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Monday Mapping: The Most Important Lesson

I've taught in a few schools over my academic career, and now most of my students have grown up and moved on into adulthood.  Still, when I run into my former students, one conversation always takes place - the most important lesson they learned in my class.

This Holocaust Interactive Timeline available in my TpT Store.
During each spring semester, usually during March, my school would move into testing mode.  With the state mandated testing starting the first of April, we were required to prep, prep, and do more prep.  For most teachers, this turned into an all out, stop what you're teaching, and review to the test activity, but in my classes, I turned to what I considered more important than anything else: My Holocaust Unit.

Over the following month, students would be introduced to the victims, the perpetrators, the heroes, and most importantly, the bystanders of the German genocide and others.  We also completed an in-depth study of ourselves, taking a good look at who were were as individuals, and considering what role we may have played in Nazi Germany during the 1930s.

Through a series of thought-provoking activities, well selected movies, and reflective and collaborative lessons, I walked my students through the timeline of events from pre-war Germany to the end of the Nuremberg Trials, followed by a modern-day examination of hate groups and current genocides around the world. 

While students are in tears in their other classes for obvious reasons, a whole variety of emotions are experienced in my class through the month.  Students not only learned about the horrific event in history, they also learned about themselves and the world they lived in, even in modern times.

While I am no longer in my classroom, I am hoping that these lessons will continue in other classrooms across the country and around our world.  After all, we learn history in an effort to avoid the mistakes of the past, and hopefully to learn how to make ourselves better for the future.

Happy Teaching!

Quick Thought Thursday: To Do What We Love

As long as I can remember, I have loved being outside.  I love to hike, bike, climb, walk along waterways, and simply be out in the fresh air, especially where there is an incredible view.  This week, as I have caught myself more and more complaining about my aging self and my aches and pains as I am reaching mid-age.  Then I read about a teacher who was the victim of a hit and run, leaving her without a leg, and I was immediately touched.


There were just so many things about her story that hit home for me.  For one, she is a teacher who seems so incredibly passionate about teaching.  And then there is the fact that she loves to be active.  It broke my heart thinking she may not be able to do those things she loves.

Immediately, I donated and then I jumped in with others to donate products for a fundraiser to help her.  But that just isn't enough.  It isn't enough because I still see the funds she needs versus what has been donated.  So, here I plead with you to donate.  Just do what you can to help her.  It doesn't have to be much, but know that anything would be significant.

I just can't imagine not being able to do what I love.  And I can't imagine that for anyone else either.

Here is the link to the GoFundMe Page where you can read her story and learn more about the situation.  If you read, you will donate!  I just know you will!  ;)

Happy Donating!

Teachers are Superheroes: Super Secondary Celebrates YOU!

We got together and collaborated for a TpT sale. Make your wish lists and empty your carts for this ONE DAY super sale on February 25th. Most stores are discounted up to 20% off. Don't forget to use the promo code: HEROES. Enjoy! 

Danielle Knight (Study All Knight)
The Classroom Sparrow
My Store! > Michele Luck's Social Studies
Getting Nerdy with Mel and Gerdy
Mad Science Lessons
Juggling ELA
Krystal Mills - Lessons From The Middle
Teaching High School Math
To the square inch- Kate Bing Coners
Charlene Tess
Pamela Kranz
The Creative Classroom
Kristin Lee
Mrs. Brosseau's Binder
James Whitaker's SophistThoughts
Darlene Anne
ELA Everyday
Lessons With Coffee
Teaching FSL
Room 213
MissMathDork
Lindsay Perro
Liz's Lessons
21st Century Math Projects
The SuperHERO Teacher
Science Stuff
Kate's Classroom Cafe
A Space to Create
Addie Williams
Created by MrHughes
Leah Cleary
Secondary Solutions
All Things Algebra
Tracee Orman
4mulaFun
Live Love Math
Ruth S.
2 Peas and a Dog
FisherReyna Education
Rachel Friedrich
Linda Jennifer
For the Love of Teaching Math
The Career Ready Teacher
Connie

Monday Mapping: Teaching Truth & Emotion

For almost a decade, I taught in a Social Studies Department where war was nothing more than a series of battles fought in an open battlefield, and where the costs were only monetary in the eyes of the instructors.  My primary source-based lessons on war became an on-going joke to them, with my "touchy-feely" teaching something they considered ignorant and unfathomable. 

