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Quick Tips for Teaching Geography: Quick Start Ideas

Teaching Geography is one of the best Social Studies gigs to get! 
There are so many amazing resources for teaching the course, 
and fun strategies for teaching Geography are also unlimited. 
Follow this Quick Tips for Teaching Geography Series 
to learn those strategies for your classroom!
Quick Start Ideas for the Geography Classroom - Part of the Quick Tips for Teaching Geography Series

Quick Tips #1: Quick Start Ideas
Starting class in the right way helps to set the pace and the standard for effective learning throughout the day and throughout the course. Try each of these bellringer strategies to find the one (or many) that work best 
for you and your students.
Quick Start Ideas for the Geography Classroom - Part of the Quick Tips for Teaching Geography Series

Current Events
Why reserve current events for your history classes? Start off each Geography class period with a current event news report. Find reliable online sources from each state, region, or country of study to immerse your students in the happenings from that area. And don't worry about language barriers; just watching the images roll across the screen can be a great discussion starter on what your students think is happening in that part of the world!
Start off your current events trip around the world in Europe with Euronews!

Photo of the Day
Image analysis is one of the most critical skills for students to learn and practice. To emphasize this importance, start off each class period with the Photo of the Day. National Geographic provides these incredible photos for you online, and you can expand the lesson with further research or allow the students to apply prior knowledge to the image at hand.

Where in the World...?
Do you remember the Carmen Sandiego games? Give your students that same fun through a daily Where Are We prompt! List out characteristics of a place, or use these ready-made prompts, for a fun and engaging trip from the classroom to a new location each and every day!

Map Attack
Quick Start Ideas for the Geography Classroom - Part of the Quick Tips for Teaching Geography Series
Start off each class period with a game of darts! With a laminated wall map and a class set of sticky darts, let students enter class, throw their dart, and then quickly research the location of attack.  Use my Free SPRITE handout, allowing students to add each location to each category every day of the week for a 5 location summary each week!

Music Around the World
Studies have long shown that using music in the classroom can help students learn and better retain content. With that in mind, start each day with music from the region of study. The World Music Network has a great selection of music with quick and easy access. Let students listen and then respond to the sounds of the region.

Starting off with an effective bellringer not only gives you time to take attendance and prepare the last minute needs for your lesson, it also helps to get your students in the right frame of mind for learning. And if you use fun and engaging bellringers, your students are more likely to buy into the lesson and into learning in your Geography classroom!

Happy Teaching!

Teaching Diversity during Black History Month

As a high school History teacher with a set-in-stone curriculum map, the idea of stopping my lessons to insert a resource or unit on "Black History" was troubling to me. What was more troubling was the fact that, to me, the history of diversity should be taught all year long, every year. 

Both of those personal beliefs created classroom problems. 
Let me take you back...

Before my first year of teaching in my own classroom, I sat in my new space and skimmed through every resource left to me by the retiring teacher. There were sets of textbooks, black-lined dittos (that's a history lesson), and worksheets of every kind neatly stuffed into file folders in huge filing cabinets. After days of going through what that teacher of 36 years considered his greatest gift to me, the newbie, I was in tears. I stumbled into the assistant principal's office to ask what I could do.

Then she asked the big question:

What was the problem?

I let it all go! I explained that to teach history correctly, in a way that would best represent and empower all of my students, I needed resources that would help me to show them the true history, not just that of white, Anglo-saxon, Protestant, males, but the history of everyone. And preferably, in their own words. I wanted to teach my courses on Government, Geography, U.S. History, and World History from multiple perspectives and with a global focus, allowing my students to use critical thinking skills in their evaluation of varied resources.

Yes, I was very ideological and optimistic back then! I truly thought she would whip out the checkbook and hand me a list of phone numbers for the distributors of those oh, so valuable resources so they would be delivered nice and shiny by the first day of school just weeks away.

Instead, my very understanding assistant principal told me to follow her.

