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Monday Mapping: Digging Up History

You are now challenged to teach students the Common Core Standards, yet you have the same resources you've always had while your students are drastically different than those of the past.  What do you do?

In today's classroom, it is absolutely key that your lessons be engaging.  Students can no longer sit still for an hour (or more) listening to teacher-directed instruction.  They must be involved.  They must be moving.  They must be drawn to participate!

One thing a teacher must remember is that your students are still kids.  Elementary, middle or high, they are all still kids, who just love to play.  I can't tell you how many high school football players I have heard squeal with joy when they saw I planned to read to them at my carpet time station or when they realized we were doing "one of those things you do" in my class that day.

So here's my fun and engaging idea of the day:

 Transform your classroom into an Archeological Dig!  This can be used in ANY classroom with any subject area.  Create the dig, design (or purchase) activity cards, bury the cards, and let the activity begin.  What could be better for a cross-discipline lesson?  Just think about the possibilities!
  1. Create a square frame in your classroom or outside.  Use wood, cardboard, or any materials available that will hold the structure.  Make the frame as large as you desire, based on the number of students you will have digging at a time.
  2. Fill the frame with dig material.  I often used shredded paper I collected from the Guidance Office shredder!  You could use sand if you are really daring, but I would suggest something more long-lasting and reusable.  Another easy use item is (uncooked) beans or rice.  Scoop it all up at the end and place it all in a big crate for the next time you dig!
  3. Quadrant off the dig site.  You could have this step complete before the activity, or make it a math lesson for students to complete.
  4. Assign your students to teams and provide directions for the activity.  It is a really good idea to reinforce your classroom rules at this point, reminding students about safety and fair play.
  5. Allow students to dig!  Use dig cards that provide information or pose problems for students to solve.  Encourage students to work together in their assigned teams to complete task cards or to discuss the information they gather.  
  6. Wrap-up the activity by reviewing the content and asking appropriate questions for content analysis and evaluation.
  7. Clean up!  Involve your students in this step.  Its a valuable lessons all students should learn before they go off to college!  :)
Chinese Dynasties Archeological Dig Product Link
American Colonies Archeological Dig Product Link

Easy, Content-filled, and ENGAGING!   What could be better for a spring activity?!

Happy Teaching!

Monday Mapping: Getting Back in the Routine to Work

Summer vacation was wonderful! We traveled the U.S. and Europe, and wrapped it up with a super visit with my daughter and grandbaby! But now, it's time to get back to work.


Now, take into consideration that I always think about my teaching and lessons through my vacations. Each location we visited gives me new ideas for the classroom, and sparks of lessons come to me frequently as we drive from interstate to interstate in the "Great American Heat Wave!" Yet, as I sit down to begin planning for the school year, I am at a complete loss.  For. A. Moment!

Where do I start? What do I need to do? Where in the world will I find the time to get everything done before the school year begins?

Don't Panic! Don't Stress! I know the answers to these questions!

While I could go back and take a refresher course on preparing for the school year from my book, A Lesson Plan for Teachers, I think instead I will just wing it from memory!

1. Get my work space organized. This will not include the desperately needed dusting of the work space (having been gone for 31 days!), but I have moved everything I need to one area. In my swivel desk chair I can rotate to find books, resources, and anything else that I should require for my planning.

2. Clean out my email. One of my greatest distractions is my email. I cannot stand to see that little "new mail" icon pop up on my laptop without having to check it immediately. Seriously, it could be something important! So, clean out the email and take away the distraction!

3. Set up my curriculum maps where I can easily see them. This is vital to keep me on task and focused on the classes I want to tackle. More detailed information on curriculum mapping can be found in my older blogs, and I have a great template on Tpt for those just starting this process. It is an ABSOLUTE MUST before any other planning can take place!

4. Access my standards and assessments. Despite my confidence that I know these to the tee and can recite them in my sleep, it is still important to make sure I have them on hand to check myself in the planning process. Use them as a checklist and make sure you are hitting the mark with your great ideas.

5. Plan. Just do it. I like to start with my unit plan template, counting out the allotted days for the content to be covered. I also check my school calendar for any possible interruptions, and then I jump into the daily organization and the creative aspect of my planning. At this point, if you have set yourself up well, it will just flow. Before you know it, you will have a unit on your desk, filled with great daily lessons and activities for your students.

