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Holiday Confession

I have to admit that I was a "focused to the last day" teacher in my high school classroom.  I taught, reviewed, and tested to the very last minute, and in my school setting, that was typical.  If anything, my creative and often project-based assessments were a break for the students from the fact and figure assessments they were preparing for in other classes.  

But now that I am getting a bit older, I  realize I made some mistakes.  
First of all, I never taught my students a very important truth:
You must appreciate today as you respect yesterday and prepare for tomorrow.

With that said, I'll be taking some time this holiday season to appreciate my todays!  

My last suggestions this year for your classroom?

Have some fun!  And appreciate the little things!  Talk with your students.  Get to know them more.  And show them that you care.  While I know that I was a good teacher and that I well prepared my students for their futures, I don't know that they all knew how much I cared.  Make it clear, especially during the Holiday Season!  Consider it the greatest gift you can give!

Happy Holidays!

P.S.  See you next year!

Giving Back for the Holidays

On Sunday, December 14th, a number of TeachersPayTeachers sellers have committed to donating a share of their sales to the charity of their choice.  My chosen charities are the Breast Cancer Research Foundation and Make A Wish

Just before Christmas in 2012, I went to visit my doctor after finding what I thought was a harmless lump.  Having been BRACA tested for the Genetic predisposition, and those results coming back negative, I was not worried about the lump, but was simply seeing my doctor to reassure my nervous husband.  Through his insistence in a mammogram, followed by an ultrasound, and then my doctor's demand of a biopsy, I was diagnosed with Breast Cancer.  My surgery for a double mastectomy took place on December 26th, 2012.  As the mother of a 24 year old daughter, and the grandmother of a beautiful 4 year old grand-daughter, I pray that some day Breast Cancer can be prevented.  For that to be possible, organizations like the Breast Cancer Research Foundation need all the support they can get.

My other chosen charity is Make A Wish!  This has been my daughter's favorite charity as long as she has been old enough to know what a charity is.  And now that we visit Disney quite often, I see the work that this amazing charity does on a regular basis.  For those who suffer from life threatening illnesses, having that final wish come to reality is simply heart-warming.

I hope you all will visit the participating TpT stores to help support these and other great charitable organizations!  Look for the specialized Logos to find supporting sellers!

Thanks so much to Erica at Nitty Gritty Science for this wonderful and generous idea!

Happy Holidays!

Holiday Classroom Traditions

My friends at Secondary Smorgasbord have asked us to share our classroom traditions as we plan for our final weeks before holiday break.  While teaching at the high school level left me little time for activities that strayed from semester reviews or semester assessments, I did try to work in at least one day where my students could stop to think about the season... and what they could do to make it special.

With so many of my students focused on what they will be receiving during the holiday season, I challenged them to think about what they could give.  And more importantly, what could they do to make a difference in the spirit of the season!
Using my FREE Twelve Days of Christmas Acts of Kindness, students rewrite the holiday jingle, pledging to complete an act of kindness for each day leading to their holiday celebrations. It is definitely a great prompt to get students thinking about what the holidays are really all about!

Or if you want to teach your students about the many different holiday traditions from around the world, take a look at my Walking Tour of the Winter Holidays available in my TpT Store.

Now jump over to the Secondary Smorgasbord to find other great ideas or stories of traditions that you may want to start in your own classrooms!

Happy Celebrating!

Checking All the Boxes

As you near the end of the semester, it's time to check off all the boxes on your list of to-dos for each of your classes.  If you are a CCSS school, that means making sure you have addressed every standard.  For most, the challenge will have been addressing nonfiction and primary sources.
So, to help you out, I've found a great list of primary sources you can use in any classroom to help you keep your students engaged and learning while meeting the standards.
The analysis part comes next, and that can be as simple or complex as you wish it to be for your students.  Use a simple format requiring checks or lists, or ask students to examine the documents for inferences and significance.
  1. Type of Document
  2. Creator or Author
  3. Date or Time Period
  4. Purpose of Document
  5. Audience of Document
  6. Interesting Features
  7. Key Document Details
  8. Evidence to Support Details
  9. Evidence of Bias or Perspective
  10. Significance in History
And then if you need ready-made primary source analysis materials for your classes, please jump over to my TpT Store to see all the projects I've completed this year including my US Primary Source Analysis Bundle, the Legislative Document Analysis Bundle, the Supreme Court Case Analysis Bundle, my SPRITE series, and more!

No matter what you plan, be sure to include this FREE SPRITE Organizer in your lessons.  It will help your students gather and organize the key details in any Social Studies classroom!

Happy Teaching!

December Teaching: What can you do with the days?

You're full of turkey and stuffing, the shopping for Christmas is all done, and now it's time to get back to reality with 3 more weeks of classes on the schedule.  
Keeping the attention of our students can be such a challenge during this time of year, but there are strategies you can use to help your students stay on track and focused to finish out the semester!

Here are just a few ideas:
  • Play games - Have your student create board games to review semester content, and they play those games in class the days before the semester final exam.  Or, set up your classroom like a human game board for a review quiz that keeps them on their feet!
  • Take them on vacation - Organize scavenger hunts about different places to help them learn as they hunt for clues.  Or travel through topics and locations as you take a Walking Tour through History!
  • Make it interactive - Use lessons that will keep them up and active like an Archeology Dig or a Sunken Ship Exploration.  And don't forget about role playing fun to add creativity and performance to your lessons!
Most importantly, remember that these three weeks are important.  These days are so valuable in helping you reach your teaching goals in this school year, so don't give up now!  Power on and then you will have those two weeks at the Holiday Break for more turkey and, just maybe, a few days of rest!

Happy Teaching!

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!