Monday, April 14, 2014

Why Do I Have to Learn History?

Funny how a little question, only seven words long, can throw one for a loop. I had a student ask me that question an hour ago and I am still reeling from it. I'm reeling because I can't verbalize an answer.

The first thing I did was look online for an answer. Surely somewhere there is a cogent, well reasoned and yet simple answer. If there is one, I didn't find it. Google the question yourself and see what comes up. Better yet search videos using the question, plain horrible. Honestly, I doubt anyone can answer this one for me anyway.

I have always loved history, I have loved the stories that come from history. I love the connections I see between seemingly disparate events. I love recounting stories like Peale's Mastadon because of the connections between art, science, and exploration.

Now I am stuck trying to justify what I teach without any cogent thoughts appearing. Why do they have to learn history?

Monday, April 7, 2014

Owning Our Choices and Accepting Ourselves

Today my 7th grade students are creating Russian nesting dolls (Matryoshka). This is the art project for our geography chapter on Russia. Students can make their nesting dolls out of any characters they want, from typical pop culture choices to ones they make up on their own.

Later this week they will reflect on their choice in characters. Why did they choose superheroes? Why cartoon characters? Why did they want to make their own, new characters? The real goal of this activity is less about Russian art and much more about students identifying the choice they made.

 Too often we make choices based upon the people we surround ourselves with. We succumb to peer pressure or that inner voice that has been telling us for years we aren't cool enough and we need to work harder to fit in. The reality is the only people that we need to make happy or impress is ourselves and we can't do that hanging on to the old social pressures that used to make us question every decision we made. We need to take a stand in our classrooms and give our students opportunities to share their inner nerdiness. Give them their voice.

This post has been reposted on the #SKoN blog.


Saturday, April 5, 2014

Eastern Mediterranean Unit

Here is the link to my students' expected workload. I will attempt to explain the reasons behind my choices. 

Day 1 the students will label and color a map of the countries covered. I want the students to have a good idea of where the countries are and their physical regions. They will also reflect on the map and what they learned from the process.

Day 2 the students will define and draw the six vocabulary words from the chapter. The students will have to define the words using their own words, not just copy them from the book. They also will draw a picture of what the word means to them. This requires them to both access and store information in different parts of their noggins.

Day 3, 5, 7 and 8 the students read from the text and answer comprehension questions. Many/most of us learn a great deal through reading and this is great practice for them to read with a purpose and learn to find information in text. 

Days 4 and 6 the students will watch videos on Turkey and Israel by Rick Steves. I love that series since it covers so much of the culture of the areas in a relatively short time. The students will have a worksheet to keep them on task and a reflection after the video is finished. 

Day 9 the students will do a review over the material covered as well as write a comprehensive reflection. If you think that I am having my students reflect a lot, I am. If I believe that reflection is the most important practice in learning (and I do) then I need to make sure my students have the opportunity to do it regularly.

Monday, January 27, 2014

TigerCorp Part 2: It's Lending Time!

TigerCorp (those from our junior high that invested in our group) made our first loans today. Each class has a representative that chose from a varieties of lendees that I chose over the weekend. I had each one sit down and review them and vote for which three they thought would be best to donate to. Here are the three loans we made. 

We ended up making micro loans to people living on three different continents. The loans will be used for helping outfit a market stall, expanding a poultry house to meet demand, and to help buy more cows and pigs. The choices the students made not only reflect our cultural diversity but also our local agricultural culture here in Noel. 

Monday, December 2, 2013

Note Taking, Moleskines, and Modeling

I am working with students on note taking skills. (I don't know why I waited so long, but better late than never.

Today we started with watching a couple videos on taking notes and I had some real, personal discoveries.

1) Note taking is a life skill. There is absolutely no reason we need to emphasize note taking in schools as a thing we do in schools. We need to be much more deliberate about teaching it as a positive lifestyle choice. Why should note taking only be done at school?

2) Note taking is an act of learning. Mind blown! While the implication that all things we do in school are directed toward learning, how often do we really think about what we have students do in class as an act of learning? This concept will change both how I teach note taking and how I personally take notes.

3) Note taking should help with big ideas or concepts, not emphasizing facts. I used the analogy of knowing when Columbus 'discovered' the West Indies instead of the cultural implications. The former is an answer on Jeopardy, the latter a way to understand our complicated society. If the students take notes to memorize facts they are doing it wrong. If you model note taking as a way to record facts you are doing it wrong.

4) Note taking is personal. What works well for the person sitting next to you may not (probably won't) work best for you. Of course if you insist on copying notes instead of making your own you probably aren't interested in learning the stuff anyway.

