Saturday, August 31, 2019

Reflection: The Silk Road and World Trade: What led to Columbus Re-Discovering the Americas?

This lesson demonstrates the biggest problem with teaching American history. Yes, I know that technically this isn't American history, but the exploration of the Americas didn't happen by chance and it is important for us to understand the economic pressures that led to sailing west. The biggest problem is there is so much content to cover.

I had originally intended this lesson to be a 100 minute lesson, but because I didn't want to just blow through it the lesson is now a 200 minute one. I spent some time storytelling around the Marco Polo trip before we watched the first video on the Silk Road. I gave the students the worksheet questions to read through and they were to choose to answer five of the nine questions. 

After watching the video the students finished up answering the questions. I then through a wrinkle in. This year the school district is focusing on literacy, not just reading but speaking so we are being encouraged to have our students talk more about what they are learning. I had the students find others in the class who answered different questions and had them share their answers with each other. After around five minutes we checked their answers. It seemed to be pretty successful since they seemed to be more enthusiastic about sharing their answers and the number of questions they got correct definitely improved over similar activities. 

This comes with a cost though, it took much longer than I had planned. So the question is, where does that time come from?

  • Kids were moving and sharing
  • Enthusiastic responses when sharing answers as a whole group
  • I am sure there will be better retention of information
  • time which will have to come at the expense of another lesson over different content
  • third period class is still super restless right before lunch

Map of the Silk Trade Route

Marco Polo's Route

Voyages of Zheng He

The trade routes that we collectively refer to as the Silk Road started as far back as 2,200 years ago. Although the types of trade goods were varied, it is called the Silk Road because of the demand created for silk from China. 

While we may tend to emphasize the economic implications of these trade routes including cities created as stopping points that became wealthy, a much more important trade was taking place throughout this period, the trade of culture. Languages, mathematics, literacy and religion were all shared throughout large areas of the world because of these trade routes. 

Essential Question: What led to the rediscovery of the Americas and its colonization?

  • We know that Columbus 'rediscovered' the Americas, but what events led to the need for this exploration?
  • Answer 5 of the 9 questions, then find others who have answered the questions you have not and have them explain the answers. Explain your answers to them as well. 
  • How did trade drive the sharing of culture?
  • Why did Columbus look west for a route to India?

Monday, August 26, 2019

Reflection: Creating a World Map

Not all of the things I need to learn are specifically content related. In this case I am looking for several things that aren't part of the EQ.

One of the things I am looking for is how well the student works on a project with the kids they choose to sit by. Who likes to socialize more than work, and things like that. I also look for kids who can work with a deadline. Can they self-regulate well enough to do a good job and still finish when time is up? Finally, I am looking for the ability students have to do the art. Can they draw well? Do they have the ability to make the continents the right size and shape?

I did get to find out a lot about my students with this lesson.


  1. Most of the students were trying to do a good job with their maps.
  2. There was plenty of time in class, around 60 minutes.
  3. Students had good attitudes.
  4. The third class seemed to do best with doing good work and finishing the map.
  1. The first two classes worked too slowly to finish in class. Out of 42 students I only had 5 turned in.
  2. The first class was super chatty. I remembered to break out the technique I use where I start their work time with a five minute quiet period for them to focus with the last two classes and that worked very well.
  3. The last 20 minutes of the third class, right before lunch, was rough, the kids had a tough time focusing. I realize this will be a problem due to the time of the day but I need to keep working on how to get them to get back on task.
  4. I forgot a movement break with my first class. I have made sticky notes to put on my plans so I won't do that again. 

In this lesson you will take a quick pre-assessment to see how many continents and oceans you remember. Then you will hand draw the continents and label them and the oceans. You will finish up by coloring them. 

Essential Question: Can you label the continents and oceans of the world?


  • Identify the continents and oceans of the world

  • Hand draw, label and color a map. Identify the continents and oceans. 

Saturday, August 24, 2019

Reflection: The First American Immigrants

I think this is the first lesson that I had a handle on all the way through. We reviewed the lessons before this one and I talked about the artifact that we would look at in this lesson, Clovis point. I built in a short break during the video so that we could mentally and physically get some activity. At the end of the video I had the students share with each other what they recorded from the movie since we are emphasizing students speak using academic vocabulary. 

