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43+ Strategies for Meeting Any Educational Standards

Need Strategies to make your classroom more interactive and engaging this school year?  Take a look at these 43+ Strategies for Meeting ANY Educational Standards!
Find great strategies that can be used in any classroom to meet any educational standards. The more you focus on the strategies and the students, the easier it will be to check off those standards boxes!

Keep in mind that standards are written in the hopes that you will meet a specific goal with your students. How you get there is up to you!

43+ Strategies for Meeting the Standards
  • I'm starting with this post with Quick Tips for Teaching Geography. While it is for a Geography course, the strategies suggested can apply to any course and can keep your students engaged from day 1. 
  • This next Quick Tips post introduces strategies for Introducing New Content! It suggests changing things up to keep students excited about learning.
  • Teaching Cause & Effect is a standard across curriculums  and one that is required in every single district. It is a foundational learning tool, and this post gives you a number of great ideas for teaching the skill.
  • Even before the common core standards were introduced, teachers taught Informational Texts. This post gives you tried and true strategies for keeping it real!
  • Teaching with Primary Sources is another task for teachers across all curriculums and through all grades. This post lists off the options so you can check all the boxes on your standard's list.
  • When the Common Core State Standards came out, we all took off trying to wrap our existing standards into the new morph. What we eventually realized was that the old was not that different than the new. This post addresses the standards, but provides Sound Strategies for any classroom and any standard.
  • Another Great List can be found in this attack on the CCSS. See if the ideas will work in your classroom with your standards.
  • Do you Use Texts in your classroom?  The term text took on a whole new meaning with CCSS, but this post sets the record straight on what is and isn't text! Find strategies and tips along with that clarification!
  • We all teach Vocabulary! It's a must in every classroom and students usually dread the boring vocabulary lessons. Change it up with these strategies!
  • Examining Text Structure was a new one for CCSS, but it was really just an old chore with a new name. Take a look at this post for different ways your students can evaluate their resources while addressing the standards and reaching beyond.
  • If we all understood how to interpret Point of View, we would live in a world with much less conflict! Take a look at these strategies to help your students learn this valuable skill!
Find great strategies that can be used in any classroom to meet any educational standards. The more you focus on the strategies and the students, the easier it will be to check off those standards boxes!Want more?  This is an Incredible Listing of Strategies by one of my favorite organizations, Facing History. Their strategies work for all classrooms and subject areas, and they also teach other amazing lessons. 
  
And one other thing to consider... Why are you working toward the standards?  That's an interesting question we all need to answer before we ever step foot into the classroom. What's your answer?

Take a look here for my answer to that very important question!

Happy Teaching!

How I Use Highlighters in the Secondary Classroom

Color is important!  In my classroom, we color coded everything. And to do that, highlighters became a very important tool!  I'm sure your students already use highlighters in your classes, but do they use them in the most effective ways?  Check out these quick tips to see what will work best for your students.
Quick tips and ideas for using highlighters effectively in the secondary classroom.

Categorization & Organization
Almost every post I write talks about the need for categorization and organization. I often encourage the use of graphic organizers and suggest tools to help your students record and recall content. Highlighters can be one of the most those effective tools for your visual learners.  Whether you establish set criteria for each color, or you simply use the highlighters for keeping track of important facts, these versatile tools will keep your students focused and help them to "see" the content on the page.

Primary Source Analysis
The skill of primary source analysis should #1 in the Social Studies classroom. Primary sources help us to identify bias, to ascertain multiple perspectives, and to examine the key features of a particular time period.   Highlighters can be used to identify each of those aspects and to pick through the rhetoric often included in documented sources.

Comparison
One of the most challenging tasks in the Social Studies is that of comparison. While T-Charts and Venn Diagrams can help with larger tasks, highlighters can be the quick go-to for easy alignment for later attention.

Fun!
Why should learning be boring? Sometimes, putting a little color onto our pages helps our brains awaken for better focus.  Have students highlight as they read, highlight around sections of reading, or highlight the borders of the page to brighten the subject matter!

However you choose to use highlighters in your classroom, they should be a tool that is always available for your students. Remember that we each learn in different ways; what works for one may not work for others.  Making highlighters or markers, or even crayons, available to your students simply gives them more visual and kinesthetic ways in which to process your classroom content!

Happy Teaching!