Have you heard the expression 'Do as I say, not as I do'? I may not have coined it, but I sure exemplify it. I need to model note taking keeping in mind the four things I outlined above. Instead of modeling learning, it is about time I model authentic learning.

Here are the two videos we watched today. 

TEDGlobal 2011: Tom Wujec on visual note-taking from TED Blog on Vimeo.

Friday, November 8, 2013

TigerCorp: An Attempt at Service Based Learning

I had read about on Karl Fisch's blog several times over the years. I don't know exactly what caused me to decide to get involved this week but I am jumping in with both feet. I received permission to start a Kiva 'club' (for want of a better word) that students could join by donating money to make micro-loans. 

I decided I wanted student input into the loans but I also wanted an efficient way to organize the students so I came up with the idea of creating a corporation, TigerCorp, and have students purchase 'shares of stock'. For a $1 donation the students get one share. Each share allows the student to have a vote for our corporate board. Each class (I have six) will elect one board member. These board members will meet and decide on which loaning opportunities to choose on

Fortunately Kiva has a low barrier for entry, it only takes $25 to get started. While this is a very large amount of money for my students, if each student brings just $1 we will have almost $150 to lend! Basically I am asking they give up one candy bar or pop to help change someone's life. 

The students will have lots of learning opportunities, we will be learning about the countries where we loan the money, about payment schedules, about how to be a good steward of money, how to make group decisions, and the board members will be presenting all of this information to their classes.

Hopefully within a couple weeks we will have something to show on this badge.

Sunday, October 27, 2013

How About Teaching Our Families to Have Regular Parent/Child Conferences?

I just read a post by Dean Shareski and as I was commenting I had an epiphany of sorts. The hard facts about assessment isn't necessarily giving good ones or even getting good feedback from them. The hard part is sharing what we learn to a third party, think parents or admin. At some point it quits being a first person account and becomes a first person guesstimate.

We don't have ways to adequately find out what our students have learned. Students only allow us to know what they want us to know, even when it comes to what they have learned. An assessment won't show everything even with a cooperative student. The best way to 'assess' what a student has learned is to have a conversation with them.

Last week my school held the annual parent/teacher conferences. The junior high had students lead the conference, basically we facilitated a conversation between the student and their parent. The kind of conversation that should probably be happening regularly at home.

Why don't schools regularly encourage, model, bribe, or otherwise get parents and students to sit down and have these assessment conversations?

Saturday, October 12, 2013

This Week in History October 14: How Washington Held It All Together

We will be reading Washington's Crossing a couple days a week and spend the other days continuing with our timeline. This week while I am gone on Monday the students will be reading about the colonies fighting in the Revolutionary War. The students will choose between writing a short persuasive paper from the point of view of one of two women from the time period.
  • If they choose to write as Molly Pitcher their topic will be: Why Women Belong on the Battlefield 
  • If they choose to write as Abigail Adams their topic will be: Why Women Deserve Suffrage
I love the story of Mrs. Adams trying to influence her husband John to step up for the women:

I long to hear that you have declared an independancy-and by the way in the new Code of Laws which I suppose it will be necessary for you to make I desire you would Remember the Ladies, and be more generous and favourable to them than your ancestors. Do not put such unlimited power into the hands of the Husbands. Remember all Men would be tyrants if they could. If perticuliar care and attention is not paid to the Laidies we are determined to foment a Rebelion, and will not hold ourselves bound by any Laws in which we have no voice, or Representation.

Tuesday and Wednesday we will be reading from Washington's Crossing. The focus on these two days will be on how General Washington had to change his leadership style to accommodate the different soldiers that came to the army. How difficult was it for him to take men with disparate ideas of leading and following and make them into a disciplined (enough) fighting force to survive the first year. 

Thursday the 8th grade will be on a field trip. Friday they will be reading about the little known fighting that took place in the south and the west during the Revolution. 

Saturday, October 5, 2013

This Week in History October 7 Declaration of Independence and Washington's Crossing

This is a big week, we are starting out with using our Kindles for the first time of the year. We will be using them with both the Declaration of Independence and the book Washington's Crossing. The Declaration is in the textbook, but I want them to get comfortable with the Kindles before we start reading the book.

First up is the Declaration. I am starting the lesson using my friend Eric Langhorst's great break up letter.

