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Have You Found Your Game?

Most Social Studies classrooms and synonymous with heavy reading and content learning.  They are seldom discussed in terms of play, fun, or interaction.  
And that is sad!

So, Have You Found Your Game?
Playing games is HISTORIC, and in the Social Studies classroom, has so many benefits.  First, and most importantly, they can debunk the myth that Social Studies is boring!  But, beyond settling myths, take a look at the many other great benefits:

  • can be used to introduce, review, or assess content and student learning.
  • allow all students to participate and remain involved in the learning process.
  • encourage relaxed competition between students.
  • can be utilized as an individual activity, for small groups, or between whole classes.
  • motivate all levels of students to push themselves to higher expectations.
  • help lower level students feel valuable in the classroom.
  • reward higher level students for meeting their self-set learning goals.
And the list could go on and on.

That brings us to the next question:  How can you bring games into your highly structured Social Studies classroom without lessening the rigor of your course?

Here are a few of my ideas:
  1. Play BINGO to introduce key terms or unit vocabulary.
  2. Use a Word Wall Game to record key terms, people or places.
  3. Play Pin the Flag on the Map or any other Map Locating Game to review locations.
  4. Toss a Globe to practice identifying countries of the world. (Inflatables at Dollar Tree!)
  5. Allow your students to create Game Boards to review any topic or content.
  6. Set up a Human Game Board in your classroom to review full units.
  7. Play classroom Jeopardy to review content. (Templates are online everywhere!)
  8. Assign pairs or small groups Matching Game activities to help students make connections.
  9. Play "I Am..." or "To Tell the Truth" to share significant people in history.
  10. Use Scavenger Hunts to encourage student research and investigation or for unit review!
And that's just the tip of the iceberg!  The ideas online are endless and the resources are plenty!

Happy Teaching!

Make Your Move... In Classroom Seating

For the first few weeks of school, my students are tortured with sitting in straight rows, all assigned a specific spot for my benefit.  I am not a name person, so learning the names, first and last, of 200+ students is my most frustrating teacher obligation.  But then, as I start to get the names, I feel more comfortable to make my move.  And then comes the question:

How do I arrange the desks?

Now keep in mind, I continue to have seating charts until... Oh, about the last week of school!  I think that structure and clear expectations are vital for a successful classroom, but I also love to change things up!  One of the greatest compliments I ever received from my students was, "I never know what to expect from you!" 

So, why move the desks?  Varying up the seating arrangements has a number of clear benefits:
  • Students can focus more on the activity at hand.
  • Greater interaction can take place between students.
  • Activities or lessons can be implemented in an easier or more logical format.
  • Classroom management can be more easily achieved.
  • Student relationships can be molded and modeled.
And then the best reason... Just to keep them guessing!  Stimulating brain activity just by moving my desks was the start to engaging lessons.  As students entered the classroom each day, they asked,

"What are we doing today?" 
"Is this one of those activities you do?" 
"Are we doing something fun?" 

And I could always answer, "Yes!"

How can you vary things up?
  1. Arrange for group small group interaction and response required group work.
  2. Pair for analysis activities and pair discussion and sharing activities.
  3. Circle for whole class discussion or direct instruction.
  4. Set in straight lines for timelining activities or cause-and-effect lessons.
  5. Do a wall-face for individual assignments where focus in imperative.
  6. Arrange in staggering rows for testing or assessments.
And then one final note... Sometimes students entered my classroom to find all desks against the back wall.  These were the most valuable and engaging days!  This meant we were doing a walking tour, and archeology dig, a review game, or even better, we were all going to sit in the floor to discuss a topic dear to my heart and to share our thoughts as a group. 

In the end, it's not about the seats.  It's about making the move to encourage student connections.  What could be more valuable in a Social Studies classroom?

Happy Teaching!

A Triple B Giveaway!

Everyone loves a Giveaway!

Jump over to 2 Peas and a Dog as she celebrates her 3 Bs:  Her Birthday, Back to School, and her Blogversary!  And don't forget to register to win one of many great prize packages!

Happy Winning!

Teaching Styles and Strategies: Change It Up!

Most likely, you have taught your first few days or weeks with a safe and dependable teaching style.  You have used the same methods or strategies that you've practiced in years before, and you are comfortable.  So... it's time to Change It Up!

Stepping out of our comfort zones is always a challenge, but the task is a requirement for the benefit of our students.  And the easiest way to justify this for yourself is to answer the following question:
Are this year's students the same as last years?

If your answer is NO, your old style just may not be effective.  If your answer is YES, think about last year.  What has changed in the world since then?  Do your students have more internet access?  Are they more engaged in social media?  Are their parents more or less involved?  Do they care more or less about learning?  And most importantly, were your methods 100% successful last year?  If not:

Change It Up!
Changing your teaching style can be a difficult task IF you are resistant!  So relax!  Tackle the challenge like you would work in a new pair of shoes!
  • Add new methods and strategies one at a time.  
  • Seek ideas from the superstar teachers in your building or district.
  • Request feedback from your students after implementing new strategies.
  • Follow blogs and other online resources, including webinars, for new ideas.
  • Find great activities that will change up the norm.
  • Switch up seating arrangements to change the classroom climate.
  • Allow students a greater role in content selection and instructional delivery.
  • Display student work and evaluate the learning that IS evident through the assessments.
  • Open up your personality and recreate yourself in your classroom.
  • Accept that teaching is 99% performance, and train accordingly!
Transforming your classroom can be a great challenge, but the benefits for your students can be tremendous. More importantly, as you learn to change things up, you will find a level of stress relief you may not have known before.  Teaching can be fun!