  • The lesson timing was perfect.
  • Students had opportunities to move around.
  • Students had opportunities to share what they were learning with each other.
  • I needed to talk significantly less than in the past lessons.
  • The largest class performed better than they had previously.
  • There were a couple groups of students that did not do as well as they should have. I need to converse with them about how they can improve.
The history of the Americas started well before Columbus. Unfortunately, because of the lack of or destruction of written histories, archaeologists have to rely on the discovery of artifacts to further our knowledge of these peoples. In this lesson we will learn about different theories of migration and also discover that this area is constantly changing and updating do to new discoveries. 

Essential Question: Where and when did the first immigrants to the Americas arrive?
  • Review the Kenniwick Man lesson
  • How did the first immigrants come to the Americas?
  • When did the first immigrants come to the Americas?
  • Video Worksheet

Wednesday, August 21, 2019

Reflection: Which Right is Right: Kennewick Man

This lesson seemed to be well received. Everyone had an opinion to share. It doesn't hurt that the topic has a lot of emotional content with it.

I have taught this lesson for several years and I still can't decide which side is right. I suppose I would prefer a compromise of a limited amount of time to study the remains and then have it interred.


  • good engagement
  • plenty of time
  • my large class before lunch behaved well and were engaged


  • I need to consider staggering the lessons so I don't tech the same thing three times in a row. I think I would be better if I was teaching something different at least for one of the three classes.

Essential Question: 

  1. Should scientists be allowed to study the remains of indigenous peoples?


  • What would you think if a scientist dug up the remains of your ancestor?
  • On occasion, archaeologists have dug up the remains of ancient Native Americans. Should scientists be allowed to study these remains? Native Americans feel such remains should be immediately reburied according to Native American customs. Scientists worry that if reburied, the remains will deteriorate and lose their value for present and future scientific study.


  • Discover Magazine: The Earliest Immigrants video (25:02)



  • How did this story evolve over time?
  • What eventually happened to Kennewick Man?
  • What should have been done with the remains?
  • What would you want to have done with the remains if they were your ancestor?
  • According to the map below, what indigenous people group use to live here in southwest Missouri? 
  • What should you do if you find the remains of an indigenous person?


Tuesday, August 20, 2019

Reflection: What Events Led to the Writing of the Constitution?

Update Thursday: The kids muscled through the rest of the video. I have decided that next week we will do some hands on activities, even if it is outside of the district timeline. I want the opportunity to see them enjoy creating something, and that is exactly what we will do.

Have you ever tried to condense years of learning into one lesson? That is how I felt today (Tuesday). I am looking forward to students being able to discover information instead of having to feed it to them.


  • I explained my theory that all content area classes are actually foreign language classes and they need to emphasize vocabulary if they want to understand better what they are learning.
  • Students had a lesson on how to dissect information so they can better understand it.

  • Still too much talking by me.
  • It will be difficult to finish the video in the next class period if I continue to add information.
  • Third period is going to be a work in progress. Large classes and hungry kids make learning a bit more difficult. I will have to use different strategies for them than I probably will in the other classes.
The Second Continental Congress, after signing the Declaration of Independence, had to come up with some rules with which they could govern the colonies. They created the first constitution, the Articles of Confederation, which lasted through the winning of the American Revolution. Eventually its weaknesses were exposed and was replaced by the US Constitution.,_page_1.jpg

Essential Question: What events led to the writing of the US Constitution?


  • How did Shay's Rebellion expose the weakness of the Articles of Confederation?
  • Who were the Federalists? Anti-Federalists?
  • Why did some of the Framers demand a 'Bill of Rights'? 


Monday, August 19, 2019

Reflection: Does the Foot Soldier of Birmingham Statue have Historical Value?

So last year I got a lot of positive response to this lesson and I was hoping to repeat that success. Unfortunately I am not sure it lived up to my memory.


  • The first two classes seemed to be paying attention to the podcast and thinking about what they were learning. 
  • The students did a good job explaining why they chose whether or not the statue had historical value.
  • They didn't expect me to give them the answer. 
  • Students responded well when we took movement breaks.
  • My third class, the one before lunch and also the largest at 27, had several students that were unfocused. 
  • Even with the longer class time I felt rushed to finish.
  • I did not allow for any time for the students to share/discuss with each other, only with the whole group.
Things to change for next year:
  • Set aside time for students to discuss amongst themselves what they are learning.
  • Consider making this lesson more than one period.
I will have a better idea about how the students felt about the lesson on Wednesday when we do a quick review.