Declaration of Independence
Break Up Letter

I'm not sure how to start this letter but I feel we need to talk. I've been thinking about us a lot lately. Things used to be so great - it was like we were M.F.E.O. I mean everyone said it was perfect. I really thought we would be together forever but then things changed.
I feel like you started to take me for granted. You just started to do whatever you wanted and never even asked me about anything or how I felt.
I've been thinking about this for a while and I don't want to hurt you but I think it is time we broke up. I mean it's just not going to work. I need some time by myself to see what it is like on my own. I'm sorry things didn't work out but I do think YOU are the one to blame. Sorry but "US" is over.

The American Colonies

Here is the post that I found the the break up letter at.

Amazing Tour Guide Lecture at Independence Hall
This lecture is about 10 minutes long and really speaks to the history geek in me. Even if they students won't be excited about this, my excitement will definitely show.

We will be going through the Declaration looking specifically at the list of grievances and comparing them to the events that we examined over the past couple weeks. The students will identify a grievance they believe should have been included but wasn't. 

Washington's Crossing
Here is the picture we will be discussing, Washington Crossing the Delaware by Emanuel Leutze.

Audiobook Beginning- 1:20 Intro and Background not in the book
This isn't found in the paper edition or the Kindle edition.

1:25-22:25 Introduction- The Painting Kindle page 1 location 117
This introduces the creation of the painting as well as some of the criticism of the painting. 

NPR Ina Jaffe radio show referenced in the introduction (7 minutes)

Parodies of the painting:
Far Side:
Lord Stanley:
My Little Pony:

After reading the introduction we will listen to the NPR radio show and view some of the parodies created of the painting. The students will be tasked with creating their own parody picture.

22:25 Chapter 1 The Rebels Page 7 location 225
We will begin reading the first chapter. I will display the picture of George Washington below that is referenced in the book. We will continue reading the chapter the following Tuesday.

George Washington by John Trumbull (1780)

Wednesday, October 2, 2013

Hard Questions: How Many Days of School Is It Acceptable to Miss?

This question is partly born out of the jealousy I feel for my online tweeps that are talking about going to conferences I am not attending.

Last year I missed six days of school because I was attending or presenting at conferences. This year I plan to miss seven. Honestly that is a lot of days outside of the class. If I miss five or six more because of illness that will be two weeks of school missed!

How many days of school did you miss last year for conferences? How many do you plan to miss this year? How many missed days become too many? Are we attending too many conferences during the school year?

Tuesday, October 1, 2013

Examining Fame Using Longfellow's 'Paul Revere's Ride'

Why do some become famous while others do not?

This essential question is the guide for this lesson. The students will be examining the role of Paul Revere and Joseph Warren from Revere's famous ride to the Battle of Bunker Hill. We will look at what Paul Revere and Joseph Warren contributed to these famous events. 

Here are the links to the media we will use in class along with pages 134-135 in our textbook.

Andy Griffith Lexington and Concord
This link fits with our emphasis on storytelling in history. We will look at the events that Andy describes and his storytelling ability.

Lexington and Concord Map
This is used for a good anchoring visual of the lands through which this event took place. 

‘Real’ Story of Paul Revere
This is the facts that are given through the Paul Revere House website. This is used as a resource that isn't from Wikipedia.

Longfellow’s Midnight Ride of Paul Revere
The poem is the basis for the discussion. 

We will look at why Longfellow wrote the poem. We will discuss if his goal to create a nationalistic feeling was appropriate for the time period.

The Death of General Warren at the Battle of Bunker
This is a painting of Joseph Warren's death. The purpose is to again emphasize how media is manipulated and also as a visual anchor for Dr. Warren.

Joseph Warren
We will look at Warren's roles specifically with Revere's ride and the battle of Bunker Hill. We will also discuss his last run in with Revere after his death (fascinating stuff!)

We will look at this ode and try to decide why it did not become as popular as Longfellow's poem.

After learning the stories of Revere and Warren the students will write an ode to Dr. Warren using the following rhyme scheme: ABABCDECDE
The goal with this is to have the students experience writing a poem with a specific rhyme scheme. They will use the information they gather from our examining of Warren's life to help. 

If you talk about Revere, Warren, Longfellow's poem or the historical events what goals do you have for your students? 

Monday, September 30, 2013

Explanation of the Foam Cup Printing Project With Reflection

Here is a quick explanation of how Jose created his print.

What I learned from the project:

1) Fun projects can be a great way for students to decompress.

2) When the goal of the project is to explore instead of grade, the students enjoy it more.

3) Some students don't want to do 'that' fun project but it doesn't mean they won't want to do a different fun project later.

4) Students don't always see what they create as 'real' art. I am amazed by what they create, I wish they were too.

Saturday, September 28, 2013

Do You Really Need to Sub-tweet? If So, Can You Do It Positively?

Ok, I get that the title to this post is in itself something like a sub-tweet. Mainly because I am not calling you out in public.