We walked down the hallway to the custodian's closet. She pulled out two large trash cans on wheels. We rolled them to my classroom. And then, she helped me to dump every single worksheet from the filing cabinets into the trash cans. We also stacked all of the 10 year old textbooks into a book room, leaving me just one class set on a shelf in the corner of the room.

Then she gave me a piece of advice that has changed my teaching (and truly my life) every since:
The only way you are going to get what you want is to create it yourself!

And that's what I did.  For every topic in every subject area.

After 15 years of teaching, and 5 more years of just creating these resources, I am overjoyed to see that we (the many of us in my teaching generation that broke from the book) can now provide every new teacher with the tools that will truly make learning an inclusive experience for every student in their classroom.

With all of that said, I've also come around just a bit on my "don't mess with my curriculum" attitude!  While I still believe diversity should be taught year round, I also feel we need to address diversity even more during the annual events. After all, during my 20 years in the academic world, I learned another important lesson, too. It's all about equity!

For those looking for that perfect Black History Month resource, take a look at my Important African Americans Biography Centers Activity. The resources introduces students to 12 African Americans that have truly made a difference in America through their dedication to breaking down barriers and building up citizens to create a nation in which we can all be proud.

Teaching the History of Diversity during Black History Month

And for an added activity, be sure to download my FREE Analyzing Quotes of African American Leaders Task Card Set. These are great for bell ringers or simply to help students see for themselves the great contributions made by these people of color.

Teaching the History of Diversity during Black History Month

Use the two resources together for an even more valuable lesson!

Teaching the History of Diversity during Black History Month
Happy Teaching!

The Power of Truth and Kindness in the Classroom

Teachers have long understood that students come into our classrooms with great challenges before them. They enter naive, and often willing to accept whatever is told to them as truth. They also enter filled with acceptance, yet at the same time must battle the world around them and the hatred they see and experience every day.  We teachers have to work hard to make a difference. To turn the tide in those individual lives. To teach truth and kindness.

With so much swirling in the news lately about these exact issues, I have teamed up with other teachers from TeachersPayTeachers tasked to create resources to help students learn the important lessons.  We've also pledged to make these new resources FREE FOREVER!

My TpT Store is filled with mostly Social Studies resources for grade 6-12. In tackling this project, I wanted to stay true to my store followers and to create a resource that would be valuable for their students. That brought me to the idea of creating a Experiential Exercise Walking Tour on Checking for Reliability.

In most secondary classes, we deal with two types of students when it comes to verifying information. We have those who accept everything we present as absolute truth and we have those who don't care about the information we present, making them even more gullible for misinformation.

My resource will lead students to accept misinformation, helping them to experience being duped, and allowing them to better grasp the importance of checking for reliability in anything they do.  Hopefully this lesson will go beyond the classroom, and students will learn the significance in checking for accuracy in everything they live and do in the world.

What is an Experiential Exercise?
An Experiential Exercise is a class activity with a lesson built into the tasks students will complete. By living the lesson, student gain a better understanding of how that same lesson would apply historically. These lessons can be very powerful for students, leaving them feeling both broken down and then empowered in the same day.  That emotion and buy in makes the lesson much more powerful than any other you can do in the classroom.

What is a Walking Tour?
A Walking Tour is a powerful strategy for the secondary classroom. It allows students to walk around the classroom as they learn and gather significant event on a period in history or a topic of study.  Students are provided varied resources, allowing them to better see, feel, hear, and read the information at hand. This type of strategy also appeals to all learning types, helping to draw interest into the learning process and better students engagement from all.

Experiential Exercise Walking Tour of Checking for Reliability #weholdthesetruths

An Experiential Exercise Walking Tour on Checking for Reliability
This particular activity asks students to gather information on the creation and use of the Internet. One tour group will find accurate information, while the other will collect misinformation. When students must collaborate to discuss their findings, they will encounter completely different "facts" from each side. Students will then be able to return to the tours to investigate further, examining and practicing some tools for checking source reliability. Classroom discussion should follow, where guiding questions can help students to understand the importance of checking for truth in everything they read, see, hear, and experience in the modern world.

