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Monday Mapping: Addressing Current Events with Historical Facts

As we get closer to the end of the school year, and especially after testing, it becomes more and more challenging to teach in the content-based, unit to unit way we are used to in our Social Studies classrooms.  Students are less willing to read from texts and are more apt to share their opinions rather than support anything with fact.  This pushes us, the dedicated to the end teachers, to pull out lessons that will engage, and maybe even some that will entice anger, frustration, or sadness, just to get a response!

Most lessons of the sort will not be an easy find, or even an easy creation.  They come from knowing your students, and knowing what will rile them up!  Still, here are a few tips to get you started:
In the end, just find a theme.  Something you know travels through time, and is still significant today.  While a few years old now, Jimmy Carter's "Losing my Religion" piece is perfect for stirring up conversation (and review).  Read along in the piece (at the link), and then ask yourself where these questions could take your classroom...
  1. What does religion mean in your life?  (Yes, you can ask this!  No, it does not mean you are introducing or judging any religion or breaking any law.)
  2. How do you think religion affects society?
  3. How does religion impact the political system or laws?
  4. What historical support can you come up with for President Carter's points on the oppression of women by religion?
  5. Are some religions more or less accepting of difference than others?
  6. How does the discrimination discussed by Carter compare to other, more current discrimination? 
  7. What groups or peoples are the brunt of discrimination in modern society?
  8. How has history taught us to be tolerant?  Forgiving?  Accepting?
  9. What do you think is the overall goal of The Elders?
  10. Do you think people can practice their faith and still be accepting of difference?  How?
  11. Why? Why? Why?  This is the big one... As your students why we should look deeper at this issue and those similar.
  12. And finally, What can you do?  You see what Carter has done through this piece.  Other world leaders joined him in statements regarding their own faiths or beliefs.  What can you, as individuals in our modern world, do to make a difference now and in the future?
Teaching the last days of each school year can be an incredible challenge, but it can also be a great learning experience for you and your students!  Enjoy your time with them, and help them take away everything they can from the classroom experience.

Happy Teaching!

Secondary Smorgasbord: Games to Keep Them Engaged at Year's End

Teaching new content at the end of the year is most often out of the question with crazy schedules and early dismissed groups as events and other obligations draw our students in every direction.  Still, we know we must wrap-up our content with students to help bring lessons together and to help them review for coming final exams or course tests.  How can we keep it together as everything seems to be falling apart in the final days of the year?

Keeping students engaged can be the greatest challenge for any teacher.  While some teachers choose to give up and offer free time to their students those final days, I could never give up that time, or my sanity to the chaos, and instead set up organized game play for my students each and every school day right up to our final exams.

Here are a few of my Game Strategies for the Secondary classroom:
  • Use Practice Games -  design games to address specific content, skills or standards and course curriculum.  Create your own questions and create competition among your students to keep them engaged and participating.  Offer incentives to highest scoring groups.
  • Allow Students to Create Games - divide your class by the number of units covered in the course and assign one unit to each group for game creation.  Allow students to use existing game resources (game pieces, etc) or encourage them to create every aspect of the game for every greater involvement.  Use the final days for groups to exchange game boards and to compete for course prizes.
  • Play on a Human Game Board - One of my favorites!  Turn your classroom into a human game board using the tiles on your floor as spaces.  Roll the dice or award points based on question values and review the course content from beginning to end. 
No matter how you choose to spend your final days in the classroom, just remember that your sanity, and the success of your students, will be best maintained if you keep order and structure to the very end.  That said, maintain that order and structure while you have fun in the last days!  Your students will remember your content, and they will remember you for being the cool teacher you are!

Be sure to check out the other posts in the Secondary Smorgasbord for great ideas to help you get through the end of the school year!  And, thanks to Meatballs in the Middle and Desktop Learning Adventures for hosting these wonderful blog posts!

Happy Teaching!

Monday Mapping: Evaluation Time Again! Tips for Success

It doesn't matter what career you are in, or how good you are at what you do, when you are told it is time for your annual observation/evaluation, you become just a bit unnerved!

Those of us who are somewhat cocky (tenured and over-confident) may scoff that it's no big deal, or that "anyone can step in my classroom anytime they want!" Well, while that is true, and I personally do welcome everyone into my classroom, it is still unsettling to know someone will be entering with a clipboard in hand and an assortment of category boxes waiting to be checked off in my affirmation.