In the end, the task is not as overwhelming as it seems. It just takes the initiative to jump from that plateau of fear and intimidation and to tackle the tasks you know you must do to make your school year a great one!

We are just weeks away... Here We go!

Happy Planning!

Bright Ideas Blog Hop: Who Do You Know?

Years ago, new teachers could walk into a school building and begin teaching on the first day of school without any assistance or introduction. All that has changed!

With the ever changing requirements for teaching and the increasing demands for teachers to include a variety of teaching styles and methods, you now need to know your school and your co-workers before that first day. It is, therefore, vital for you new teachers (or those new to buildings) to get there NOW and begin networking.

So, who do you need to know?





1. Find your MEDIA/TECHNOLOGY COORDINATOR. This person will be your best friend if you have incorporated technology into your lessons (YES- There should be technology in your lessons!). The building tech person will have your gradebook access information, your access to the projectors, dvd players, mobile labs, etc. They will also be the one you call for HELP when you are in the middle of a lesson and the whole system goes down. It happens!


2. Meet your SECRETARY/BOOKKEEPER/RECEPTIONIST. You may have the idea that this person is not important in your life, but that is a very bad assumption. They are your lifeline to resources, classroom materials, club schedules, and parents! Your office staff will help you when no one else is available and they will always be there with a kind smile to help you get through the toughest of days.

3. Beg for time with your ASSISTANT PRINCIPALS or CURRICULUM FACILITATORS. These roles are sometimes new in the buildings these days, but they are vital and often overwhelming (my husband was an assistant principal and was always running!). In the old days, the principal took care of everything between the Central Office and the classroom teachers. Now, the principals pass those obligations down to their assistants. So for curriculum or discipline questions, these are your "go to" people. Make them your friends and allies!

4. Know and love your CUSTODIANS. If you've ever watched The Breakfast Club, you know that the custodians are the eyes and ears of the building. They know everything. More importantly, they take care of your classroom. I very much appreciate my custodians and the work they do. It is an incredible job, and I try to do all I can to make sure they are not stressed with extra messes and mishaps. One simple practice - make sure your last class picks up anything from the floor and deposits it in the trash can on the way out the door. Simple, but significant!

From The Breakfast Club - a great movie to watch as you prepare for the new year!
5. Collaborate with your COUNTERPARTS. Find the other teachers in the building that teach the same students. Work together to create interdisciplinary lessons and talk with one another to share effective strategies in classroom management for your "challenging" students. More importantly, these teachers will know and understand your specific stresses like no other in the building. Be each others' sounding board for ideas, and share each others' stresses to make your year go by without a serious catch!

Finally, find other NEW TEACHERS. If your school does not have a new teacher co-hort or mentoring program, create your own. You need to work with one another and share the stress of being a newbie! But don't be the downer in the group. Just remember - your first year (or first year in a new building) is temporary. Next year, it will be your second, and by then, you will be an old pro!

If you like these ideas, you might love my products!  Please follow me on TeachersPayTeachers, Pinterest, and Twitter! For more bright ideas for other bloggers, please browse through the link-up below for those in your subject and grade level!  Thanks for visiting!





Happy Teaching!

Go to the bathroom first!

Ok, so I really could have titled this more appropriately as "They really do appreciate you!" or something else sentimental, but the bathroom part is what I'm sure I will remember as 
I laugh about the encounter years from now...

Recently, I went back to my old neighborhood. My husband and I were taking our evening walk, and I desperately needed to use the restroom (those of you over 40 may understand this!). We had picked up the pace, and were power walking back toward the house where we were staying. Then... with no warning, she came at me!

One of my former students was out in her front year with her boyfriend. Before I knew it, she was leaping at me and throwing her arms around me in a giant bear hug. This was followed by her pulling and tugging on me to show me to her boyfriend as her "favorite teacher!"

Now, don't misunderstand. I loved every minute of this encounter. She went on to tell me how much she loved my class and my teaching and how I impacted her life! She called out her mother, and we all had a wonderful conversation for the next 30 minutes until we realized the sun was setting and we had to get back.

