Tuesday, May 24, 2016

Tyrion Tuesday? Game of Thrones Episode Five

Ok, so sue me. I didn't blog about episode four. See, I didn't think anyone was really reading the posts! So I stopped writing them. And I guess that was lame and it broke blog rule #1: Write even though no one reads it. So I'm writing about episode five.
I'm going to keep it simple. This is what I have to say:

That's about it, really. 
Ok, down to the nitty gritty.  

Petyr & Sansa
There were about three minutes where I actually felt sorry for Petyr Balish. That's it, though. Once he started up with his, "half brother," nonsense, I struck him off the list again. Who does he think he is to give advice to Sansa about being wary of someone? Seriously?!

Tormund & Brienne: A Love Story
Please tell me you love it when Tormund makes eyes at Brienne? I do. It cracks me up every time. He's so goofy, and actually a pretty decent guy. Where will this go? I think he'll wear her down with his wildling charm eventually.

A photo posted by InstaThrones (@gameofthronesnotofficial) on

I like the way Brienne talked about Jon Snow, too. "A bit brooding, but I suppose it's understandable under the circumstances." Yes, Brienne. WE LIKE HIM BROODING!  

Yara & Theon
And then there's a pretty good scene where Yara looks soooooo tough and king-ly, but the men of Pyke would rather have a murderous psycho as a king, so she and Theon take off on the best ships. I want to know where they're heading. Will they preempt Euron and head to Daenerys? Will they just circle Planetos until they die? What will they do? 

Jorah and Daenerys: touching. I am wondering, though: if Jorah touches the greyscale with his other hand, does it spread there? I feel like it would... But I also find it hard to believe that Jorah has managed to avoid touching his arm at all since he acquired the greyscale, so... I don't know.

The worst part ever
Of course, at the end of the episode, there's the worst scene ever. Hodor. Hold-the-door Hodor. Honestly, I couldn't even sleep after I saw it! It was incredibly depressing! Hodor was one of two completely decent people on GoT. Obviously, I am referring to Pod. I suppose you might count Brienne as a third. So Hodor is 1/3 of the decent people on GoT. And he's D-E-A-D! And he died such an ugly death! Boo.


To distract myself, I hunted around for interesting GoT theories online to see if anyone had come up with anything new. I had this conversation with a friend after the episode, via text. I sent him a very thoughtful theory and then this happened.

Me: So I've been thinking maybe Meera Reed might be Jon's twin after all. Howland Reed was with Ned at the Tower of Joy, and maybe he took the girl baby and Ned took the boy, and passed them both off as their own.

George: Hodor.

Me: Hahahahahaha
George: Hodor, Hodor.

Me: Is this how you're going to pay homage? It's like a vow of silence....only Hodor.

George: Hodor :(

Me: That's deep.

George: Hodor. 

So I guess that's all there really is to say. 
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Monday, May 9, 2016

Melisandre Monday: He's BA-ACK!

Oh, Jon. Jon, Jon, Jon. It wasn't two minutes in when you flashed your newly resurrected tush. Thank you.
So this episode was kind of a mixed bag. 
Sam's barfing. I bet he really regrets saying that whole, "Wherever you go, I go too," thing to Gilly. She keeps throwing it in his face. She's a woman. She'll never forget. 
Ollie's hanging. 
Tell me that wasn't incredibly depressing. I get it; he killed Jon. He had to pay the price, but that stinks. 
And Rickon Stark's standing, literally, right in front of the sicko Ramsay Snow. So that's not good. Ramsay looked at him with his crazy eyes and I almost peed my pants.
Now let's talk about the most important part of this episode. And beware, if you don't like to hear about theories, you should stop reading now.


I mean it, now.

The Tower of Joy
Let's make sure we're on the same page. When Ned is fighting the Sword of the Morning outside the tower, that's the Tower of Joy, right? And he says Rhaegar Targaryen is already dead. And then you hear the screaming inside the tower. Please tell me you agree: Ned will race inside the Tower of Joy and find Lyanna Stark dying, giving birth to Jon Snow (who should be Jon...Targaryen?!)!

They set it up quite nicely. "Why weren't you protecting your prince?" Ned asks the Targaryen men. "Because our prince wanted us here." Ummm...yeah! Because tiny baby Jon is being born in there!

This episode might not have been the most exciting, but the scene with Ned outside the tower totally tided me over till the next time. 