In this lesson we are using the podcast The Foot Soldier by Malcolm Gladwell to discuss inherent bias.

In this lesson we will look at the above picture and try to decode it. What are we seeing happen here? Then we will listen to the podcast by Malcolm Gladwell. Is what we believe to have happened what actually happened?

After the lesson you will need to answer these questions:
  1. Can the art we create be used to influence belief systems? 
  2. As we examine the story as well as look at the statue and the picture from which the statue comes, what can we learn about ourselves and how we react based upon what we have learned?
  3. How will this change your view of historical artifacts as we move forward?

Essential Question: Does the Foot Soldier of Birmingham statue have historical value?

  • The statue is a misrepresentation of the facts. Does this matter as an art piece? 
  • The students will question if the statue is a reliable historical source.
  • Does the Foot Soldier of Birmingham statue have historical value?
  • Can the art we create be used to influence belief systems? 
  • As we examine the story as well as look at the statue and the picture from which the statue comes, what can we learn about ourselves and how we react based upon what we have learned?
  • How will this change your view of historical artifacts as we move forward?

Saturday, August 17, 2019

Reflection: What Are Our Rights In School? What Are Our Responsibilities?

To start with, I really don't enjoy teaching this lesson. It would be fine to do it with one class, but teaching it three times is brutal. The main reason I don't like teaching it is because it is so teacher focused. I spend a lot of time doing direct instruction, which I am not very fond of. 

When it came time to think of students' rights, I think the kids did not have enough time to process the information well enough. All three classes came up with the right to safety, easy enough since it was in the Declaration of the Rights of Man and easily transferrable, but they had trouble with others. They did come up with some good responsibilities to go with the right to safety though. 

While I think having students think about their rights and responsibilities is important, I would really like to make this lesson less focused on me.

In 1776 a group of men were meeting to discuss how to react to their country's lack of response to questions about their rights as citizens. A group of these men decided that independence was the only way to address their grievances, effectually breaking ties with a government they felt was not respecting their rights. Before they could bring their idea to a vote, the decided to form a committee to explain why they felt they needed independence. The Declaration of Independence identified rights that all men have 'certain unalienable Rights, that are among these are Life, Liberty, and the pursuit of Happiness.

In 1789, inspired by the United States, the French National Constituent Assembly created the Declaration of the Rights of Man and of the Citizen. Its second article defined the rights of man as, "liberty, property, safety and resistance against oppression."

In 1848 in Seneca Falls, New York the Seneca Falls Convention was held. It was organized by female Quakers from the area along with Elizabeth Cady Stanton. During that meeting the Declaration of Rights and Sentiments was passed, which was modeled after the Declaration of Independence. It stated, "We hold these truths to be self-evident: that all men and women are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain inalienable rights; that among these are life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness;..."

If we had to come up with our Declaration of Student Rights, what rights would it identify? Let's create a statement that identifies these rights and finish the sentence below.

We the students of Noel Elementary hold these truths to be self evident; that all students are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain inalienable rights: that are among these.......

What does it mean to be a responsible student? Here is the definition of responsibility:

How do we show responsibility in the classroom? In the school? What things should we be responsible for while at school?

Make a list of 5 responsibilities you have at school. We will compare these with the other students. Can we identify five together that we agree are important?

Reflection: Artefact Historique: The Mystery of the Tombstone

Here is the first lesson I taught the 8th grade American History this year. I wanted to share something of me with them and introduce them to historical artifacts. 

I gave the students time to examine the artifact and write questions they could ask me about it. Most of them asked me good questions but were not happy when I could not answer them to their satisfaction. I explained that while I didn't know much about the tombstone, I did have some educated guesses which is really what most historians do. 

I think most of the students enjoyed the lesson, there were a few that asked silly questions though. It is hard to read the room on the first day of school, even when I know the students well from last year. 

This is an activity I would do again next year, but the tombstone was really, really heavy so I probably won't revive it, my back might appreciate it more that way. 

Photo by Me
This is a tombstone that resides in my yard. It has been there as long as I can remember (45+ years). Today we will be looking at this artifact and try to learn as much as we can about it.

