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The Truth about the Internet!

This past week I have seen so many "resources" on the Internet that clearly misrepresented the stories they were trying to tell.  While there can still be value in those resources, it is so important that students understand the truth about those resources, and the truth about the Internet itself.


Here is the first lesson on Internet reliability: Google "Everything I learned about history I learned on the Internet."  Of course, your results will include a number of books you can purchase to enhance your history knowledge, but the first website link is... Are you ready for this?  It's a review of the book about learning everything and anything you need to know from Monty Python.  Sad.  Just sad.

The first actual site about history that comes up in the search is on the third page and is the BBC Learning History website.  So, there are many lessons to be learned from this!

While my search was very general in terms of historical content, search results are just as random for most topis searched by our students.  With this understanding, we must make sure our students are informed about the Internet and the reliability of the information they will find there regarding any topic of study.

To start, have students evaluate each website and its information on the following criterion:
  • Accuracy - first examine details provided that are easy to check.  Basic facts such as dates, significant names, and key events are easy to verify for accuracy, helping to validate other information suggested by the website.
  • Organization - check for the clarity and development of the website.  If the information is presented in a way that does not attempt to persuade you without verification, then there is more chance of reliability.
  • Writing Style - trust information that is written with clarity and accuracy in mind.  If a site is written with poor grammar or organizational structure, it is likely that little time was taken to evaluate accuracy as well.
Or, you can simply teach a lesson that will help students quickly find the discrepancies on their own, helping them to realize that the Internet (or one site on the Internet) is not 100% reliable and should never be considered as the know all, be all!

Here is a Free & Fabulous resource to help you teach that lesson...the Explorers Internet Reliability Research Activity allows students to investigate information on the great explorers from two different websites.  One will provide drastically different information than the other.  How can they know which to trust?
And be sure to jump over to the Secondary Smorgasbord Happy Hour Free & Fabulous Linky for other great freebies that will help you teach with confidence, knowing you have resources that are created and tested by teachers for teachers!


Happy Teaching!

Work Ethic in the Classroom: Can It Be Encouraged?

"If you want to make an impression in the sands of time..."


My 9th grade principal (way back when) woke us up each morning with a quote.  Most of the time, I ignored them, but this one particular morning, I perked up to pay attention. 

"If you want to make an impression in the sands of time..."

It sounded as if something profound and life-changing was coming.  He had the secret to my becoming important in this world.  He had a guide, a key, and manual.

"...wear work boots."

What?  That was it?  Where was the conclusion?  Work boots?  I couldn't make an impression by being a construction worker or a working on a road crew.  I wanted to be a journalist, an author, a teacher.  And then, of course, I wanted to save the world from itself.

"If you want to make an impression in the sands of time, wear work boots."

At 14 years old, I just didn't get it.  I had been raised with a good work ethic, but it never came to my mind that such a concept would help me to reach my goals.  It was simply what you did because you did!

In the classroom, as a teacher, many year later, it became apparent what that quote meant and how important it truly was.  I saw some students who worked incredibly hard just for a taste of success, yet many seldom put forth the effort, even when they were capable of so much more. 

Years later, in the start of the assessment craze, I realized that I could turn this idea back over to my students.  No matter how much I preached to them about the effects of a strong work ethic, they just didn't get it, but when they assessed their own work ethic in relation to assessment data, it suddenly became clear. 

In creating my simple Student Study Survey, I solved many problems with one tool.  It helped me to see where my students were in terms of content understanding versus lack of knowing the content, it helped my students to see the potential given added effort, it served as an RTI data tool, and it helped tremendously to have them on hand during parent conferences. 

John's Mom: "MY little Johnny studies very hard, but your tests are just too much..."

Teacher: "Well, Mrs. Jones, here is John's survey on his study habits.  You see where he admits to only spending 5 minutes in preparation over the last 3 weeks for this unit?  That explains his test grade..."

John's Mom: "Oh."

Find tools that will help your students find their own way.  In the end, if they want to make an impression in the sands of time, they will need some sturdy boots!

Happy Teaching!

Losing History: My Breakdown at the National Mall

As teachers of History, we are constantly devalued.  Students ask why they must take our courses, administrators take our class time for assemblies or testing, states push the teaching of everything but History, and in comparison to requirements in other subject areas, we are left behind.  In some schools, the Social Studies Department does not receive equal funding, do not have access to texts or other up-to-date resources, and are tasked with teaching or reinforcing other content areas at the cost of reducing their own content.  It's a fact across our country.


Just last week, I went to visit one of my most favorite destinations: Washington, D.C.  There is just something about being in our nation's capital and standing in the middle of the mall with all the workings and history of our nation going on all around me.  And each time I visit, I start my day at the Smithsonian Museum of American History.  I enjoy walking through America's past, seeing the changes in transportation, politics, and yes, even the dresses worn by the first ladies!

But this trip had a different outcome than most.  Instead of my leaving rejuvenated and excited about being a teacher of American History, I left disappointed and saddened in the state of affairs.  I felt discouraged.  I felt angry.  And right there outside the museum doors, I had a little breakdown, sharing with my husband all of my fears for the future generations of America.