Now that Jon is leaving the Night's Watch (I had wondered about this - he died once, so does he really have to uphold his oath? I vote no), I think he'll head to the only place that matters to him. Winterfell. It's not like he knows anything about Bran, Rickon, Sansa or Arya.

Sort of a dry crowd
I love Messandei, and I love Greyworm, but this scene certainly did capture their single-mindedness! Their utter lack of a sense of humor (completely understandable, given the whole slave childhood thing) and their blank, stoic faces cracked me up. It was nice to see some comic relief before watching Arya get beat upside the head with a big stick. And also nice to see Tyrion so out of his element and desperate to make friends.

The Little Birds
At the end of Vary's speech to Tyrion, he talks about his 'little birds'. I turned to my friend and said, "I really want to know how it works with his 'little birds'!" And then we turn to Qybern, who's literally feeding the little birds candy. I guess I should've seen this coming. Did you? Or were you as clueless as me?

It took me a minute to remember that Khyber is the master of whispers now. Still having a hard time with that appointment. So when Cersei said, "Varys' little birds," did you take it to mean that she had always known that the little birds were children? It surprises me that she knew anything that she didn't already leak. She's kind of transparent. I feel like, if she knew, she'd already have let it slip when she was threatening someone through her teeth.

Poor Tommen
Partway through this scene, it occurred to me that Tommen might be a convert! He's a mess, really. His voice hasn't even gone through the change yet. Poor little guy. He's always on the verge of tears. His dad would've been pretty disgusted.

BTW, how is it that, even with all of those layers on, you can still tell that Jon Snow is a hotpants?

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Saturday, May 7, 2016

Maintaining your tenuous grasp on sanity...the last six weeks.

You know it. I know it. We all know it. You're losing your mind.

It's not your fault. If one more kid sits through ten minutes of a lesson and then says, "But I don't have a pencil," you're going to climb up the wall. I'm already up there, waiting for you. 

To help you maintain your tenuous grasp on your sanity (and your teaching certificate), I've compiled a brief list of helpful tips. Ignore them at your own risk.

1.  Cut a hole in the bottom of your "Turn In Basket" for assignments. Place the turn in basket on top of the trash can. Grading = done!
2. Have each student create an award for another student in the class. Tell them to keep it top secret (this reduces chatter). Awards = done!
3. Go through your files and pull out all of your big projects - the ones that take nine weeks that you'll try to cram into six weeks and require four trips to Hobby Lobby for pipe cleaners, tulle, and craft scissors, and coordinating with the librarian, computer lab, and art teacher - and throw them away. Play BINGO every day instead. Planning = done!
4. Second investment: a large treasure box full of the most disgusting snacks. This includes Hot Cheetos, Fun Dip, and Sour Patch Kids. Explain to students that they will receive one treat each day, as long as they don't break the one rule. This rule is: Figure it out yourself and leave me alone. 

At the end of the day, every child who has solved their own problems without disturbing you in any way will receive their choice of one disgusting treat. Hand it to them on their way out the door. They will eat it on the way home and the parents will have to deal with their Cheeto fingers. Not my problem. 

Any child who has not solved their own problems will receive a dirty look. Behavior = managed!
5.  Prep your meals on Sunday. Lay out five tupperware containers for your lunches. In each tupperware, place: 1 bag of popcorn, 1 Hershey bar, and one of those mini bottles of wine. I recently discovered these, and they are the perfect size for a teacher's lunchbox! Lunch - ready!
6. Invest in a wine company. Then buy at least four cases of wine. At a bottle a day, that leaves you six bottles left over - one to double up each Monday. This might be enough. Teacher = happy!

If this doesn't help you stay sane, call in sick and send someone else in as tribute.

Happy Teaching!
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Monday, May 2, 2016

Melisandre Monday: Spoilers abound

Can I just say...
I knew it! I knew it! I knew it!
I told you so! I told you so!
And what's even better, I have proof! Check out last week's post to see how I was right about Jon Snow.  

And now, back to business.

My husband sent me this today. 

Bran & Hodor
When the show opens, Bran is hanging around Winterfell of the past. I liked it. It made me so happy to think that Ned had a decent childhood. You know, because his adulthood kind of stunk.