The Many Uses for Index Cards

In the old days, Index Cards were one of the most valuable resources for a research-based classroom. But with the introduction of Interactive Notebooks and then technology tools, the index card became a thing of the past. That shouldn't be the case. After all, index cards have many uses, and all of them can help students to learn skills vital for academic development.
 There are many ways to use index cards in the classroom. Here are just a few simple strategies that could have huge impacts on student learning.

Tried and True Uses for Index Cards
If you ever took an advanced or AP course in high school, you most likely learned to gather, record, and organize facts onto practical, white index cards. Think about the skills associated with that task...
  1. Fact Collection - keep in mind that processing information for retention is a multi-step process. Using index cards for basic fact collection helps students learn the skills of analysis and decision-making.
  2. Chronological Thinking - learning before and after or cause and effect can be challenging tasks in the Social Studies classroom. Writing out dates with simple annotations on index cards and allowing students to place the events in chronological order can help them to identify those changes.
  3. Categorization - using varied colors of index cards, or simply adding identification markers (stars, hearts, crosses...) to cards can help students learn to group like terms, facts, or characteristics. As students practice this skill, they will learn to evaluate information at a more in-depth level, increasing their knowledge and analytical skills.
  4. Vocabulary Development - students have long written terms and definitions onto index cards for memorization. Take that a few steps more to have students apply context, unit significance, and appropriate categorization of terms. 
  5. Game Play - practice does make perfect, and playing memory games can not only help to practice the terms or the content of study, but it also stretches the muscles in the brain and sparks activity to help enrich the brains capacity for learning. Use index cards to create a number of different game formats with your content.
  6. Thought Organization - while thinking maps have become all the rage, so can index card maps. Use them to jot down thoughts or opinions and create a web on the board or on the floor, aligning common thoughts or comparing the opposites.
  7. Reading Cards - as students read, index cards can be the easiest way to jot down significant plot events, character developments, and theme concepts. Keep the cards stored in the book pages to help chart reading development and book analysis.
  8. Research - for classes where Genius Hour has become a way of life, index cards can help students from the brainstorming stage to product completion. Start with ideas, eliminate down to common thread, use cards to develop ideas, record facts and additional content through research, and then organize for product development. 
  9. Think-Pair-Share - read through this post for 10 different ways to implement THINK-PAIR-SHARE activities in your classroom and then use the index cards to allow students to record the activity development. 
  10. Assessment - for daily formative assessment, index cards can be the quickest, easiest to handle, and easiest to grade way to go! Give each students a card each week, and have them add their exit response to the card at the end of each class period. Collect the cards as students leave the room. Grade. Repeat!  At the end of the week, hole-punch the cards and give them to students to keep in their notebooks for assessment prompt review (and text preparation)!
There are many ways to use index cards in the classroom. Here are just a few simple strategies that could have huge impacts on student learning.
There are probably hundreds of other ideas for using index cards in the classroom. This is just the tip of the iceberg!  What are your ideas?

Happy Teaching!

Lunchtime for Teachers

 Coming up with creative ideas for school lunches can be a challenge. These quick ideas are great for allowing variation, flavor, and ease!School Lunch? Yuck! I hated it as a child and still hate it as an adult. The slop of food onto a tray or even a plate is not my idea of a nice meal meant to refresh me and give me a boost for the rest of my school day!  But I also hate slimy lunch meat and mayo-based salads.  What to do?  Come up with new ideas for creating a school lunch that I could eat and enjoy. Oh, and without the stress and mess of some other meal ideas!

Meal Preparation
For me, lunch must be easy to prepare. If it requires hours in the kitchen or costly ingredients, it's just not for me!  I also love freshness. Who doesn't?  I don't want something that has set out for hours or has turned into slime before it gets to my taste-buds!

Meal Storage
Since I first started teaching, access to comforts has greatly changed. I used to have to tightly pack my meals in saran wrap to place them in the teacher's lounge refrigerator to keep them from being contaminated by the green, furry leftovers of my colleagues. Now, we have thermal lunch boxes, cooling storage trays, and mini-fridges that can really make your day!
 Coming up with creative ideas for school lunches can be a challenge. These quick ideas are great for allowing variation, flavor, and ease!
Recipes
Despite the ease and access now available in preparing and storing our foods, flavor is the most important part of planning for lunchtime.  If the flavor isn't there, what's the point? And also important is the variety! I cannot eat the same thing day after day. I know that generations past lived on potatoes for every meal, but now there is just so much more to choose from out there!
 I know... You want the ideas and recipes now!
Here you go:
 Coming up with creative ideas for school lunches can be a challenge. These quick ideas are great for allowing variation, flavor, and ease! Coming up with creative ideas for school lunches can be a challenge. These quick ideas are great for allowing variation, flavor, and ease!

