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A Cultural Lesson at Disney

I love being a Social Studies teacher, but I do think I might just love Disney more!  My visits to Disney each year are well planned, and I am always more excited than any child as we pull into the parking lot and head toward the monorail.  

As a Geography and History teacher, I am always seeing "lessons" in our visits to the magical world, and I am constantly amazed at all the culture I see in the parks, not only in the attractions, but through my interactions with the visitors.

And that is why, when in one of my Disney fan forums this afternoon, I became absolutely outraged!

Twice a year, large groups of South American students come to visit Disney World in Orlando, FL.  They wear matching shirts, follow their guides with tall flags, and chant as they wait in line for their anticipated rides.  They also move quickly as a large crowd, are often rushing through lines they are designated for by their guides, and take up seating in restaurants and entertainment venues.

Today, as I flipped through the fan forum looking for upcoming events or tips from fellow Disney addicts, I found absolute ignorance that pushed me to my absolute outrage: A petition to Disney, requesting that the "Brazilian Groups" be banned or "controlled" by Disney due to their creating "an unsafe environment for the paying Americans" who are visiting at the same time. 

Did I read that right?

An unsafe environment?  Let me tell you about my personal experiences at Disney with large South American (they are not all Brazillian) tour groups:
  • A group of 10-12 teenage girls let me go ahead of them in the bathroom line after they saw my urgency, despite our language barrier.  We all laughed when I came out of the stall, after I signaled all was good!
  • A group offered to share their lunch table with us one afternoon, where we ended up spending over an hour talking to them about their culture and traditions and comparing them to our own.
  • While standing in a very long line for Soarin, I was forced to take a handful of snacks from a whole group of teens because my blood sugar had started to drop and my hands were shaking.  They were not going to let me move on until I ate something.
  • Numerous tour group members have offered to take pictures for my husband and I after witnessing us struggle to take that perfect selfie.
  • Three young college students tried to teach me Portuguese as we stood in the waiting area for Fantasmic.  Sadly, I was a dismal fail, but we had great fun trying!
  • And more than a few times, we have been urged to move ahead of the large groups in line when we have ended up between them in ride lines.
Have I ever encountered rude foreigners at Disney?  Yes!  But when that happens, I have to ask:  Could it be the language barrier?  Is it a cultural difference?  Am I in the way?  Are they out of their comfort zone and just trying to stay together?  Are they just kids?

And then there is one other question to ask... Have I ever encountered rude Americans at Disney?  Oh, the answer is not surprising.  The answer is a resounding YES!  And sadly, that happens far more often than it does with the South Americans.

So what does any of this have to do with teaching? 

Social Studies teachers are charged with teaching about the world.  How do we teach it?  Do we introduce each region of the world and discuss the differences OR do we look for the similarities?  Do we find our commonalities?  Do we discuss our interdependence?  Do we teach that we are all have contributions to the world, and without each other, the world would be a very boring place? 

And more importantly, are we teaching tolerance or appreciation of different cultures? 
Maybe that is the answer!

Happy Teaching!

He Said, She Said! Inviting Community Involvement

As we study topics in history, we are often dependent on the information available in texts and through other basic resources, primary or secondary.  But, for modern events, we have a wealth of resources at our fingertips. 

Inviting the community into your classroom can bring history to life, and can be the motivating factor some of your students need to get them to buy into the lessons you teach every day.  Guest speakers can be the tool you need to open the doors to controversial topics, and can be the resource to open minds to difference and acceptance.

It's all about what He Said and She Said!
Involving the community can be a challenging task.  Finding the perfect speakers can be a hit or miss experience.  I have experience both incredible, heartwarming class sessions, and I have been embarrassed beyond belief, but it the end it was all worth it!

Where can you find guest speakers?  Try the following avenues:
  • Contact local universities for professors or researchers who study specific topics.
  • Make a call to the local churches or synagogues to request listings of local survivors from persecutions (Holocaust survivors) or refuges.
  • Call cultural centers or organizations for varying perspectives on world events. 
  • Make calls to the local VFW (Veterans of Foreign Wars) for a listing of soldiers from Vietnam and more recent American war efforts.
  • Your local military recruiters are always willing to come talk about their military branch or other military topics.
  • Invite your local Junior Achievement organization or bank professionals to guest teach economics lessons.
  • Request assistance from your state Geographic Association (some are tied to universities) for great map resources and those who can share the facts behind them.
  • Connect with your local or state museums for leaders in local historic events, especially from recent events such as the Civil Rights Movement.
  • Invite park rangers or environmentalists to report of Geographic features or concerns.
  • Get in touch with senior centers or nursing homes to request speakers.  Even "everyday" people can tell incredible stories, especially the generation born during WWI or the Great Depression!
And finally, ask your school community.  Invite in parents, grandparents, aunts, uncles, former students, faculty family, and anyone else who has a perspective that could help your students to better see and understand history! 