I have noticed a lot of sub-tweets and way too many of them seem to be negative and aimed at someone in particular. It seems to me that this is the digital equivalent of calling your friends up and 'discussing' someone with them. Not too productive, but it sure can be fun to back bite, right?

What if you saw someone sub-tweeting positive things. Today I pushed out some positive sub-tweets and got Twitter crickets in response. If you saw them did you think I was tweeting about you? I hope so.

I am by no means perfect and I am sure I have sub-tweeted negative things before. Funny thing is, whatever the problem was I was tweeting about didn't get solved through that tweet. Perhaps there is a bit of value in venting.

I just want to encourage you, if you sub-tweet something negative try to follow that with something positive. After all, we don't want our streams to be full of negativity. The least we can do is put some balance in, right?

Friday, September 27, 2013

Classroom Hack: Creating Prints Using Styrofoam Cups

I wanted my students to simulate making prints with engraving. Unfortunately I don't have the materials or the money to purchase them. After some experimentation I decided that we could make prints using styrofoam cups. Simply carve the scene into the cup and then add paint and roll!

Example of letters created with marker. I created this to show students how the letters need to be written backwards for them to print correctly.

This is my first attempt at making a print. I smeared paint on top of a desk and rolled the carved cup in it. This is the print created after rolling it on the paper. 

Mr. Layne, my student teacher, created this. We had been experimenting with different types of paint/markers and we liked this outcome. The paint is glass paint that is used to write on things like automobile windows. I am really pleased with the amount of detail that comes through and with the interesting texture created by this paint.

Writing Workshop Professional Development

 Today's inservice is on Writing Workshop. We received this book, but spent no time in it. Instead we have been writing just like we expect our students to do.

I brought a notebook and my pencil box (which I keep full of pens I really enjoy writing with as well as various other tools.)

The first writing activity was to write an informal biography. Basically it was just a stream of thought based around my life. It wasn't too hard for me because I wrote one for my blog. Then we identified three types of writing we could do from the information in the story. I chose narrative, persuasive, and technical.

Ironically the next activity was to write a narrative using something from the informal biography. I wrote a story about a boy's first day at a new school and how he came to realize that there were a lot of new students in that school before him and he finds some comfort in that fact.

This story really is personal. The hallway exists and I often stop and look at the people in the pictures and wonder about their stories. On that wall are pictures of my grandfather, my father, my uncle and myself as well.

Here my narrative shows a few things I have done to edit it. The red shows adjectives that were place after the noun instead of the usual before the noun format. The green shows where I took verbs and chose more descriptive verbs I can replace them with.

Next we created poetry using a series of prepositional phrases. This was a bit harder than I expected. It seemed that each phrase was a multiple harder than the one before.

Just before lunch we were introduced to interest journals. The interest journals have specific interests labeled on them. Students will write in these journals and use them as texts they can find and explore words and phrases.

I chose the interest journal over Starry Night by Van Gogh. When I saw it I new that I needed to share a story in it. How often do students 'have to' share a story in your class? How powerful would it be if they had that experience?

Here is the story I wrote. It is about how one of the bathrooms in my school has had Starry Night painted on its walls. The stories in the journal that were written by other teachers that had been in this same workshop were very interesting to read as well. There are a lot of emotional connections to art work. We should make sure our students have the opportunities to both connect emotionally with art and to share how they connected with it.

Next we were asked to look a photograph from history and decide:
What does it say?
What does it mean?
What does it matter?

I really enjoyed this workshop, there were a lot of usable take-aways. Now to adapt them to my social studies classes.

Using Pen and Ink

Students wrote a letter to King George explaining why they did not like how he and parliament were running the colonies. After they finished their letters they transposed them using pen and ink. They all expressed how hard it was to write their letters and many showed admiration for their forefathers who had to work daily in that medium.

Thursday, September 26, 2013

Video of the Day: BatDad

I thought this was a really fun video that shows a dad having a good time with his family. This dad is creating shared experiences with his family!

 At 0:38 he uses the word 'asses' so if you show in class you will want to skip that part.

Wednesday, September 25, 2013

Road to Revolution 1763-1775 Presentation

I created this presentation for my students to follow. They will do several activities using it including creating a timeline, making a print, and writing an ode. 

The timeline's essential question is: What events led to the creation of the Declaration of Independence?

Here is a link to the presentation. I have comments open if you would like to give me a suggestion there or you can just put it in the comments here.

Video of the Day: The Best Worst Music Video Ever

Not exactly a parody, more like a loving homage to the original. 

Tuesday, September 24, 2013