 Coming up with creative ideas for school lunches can be a challenge. These quick ideas are great for allowing variation, flavor, and ease! Coming up with creative ideas for school lunches can be a challenge. These quick ideas are great for allowing variation, flavor, and ease! Coming up with creative ideas for school lunches can be a challenge. These quick ideas are great for allowing variation, flavor, and ease!

Yum! So many options!  Now, just remember that you need to eat! Teaching is the most important job out there, but we need to take time to keep ourselves healthy! Eat that lunch!

Happy Teaching!


The Power of the Gel Pen

The power of the pen has definitely changed since I started teaching many years ago. Well, actually it is the pen itself that has changed. We've gone from the reliable wooden pencil that required sharpening every so often to the mechanical pencil that kept us working until a needed refill to the erasable pen for even longer use, and now we find ourselves overtaken by the power of the 
many wonderful colors and amazing flow of the gel pen!

It is an amazing tool. It brings our secondary classrooms to life, filling in the grey with sparks of color, some beyond imagination. But, beyond the lively addition of color to our lessons, what other value can be found in the mighty pen?
The power of the pen has changed in the classroom, and these suggestions for using gel pens can take your lessons from droll to delightful!

My daughter could give me 1000 reasons to use colored gel pens in the classroom. After all, she is a visual learner. At age 26, she squealed with joy at a recent present I gave her of an adult coloring book and a set of 60 (yes, 60) gel pens, including some with glitter!  Her excitement was even further extended when she got home to try out all of her colors, posting for me her completed picture on Facebook.  However, despite her true joy, I have to see things in a more concrete manner. I need purpose.

Purpose for the Pen
The power of the pen has changed in the classroom, and these suggestions for using gel pens can take your lessons from droll to delightful!The gel pens sold today can be a pleasure to use. They glide along the paper and induce a desire to add to your writing; to expand on ideas, to include details. This purpose is the most valuable!  For secondary teachers, the challenge with many students is not in assessing what they know, but getting them to express it in writing. The gel pen somehow has magic in the ink that brings young writers to life.

Application of the Pen
The power of the pen has changed in the classroom, and these suggestions for using gel pens can take your lessons from droll to delightful!Beyond the basic purpose for using pens in the classroom, there is also content application for the varied colors. In my classroom, SPRITE is an acronym we often use for categorizing anything related to Social Studies. History texts, current events articles, charts, graphs, images.... you name it, SPRITE works wonders to categorize it for future application.  And the gel pens? They help with that categorization. When Social is PURPLE and Intellectual is PINK, you can clearly begin to see the information fall into place in the minds of students. They can quickly retrieve the TEAL religious fact and explain its significance as compared to the GREEN technological components. They can see which colors dominate in a piece of text and can make judgements about categorical significance.

The Value of the Doodle
Finally, there is the value of the doodle.  While some teachers are aggravated by the doodle - Hello Mr. Silas Neslon, my high school Chemistry teacher in 1985! - others understand that this helps our creative juices flow even more. Doodling has been shown to help us brainstorm more effectively, to help us categorize and organize more efficiently, and to help us produce with higher levels of understanding and functioning.
The power of the pen has changed in the classroom, and these suggestions for using gel pens can take your lessons from droll to delightful!
Even though I am no where near as creative as my daughter or many of my students, I still love to use my colored gel pens. They give me a fresh glimpse of life! They take my day from droll to delightful, and what could be better than that?!

Happy Teaching!

Quick Tips for Teaching Geography: Introducing Content

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 Tips for Teaching Geography: Easy to implement strategies for introducing content...

Quick Tips #4: Introducing Content
Unlike teaching chronologically in a History course, teaching Geography requires introducing varied content in a more thematic manner which can often be more challenging for students and teachers alike. Finding the right strategies for introducing content in the Geography classroom can make all the difference. Here are a few of my favorites! 