Need some more specific ideas?  Here are some of my most memorable examples:
  • Missy Jenkins Smith spoke to our students on bullying. She was a survivor of the 1997 school shooting in Paducah, Kentucky.
  • A Holocaust Survivor shared her experiences with my students, not only telling her story, but also showing her evidence (the tattoo of her prison number) of the torture endured by the Nazis.
  • One of my former professors from our local university's International Studies Department spoke to my students about his time as a CIA agent living in the Soviet Union during the Cold War.
  • The visit by a gentleman who was held in a Japanese interment camp and later joined to serve in the military for the U.S. who shared about the suitcase his mom packed as they were moved from their home into the camp.
  • A very senior gentlemen who came from the local VFW to share his stories from WWII, and his wife shared about her experiences on the homefront.
  • One of my family members came to share his Vietnam experiences, leaving me in tears and overwhelmed with appreciation.
And my favorite:
One of my former students returned after graduating from college.  She had a debilitating and progressive disease that took her life not long after that last visit.  But her message to my students was most valuable:  Never give up, no matter what your challenges are!

The guest speakers that came into my classes not only enhanced my lessons; they taught my students about history (and life) in a way that no other resource could.

Happy Teaching!

Super Secondary Labor Free Labor Day Blog Hop

Whether you start back to school after Labor Day, or you have already been in the classroom for weeks, you need a break from the stress of starting off the school year!

To help you be "Labor Free" this Labor Day weekend, we Super Secondary Sellers would like to offer up our no-prep, or very little prep, ideas for your classroom.

In the Secondary Social Studies classroom, I always started the year with a Geography review.  Students came in to my classes, in both middle and high school, with very little knowledge of the world or the basic Geographic skills they needed to survive my World History or U.S. History course.

To remedy that problem for you:  My Geography Skills Review!
This complete set is Print and Go, and it can be a great assessment to help you know where your students are on those first days of school!  It also includes a number of ideas for implementation, including as a response group activity, class bellringers, or as a unit starter.

Visit my TpT Store this week to find my Geography Skills Review Set on SALE!

What could be better than prep-free and a discounted price?!

And be sure to hop to the other Secondary Sellers' Blog Posts for additional ideas and resources to help you take Labor Day off!  Here's the Link-up:

Happy Teaching!

Whose Line Is It Anyway? Lecture versus Student-Centered Instruction

As a high school student, I HATED my history courses.  I had boring teachers who stood at the front of the class and lectured to us from bell to bell.  And then came Mr. Hurt for my Junior year United States History course!  Thank goodness, Mr. Hurt was different.  And thanks to that year of ship sailings, trench battles, and a huge assortment of hats and voices, I was hooked!

That brings me to asking: In your classroom...

Whose Line is It Anyway?
According to a report released by Duke University, the lecture teaching strategy "is not highly effective to help students accomplish student learning outcomes."  Those of us who have taught with multiple intelligences in mind can also verify that so many of our students in today's classrooms will simply turn off their attention in those lecture-based classrooms.  They are lost from the moment the monotone begins.  More importantly, ALL students can learn at higher levels with varied instruction.  Even AP courses can be taught MORE effectively through non-lecture based methods. I've done it!

What are the methods?

Student-centered activities can include simple strategies such as Pair & Share Responses or Group Presentations, or they may involve well developed activities like a Classroom Jigsaw or Research Project.  These methods can be found all over the internet (A great list is available at Facing History and Ourselves with clear directions), but the key to remember in your own classroom is to keep changing things up.  Here's my rules for unit implementation:
  1. Introduce the unit with an experiential exercise or through an attention-getting writing prompt.
  2. Utilize current events and thought provoking articles or reports, allowing students to read in grouped formations and to report out to the class.  OPINION is always welcome!
  3. Bring in unit key content through Walking Tours, Archeology Digs, Scavenger Hunts or other out-of-the seat student activity.
  4. Further discuss most significant unit points through discussion or comparison activities, including role playing act-it-outs or Quiet Big Paper activities.
  5. Use visuals, music, video, quotes, journals, and other primary sources with analysis skills practice to review specific unit topis.
  6. Play classroom games to reinforce core content of the unit and to check student understanding.  See my "Have You Found Your Game? Blog Post for ideas!
  7. Hold an INTERACTIVE Lecture to wrap up each unit, encouraging student participation throughout lesson.
  8. Take time to allow students to prep for any unit assessments through game creation or study guide completion (usually in pairs or small groups).
  9. Include a question session where students can ask the questions for unit clarification.
  10. Assess students through a comprehensive test that offers a variety of prompts, including writing assignments with significant of the unit stressed.  (Offer options for prompts and allow students to include opinion and encourage the addition of multiple perspectives in responses.)
And one last thing to remember... while you are the expert in your classroom, each and every student has something to contribute.  Allow them that opportunity, and you never know which one may become an expert themselves in a few years!