Still, I continued to teach what I felt was best, and with my interactive and experiential lessons, my students walked away, not only knowledgeable about historic events, but also about empathy, respect, and appreciation for the sacrifices made by all citizens throughout time.

Over time, the shift has come more in my direction in most History Departments with teachers addressing the history as opposed to the sugar-coated textbook descriptions of our past, but with the move toward common assessments, and common instruction, will that trend continue?

Yes - if History teachers are insistent that they know what is best for their students in their classrooms.  In an era where difference must be accepted to avoid chaos and conflict in our modern world, it is even more important that students see the reality in the past so they can better see the reality in their present.

So, teach with reality written into your lessons.  Here are a few tools to help you get started:
  • National Geographic publishes incredible articles that show the real world with its beauty and its imperfections.  This article on Healing Soldiers through the use of Art, Revealing the Trauma of War, includes personal stories, and incredible images to help students better understand the costs of war. Here are other great sites with first hand accounts of war:
  • Many sites offer recorded interviews to document recent historyPBS has a number of collections, documenting everything from penny auctions and the dustbowl of the Great Depression to differing views on race with a step inside the KKK in their American Experience Collection.
  • Another incredible website is My Immigration Story which shares modern and historic accounts of the immigration experience.  The site encourages readers to share their story to help document all perspectives on coming to America.
  • And one of my favorite websites for real history is the Library of Congress.  The collections provides everything from letters to pictures to sound recordings that help tell the American story from the perspectives of everyday Americans.
  • Finally, check out your state Historical Society or Museum.  The Kentucky Historical Society has incredible personal history resources in a number of collections available online and very user friendly for students and teachers.  One of my favorite sections of the collection is this very complete account of the Civil Rights Movement in the state.
Teaching all sides of history and allowing our students to face reality can be a tough task in today's classrooms where everything else seems to be the priority, but it is doable with the right resources.  Find those resources, and do what you know will be best for your kids in the long run.

Need a jump start on interactive lessons that teach real history?  Visit My TpT Store for quality resources or simply for ideas that may spark your own lesson creation!

Happy Teaching!

Quick Thought Thursday: American Sniper Through a Student's Eyes

As a high school teacher that often watched those snotty, little freshmen grow into young men enthusiastic about joining the service to fight the bad guys (especially after 9/11), I was always concerned with making sure my students understood what that would mean for them beyond the glamorous view often depicted in American movies.


With the movie, American Sniper, still making millions at the box office and the thoughts shared in this USA Today post, it brings concern to me once again, hoping that our young men do not only see the excitement around the movie, but also see the reality that can hold so many side effects for our soldiers.

My step-father and uncle dropped out of high school at 17 years old to join up to fight in Vietnam.  While my uncle came back able to talk about his experiences, my step-dad was a different story.  His legs shook non-stop, his nightmares awoke the whole house, and his personality was darkened, all as a result of his horrific experiences.  The only information that was ever shared was that he had to do unspeakable things, and while he was never diagnosed, he was your typical definition of PTSD. 

Do our young men see this possibility when they watch the Hollywood versions of war?  Or do their minds even allow them to see reality, when they are so mesmerized by the ideas of glory and glam? 

In no way am I suggesting our young men should not go to serve.  I joined the Air Force in 1988, and my husband served in the Persian Gulf War on a Navy ship in the Gulf.  More importantly, many young men need direction and structure that the military can provide like no other institution.

Still, war should be one of those controversial topics discussed in our classes.  Invite in the Vietnam vets to tell all sides of the story.  Read excerpts from the books and letters from the soldiers who have shared their glory and their anguish.  And allow your kids (yes, they are still kids in high school) to realize that serving in the military is an awakening.  They will see things and do things not seen or done by civilians, and it will have a lasting effect on them.

In the end, students need to be aware of the risks, as well as the benefits.  Make sure they know there is a difference.

Happy Thinking!

