Monday, April 14, 2014

Why Do I Have to Learn History?

Photo courtesy of Dr. John Strange

Photo courtesy of Dr. John Strange

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.