Even the most confident teacher will feel some anxiety as the observation approaches. We are in a career where we want to do our best. We want to impress. We want to engage everyone - and often we want to entertain. It's what we do. And that slight fear that we will be the comedian on the stage with the dead-silent audience (cricket, cricket) sets in our minds and weighs us down like a lump in the throat.

So, what do you do? You do your best! Oh, those words... Do your best! But they are true!
You do your best, and let the administrator observing you do the rest. They are in their position to be your leader, your guide, and your mentor. They are your administrator because they were once in your shoes and they worked their way to the front office by being the ones who did well on their own observations and evaluations! They are there to help you become your best, and they can be your greatest cheerleader. Trust in them to do their jobs well!

Now, I give all this advice as I sit knowing I'm no longer subjected to the torture! But that's okay! I can still feel your pain.  And anxiety!  But I know you will do your best and be your best. Make them laugh, make them cry, and make them cheer with joy at your lesson.  Be a teacher. It's what YOU do!

Need some light reading to get your through the anxiety?  Read my book, A Lesson Plan for Teachers, New and Old!  It's also available on Amazon!  And be sure to download all of my Freebies for Teachers on TpT!

Happy Teaching!

Monday Mapping: Test Prep without the Multiple Choice

When my district first started forcing Test Prep sessions on us for state testing, we had free reign to design those sessions as we pleased.  Knowing my students needed the most practice in analyzing primary sources and in evaluating images, I started creating assignments for them to practice those skills while reviewing our course content.  Years later, the shift moved toward practicing only multiple choice, but in the end, the benefits of practicing with open ended response prompts are evident!
Open ended responses allow students to think through their answers, and more importantly, it teaches them to think before they begin to write their response.  Another, greater, value is allowing students the opportunity to actually look at the source, making judgments on their own first, before reading possible answers in a multiple choice set.  This turns on the analysis process in our brains, and helps us to recall skills and content as we step through the stages of thought.

However, the greatest benefit to prepping with primary source analysis materials is the fact that students are practicing so many skills in one.  Addressing standards can be a challenge in the Social Studies classroom, but in using primary sources students can see images, read quotes, evaluate charts and graphs, use maps, and read passages to help them better understand the cause and effect that is so relevant in any social studies course.

Take a look at my Primary Source Materials for great reviews of U.S. and World History, Geography, Government, and more!

For a very comprehensive review for U.S. History, take a look at this Amazing U.S. History Primary Source Analysis Bundle

Happy Teaching!

Monday Mapping: Movies for Test Prep and Review... Really?

When people talk about movies being shown in classes, I usually cringe.  My first thoughts go to those teachers who sit at their desks all year, never actually teaching, and only showing movies to inform their students.  Sadly, those types of teachers have created a negative impression of something that can actually be a valuable tool in the classroom.

Many movies actually provide incredible stories that can help our student visualize history.  When you add in the entertainment factor, students are much more likely to pay attention, and to remember what you've been trying to tell them all along!  Unfortunately, on the flip side, many movies are also horribly inaccurate.  But this is okay! 

Using movies can serve many purposes, IF done correctly, and only if done infrequently.  And as test prep and testing take over classrooms in the spring season, movies can help to review content already taught in a new and different method.

  • DO tie it to content: Use movies that address the content you are teaching, and emphasize the facts over the fiction the movie shares.
    • Schindler's List is filled with great information on the Holocaust and persecution of the Jews.  Add Nuremberg (the TNT version), and you have a great review of the Holocaust and the trials following. 
  • DO insert commentary: Stop the movie after significant scenes to clarify key topics or to insert content that is missing.
    • Mona Lisa Smile is a great movie that addresses many questions about equality in the 20th century.  Stop and add in the legislation passed in the same time periods to enhance the content significance. 
  • DO encourage discussion: Review scenes and ask students their thoughts on the topics addressed.  Encourage controversy and debate!
    • Saving Private Ryan has incredible scenes depicting WWII, but it also addresses very sensitive subjects on war.  Stop and talk about them, and be open to accepting varying perspectives. 
  • DO assign tasks: Use viewing guides or note-taking tools for movies.  It's still a class, not just a social event!
    • Avatar is an incredible movie for reviewing Imperialism, but the value is lost if that direct comparison is not made.  Use guides to direct your students' attention and to address the correlation. 
  • DO use movies for life lessons: Some movies provide valuable life lessons that cannot be taught with words or worksheets.
    • One of my favorite movies is The Emperor's Club with Kevin Kline.  It teaches both students and teachers some valuable lessons about learning.  It's worth the watch, especially at testing time!   
  • DO address inaccuracies: Teach students to evaluate what they see... What do they know is inaccurate or exaggerated?
    • Show Forest Gump just before testing?  Of course!  But do so as a lesson on the inaccuracies in movies.  Allow students to keep their notebooks on hand to identify and describe the misinformation.  
  • DO show for comparison: Compare movies to movies, movies to primary sources, or movies to lecture notes.  What is similar?  What is different?
    • How do Roots and Amistad tell the same stories?  What differences do they depict? 
  • DO use movies as an analysis tool: Critical thinking and analysis are vital in everything we see and do in our modern world.  Analyze the movies as you would any document or image.
    • How better can you describe the social and political tension of the 80s than by showing The Breakfast Club and Red Dawn?   Analyze them separately and together for a clearer understanding of the decade.
  • DO show movies for visual lessons: Reach your visual learners with movies and enhance learning for all of your other learners.
    • Do you remember how we watched and ENJOYED Schoolhouse Rock when we were kids?  They still have the same power for our youngest generation!  Try it and see! 
  • DO NOT use movies for time-filling: This is never a good idea.  It teaches students that your class time is not valuable, and that everything we see in the movies is real.
    • There is no value in any movie (or lesson) that has no purpose!
Like any other tool you use in your classroom, movies are what you make them.  Don't simply watch movies - TEACH them!