Your assignment is to come up with 20 questions that I will be able to answer with a yes or a no. I will then answer 20 of these questions for you. You will then write down everything you know about this artifact. 

I will finish by telling you all I know about this artifact, and some of the conclusions I have drawn about it. Will what you write match my story?

Friday, May 31, 2019

Poseur Poser

Poseur Poser

I am driven by Passion
not my passion
but others

I read a book
on punk rock
and I picked up
on the writer's Passion
and I became passionate
about another's Passion

I listen to punk
I enjoy punk
I am passionate about punk
but I am not Passionate

I am no Zelig
I don't attend shows
I don't wear leather
or dog collars
or safety pin my ears
I am only passionate
about the music

Can you love something
without being in love with it?
Can I listen
without living it?

I tell myself
It is about the music
not the lifestyle
not the drama
not the scene
but what if
I am wrong?

Consumed by Consumption

consumed by consumption

do i binge
movies         no
film nevermovies

paralyzed by production

do i write
movies         no
flim nevermovies

subsumed by social

do i post
fb         no
twttr neverfb

there is no quiet
either i create
or i consume
or share

Wednesday, July 25, 2018

Leaving Public Education

I was listening to a podcast today and one of the panelists mentioned she was a former teacher. As I continued listening I realized my perception of her had changed (not for the better) and I realized it was because she is a 'former' teacher.

I started to think about all of the reasons why I would negatively judge a former teacher, and remember this a judgemental and I know it:

  1. They thought the job was easy, and then when they found out it wasn't they left. 
  2. It was something to do until they decided what they really wanted to do.
  3. They can't hack it. (Insert whatever the word 'it' means to you.)
  4. They wanted to raise a family. Ok, this one needs explaining. I don't mean they want to have children and stay with them until they are grown up or in school. What kind of monster do you think I am? What I mean is they say they want to raise a family as an excuse to quit. Remember, I already pointed out I am judging.
  5. They want to make more money.  This one is a trap in my thinking. I mean, there is nothing wrong with wanting to make more money. Also, we know what we are getting paid when we sign the contract. Also, teachers are underpaid. Also, teachers have bills. Somewhere in all that is the problem. They judge the value of the work solely in monetary terms. Again, judging!
  6. They think kids these days are horrible. I can't even...
And this is the problem I have to address with myself, it shouldn't matter to me why they left. It isn't my business. I think that the teaching profession is somehow more than just a job where people come and go. It isn't, despite my romanticism of it. And as long as I romanticize it I will keep judging the people that leave, and that isn't right. 

Wednesday, July 11, 2018

Why Do People, or Government Agencies, Have Social Media Accounts If They Never Plan to Be Social?

I saw that the US Department of Education, @usedgov, was hosting a Twitter chat tonight so being the curious person I am I decided to go check out their Twitter page. I noticed that they followed 151 accounts so I wandered in to see who they deemed worthy of following. Can you imagine my surprise when I saw the account followed only a handful of educators, and they are ambassadors for the department. Other than that, I found they follow no educators.

While I know there is plenty of opportunity for negative tweets to be sent to the account and this might explain why there is not much community creation by this and other accounts that have high followers but few followees, I still think they are missing out on the point. There is a real opportunity for the Department of Education to have good conversations with educators and barring that there is still a real opportunity for it to read tweets from a few select educator accounts that are talking about important things.

Should the Department of Education follow more educators? I would love for your insights. 

Friday, July 6, 2018

Open Up Commenting

I don't believe blogging is dead. I believe that blogging conversations are. There was a time when a new education blog post could drive a ton of traffic on Twitter. We would leave comments on the post and 'back-channel' here. Then, along came the trolls. So many of the more highly followed ed blogs started to turn off comments. They did not want to have to constantly guard against angry, inappropriate comments that did not further conversations.

Did this contribute to blogs becoming less influential, and less influential here? I would think so. There are still tons of educators writing blogs, but are we seeing those ideas being discussed here? Are they driving conversations?

I have had many, many interesting conversations around tweets lately, but only one that focused on a blog post. The post was actually written about tweets. So, what are we losing out on if we aren't reading/sharing/commenting on blog posts? 

Probably the most important thing is the freedom to time shift the conversations long enough to think critically about the post and our reply. The well thought out and unhurried conversation. Am I the only one that thinks we need to go back to this?

