Thursday, May 14, 2015

The End (of the school year) is Nigh

It’s John at Prestwick House Inc. and it’s that time of the year, the temperature goes up and your student’s attention span goes down. So in order to help keep the classroom riots to a bare minimum, here is a list of some films that you can show in the classroom.
Before we get started let me stress one very important thing.  Please watch the movies before you show them, just as a precaution. In third grade we were watching Tarzan and the nuns forgot that Clayton, the bad guy, is hanged in end. That’s pretty grizzly for a group of nine year olds, so to avoid any and all mental/emotional scaring  watch them first.

If you’re an English teacher…
  •      “Monty Python and The Holy Grail”  , chock-full of puns, British dry humor, and a text book example of the literary quest and the heroes journey
  •        "Romeo and Juliet" , a pretty obvious choice, but I would suggest the 1996 version directed by Baz Luhrman. Juxtaposing the old English against the modern interpretation makes for an interesting comparison to say the least
  •          “Dead Poets Society” a must, in my opinion. Not only do they study great literary works in the film. It shows how to inspire students. Robin William puts on a breath taking performance.

If you’re a Math teacher…

  •   “21”, students from M.I.T. are trained to count cards. They go to Vegas and win big. Math is finally cool.
  •  “Good Will Hunting”,   Matt Damon is janitor at M.I.T, but is gifted in advanced mathematics. Honestly, it is more about Damon’s journey to find a sense of purpose than math, but hey, math is hard.
  • “Money Ball”, The Oakland Athletics’ GM uses math and statistics to build a new team, and it has Brad Pitt, which is never bad

If you’re a History teacher…

  • Hotel Rwanda”,  focuses more on the true story of Paul Rusesabagina, and less on the genocide, which makes it easier to show in the class room. A great movie with a talented cast.
  •  "Forest Gump”,    this films gives a comprehensive view of what the world was like from the 1940’s to the 1980’s. Showing pivotal moments sin American history such as the war in Vietnam, the creation of Macintosh Computers, The Watergate Scandal, and the 60’s Counterculture.
  •  Schindler’s List”   Oskar Schindler , played by the man Liam Neeson, helps save countless lives by employing Jewish workers during the holocaust. Ralph Finnes gives a terrifying performance as Amon Goeth , a Nazi general. Warning: it can get a little violent

If you’re a Science teacher…

·  “Planet Earth”,  I cannot talk up this mini-series enough. It takes you all over the world exploring different animal’s plants, and ecosystems. It is broken up into ten parts, each exploring a different part of the world. The deep ocean, the jungle, and caves just to name a few.  A biologists best friend, and the American version is narrated by Sigourney Weaver!
·          "Wall-E",  despite that fact that it’s animated, it was from Disney-Pixar, so you know it’s good.  Earth has been deemed uninhabitable, so humanity has left leaving behind only a small robot, sounds fun. It subtly hints at the negative aspects of human consumerism, and the importance of environmental conservation.
·         "The Island", don’t let the fact that Michael Bay directed it deter you from this film. The two protagonists are clones who quickly realize they are going to have their organs harvested, by the wealthy.   It delves into some of the bigger questions behind genetics, and cloning.

These are all ideas of movies that I have seen and enjoyed. Did you like or dislike any of my choices, feel free to comment below. 

Wednesday, May 13, 2015

Should you teach “Ender’s Game”?

Hello all, I am John from Prestwick House Inc.  Let’s jump right into the nitty-gritty of the iconic sci-fi novel “Ender’s Game” and think about whether or not to teach it.   

The novel, written by Orson Scott, feels like the love child of Star Wars and the 1980's era arcade game, Galaga. It is very straight forward which makes it a good read even for the reluctant readers.  Critics say that it explains the complex ethics of war simplistically without diluting its severity.

This novel can be a conduit for bigger questions like, how do wars start? What are they fought over? Why do people fight? As a whole it is thought provoking, which is always appreciated in the classroom.

If you decide to teach it, your students may like...

  • The relatable protagonist Andrew Wiggin, and his struggle to make tough decisions
  • The futuristic aspects
  • They made a movie adaptation
  • The easy to read style

They might not like...

  • The confusing military jargon
  • The amount of violence

For more information about teaching “Ender’s Game” click here.

If you'd like to see a comparison between the book and movie click here.

Monday, May 11, 2015

The Worst Mothers in Literature

Image result for cersei lannister

We at Prestwick House would like to congratulate you for surviving another Mother’s Day. We are sure that this momentous occasion went one of two ways. It was either a well-planned extravagant ordeal involving flowers, breakfast in bed, and jewelry. That or a last minute emergency involving some wilted flowers and a card off the discount rack. The most important thing is that you did something for your Mommy Dearest. In light of Mother’s Day Prestwick House wanted to compile a list of Seven Bad Mothers in literature, just to give you some perspective.

Margaret White, “Carrie” by Stephen King
Everyone knows the classic tale of Carrie White, the telekinetic teen, who is pushed to the brink of sanity by her overbearing, self-harming mother. Margaret is a good ol’ god fearing woman who loves her daughter. She shows Carrie affection by locking her in the “prayer closet”, reminding her that she is going to hell, and trying to kill her with a butcher’s knife.  You know, your standard, high quality parenting.

Olivia Foxworth and Corinne Dollaganger, “Flowers in the Attic” by V.C. Andrews
This is a two for one special on the horrible mother blue light special. First, there is Corinne the mother of the Dollaganger children. She feeds her children arsenic laced doughnuts in order to obtain an exorbitant amount of money that was left to them.  She also forces them to live secretly in the attic, but she is Mother Teresa compared to grandma.  Oliva is the grandmother of the Dollaganger. She whips the children, puts tar in their hair, starves them, and rarely lets them leave their attic prison. Between the two we are not entirely sure who is worse.