I hope you will find great value in this lesson resource as we are all challenged with teaching our students to find the truth in our world and exhibit the kindness they should to make that world a better place.

Thank you to Desktop Learning Adventures and The ELA Buffet for sponsoring this resource hop!

Also a great thanks to Rachel Lynette and Minds In Bloom for organizing this resource project!

And please link through to find other great freebies for teaching truth and kindness in the secondary classroom.

Day of Giving 2016 #historygives

Today is the 2016 Day of Giving.  

For me, that means I am donating my TpT Store sales to my choice charities.

The top of my list is always the Make a Wish Foundation, and they will receive 80% of my sales today.  Through my donation (and others) they will fulfill the wishes of children with terminal diseases, helping them to experience their wildest dreams before their time is gone.  I'm a huge fan(atic) of Disney World, so I've seen this foundation's work in action, and my heart always beats a little faster and my eyes usually swell with tears when I see the happiness and joy in the eyes of these children and their families. It's a charity I support all year, every year, and always will.

However, I am also a huge advocate of Pay It Forward.  Pay It Forward, to me, is about so much more than the monetary donation. It is about action, mindset, and empathy. It is about helping others, but also changing yourself to see the world differently - to see it where we are all connected, interrelated, in a way where we do all depend on each other for survival, and also for happiness.

In addition to donating my sales for this one day (not enough for me), I have chosen one of my more popular and universal products, the American Geography Task Card Set, to serve as a permanent donation, with all sales going to these two charities all year (and forever).  I've marked the title of this product with #historygives and I know others in my TpT History community are also participating in this great movement.

While I have been a bit tongue-tied recently, and my blog has sat still in silence, this day has gotten my fingers moving again.  I hope it will also encourage others to dig deep into their pockets to help make a difference, not only in the lives of those closest to these charities and others participating, but also to make our world a better place where love always trumps hate!

Top 10 Websites for Online Games in the Classroom

Using Games in the Secondary Social Studies Classroom has always been a favorite tool from my teaching toolbox. However, I was always a teacher that wanted rigor in my classroom, so finding appropriate online games was always a challenge.  To help those of you still looking for the perfect sites, here are my Top 10 Websites for Online Games in the Social Studies Classroom.
Top 10 Websites for Online Games in the Social Studies Classroom
Top 10 Websites for Online Games in the Social Studies Classroom
  1. Teaching Geography (even in the History classroom) requires practice.  There is no better online source for basic Geography review than Sheppard Software.  From studies capitals to countries to landmarks and more, this site has everything you need for fun content practice!
  2. Middle School U.S. History can often be boring and mundane.  Spruce up reading about America's beginnings with the PBS Learning Mission US Video & Game Series.  Students play to learn about the start of the nation and its significant players.
  3. If you want to learn even more about Early America and the creation of the American Government, take a walk with Ben Franklin through time with Ben's Guide to the U.S. Government. This fun-filled adventure uses primary sources and age-appropriate explanation of key features of our national government.
  4. For older students, or those who like to debate, The Replica Times is a Games for Change product where fact-based debate is played out in 15 minute sessions.  Address current issues or events of the past with this student-centered activity. Don't let the basic (aged) image of the site scare you off; the game itself will keep students playing.
  5. If you are teaching a civics course, iCivics has so many great resources at your fingertips. Among their best is Argument Wars, a game where students play out arguments based on Supreme Court cases. Play to learn as you play to argue!
  6. Also found at iCivics, Executive Command is a simulation game where students play the role of the president to make decisions for the nation.  While this game is not as rigorous as it could be, the premise does help students evaluate the role of the executive office.
  7. Weebly often provides great lists, and this offering of Interactive Sites for Social Studies courses is no exception.  Link through your content area for great activities from deciphering hieroglyphics to creating a Melting Pot of American immigrants.
  8. National Geographic is another go-to place for content-strong review games.  From studying the Greek Gods to the Features of the World, National Geographic has fun activities for individual students or small groups.
  9. While Learning Games for Kids was created for the primary grades, there are a number of fun activities for simple review or for students with academic challenges. Immerse your students in jigsaw puzzles or have them play word games, but all the while they will be learning the desired Social Studies concepts.
  10. Limiting this list to just 10 websites for fun, engaging games for Social Studies is a great challenge.  This leads me to cheat on this #10 spot.  Both Game On Learning and the Utah Education Network offered great listings of games for upper grades students.  Take your pick and you won't be disappointed!
Top 10 Websites for Online Games in the Social Studies Classroom
Benefits of Online Games in the Classroom
As mentioned above, I am a long-time advocate of a rigorous, content-based classroom.  Still, there is room in that curriculum equation for appropriate games and play.  Creating the ideal Interactive Classroom require a great mix of teaching methods and instructional platforms.  Don't feel like you need to always do the one thing that works; instead mix it up to find the greatest benefit for all students in your secondary classroom.