But... I desperately had to go to the restroom! So, after our wonderful meeting, I almost ran back to the house with my husband trailing behind, laughing at me the whole way.

Now, my sentimental side sees so much more to this. She really appreciated all I did to reach her and teach her and push her! She is headed to a wonderful college and she feels prepared because of me! She was a wonderful student, yet of all the teachers she had in her academic career, she places me at the top! I am so lucky to have had such a wonderful student. I am so lucky to be in a profession where I will continue to teach and reach, and hopefully inspire, my students each year! I am appreciated! I am valued!

But still, my humorous side says, "Wow! I really needed to go to the bathroom! And there were a few moments there where I almost thought I would... right then!" :) Oh, the perils of teaching!

Happy Teaching!

Tuesday Travels: Getting Lost All Over Europe

My husband and I were both born and raised in the southern Midwest where towns and communities were established in later times and, therefore, planned and structured in ways that make them easier to navigate.  European cities... NOPE!

One of the greatest parts of our trip to Europe was experiencing all of the older aspects of the magnificent cities there.  The cobblestone streets, the incredible stone archways and aqueducts, and the churches built on mountaintops made us feel like we were walking through time to see and experience a different world.  The narrow streets in many of the older city areas were built for horse carts, and walking through them made the adventure even more enchanting. 

There's just so much to see and you can't pass them by.  Photo (c) Michele Luck.
However, the beautiful older cities are also limited in their directional assistance, especially for foreign travelers who are navigationally challenged!  The worst part of this is my personal history - I was a Geography teacher, and have prided myself on being able to navigate anywhere to find what I needed.  I attribute this skill, not only to my educational training, but to my years of visiting yard sales with my Grandma as I grew up.  With the Saturday morning paper, and a trusty city map, we found every sale, and every deal, each Saturday morning, gathering our treasures without problem!

But Europe was a whole new challenge.  Different languages, different signage, and different pathway structures left me, and Steve, in complete ignorance.  More important, as we saw the elaborate churches or the ornate gardens and pathways, we were drugged with "touristitis" and were so easily led astray, and usually off the beaten path.

We walked past this guy a few times before we gave in and asked for help! Photo (c) Michele Luck.
Our first "getting lost" experience came in Munich, Germany.  We got off our tour bus for a meal at an amazing German restaurant.  I had the most mouth-watering pork and sauerkraut meal, and then we set off for our hotel.  Instead of jumping on the next bus, we decided to just walk back... Mistake #1. 
THE BEST GERMAN MEAL!  Photo (c) Michele Luck.

The first block was no problem.  We looked in the shops, bought our grand-daughter a postcard, and then headed "in the direction the bus went."  "Oh look!  There's an open market!  We should walk through it!"  And there we went... off the path... into lostville!

Love the cobblestone streets everywhere, but they can lead you astray!  They all look alike!  Photo (c) Michele Luck.
I have to mention that the marketplace was so incredible!  The fruits and vegetables were so plump and brightly colorful.  And the cultural experience as we walked through the little area was one I will never forget. 
An amazing Beer Stube in the middle of the outdoor marketplace was a very busy gathering! Photo (c) Michele Luck.
And then Steve saw the ice cream.  The woman was kind enough to give us directions to the little hut she said provided the most flavorful sweets we will ever find on a cone, and off we went in the new direction.  Mistake #2.

After our ice creams, we started walking [what we thought was] back to the hotel.  About 30 minutes later, we finally stopped to ask for help.  We were ready to admit defeat: We were lost!  And lost, we were!  We'd managed to walk in a completely different direction than we'd thought, and the walk back would take us "about 30-40 minutes."  The nice man suggested we take the tram, but we had this!

Our walk back ended up filled with as much laughter as frustration!  We got off track one more time, tried to catch a tram and failed (you have to pre-purchase tickets and we refused to just "jump the ride"), and then we ended up following a huge protest march of those hoping to bring greater unity to Germany.  Did I mention it was V-E Day and we were in GERMANY! 