 Quick Tips for Teaching Geography: Easy to implement strategies for introducing content...
Walking Tours
When attempting to introduce large amounts of content for comparison or general understanding, the Walking Tour is the greatest strategy to encourage student participation and content retentionWalking Tours can help students view multiple topics (or locations) at the same time and concisely record pertinent data for each for later comparison. Follow the link above for greater detail in creating or implementing a walking tour and take a look at ready-to-go Walking Tour Resources that will benefit both you and your students. For a very comprehensive overview of Asian Nations, take a look at this Walking Tour of Asia!

Case Studies
If your goal is to introduce focused content on a specific topic, Case Studies are the way to go. Whether you use a provided reading, or allow students to search for their own reliable resources, case studies can help students to take an in-depth look for consideration or debate. They can be adapted to any time allotment and can guide students into thorough investigation on content topics of study.

 Quick Tips for Teaching Geography: Easy to implement strategies for introducing content...Response Groups
With so much content in the Geography classroom balancing on controversial topics, one strategy that works very well in the Response Group.  In a Response Group activity, students will thoroughly investigate a subtopic to discuss in a small group before reporting out to the larger class population. These may include debatable topics or simply various categories on a larger topic. See this archived Response Group post for greater detail.

Scavenger Hunts
No matter how you choose to use a scavenger hunt, it will be fun and engaging for students, helping them to better learn and retain the content.  Set them up with the content provided for reading practice or allow students to research online. Either way, reading and analysis skills will be practiced while the content is collected!

Centers and Stations
Similar to a Walking Tour, centers or stations can provide an effective way to disperse large amounts of content in a small period of time. Students can move from location to location, or the materials can be moved from student group to student group. In addition to providing reading material, additional resources, such as music, video, artifacts, primary sources, etc. can be added to help engage students and keep them interested in the learning process. In addition to serving the purpose of introducing content, centers and stations also serve as a wonderful strategy for skills practice and review.

No matter which strategies you choose to use, be sure to mix it up. Change in the classroom is a good thing, and varied strategies, like varied resources are the key to keeping students engaged and excited about learning!

Happy Teaching!

Quick Tips for Teaching Geography: Mapping Practice

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 #3: Mapping Practice
Mapping is a vital skill to learn in the Geography classroom, and there are so many great strategies that we can use to make learning and practicing that skill fun and engaging. Here are a few to get your started in your Geography classroom.

Quick Tips for Teaching Geography Mapping Practice in the Geography Classroom

Basic Outline Maps & Competition
One without the other does not quite do it, but when you add the two together, you get a challenging exercise that engages students and fires them up for learning. Start with a blank map of the region you wish to teach, add an atlas, and have your students begin filling in the states, countries... Each day of the unit, begin limiting the atlas use. And then, once your students learn the locations, start to limit the time. You'll be surprised how quickly students can accurately label all of the countries in a region when a stopwatch is ticking and small reward are at stake!

Map Obstacle Course
Quick Tips for Teaching Geography Mapping Practice in the Geography ClassroomWhen students can be up and moving, they are more excited about participating AND learning. Set up a small obstacle course in your classroom. Place students into teams of 5-6. Call out the name of one location for students to find in an atlas or on a wall map at the end of the course. The first team to find all of the locations wins! Make the obstacle course related to cultural games or tasks of the region for added content connections!

Making a Map

There is nothing better for reinforcing skills than using your hands to create a related product. So, for teaching about the states or countries, make a map! But don't just have students label a blank outline, let them build the maps. Create in 3-D format or have students add virtual elements to their displays. And to make it even more enticing, have students add a taste of each location to their maps with local favorites they can make at home!

Mapping History
Mapping locations can be boring, so make your lessons more engaging by adding in the basics of history. Allow students to add pop-up timelines or to color in the characteristics of important events. Follow a specific listing of historic events for a region, or allow students to choose fun events as they research the location on their own. Pop-up maps can bring both the Geography and the History to life.

Topographic Map Making
And saving the best for last... making topographic maps to study regions and their geographic imprint is the most fun you can have in a Geography class. Whether you are in grade 6 or grade 12, your students will love digging their hands into the clay to complete map building projects that will amaze your eyes and brains!

Teaching with maps in the Geography classroom should be an every day event. And when you make that event more engaging, and even fun, you keep them coming back for more!

Be sure to check out my Quick Tips category (on the right side of this blog) for more great ideas for your Geography or History classroom.

Happy Teaching!