Want more?
Be sure to read through all of my other posts on game play in the interactive classroom.  Creating a classroom culture where play is still acceptable and even encouraged creates a climate where students want to learn.

And if you are looking for ready to go games and fun activities for your Social Studies classroom that are printable, visit my TpT Store Games Section.  Look through content-based games or my very popular Human Game Boards for any review!

Happy Teaching!

Top 10 Websites for Teaching with Primary Sources in the Secondary Classroom

Whether you are teaching in a Common Core State, trying to address the NCSS C-3 Framework, or simply hoping to teach students the value of history in their lives, using primary sources is the key to helping students experience a bit of history for greater and deeper historical thought and inquiry.  Try these Top 10 Websites for Teaching with Primary Sources in your Secondary Classroom!
Top 10 Websites for Teaching with Primary Sources in the Secondary Classroom
Teaching with Primary Sources can be a great challenge in our social media world. Students are exceptionally challenged with knowing the difference between primary and secondary sources, but are also confronted with online resources that are often modified or adapted to fit modern goals or to state current perspectives.  This places the burden on teachers to find quality primary sources for teaching in the modern classroom.

Top 10 Websites for Teaching with Primary Sources in the Secondary Classroom

Top 10 Websites for Teaching with Primary Sources in the Secondary Classroom
  1. EyeWitness to History has to be my top pick for primary sources. This website has compiles eye witness accounts, incredible images, and even quality video clips from events throughout time.  However, my favorite section of the website is Voices from the Past with sound clips that take you back in time. 
  2. The Library of Congress has always been my go-to resource for primary sources.  With images and documents galore, there are so many possibilities lurking around every corner.  
  3. Another incredible American staple for primary sources is the Smithsonian.  Smithsonian Education provides digital (and print on request) resources for classroom use, and many are truly a step into the past.  Collections also provide classroom suggestions and activity plans for easy implementation.  And if you are looking for a more verbal representation of primary sources from the past, visit SmithsonianMagazine online for great stories with verified resources.
  4. Traveling and history are my passions, so the National Parks are often on my list.  In addition to providing amazing natural retreats, the National Parks System also provides incredible primary source teaching packages.  Request a Traveling Trunk for tools to take your students back in time and to inspire their next vacation destination! 
  5. is the place to go if you are wanting to teach an American History or Government course with primary sources.  Take a look at the 100 Milestone Documents link for the turning points in our nation's past.
  6. For American History research projects with primary sources, the starting place should be The National Archives.  When visiting Washington, D.C., this is always a required stop for teachers, and the online site will impress just as much!
  7. PBS Learning has long been a teacher resource for great lessons about our past.  In its updated version, you can find great primary sources and learning tools to engage students in topics of the past and present.  Visit Election Central for up-to-date presidential election resources.
  8. For those wanting to examine the speeches that have carved out America's path through time, take a look at American Rhetoric's Top 100 Speeches.  Download files in pdf or mp3 format for a whole different learning experience.
  9. NewseumEd is another great website for primary sources and artifacts that will bring learning alive for your students. While their teaching resources are still rudimentary, the learning materials are some of the best you will find online.
  10. While I do love images for teaching about the past, my next favorite resources are newspapers.  Newspapers provide the best of both worlds, while also adding a touch of bias for examination!  And there are two quality websites for searching the topics of interest to your students.  The Library of Congress' Humanities Project provides a great search tool that is easy to use, but the BSGU Newspaper Page has an amazing listing of newspaper resources that go back hundreds of years.
Top 10 Websites for Teaching with Primary Sources in the Secondary Classroom
Top 10 Websites for Teaching with Primary Sources in the Secondary Classroom
Top 10 Websites for Teaching with Primary Sources in the Secondary Classroom
And of course, I love to use primary sources in the creation of my TeachersPayTeachers products.  Find my bundled sets, or search my individual products for just what you need in your Secondary Social Studies classroom!