Want to read more?  Take a look at this website with ideas and tools for using movies in your classroom!

Happy Teaching!

Bright Ideas Blog Hop: Playing Games for Year End Review

As we get closer to the end of the year, and to testing season, it's important to review.  But no rule says review cannot be fun!  Here's an idea that I used in my classroom year after year, and it's loved by all grades and all levels of students!  Turn your classroom into a Human Game Board, and let your students play!

Creating a game board is easy!
  1. Move all of the desks and tables to the sides of the classroom.
  2. Layout game tiles (numbers, letters, or blank pieces or card stock) to identify the game board direction.  Place one per floor tile to allow enough student space.
  3. Add in some bonus or penalty tiles for greater competition. 
  4. Group students into teams, but rotate out players for the game board each round.
  5. Use a regular set of dice or purchase a big, foam set at Dollar Tree for bigger fun.
  6. Start the game!  Offer tiered rewards for each team as they finish.
  7. Encourage fun competition, and your students will learn without realizing it!
Creating the review questions can be more challenging!  Here are a few ideas:
  • Use a unit study guide, asking for term definitions, concept clues, or other responses.
  • Print task cards for students to draw, requiring they complete the task before moving on to the next square.
  • Set up questions on the board, each covered by a flip up card that matches each game board space.
  • Allow teams to create the review questions ahead of time, and rotate the teams questions for all to use.
  • Organize stations or centers at corner locations, where tasks or skills must be reviewed by the whole team before they can progress in the game.
  • Set up a Jeopardy board, allowing students to pick their question value to equate to the progress they can make on the board (5 steps for $500).
Most importantly, have fun!  And encourage your students to have fun while they learn.  It's truly the best way to review the year.

If this idea works for your classroom, please follow me on Twitter or Facebook!

And for other Bright Ideas, be sure to check out the other bloggers in this link-up.  You can choose the topics and grade levels that most interest you to find amazing ideas.  Thanks for visiting!

Happy Hopping!

Secondary Smorgasbord: Curious to see What's Growin' - Words of the World

The Secondary Smorgasbord Blog Hop is on again, and this month's theme is "Curious to see What's Growin'" in our Secondary classrooms!  Since I'm not in the classroom this year, I decided to tell you a bit about my latest project - A series of Primary Source Analysis Activities based on Words of the World.

Having taught both U.S. History and World History for years, I know it can sometimes be challenging to introduce authentic world pieces into your classrooms that will not be repeated again from the U.S. perspective the following year, especially when dealing with worldwide events where the U.S. also played a prominent role.  This led me to seek out primary source pieces that can give students that world perspective, while still addressing the topics and events on the course curriculum map.
So far, I've had a ton of fun researching topics such as the Romanov family execution, the letters from Gandhi to Hitler, personal accounts of the Ferdinand assassination, first hand descriptions of the Irish Potato Famine, and so much more.    I'm hoping to make this a course-long bundle like I currently have for U.S. History, but that means I still have a long way to go.  Thankfully, I love reading the history of our world, so it will be a fun trip for me!

Take a look at "What's Growin'" at my friends' blogs, and be sure to visit Desktop Learning Adventures and Meatballs in the Middle, our blog hop sponsors!

An InLinkz Link-up

Happy Teaching!