As we entered the museum and took a turn toward the right side of the museum, I saw that things had changed.  The first evidence was the sign up for "Employees Only" where the Transportation Hall had once been.  So, as we turned to enter the new exhibit area, the evidence only continued to build; every bit supporting the fact that even our own nation's history is no longer valued in this country.  What had once been the greatest holding of America's artifacts was a condensed menagerie of decade highlights.  To subsidize the missing materials were opportunities to investigate further on the provided technology.  And then, at seeing the barren lunch counter, with no explanation, images, or further display materials to support its significance, I turned toward the exit. 

On my way out of the building, I stopped to ask an employee if things were just being renovated.  Sadly, the answer was no!  Then followed what sounded like a rehearsed speech about a lack of funding and a shift toward the use of technology to record our past.  Sad.

Back outside, I turned south, headed to my next destination.  There, maybe the lessons will be remembered... This time.

Lest we forget...


Happy Teaching!

Living the Geography Lesson: Applying the Content

As a Social Studies teacher in the middle and high school grades, you are often asked why your course is important.  In Geography courses, it used to be very easy to explain with skills like map reading and cultural investigations being relevant requirements for anyone that wanted to travel in their lives.  Then came GPS and the Internet.  But, believe it or not, the explanation is still the same... we need these skills, and we use them every day.


We travel full time.  Over the last two years, we have gone from the Northeast to Florida, across the South through Texas to Southern California, up the West Coast to Seattle, through the ocean to Alaska, back into the interior through Idaho, Utah, Colorado, Nevada and the heartland, up to the Great Lakes region back into Canada, to our Nation's Capital, and now we are heading down the East Coast to Florida. And we have applied so many Geography Lessons all along the way!


Traveling with a house on wheels, we must be very careful about where we go.  Roads have weight restrictions, overpasses create height issues, and some passes are just too narrow for us to navigate.  Our GPS will guide us fairly well, but at times, she fails us, and leaves us pulling out the trusty atlas to find our way to our next home.

More importantly, my GPS cannot tell me where I WANT to go!  She does not have the knowledge I do about different locations, things to see, places to visit, people to meet.  She cannot tell me the exact spot where I will see the most awesome of sunsets or sunrises.  And she definitely cannot tell me where to park my big rig for the least cost.  Those are all skills I learned in my Geography lessons that I now apply on a daily basis.

And knowing what I know about U.S. and World Geography, my travel list is a very long one.  It's such a good thing that we started this trip in our 40s... I have a feeling we will be out navigating our country and the world for many, MANY more years (and decades) to come!

Need to learn (or teach) the basics of Geography so you can navigate your way around the world?  Take a look at my Geography Introduction Unit.

Or, if you truly want to investigate what is out there in our world, teach my Complete World Geography Course!  It will help you create that very long list for your next adventure in life!

Happy Teaching!

Recognizing Holidays in the Upper Grades Classroom

As the Holiday Season approaches, and with Veteran's Day on the doorstep, we are often pressured to take time out in our upper grades classrooms to teach to the event.  While this works well with some historic events, as we can clearly tie them to our curriculum, with others it seems bothersome and time-consuming when we have so much other content to cover.  That leaves the question:

How can we address the Holidays in our Upper Level Classrooms?
My quick suggestion is to incorporate the Holiday into a primary source or document analysis activity.  Have students read about the event, evaluate how the event came about, or review the legislation passed to allow for the Holiday.

For Veteran's Day, analyze the congressional act and President Wilson's commendation of our soldiers for their service in war. The activity addresses the event, pleasing those in your administration who demand you pay homage, while it also allows students to practice skills that are vital in your Social Studies classroom!

Need that analysis activity for Veteran's Day?  Find it HERE!
http://www.teacherspayteachers.com/Product/Veterans-Day-Document-Analysis-Activity-Homework-1443782

See other Primary Source Analysis Activities in my TpT Store!

And be sure to Link Over to see my friend's great 'Holiday in the Classroom Idea Blog Posts' starting November 1st!



And, do you want to get a head start on THE Holiday Season?  Take a look at this fun and engaging activity: My Walking Tour Through the Winter Holidays!
 Happy Teaching!

It's A Wrap! Beating the Clock to Wrap-Up Lessons

You start off the lesson with a great attention grabber, your interactive lecture had students engaged and excited, your mini-activity successfully reinforced the key ideas of the lesson, and then...Five minutes left until the bell.  In many classes, teachers give students talk time, a chance to update on their cell phones, or a few moments to get started on that challenging Math homework.

What's wrong with this picture?

How can you make your class look different?

Students adapt to their settings.  If they are given free time, they will expect to always have free time.  However, if they are expected to work to the bell, that's what they will do.  And that last few minutes can be so very valuable to your lessons.

Use the time to wrap-up your lesson in a way your students will remember.  Utilize prompts that will bring the lesson home, and always ask students to examine the significance of the day's lesson, while tying it into their starter (bellringer) responses from the beginning of class.  I called these prompts Left Side Assignments (LSAs) because students entered their response on the left page of their interactive notebook.
Today, many refer to these prompts as Exit Slips or Wrap-up Prompts.  All in all, they are the same - a prompts that helps your students compile the information presented in the class lesson and process the information for better understanding of its relevance in history.

More importantly, the LSA, Wrap-up, or Exit Slip can serve another purpose: It can keep your students engaged in your lesson, and even more importantly, thinking critically about your lesson as the bell rings and they move on toward their next class.

See an example of wrap-up prompts with this FREE Holocaust Prompt SetOr find them included with most of the lessons and activities available in My TpT Store!

Happy Teaching!