Happy Teaching!

Top 10 Websites for Teaching Geography in the Social Studies Classroom

Teaching Geography is one of my favorite subjects. There is so much to learn, but more importantly, there is so much in our world that is just fascinating to see and hear more about!  The best part about teaching in our Internet world is that it's all now available for your students just a click away!  And I've even done the work for you in compiling this list of the 10 best!

Top 10 Websites for Teaching Geography in the Secondary Social Studies Classroom

Top 10 Websites for Teaching Geography
  1. National Geographic - National Geographic has to be at the top of the list. With vivid images, incredible stories, and deep examinations of all parts of the world, they set the standard for any World Geography study.
  2. Sheppard Software - I love using games for review and Sheppard Software has them all.  From the continents to the capitals to geographic features, they have everything you need to allow your students to practice their knowledge without the intimidation of more structured assessments!
  3. - This website is designed specifically for the study of Geography.  Enter as a student or teacher and find verified links for any type of content or activity you want.  For those classrooms using Genius Hour, this is a great tool for product development.
  4. World Geography Games - Another great site for skills and content practice, this one has every topic possible for your students to play to learn all about World Geography.
  5. The World Geography - Not your traditional Geography fact-finding website, but instead this one offers amazing images and imaginative stories to bring Geography alive for your students.
  6. The U.S. Census Bureau - Now if you want facts, this is the place to go.  The Census Bureau has all of the details on every stat you can imagine, all in an easy to search and organize format.
  7. Fact Monster - Speaking of facts, the FactMonster has it all.  With a long list of Geographic topics, you can find many options for immersing your students in research!
  8. Social Studies for Kids - While not a visually appealing website, this one does have good, solid content for studies the basics of Geography. Whether you need to know the major bodies of water or how to read longitude and latitude, this one has the answers with easy to read explanations.
  9. Duckster's Geography for Kids - For great maps and descriptions of basic Geographic facts, this is the place to go.  Maps are clear and introductory information is provided for each region of the world in a very well organized manner.
  10. Science Kids Geography - For those who integrate Science and Social Studies, this is the site for you.  From basic Geographic facts to the Scientific explanation behind our world's geography, this is the site!
And if this isn't enough... Take a look at these two posts for even more suggestions!
  • The Arlington Public Library compiled these 5 Great Geography Websites for traveling families, but they are also perfect for the classroom! 
  • And if you like lists, the Top Site List offers their picks on the best Geography Sites for studying Geography!
Top 10 Websites for Teaching Geography in the Secondary Social Studies Classroom
Finally, whether you are teaching a full World Geography course or simply want to add in Geographic knowledge to your History or Social Studies class, this complete collection of resources is all you need! Link to individual units or products, or take advantage of the huge bundle for everything you need in the Secondary Social Studies classroom!

Happy Teaching!