Find interactive, student-centered activities in My TpT Store!

Happy Teaching!

Start the School Year with Great Tools in Your Teacher Toolbox!

The tools you provide your students in the first weeks of school will be the ones that have the greatest impact on your students' success.  Introduce them to valuable learning skills, and help them to create their own learning tool box that can guide them through their academic careers!

One super tool is the skill of analysis.  More importantly, teaching them to use and analyze primary sources can integrate two important skills into one!  Analyzing primary sources will also open their eyes to the many different perspectives in historic and current events that will help them to become better citizens now and in the future.

What's in Your Tool Box?

There are many tricks to teach the skill of analysis, but there are a few FACTS about the process that should always be followed.
  1. Always start with what is seen, heard, etc.  This first step is crucial for setting the stage for more critical analysis.  In addition, every student can answer this basic question, requiring their participation and giving them confidence.
  2. Most primary sources should be open to interpretation.  This is a hard one for most teachers, especially in this day and age of testing, where the businessmen who create our assessments seem to think there is always only one right answer to everything in life!  Buck this!  We each see things differently, and the value in this is in the PROCESS, not the result!
  3. Develop questions in a spiraling format with the goal of reaching a critical level of understanding in every analysis.  Again, there will often NOT be a key for the right answer!
  4. MOST IMPORTANT: Let your students do the work!  They WILL, without fail, call you over to ask if they are right or what you think.  Resist the urge to interfere!  Interpretation is in the eye of the analyzer, and you must let it be their own work, right or wrong!
Need a resource to help you get started?  Try my "Causes of the Civil War Primary Source Analysis Activity."  It's FREE!  And then if you need more... take a look through the Analysis Section of My TpT Store.  You will find activities for U.S. History, World History, Geography, and more!

And my newest addition... A Full Bundle of my Primary Source Handouts from the Civil War through Modern Day.  It's an 84 page bundle covering key topics from the mid-1800s through current U.S. events.  What a great way to start the year!

What else is should be in your tool box?  Hmmm... we will see!

Happy Teaching!

The Importance of Cheating for the New Generation

Way back in the old days, when I attended high school, we were mainly taught through the reading of textbooks, the writing of notes, and rote memorization.  There were no other tried and true strategies, and classroom teachers were held to the norm that had been set by generations before.  

With the introduction of technology, and a new generation of visually stimulated learners, we are forced to try new strategies in our classrooms to reel them all into our lessons.  And then there is the issue of state and national testing.  We must make the scores!  

So, what do we do to engage our students, and help them to "learn" the materials they must to pass?

We teach them to CHEAT!

I should explain... We need to teach them how to cheat their brains!  We need to teach them how to use tools and how to practice skills to help them achieve at the level expected.

These tools are actually easy to find, and I will not waste your time in reciting them all here.  Just google key phrases such as multiple intelligences strategies, or teaching methods, learning styles, etc.  You will find an assortment of great ideas!

However, I will introduce one of my favorites!  And it is a bit old school!  After all, how many of you could tell me how to do Math equations without reciting "Please excuse my dear Aunt Sally?" or remember the colors of the rainbow without thinking of good ole "Roy G. Biv" and his classic name!

Use word games to cheat the system and to cheat the brain!  One of my absolute favorites?  Acronyms!  I've just started creating a whole series of reading handouts with SPRITE Acronym Organizers for the Social Studies classroom.  They are easy to explain, use, and organize.  And more importantly, they help students to retain and recall the content they need AND to organize and explain it in a way that answers the BIG QUESTIONS!

What is SPRITESPRITE is just one of many, but here goes:

S - Social
P - Political
R - Religious
I - Intellectual
T - Technological
E - Economic

Top that off by asking for the Big Picture and the topic's Significance in History, and you have a complete analysis and critical thinking activity that will help your students prepare for that big test, and any course they will study in their futures!

Want to try it?  Here's a freebie!  This set includes the student guide and a general organizer!

And then come back for SPRITE Sets with Reading Sheets, A Student Guide, the SPRITE Organizer, and a Teacher Key.  And new topics are being added as I can get them completed!

But remember... this is just one tool that should be included in your teacher toolbox!  Even in the acronym section, you could...

Give them a taste of SPRITE!
Let them eat GRAPES!
Send them to PERSIA!
Or even sacrifice them to the PIRATES!

It's up to you!  What tool will you use?

Happy Teaching!

Secondary Sellers Blast Off for a Big Sale!

Blast off! 

To the Super Secondary Yearbook Past! 

It's time for the TpT Back to School Site Wide Sale

Up to 28% off with your promo code at checkout: 

 August 4th and 5th, 2014 

 Link to Participating Sellers Stores Below Image:
 Yearbook Image Created by Danielle Knight of Study All Knight
Participating Stores:

The Career Ready Teacher Http:// 

Happy Shopping!