Cerci Lannister, “A Song of Fire and Ice” by George RR Martin
The conniving she-demon with “hair of gold”, otherwise known as Cerci Lannister. You love to hate her, mostly because she is just awful. Her only redeeming quality is her fierce devotion to her family. She is constantly plotting behind that crooked smile, and never fails to make people fear for their own lives. If that is not enough her three children are born as are results of an incestuous relationship with her brother. She’s Just an all-around bad mommy. Side note Daenerys Targaryen is the runner up for The Worst Mom of Westeros; just let your dragons go.

Grendel’s Mother, “Beowulf”
Although she may not be as fast and as strong as her son Grendel’s mothers certainly gives the men of Herot a run for their money. She manages to kill quite a few of them before retrieving her son recently detached arm, and retreating to the swamp. Also, it is worth mentioning that she can only be killed with an enchanted sword, pretty fancy stuff eh?
Queen Gertrude, “Hamlet” by William Shakespeare
Who doesn’t love a play by good ol’ Bill Shakespeare you can learn so many good lessons. For example, do not become emotionally attached to any of his characters because more times than not they will be killed. The queen of Denmark does not really grieve for her late husband and is ready and willing to re-marry the king’s brother. That not very ladylike of you Gertrude.

The Other Mother, “Coraline” by Neil Gaiman
My question for the other mother is why would you want to sew buttons onto your children’s eyes?  My question for Coraline is why would you let a soul sucking spider monster be your mother?

The Stepmother, “Hansel and Gretel” by The Brothers Grimm
While she is never given an actual name the mother in “Hansel and Gretel” is the epitome of bad parenting. She takes her two children out into the woods and just leaves them to fend for themselves because they eat too much.  Maybe, you should teach your children portion control instead of pawing them off on a cannibalistic-child predator witch who lures kids into her gingerbread house. Good thing that Hansel and Gretel learned a lesson from Sylvia Plath and learned how to properly work and oven, effectively thwarting their evil step mothers plan.

Monday, December 1, 2014

Study finds digital learning less effective (and more expensive) than traditional teaching

Politicians from Jeb Bush to President Obama like to hype the revolutionary power and cost-effectiveness of digital learning, but a new study suggests, in many cases, it is neither more powerful nor cheaper than old-fashioned teaching.

Billions of public dollars have been directed toward digital learning initiatives in recent years, and the report from the National Education Policy Center, a research institute at the University of Colorado, found that they rarely improved outcomes. When they did, they cost more money, not less.

"On the whole, it is very difficult to have faith in the path we're going down," says Noel Enyedy, a researcher at UCLA who performed the analysis.

Tuesday, September 23, 2014

Is classroom technology actually working?

School districts always roll out technology adoptions with a great deal of fanfare. But what happens a year later, when the new ipads are yesterday's news? It is perhaps too early to say, but classroom technology follow-up stories are few and far between. Here is one from the New York Times which paints a somewhat pessimistic picture about the effectiveness of digital technology in the classroom.
“This is such a dynamic class,” Ms. Furman says of her 21st-century classroom. “I really hope it works.”
Hope and enthusiasm are soaring here. But not test scores.
Since 2005, scores in reading and math have stagnated in Kyrene, even as statewide scores have risen. To be sure, test scores can go up or down for many reasons. But to many education experts, something is not adding up — here and across the country. In a nutshell: schools are spending billions on technology, even as they cut budgets and lay off teachers, with little proof that this approach is improving basic learning.
This conundrum calls into question one of the most significant contemporary educational movements. Advocates for giving schools a major technological upgrade — which include powerful educators, Silicon Valley titans and White House appointees — say digital devices let students learn at their own pace, teach skills needed in a modern economy and hold the attention of a generation weaned on gadgets.

Friday, September 5, 2014

Experience the power of a bookbook™

This is simply great. Yes, it is done as a bit of a joke, but seriously folks - the benefits of books discussed in this video are real - especially for schools and students.

Tuesday, September 2, 2014

Our 'Reading Informational Texts' is the "We Are Teachers" Pick of the Week connects teachers to the best resources in education.

Why we love it: Each book in the series includes four to five writings from historic figures like Frederick Douglass, speeches by leaders such as Winston Churchill, court opinions such as Brown v. Board of Education, scientific essays and more. Each text's introduction gives vital background information on historical context and short, side-margin annotations to help students unpack challenging ideas.

Terrific teacher editions: In addition to answer keys, analysis of each text's complexity is provided so you can gauge when your students are ready for each section. Meaty, instruction-packed teaching tips are provided at the beginning of each book relevant to teaching informational texts for the appropriate grade level.
Click here for the complete review. 

For more information on the series visit

Friday, August 29, 2014

Thursday, August 21, 2014

New Nonprofit Will Review Common Core Materials

 This may be a bit of public relations management, or it could be really helpful.  Time will tell. 
A new nonprofit organization called has announced that it will provide free, web-based reviews of instructional materials series (including technology-enabled products). Reviews will focus on alignment to the Common Core and other indicators of high quality as recommended by educators, including usability, teacher support, and differentiation. 

Funded by the Helmsley Charitable Trust, the William and Flora Hewlett Foundation, and the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, will release its first round of Consumer Reports-like reviews later this year or early in 2015, focusing on K-8 mathematics materials. Subsequent reviews will include high school mathematics and K-12 English Language Arts. For further information, including a list of the 21 K-8 math instructional materials to be reviewed in the first round, read this article from Education Week.

You can sign up to get email updates on the project by clicking here.