Need to find great resources to help you get started?  Visit My TpT Store!

Happy Teaching!

Have You Found Your Game?

Most Social Studies classrooms and synonymous with heavy reading and content learning.  They are seldom discussed in terms of play, fun, or interaction.  
And that is sad!

So, Have You Found Your Game?
Playing games is HISTORIC, and in the Social Studies classroom, has so many benefits.  First, and most importantly, they can debunk the myth that Social Studies is boring!  But, beyond settling myths, take a look at the many other great benefits:

  • can be used to introduce, review, or assess content and student learning.
  • allow all students to participate and remain involved in the learning process.
  • encourage relaxed competition between students.
  • can be utilized as an individual activity, for small groups, or between whole classes.
  • motivate all levels of students to push themselves to higher expectations.
  • help lower level students feel valuable in the classroom.
  • reward higher level students for meeting their self-set learning goals.
And the list could go on and on.

That brings us to the next question:  How can you bring games into your highly structured Social Studies classroom without lessening the rigor of your course?

Here are a few of my ideas:
  1. Play BINGO to introduce key terms or unit vocabulary.
  2. Use a Word Wall Game to record key terms, people or places.
  3. Play Pin the Flag on the Map or any other Map Locating Game to review locations.
  4. Toss a Globe to practice identifying countries of the world. (Inflatables at Dollar Tree!)
  5. Allow your students to create Game Boards to review any topic or content.
  6. Set up a Human Game Board in your classroom to review full units.
  7. Play classroom Jeopardy to review content. (Templates are online everywhere!)
  8. Assign pairs or small groups Matching Game activities to help students make connections.
  9. Play "I Am..." or "To Tell the Truth" to share significant people in history.
  10. Use Scavenger Hunts or Task Cards to encourage student research and investigation or for unit review!
And that's just the tip of the iceberg!  The ideas online are endless and the resources are plenty!

Happy Teaching!

Make Your Move... In Classroom Seating

For the first few weeks of school, my students are tortured with sitting in straight rows, all assigned a specific spot for my benefit.  I am not a name person, so learning the names, first and last, of 200+ students is my most frustrating teacher obligation.  But then, as I start to get the names, I feel more comfortable to make my move.  And then comes the question:

How do I arrange the desks?

Now keep in mind, I continue to have seating charts until... Oh, about the last week of school!  I think that structure and clear expectations are vital for a successful classroom, but I also love to change things up!  One of the greatest compliments I ever received from my students was, "I never know what to expect from you!" 

So, why move the desks?  Varying up the seating arrangements has a number of clear benefits:
  • Students can focus more on the activity at hand.
  • Greater interaction can take place between students.
  • Activities or lessons can be implemented in an easier or more logical format.
  • Classroom management can be more easily achieved.
  • Student relationships can be molded and modeled.
And then the best reason... Just to keep them guessing!  Stimulating brain activity just by moving my desks was the start to engaging lessons.  As students entered the classroom each day, they asked,

"What are we doing today?" 
"Is this one of those activities you do?" 
"Are we doing something fun?" 

And I could always answer, "Yes!"

How can you vary things up?
  1. Arrange for group small group interaction and response required group work.
  2. Pair for analysis activities and pair discussion and sharing activities.
  3. Circle for whole class discussion or direct instruction.
  4. Set in straight lines for timelining activities or cause-and-effect lessons.
  5. Do a wall-face for individual assignments where focus in imperative.
  6. Arrange in staggering rows for testing or assessments.
And then one final note... Sometimes students entered my classroom to find all desks against the back wall.  These were the most valuable and engaging days!  This meant we were doing a walking tour, and archeology dig, a review game, or even better, we were all going to sit in the floor to discuss a topic dear to my heart and to share our thoughts as a group. 

In the end, it's not about the seats.  It's about making the move to encourage student connections.  What could be more valuable in a Social Studies classroom?

Happy Teaching!

A Triple B Giveaway!

Everyone loves a Giveaway!

Jump over to 2 Peas and a Dog as she celebrates her 3 Bs:  Her Birthday, Back to School, and her Blogversary!  And don't forget to register to win one of many great prize packages!

Happy Winning!