And then we learn about Hodor Willis! What's that about? I was terrified that he was going to fight Benjen and then Benjen would bop him on the head and that's why he can only say Hodor. That obviously didn't happen. 
There's some sort of significance to the word "hodor," but I have no theories about what that is. When Bran asks him why he can't talk again, I almost feel like Hodor was trying to communicate something. Ack, depressing.

I like Meera and all, but I wasn't that interested in anything she had to say. 
So moving on.
Castle Black
As soon as the scene changed to Castle Black, everybody froze up, right? All those arrows at the ready? Ollie in the crowd of men outside the door? And Jon Snow, still dead. 
"For now," I told my friend wisely.

At this point, as Aliser's men a're breaking down the door, I was like, "Just wait one more minute! I'm sure the wildlings are on their way! Edd will finally come through!" And then we heard it... The thunk... of a GIANT! YESSSS! Wildlings attack!!

It was a short-lived battle, really. Just took one guy to hit the giant with an arrow and have his head exploded against the wall, and that was about it. Ollie was the only one who didn't know when he's been beat. 

Go Edd!

And then they go back up to the room. And Jon Snow is still dead.

Everybody's sad about it. Except for me. I know he'll be back.

King's Landing
The moment we heard that guy talking about Cersei on the streets, you knew he was gonna die, right? Because that's just how it goes in King's Landing. And this time, it was the Frankenstein Mountain. Another exploded head.
 Honestly, those eye stone things are probably the creepiest part of the show. They're creepier than Melisandre and her shadow baby, even. The High Sparrow says the stones help to remind us not to fear death. Ummmm.... I don't think it's working.

And then there's Tommen. Poor, poor Tommen. He's really helpless. And what's worse is that he knows it.

And then there was some stuff with Jaime and the High Sparrow (tense) and with Tommen and Cersei (wine).
Tyrion & Varys
I want a T-shirt that says, "That's what I do. I drink and I know things." Maybe that should be the tagline of this blog. Maybe I should hang it on a sign outside my door at school. I feel so connected to Tyrion right now. He's one of my favorite people. (*Edit: Just found this. It is, apparently, a T-shirt already.)

When Tyrion & Varys head down into the catacombs, I had serious anxiety. I remembered the last time someone headed down there - he got burned up - and even though I knew (remember, I know things) that he'd be fine, it was still pretty stressful. I love that he told them a story. This interaction really added to the dragons' personalities and demonstrated how intelligent they are. I can't wait to see where that goes. 

Also, is it just me, or did you get a feeling that there's some Targaryen in Tyrion? If the legends are true... Well, I'm just sayin' it would explain a lot. It's not a perfect theory, of course.
Ramsay & Roose
So...Ramsay was busy...
Ummm.... he became an orphan and an only child in the span of ten minutes... not really sure what to say about that. Sicko. What's the most horrific death? I think the Viper's death was pretty bad. Ramsay deserves soooooooooo much worse. I think he might finally be in over his head. Can't wait for episode three.

Everybody Else
Arya was pretty incredible. I definitely would have said, "I'm Arya Stark. Now give me my eyes back."
Ugh, Theon. He's sorry, but he's awful, but he's sorry he's awful. I'm not really sure how to feel about Theon.
Life at the Iron Islands must be the most horrible existence. It's miserable.
And then, Jon!
Melisandre looks totally defeated. Ser Davos is so loveable. He's literally asking the woman who burned Shireen for help. He asked the question we all wanted to ask. "Do you know of any...magic that can bring him back?" Yes, Davos. Yes, she does. 

Melisandre started by cleaning up Jon's (manly) torso. She cut little snips from his thick, wavy locks with the worst pair of scissors ever created. She washed his hair (inexplicably). When her theme song started playing as she rested her hands over his wounds, you knew you were in for a show. 

I was terrified. I spouted off, like eight theories in one minute.

He's going to come back in Ghost!
Ghost is going to be the price for blood magic!
They're going to burn him up and he'll just be sitting there the next morning like Dany!

Once Davos (and everybody) left the room, and Ghost started to pick up his head, I got really excited. Just wait! I shouted. He's gonna gasp for air and wake up! He's going to! 

And then he did! YAAAAYYYY!