Tuesday Travels: There's More Than Rain, Rain, Rain

When we headed to Seattle last spring, we had been traveling through rain, rain, and more rain along the Oregon Coast for what seemed like weeks.  Ironically, Seattle is known as the city of rain, yet I looked so forward to our destination, and I hoped I would be able to return to my teen years just for those few weeks as we closed in on the Puget Sound.  (See my earlier post asking Can You Go Home Again?)

Our visit to the home of the Seahawks turned out to be a mixed bag of old and new for me.  With our first week being spent on Ft. Lewis (now joint base Lewis-McCord), I was able to retrace my earlier steps, skating at my old stomping ground and hunting down the places that had emotional connections for me.  And then we moved onward to another extreme, far from the business of the city and just below the beautiful snow-capped mountains.



During our stay, we drove into Seattle for a downtown experience, spent a few days driving through and visiting remote little towns, and met up with a group of amazing ladies I'd only known online previously.  Each experience created a lasting memory, but my lunch in Snohomish with the three lovely ladies brought me great friends that I hope I never lose touch with from this point forward!  (Love you Adria Williams, Shelley Rolston, and Rachel Lynnette!)


Now, I must admit that we did see a few cloudy days while visiting one of my favorite cities, but Seattle gets a bad reputation for its wet nature.  It is actually a beautiful city with an incredible skyline and amazing sites.  From Mt. Rainier in the South to the Puget Sound to the countryside just north, there are lovely visions to be seen rain or shine.


My recommendations for anyone else going to visit this beautiful piece of our nation?  There are many!
  • Take a walk downtown, making sure to stop and watch all of the action at the great Seattle Pike Place Fish Market.
  • If you like heights, make a stop at the high and spiky Space Needle that towers from the city skyline.
  • Visit the Zoo at Pt. Defiance Park in Tacoma where you can see animals on one side of the peninsula and beautiful boats in the inlet along the other.
  • Take a drive into the countryside to visit quaint little towns like Snohomish where you can find awesome restaurants, original artwork, and antiques galore.
  • Drive South the to Marina in Olympia (or any of the many marinas) where you can see every size of sailboat with beautiful sails blowing in the wind.
  • Hike up Mt. Rainier where you can travel through evergreen trees up into the clouds on this magnificent mountain.
No matter what you do, don't let a little rain scare you away from this wonderful place.  All else fails, you can always go see the Seattle Seahawks.  After all, they have a stadium that's a site to see all by itself!

Happy Travels!


Monday Mapping: Cause and Effect in the History Classroom

Students often see historic occurrences as isolated events in time, not understanding that one causes the other and that one causes the next.  In both my World and U.S. History courses in mid February, I would be in the early 20th Century, discussing the World Wars and the changes that occurred in the decade between.  While the time period lends itself to be taught as WWI, the Between the Wars Period, and WWII, it's best if students can understand all as a chain of inter-related events that brought us into the modern world, with national alliances and global conflicts that lead us straight to modern day.

While Cause and Effect are part of the CC State Standards, it is often only taught within individual units, and the Big Picture connection is left out of neglected altogether.  This method leaves students seeing this lack of cohesion, eventually learning that history is nothing but unconnected topics over time.

And teaching Cause and Effect is not the incredible challenge it seems at first glance.  And unlike many other academic routines, it can be started at any point in the school year.  Here are just a few suggestions to get you started:

  1. Create a Build-Upon Timeline that students keep in their notebook and update with each unit, summarizing after each with the major causes and effects that lead from one era to the next.
  2. Add a Graphic Organizer between unit notes to connect the dots, including significant changes that lead one time period into the next.
  3. Transition into each new unit with a Flashback into the previous unit, pulling the themes together as you move from period to period.
  4. Assign Transition Essays where students conclude each unit with a culminating essay that addresses the major changes of the period and the impact they may have on the future.
Once the task is started in your classes, it can become routine with each unit, providing a concise summary of the major periods in history and their impacts upon one another.  More importantly, your students will learn the significance of Cause and Effect and have a better sense of how to be proactive in their futures.

What will you be teaching these next few weeks?  Here are my regular units for this time period:
Happy Teaching!