Oh, the places you'll go when you travel with us!  And this was not our only lost experience in our 42 day trip.  Just days later we were lost in Venice... and then Santorini...oh, and then Rome... maybe for a few minutes in Florence... and definitely in Milan.  But with each came another story to tell, and much laughter to share!
Florence is a beautiful city, but we got so lost here, we understood how so many people moved in and never left!   Photo by (c) Michele Luck.
We were very careful in Santorini, but still found ourselves unsure of which path led us back down to the buses once we got to the top for that ultimate view! Photo by (c) Michele Luck.
After heading up, and up, and up, for that great view of the ruins between the forum and the Colosseum, we found ourselves lost in the winding gardens and pathways through Ancient Rome! Photo (c) by Michele Luck.
We "found" the Uffizi on our lost walk through Florence.  Photo (c) bu Michele Luck.
Happy Travels!


Tuesday Travels: Traveling Europe is NOT for Rules-Followers

My entire life has been about following the rules.  I am a stickler for rules, and feel that most of the of time, they are the only way.  I lived my life this way, taught my child this way, and taught my students with this mentality.  While occasionally I found reasons to encourage rule changes, even that could be done in a rule-following manner.  And then I traveled to Europe...
Our first train ride on our European trip! Photo (c) by Michele Luck.
Most Europeans live by rules that are drastically different than my own.  We encountered this from our first step onto the ship to take our transatlantic passage, and it was reinforced almost every step along the way.  The greatest example of this was their lack of respect for the line, or que. 

As a dedicated Disney visitor, I am all about the proper line.  Everyone steps in line, and they wait patiently for their turn.  In Europe, there is no such thing.  We experienced this getting on trains, waiting to enter tourist attractions, hoping to fill our breakfast plate from the buffet, checking in at hotels, being surrounded by cigarette smoke as we struggled to be free, and even in wishing to take that perfect, once in a lifetime picture.

Now laughable moments include:
  • Steve standing in what he took for a line to the creme puffs for desert, only for an Italian gent to step in and grab all 6 remaining on the serving plate at the same time.  Walking away, and stuffing his mouth, with no regret.
  • My shouting match outside the train with the chimney of a German gentleman who argued his position while I just wanted to get on the train through the door he was blocking.
  • Our standing in a "3 hour" line at the Palace of Versailles (with our "skip the line tickets") only to see others join the que in groups of 10 or more in front of us as we slowly edged toward the gates.  We eventually gave up on this, seeing we would spend days there, and saw the gardens instead. 
    Palace of Versailles after we gave up the line.  Photo (c) by Michele Luck.
  • Being told on our MSC cruise to Greece that the noise from the neighboring room well after midnight EVERY NIGHT was allowable because our neighbors "are an Italian family." (Stated with a shrug and a smile.)
  • Being felt up (if they only knew they were grabbing foam!), butt groped, and literally picked up and moved with the crowd pushing through to see the smiling Mona Lisa in the Louvre.  
And the insults to rule-breaking continued from city to city and country to country. 

Arriving in the Vatican City, and heading to the Sistine Chapel, we hoped there would be order and rules-enforcement, if nothing else but in the name of the church!   And were were happy to see rules clearly posted about camera use, those ever swinging selfie-sticks, and even the use of the correct line for entrance. 
Lines outside Vatican. Photo (c) by Steve Luck.
Still, the movement through the Museum was a shoving match, or cattle herd, to say the least.  But Steve and I resisted the urge to push ahead or to cut in front of those not paying attention.  We waited our turn.  Rules-following, we vowed, would be our way. 
Vatican Museum Hallway to Sistine Chapel. Photo (c) by Michele Luck.
And finally, there it was.  I stepped through a door to see THE CEILING OF THE SISTINE CHAPEL.  Right above my head was the works of Michelangelo.  All of his greatness surrounded me and filled my mind with images of the scaffolding holding him in the air as he painting while laying on his back. 

I pulled out my phone to begin taking all the pictures I could possibly take while being moved through the room with the crowd.  And then came the voice... The enforcer... Might as well have been the Pope himself standing there yelling out the words... "NO CAMERAS!  NO PICTURES!  MOVE ALONG!" 