Let's start by opening up commenting. 

Tuesday, July 3, 2018

Student Walk-Up Songs

I'm a rebel just for kicks, now
I been feeling it since 1966, now

Portugal. The Man

When a baseball player walks up to bat, you will often hear a song being played. Each player has a different song and that song means something to the player. This is commonly referred to as a walk-up song.

I adopted Feel It Still by Portugal. The Man as my unofficial school walk-up song last year. I was born in the 60's, my teen years were in the 80's and being a 'rebel just for kicks' seems to perfectly encompass my attitude. (And yes, I am very aware of the privilege I have to be able to say that.) 

I would occasionally ask a student what their walk-up song was last year, but that is a really hard thing to do without some serious (or maybe not so serious) thought. This year I have decided to make the question my first homework assignment of the year.

The students will be asked to pick a song that will tell me something about who they are. We will discuss what makes a song school appropriate and how we must be aware that public behavior may have to be different than private behavior. This is a very important continuous discussion with junior high students. This will also be a great time to discuss how social studies is much more than studying history and geography.

The students will share the lyrics they feel reflect themselves and we will listen to a snippet of it. My goal is to get a feel for what they think it is important I know about them as well as what kinds of music they are listening to. This will help inform some of my music choices for the class as well. Maybe we will make a class playlist too.

I would love some feedback on this idea. What would you do differently? What questions would you ask? How would you modify this lesson to work in your classroom? 

Monday, July 2, 2018

Blogging Is Dead (Nope)

I used to blog.

The Twitter thread has taken the place of the long form writing blog post. Somewhere between the end of a lot of RSS readers and the ability to link tweets together blog posts started to get fewer and fewer. Eventually, it seemed posting became relatively rare (with certain exceptions.)

I personally quit posting here, except for the occasional poem, years ago. I also quit regularly visiting other blogs that I would go to every day with my morning coffee. Maybe I was burned out, maybe I was over-busy, maybe I found something else to do I preferred. I don't believe that I am the only one.

Have conversations over complex issues become too simplified on Twitter? I suppose that depends on your own perception. I do know that I learned much more about people whose opinions I trust by reading blog posts over tweets. Respect was earned on a blog.

Is it time to rejuvenate my blog? I think so. I am planning on my students blogging this coming year, something that I have not had them do in years. That means I better get to it myself. Would you like to join me and start/continue writing on a blog? Maybe we together can make the medium an even more valuable learning space.

I would like to take this space to thank the amazing educators that have continued to blog over the years. I have learned much from you and you have challenged me over and over. If you had quit like I did, I wouldn't be doing this now. 

Thursday, April 20, 2017

Pictures In the Hallway

In the hallway of my school
There are pictures of former students
Their graduation photos reflect the excitement
and promise for the future the must have felt
Most are gone now, graduating from this life.
And I wonder, where did their time go?
My own picture hangs in a hallway and
students must look at it and wonder about me.
What was his life like?
Just as I ponder the lives of those in my hallway.

Tuesday, April 18, 2017

The Things He Left Behind, The Things I Leave Behind

I wouldn't choose to walk through the rooms with all the debris my dad left behind.
He had no idea he would not have the time to pick it up.
Every thing I see makes me wonder what will be out of place when I die.
What things will be too painful for my kids to notice.
I consider cleaning.
I consider getting rid of the mementos that I know will be meaningless when I am gone.
Will that make it easier for my kids when they walk through my rooms when I am gone?

Tuesday, November 8, 2016

The Power of Other People's Words

The Power of Other People's Words

Rarely do we inspire ourselves
We don't say or write things that
make us want to do better
or be better.

But the power of other people's words
can cause us to stop and pause,
reflecting on parts of our lives
we have long forgot.

The power of other people's words
can inspire us to change our lives
or work to change the lives
of others.

The power of other people's words
can demand we take action
to vocalize our anger, or terror
or dismay.

The power of other people's words
make me want to do better,
to be better.

That is the power of other people's words!

Thursday, September 8, 2016

Poem, September 8

What is a life well-lived?
Can a short life measure compare
to a longer one?
What is more valuable, excitement and adventure
or longevity and consistency?
Do you prefer the idea of celebrating
your retirement or others celebrating
at your wake?
Do the dead enjoy memories of a life gone too soon
or of a long-lived life?