Friday, January 30, 2015

Peek of the week 6 - the 50 states of the USA

50. There are 50 states in the USA. No more, no less. I have taught English for close to 13 years now and a couple of times a year I always end up in a discussion with a student, or two, about how many states there are in the US. Many of the students show up in the 7th grade and think that there are 52 states. 52? Where do they get this from? A deck of cards? In every class there are always a handful of students who think there are 52 states, and others believe there are 48 of them (I guess they are thinking of mainland USA..) and of course some of them know that there are 50. So, every year I get to explain that there are 50 states, and has been so at least since 1960 when Hawaii gained statehood, for the non-believers. I suppose the district of Columbia (Washington D.C.) could cause a dilemma and maybe people think of Puerto Rico as a state, although it is not.

Anyway, here are some good links to learning more about the 50 states. Some of them have interesting laws and regulations, others memorable state mottos. One of my favorite states is New Hampshire and that state's motto is "Live free or die". Something to discuss and think about....

In Baltimore, in the state of Maryland, it is illegal to take a lion to the movies. Really? And in the state of Oklahoma it is illegal to have a sleeping donkey in your bathtub after 7 pm. That is ok ... before 7 pm?? Some other funny laws can be found here.

Want to learn the names and locations of the states? This video will help you out:

Watched it? So now, see how many states you know by taking this quiz or this. Hope you did well - and that you now know that there are.....50 states in the USA. ;)

Monday, January 26, 2015

Update on the 30-day-challenge! More suggestions on what to do!

Here are som more resources to use while working with the challenges in English. If you want to show off any of your work with the challenges on social media forums like Instagram, Facebook or Twitter, you can add the hashtag #30daychallengeee. Best of luck - keep up the good work! :)

Saturday, January 24, 2015

Peek of the week 5 - Canva

This week's "peek" into something, is the digital tool Canva. During the past week a few of my students began composing poems about emotions and illustrated them with the help of Canva. I found the interesting assignment in a discussion forum on Facebook and there was a link to Sara Bruun, who had her students do a similar thing. I am very pleased with how they started working with this, and we will continue next week creating more poems.

First, we quickly talked about what kind of emotions we can experience..and examples like "fear, anxiety, joy, sadness..." came up. The students chose one emotion, worked with a friend, and followed the following guidelines for the structure of the poem:

Title (emotion)
Line 1: ....(emotion) is (color)
Line 2: What does the emotion taste like?
Line 3: What does the emotion smell like?
Line 4: What does the emotion feel like?
Line 5: What does the emotion sound like?
Line 6: What does the emotion look like?

Here are some examples of what was made, and how Canva can be used:

Canva is easy to use, can be totally free of charge (there are elements that cost, but you can do without them) and is a lot fun when it comes to visualizing words like poems, stories or if you want to make a poster etc. Give it a go! :)

Saturday, January 17, 2015

Peek of the week 4 - Keep Calm and Carry On

(Picture: courtesy of

KEEP CALM AND CARRY ON. The poster is well-known and today you can find it as a framed poster on someone's wall as a nice piece of interior design. But what is the original story? Take a look at the following video, as it tells the story behind the ubiquitous message:

So, the poster in red, with white capital letters, and King GeorgeVI's crown, was meant to carry a safety message to the British people during World War II. However, it never reached the Brits during the war - since the Germans never invaded the country and - hence, the poster was never distributed. After the war it was believed to have been destroyed and not found until around the year 2000, in a book shop called Barter Books, located in the north of England. After the discovery among some dusty old books, it quickly became popular and copied onto mugs, t-shirts, books, plates, cushions and so on. Webpages solely dedicated to the catchphrase started and soon the colors and the text itself changed to other messages. In my opinion, the original is striking and invincible in its simplicity, though.  Keep calm and carry on. 

Tuesday, January 13, 2015

The Fun They Had

Starting next week I will have "speeches" in all my classes - year 7, 8 and 9. It's always great to be in smaller groups (of 5-6 people), have speeches and let the students give each other feedback (two stars and a wish). This time, the speech should be about a "favorite thing/person/place" and last for about 4-5 minutes. While the small groups listen to each others' speeches, the rest of the class (in the 8th and 9th grades) will get to read "The Fun They Had", the classic short story by Isaac Asimov. They will get some post-reading questions and will also be able to listen to the story . The story has always been a favorite of mine, ever since a friend sent it to me from the U.S.A. The story always gives rise to good discussions about where the world is going and how the school system is changing. Thumbs up for Asimov's story!

Sunday, January 11, 2015


The 30-day-challenge is quickly becoming a popular phenomenon among English teachers, I guess. It seems as if Emmeli Johansson and Mia Smith brought the idea to life, and several English teachers added challenges to a joint Google Document and now there's a good list of things to do. I will jump on the wagon and give my students in the 8th and 9th grades this challenge. Starting Monday they will keep a "diary" and document their extra-curricular English activities. Great idea! Looking forward to watching their response!

This challenge is to make you use your English more outside the classroom. Five days every week for 30 days I want you to do at least one thing from the list. Fill in the grid each day with what you have done. Try to do as many different things as possible. You can only do each assignment three times. 

Presentation: You are to keep a “diary” where you write about what you did, how it went and what you thought about it. When 30 days are over I want you to hand in your “diary” to me!

Peek of the week 3 - Haggis

This week's "peek" into something worth knowing a little bit about is a Scottish traditional dish - haggis. Haggis is a dish that divides people - some love it and cannot live without it, others cannot stand it! But, traditional and Scottish to the bone it is.

Usually haggis is eaten to celebrate Robert Burns day, which is January 25. Robert Burns was a Scottish poet who lived in the 1700's. His Ode to a Haggis is recited at the dinner when celebrating Robert Burns day. Haggis contains sheep's intestines together with onion, barley, oats, traditional spices and it is usually cooked in a sheep's stomach. However, the video below shows a haggis being cooked in a canvas pouch due to practical reasons. Take a look to see how a haggis is made:

Here's the ode and the traditional serving:

Saturday, January 3, 2015

Peek of the week 2 - William Shakespeare

(Picture from:

The second "peek of the week" is in all certainty a person whose name you must have heard before - William Shakespeare. One of the most well-known playwrights and poets in the world. Shakespeare was British, born in 1564 in Stratford-upon-Avon and died in 1616. Hamlet, Romeo and Juliet, MacBeth and King Lear are some of his famous plays, but the sonnets are equally beautiful and complex. My own favorite one is Sonnet 116:

Let me not to the marriage of true minds
Admit impediments. Love is not love
Which alters when it alteration finds,
Or bends with the remover to remove:
O no; it is an ever-fixed mark,
That looks on tempests, and is never shaken;
It is the star to every wandering bark,
Whose worth's unknown, although his height be taken.
Love's not Time's fool, though rosy lips and cheeks
Within his bending sickle's compass come;
Love alters not with his brief hours and weeks,
But bears it out even to the edge of doom.
If this be error and upon me proved,

I never writ, nor no man ever loved. 

A sonnet, by the way, is a sort of poem that (simply put) has 14 lines and where every other line rhymes for the first 12 lines. The last two lines work as a conclusion to the poem and also rhyme.

Shakespeare has been dead for close to 400 years but his works have gained almost immortal status and in many contemporary movies, plays and books you find traces of his original stories. Love, beauty, revenge, jealousy, greed, honor…you name it... - Shakespeare's works have got it all!