So that was a very satisfying episode. A couple thoughts:
  • Now that Jon Snow is basically indebted to Melisandra... what's that going to look like? She'll follow him around like Stannis and tell him to do weird stuff? I don't think he'll do it, but that's gonna cramp his style fo sho.
  • What will Jon do with Alliser? I mean, he'll probably have him killed. But you know, how?
Have you watched this? Do. 
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Monday, April 25, 2016

Melisandre Monday: Game of Thrones, season six premiere!

Yesterday was April 24, 2016. And if you're like me, you know exactly why that day is so important.
In case you're not a nerd (although I'm not really sure why you'd be reading this blog), I'll tell you:
Game of Thrones, season six.
I. Love. Game of Thrones.

I listen to podcasts about Game of Thrones. I talk to my nerd friends about Game of Thrones. And I read books called Game of Thrones. And now I plan to write a blog post every time I watch Game of Thrones in season six. Today is Melisandre Monday.

I can't stop won't stop...loving Game of Thrones. 

I spent the last week rewatching seasons one through five. By now, I've seen them each more than once (except for season five), but they're highly re-watchable. Last Saturday, my GoT buddy George came over and we watched pretty much all of season one. My husband watched sports in the other room.

Yes, you heard that right. My husband does not like Game of Thrones. I know. We're seeking counseling and I've already spoken to a priest.

On that day of season one, George and I did Tyrion proud and polished off a bottle of wine each (and then some). So I knew I'd need more fortifications for the season six premiere.

This is me and my cat, Jeannie, watching GoT. I look exactly like Jeannie, but on a couch instead of a loveseat.
I spent the next week blowing through seasons two through five. On the morning of the 24th, I went shopping and bought various cheeses, crackers, grapes, and of course, wine. I figured we had to Lannister this shindig up. As I prepared my buffet of Westerosi fare, my husband asked me a few questions about the GoT phenomenon. 

Him: I thought Jon Snow was supposed to be a good guy.

Me: He is. He's one of the best, really.

Him: But then why did he die?

Me: (Refraining from saying, 'When you play the game of thrones, you win, or you die') It's the Game of Thrones. The best people die first.

Him: What? Why?

Me: That's just how it is in the Seven Kingdoms. And besides, I know he was killed, but I don't think he's dead.

Him: ....................................

And then he left the room. 

He doesn't get it. 

The Big Day
On Sunday, George arrived early. We watched the last three episodes of season five. And ate soooo many cheeses.

And then, it was time. For. SEASON SIX!!

This is what I thought of episode one:

Jon Snow
I have been insistent that Jon Snow isn't dead. George R. R. Martin has brought people back in the books, and I am absolutely certain (good thing blogs are editable) that HBO will decide to bring Snow back. After declaring this loudly to George, glass #1 in hand, we opened up HBO Now and read the episode description. The first sentence is: Jon Snow is dead.

"But not for reals," I told George. "Just wait. He's coming back."

And then the episode started and the first fifteen minutes were all about just exactly how dead Jon Snow was. Which was very, completely, and totally dead.

"It's coming," I said. "Melisandre will bring him back."

And then she didn't. Honestly, Melisandre is one of the most frustrating characters on this show. One minute she's declaring the Lord of Light as all-powerful and all-knowing, and the next minute, she's burning up Stannis' kid and losing half his soldiers in the process. What's that about?

The one time she could actually be useful, she does nothing!

So Jon Snow is still dead....but I haven't capitulated yet. He's coming back. Mark my words.

Podrick, the best squire in the history of squires
How do you feel about Podrick Payne? Because I love him. He's such a decent human being in a horrible place. How did he come to be so great? One of the most stressful moments of this episode was when I thought Ramsey's men would kill him, but it was all ok. Theon finally earned his existence.

And then, of course, Brienne pledged her fealty to Sanza. Pledging fealty is one of Brienne's favorite things to do. She's done it, like, five times already.

Meanwhile, in Dorne...
the Sand Snakes exact their revenge on the prince. And the prince's guard. And the prince's son. For one brief moment, when the sisters approach Prince Trystane, I had a flashback - my mind jumped back to season four and I imaged his uncle, the Viper, leaping and spinning around the Mountain. I turned to George and said, "Wouldn't it be awesome if he was like the Viper?" "Yeah!" George agreed. And then he unsheathed his sword, and it became very clear. This boy was no Viper. That was right before the spear came through the front of his face. 

