write five reflections on each novel by the designated due dates. One book and set of reflections per month. To keep with the theme, I wanted theme to read books about the undead. I wanted the kids to see the face of humankind when met with danger. What do these characters do when everything goes to hell. The first book is a teen dystopian novel called Rot & Ruin, and the second book is I Am Legend. (I know I Am Legend is about vampires, but they are undead vampires!) The third book was trickier to choose because I wanted a nonfiction book and since we haven’t had a decent zombie apocalypse aside from a man on bath salts in Miami, I had to find something else. Instead, I chose to stick with the theme of survival. I wanted the kids to read a real story about people having to survive a catastrophe. I decided on 102 Minutes: a collection of stories from the people who survived the 9/11 attacks inside the World Trade Center.

We have created a Google+ Community for the summer work since each student can write their work in the Google Drive and share it all with me. However, I wanted the kids to do a little more than just read and reflect – I wanted the kids to use different technology as they progressed. They will write some reflections using Ommwriter or Q10. They will mindmap/outline their reflections using Mindmeister. They will also post Youtube videos that they feel best accompanies the novels. I also have secret Geocaches scattered about the real town. The kids can use their GPS device or Smartphone to find the caches and earn extra townspeople or “immunity” from one of the reflections. I feel the best way to learn technology is to dive in and figure it out, so I’ve created simple tutorial videos for the kids who may need some extra explaining, but I hope many will play around with the programs and figure out how to use the applications themselves.

We are working into our second summer month and as is going well!

Check out the Zombie Apocalypse Pack – Here!

Check out the Townspeople Tally – Here!

Check out the supplemental Zombie Site! – Here!

Check out the Tutorials Page – Here!

Check out the Zombie Apocalypse Soundtrack – Below!

The End is Nigh!: Survival Music from hylo32 on 8tracks Radio.

 Posted by at 7:40 am
May 252013

They came from the Sea!

Reports indicate that surveillance tapes of the Lower Bay/Boardwalk south of Queens, New York  recorded three individuals dragging themselves out of the water at 2:53 am where they proceeded walking east. They encountered and attacked three employees of the Shorefront Center for Rehabilitation and Nursing Care who were on break. Police were immediately called and the three perpetrators were detained at 4:07 am. The three victims were taken to New York Hospital Queens where they being treated for unknown injuries.

Sources indicate that the attackers were badly disfigured and decomposed; one even had a large shark bite in his lower thigh. We were also told that they were not breathing, without pulse, and they had a core body temperature critically below normal,; nevertheless, the three struggled violently to escape the hospital. A doctor on duty, Liam King, M.D., was badly bitten and is currently being treated. Government officials and the Center for Disease Control and Prevention have been contacted. A nurse, who asked to remain anonymous, claimed the attackers looked and behaved like zombies – the living dead.

More Information Coming Soon!

Updated 9:10 AM – May 25,2013

View Zombie Outbreak Map in a larger map


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 Posted by at 7:44 am
Mar 112013

Goal: Turn my class into a full fledged adventure with a coherent story that motivates the kids to progress through the content.

I have a decent beginning, but haven’t got my head wrapped around how to move the story forward with the tasks I need them to complete. In my class, we do quite a bit: Reading, Writing, Syntax, Vocabulary, and Speaking.

Some of those elements lends itself well to a storyline, but some do not. I am trying to figure how to get grammar into the storyline at the moment.

So far: The kids awaken on a distant planet in an unknown universe. They stepped through a ‘wormhole’ and woke up on this alien planet. They encounter law enforcement immediately, but are rescued by some people and taken back to their hidden domain tucked away underneath the city. They explain that they too arrived here via a random ‘wormhole’. One minute they were walking to school – the next they were here on this planet. This group is a motley group from different universes – some human, some not.

So, on this planet, they have no cash. They turn in their thoughts for rewards (Time Coins or Knowledge Points) Continue reading »

 Posted by at 6:35 pm
Feb 232013

With the Common Core creeping into my classroom everyday, I am beginning to understand that I may have to transition to more nonfiction texts. Right at this moment, I have a library full of fiction with only two nonfiction novels – not so good. I have also read that the powers-that-be believe all of this nonfiction reading will occur in all content areas from Math to Science to History. I am sure this will not happen as expected since those content teachers will be battling to adapt their classrooms to their new content standards, which will, ultimately, leave English teachers to carry to weight of that requirement. Will science teachers and math teachers be expected to have the students read content appropriate nonfiction novels in their classrooms? Can the requirement be fulfilled simply by reading nonfiction passages like the ones we see on state tests? I have been reading many blogs and it seems like many teachers are worried about the change. But, I think the truth is that no one really knows what to expect.  Continue reading »

 Posted by at 12:17 pm
Dec 312012

Once upon a time, seven years ago, I began teaching with an idea that kids should read all the books that have been read and cherished for hundreds of years. I had an array of books available to me when I first began: Lord of the Flies, Hiroshima, Night, Brave New World, Frankenstein, The Catcher in the Rye, Animal Farm, Beowulf, The Song of Roland, A Separate Peace, Dante’s Divine Comedy.

Needless to say, I was ready to go. I love every one of those books and I also understood how they stood the test of time. These books speak to generation after generation, which is why they do not disappear. They have become classics. Every so often Barnes and Noble puts out a new version of these books in Collector’s edition. Many publishers even make leather-bound versions that cost hundreds of dollars.

Early in my career I came to the harsh reality that I was dealing with a large population of students who A) Do not like to read and B) Know how to fake their way around reading.

If summary notes were available, they would use them as a substitute for reading. Even though I spoke of the book’s importance and how they can relate to the characters, they still did not seem all that interested. Reading was a task – not at all an enjoyable experience. Continue reading »

 Posted by at 5:12 pm
Dec 312012

We dubbed the month of November the “Month from Hell ” in my Advanced English class this year. The title seemed fitting since we spent the entire month diving in the deep dark recesses of Dante Alighieri’s epic poem Inferno. The book is a two hundred page poem in Iambic Pentameter about Dante’s journey through hell with his guide Virgil in an attempt to see what will befall him if he strays from the path of 13th century morals. I do want to start off by saying that this is one of my favorite books to have the teens read. It is filled with morality questions, interesting scenarios and  characters – including some incredible monsters. It is also jam-packed with rich and challenging language.

However, if you decide to do it, I would make sure you discuss the book as you move along; there are moments that in our day-and-age seem hugely offensive but at the time were not. Dante punishes people in very horrible ways. But, we had just as many conversations about the incredibly descriptive circles as we had about Dante himself. What kind of a guy puts his favorite writer, Virgil, in the 1st circle of hell? Although the content is dark, it does allow the students to put a magnifying glass over their own behavior – something that is uncomfortable for some. Would Dante throw us into the 8th circle for illegally downloading music? What kinds of offenses do we, in our culture, find non-offenses? Is stealing something worse than having an affair? Why would Dante make the worst sin of all Treachery?  Continue reading »

 Posted by at 12:13 pm