Over and over, the guards yelled these words as they stood around the room, surveying the crowd for rule-breakers.  Finally.  But, this was the Sistine Chapel.  This was "The Creation of Adam" above me.  I had to have a picture.  But, I had to follow the rules.  What could I do?

Oh, fine.  I concede.  No one is perfect, and I am weak when it comes to Renaissance art.  So there, in the most amazing chapel on Earth, I pulled out my phone, and very discreetly snapped the pictures. 

And what happened?  Nothing punitive.  I was not arrested, ushered to a holding tank, or even taken to the underground for question.  No inquisition at all.  Like many others, I was pushed through the room, snapping pictures from my waist, and ended up back in the outside hall with a collection of images for my album.

But, I have to add... Karma quickly kicked me in the butt for my rule-breaking.  As I scanned through the images, I found the penalty for my disobedience... The pictures suck!  Blurred portraits.  Images of arms or heads.  And another memory of Europe that has to leave me laughing, just so I don't cry!

Now, if you want to see these images, just remember... They were illegally taken, so you, too, would be a rule-breaker in participating in such behavior!  Still, they are posted for your enjoyment - and laughter!
All Photos (Embarrassingly) (c) of Michele Luck!










Happy Traveling!

Tuesday Travels: My Greek Lesson

When we first arrived in Europe, we toured the city with big eyes and high expectations on all the sites we planned to see.  We had tickets to visit the Vatican Museums, the Forum and Colosseum, the Louvre, Palace of Versailles, and the Tower of London.  We had days scheduled to tour the Olympic Ruins, the Acropolis, and the Duomo of Florence.  For each, we knew exactly what we would see, and we thought we knew the history that supported the site.
Tower of London. Photo (c) by Michele Luck.
To start off our visit to each new city, we took Big Bus tours.  These helped us get the layout of the destination and led us to the locations we most wanted to see.  Some offered commentary, live or recorded, and this is where the lessons started to come into play.

Through London and Paris, we heard the terms "reconstructed" and "rebuilt" a number of times.  We understood this description; after all, these cities had been involved in world wars that had ravaged, not only the land, but also the landscape.  As we arrived in Frankfort and Munich, we saw that these cities were very modern, and the evidence of the nation's history was evident in what we did not see.
Munich, Germany.  Photo (c) by Michele Luck
But then we got to Greece.  At the site of the ancient Olympics and at the Acropolis, we started to learn the lesson in a whole new way... And that's when we learned to look a bit closer at everything we saw.  More importantly, we learned to question everything we heard, and learned, when we were being seduced by the stories of the past.

Our true lesson started off at the Olympic Ruins as we walked down the hill from our tour bus.  Our guide explained that the river had run through the region, flooding out the ancient cities, but in recent times, the ruins had been dug up and replaced on what archeologists believed to be the actual sites.  She explained that the stadium was "probably" over the hill just through the gate, but that the valley where the athletes ran was set below the gods for their entertainment (and worship).
"Probably" the Olympic Stadium. Photo (c) by Michele Luck.
After this very thorough (and shattering) explanation, we went into the ruins where we continued to see further evidence of the "rebuilding" and "restructuring" of the ruins.  Modern cement could be seen where cracks had taken over columns or other structures.  Screws were drilled into platforms and stabilizer bars were attached, but discreetly placed for less visibility.

Now I understand that this is a necessity to preserve the ruins and to maintain the structures to give us a glimpse of the past, but here's where I start to have the problem...

We started seeing this evidence everywhere.  We saw it in Athens at the Acropolis.  We saw it at the Colosseum in Rome.  We saw it with the churches in Florence.
At Acropolis while under repair (Look at white repair cement in columns).  Photo (c) by Michele Luck.
Colosseum in Rome with "reconstructed" levels. Photo (c) by Michele Luck.
While I cannot make a blanket statement about what all teachers teach their students when it comes to ancient history and ancient ruins, but I now know that I lied to my students for many years.  I taught them that these were the actual sites, the actual stones, and the edifices as they were built and lived in thousands of years ago.

So, with this great Greek lesson, I want to make a suggestion to all of my teacher friends... Teach your students to look at the evidence.  Teach them to question what they are taught.  And teach them to trust only what they see and experience for themselves.  In reality, that is the only truth!

Happy Travels,