And then, Melisandre. Who is now seared into my brain. When Melisandre unveiled her...self, I seriously did a double take. I think I squeaked a little. And my head flooded with questions:

How old is she?
When I'm as old as her, will I look like that?
Does she look like that every night?
What if someone walks in on her while she's asleep?

It just didn't seem like a good plan.

Random thoughts
If I had a girl band, I would name it Brienne of Tarth.
When did Jaime Lannister become one of the good guys? Is it just me or do you L-O-V-E him?
Can you please tell me how Jorah found that teeny tiny ring in the middle of a valley? The whole previous conversation was about how old he was. How was it even possible for him to see that?
When Arya gets really good at fighting while blind, she'll be like Daredevil.
Do you love Game of Thrones, too? Is Pod one of your favorite people? Stay tuned next week for more Game of Thrones talk!
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Saturday, April 23, 2016

Making Inferences in Expository Text: Test Prep *Freebie!

So it's official. 
It's test prep season.  


Good test prep has a few characteristics: it's precise, it's engaging, and it helps kids bridge all the awesome stuff you taught all year to the boring stuff they'll have to do on the test. 
Sometimes kids can do all the big thinking: making connections, making inferences, synethesizing, and more. But you put a test in front of them and it's like they've learned NOTHING all year. Because it looks different (and doesn't really serve as a measure of what they know) and they have trouble interpreting what the test is asking them to do. It's all about the format. 

So I used this lesson with a fifth grade class (and then a third grade class tried it out) to help them take the awesome learning they'd done about making inferences and apply it to the test-taking situations they're likely to see. Because here's what a lot of kids don't realize. When it comes to making inferences, the test is likely asking them to do two different things.

They need to:

1. Use evidence from the text to make an inference. OR
2. Locate evidence from the text to support an inference that has already been made.

These are two inverse operations. So what do you do? Well, here's what I did.
First, we started with a text. To help students bridge what they've learned to the test, I used an expository passage from a released test from a few years back. It was about how a specific kind of pine tree survives in its harsh environment.

I provided each kid with a copy of the graphic organizer (provided in the freebie below!) and I charted it. We reviewed the strategy - making inferences using evidence; supporting inferences with evidence. We previewed the text, read the first couple paragraphs and decided on the topic: Bristlecone Pines. Then I asked students to find details in the text that were about bristlecone pines. I wanted them to focus on the topic - that's what readers do!

They came up with three things: The pines are the oldest trees in the world, the conditions the pines live in kill other trees, and the roots of the pines help them survive. These were taken directly from the text. I had students write them on post-its and stuck them in the "Text Evidence boxes."
Then we talked about how to make an inference - you put clues together (details) to think about something that's not directly stated in the text. That's why it happens in your brain, and why I wrote "BRAIN" down the side of the inference box!

We put the clues together and realized that there was something special about the bristlecone pine that other trees didn't have - that was our inference.

Here's the tricky part. How will this look on the test?

Here's how I did it:

For example, in the question, "Based on the details in paragraph 4, the reader can conclude..." is asking students to use the evidence in paragraph four to create a conclusion. This means that the right answer will not be directly stated in the text; it will be created in your brain based on the details in the text.

Another type of question sounds like this: "Which statement from the text best supports the idea that bristlecone pines have special adaptations to survive in their environment?" In this question, the inference is provided - Bristlecone pines have special adaptations to survive in their environment is the inference that has already been drawn for you. Your job as the test-taker is to find the evidence that supports that statement, or proves that it is true.

After we practiced identifying this on a few questions on the anchor chart, it was time for students to practice in partners (or so I thought).

Each student, on the bottom of their graphic organizer, had a two-column chart. One column is labeled, "Questions where I have to make an inference or draw a conclusion," and the other is, "Questions where I have to find the evidence to support the inference or conclusion."

As you can see, the first time kids tried this, they did not have an understanding of what the question was asking them to do.
I gave each student a stack of test questions that were asking them to make an inference based on provided evidence OR support a provided inference with evidence.

They sorted. Badly. Like, really badly. It brought up so many misconceptions, misunderstandings, and struggles with sentence structure - a huge underlying issue in reading comprehension. So we retaught, intervened, etc. But the fact that they struggled so much to identify what the question was asking them to do tells me that we needed to do this lesson!

Happy Teaching! I know test prep is torture, but it will all be over soon...


Want more practice in making inferences? Check out this freebie Reading Strategy MiniPack on TPT!
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