menu   Home About Me TpT Shop Conferences Travels  

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!

Top 15 Websites for Teaching Current Events in the Secondary Social Studies Classroom

Teaching Current Events is so important for the secondary classroom, but finding content-strong, student-appropriate sites can be such a challenge.  To make it easier on you, I've compiled these Top 15 Websites for Teaching Current Events!  I hope they will help you take your students out of the classroom so they can be more knowledgeable on the world in which we live.

Top 15 Websites for Teaching Current Events Websites in the Secondary Social Studies Classroom

Top 15 Websites for Teaching Current Events
  1. Student News Daily - This is not only a great website for up to date information and breaking news, but they also provide great questions and prompts for student analysis and evaluation of the news content. Be sure to take a look at the Editorial Cartoon section to give your students relevant practice of this vital Social Studies skill!
  2. Time for Kids - TfK is a great source for current news and information, but is also great at making it relevant for kids! They take the mundane and focus on aspects they will draw the interest of the younger readers.  The site also offers lessons and resources for teachers, making teaching current events a breeze.
  3. CNN Student News - For breaking world and national news events, this is the place to go.  CNN is best at providing the facts, and this student section will present the information in a manner that educates without inducing fear or anxiety for younger readers.
  4. Smithsonian Magazine - The Smithsonian is always the go-to location for American History, and it is also the go-to for national news and events.  Focusing on interest articles and research-based stories, the online magazine brings a different view to many of the big stories of the day.
  5. National Geographic - This is definitely the first stop for Geographic studies, and if you want to bring Geography into your every day History lessons, this is the place to start.  National Geographic is also very skilled at putting that fun twist in their stories to engage readers, and we all know about those amazing pictures opening up our eyes to the world!
  6. Town Hall - While you can always read the news stories presented at this Town Hall website, it is much more fun to listen to the news updates on the top of each hour.  In the History classroom, this taste of the past can help your kids travel to the past and learn at the same time.
  7. Breaking News - For this most current of current news, this is the place to go.  Watch as the homepage updates before your eyes, breaking the news as soon as it becomes available.
  8. The New York Times Learning Network - This amazing site is not only a great source for current event articles, but it also offers amazing resources for teachers.  Complete lesson plans walk students through analyzing news reports and allows practice so vital in the Social Studies classroom.
  9. DOGO News - While this website was created for the primary grades, it offers leveled readings all the way through grade 8.  More importantly, for the high school classroom, this site provides relevant content for those students not quite on grade level or those early language learners.
  10. Social Studies for Kids - As well as providing great maps, timelines, listings, and more, current events are linked to help students stay up to day with the news of the world. Listings of each year's current events can also be found, helping students examine the recent world history so often overlooked.
  11. Scholastic News Magazine - This is another website that provides current news as well as teaching resources so students can get the most from their current event reading experience.  
  12. Headline Spot for Kids - An amazing compilation of links, this site breaks the news into searchable categories helpful for targeting students interest or topics for further research.
  13. HereThereEverywhere - This fun site offers news with a twist for younger readers.  The topics are arranged in categories, but are written with greater zest to keep readers engaged and ready to learn. Take a look through their archives for interesting research prompts or topics of study for those who finish assignments early!
  14. Wall Street Journal World - Secondary students should be reading relevant world news at an adult reading level.  Despite their current reading abilities, exposing them to real news articles can pique interest and desire for greater reading abilities.  More importantly, delving into the "real" news sites can keep students tied to real current events, better preparing them for the world ahead.
  15. The BBC - One of the greatest lessons we can learn in our U.S. and World History classes is that America can be perceived differently by those outside of our borders.  Allowing students to read from foreign news press opens up their eyes to those varying points of view, not just about our nation, but about the whole world.
Teaching with current events is so important in the middle and high school classroom. Not only does it help students better understand the events of the past, it also helps them better prepare for the future.

Happy Teaching!

How to Teach with Big Paper in the Secondary Classroom

Teaching with big paper in the secondary classroom is not a big secret.  It is a tool from the past that holds incredible value for middle and high school students, and it's use can encourage a classroom climate and classroom participation that is otherwise not achievable. 
How to teach with big paper in the secondary classroom

Activities Using Big Paper in the Secondary Classroom
  1. Reflective Activities - This is the most valuable use for Big Paper!  With students often hesitant to share their personal thoughts or feelings, allowing them to share their thoughts and opinions in an anonymous manner opens doors for amazing sharing and contributions that will prompt greater thought and collaboration.
  2. Thought-Provoking Activities - There are many lessons we must teach in the secondary classroom that are hard lessons to learn.  It's not the skills that make them challenging, it's the content itself.  Using Big Paper in a quiet classroom provides the setting where students can think, process, and contribute.  These fostered quiet discussions can be better controlled than am oral discussion, and can yield much deeper contributions.
  3. Emotional Lessons - Some content taught (especially in the Social Studies classroom) can draw on the heart-strings of students.  Teaching these in a silent setting with Big Paper allows students to address their emotions with the content, while also tackling the fear and anxiety that often comes to teens when facing such a lesson.
  4. Skills Practice - Big Paper can be a great tool for reviewing skills and allowing practice.  Posting simple tasks on Big Paper can create a classroom of constant practice where students can be engaged in a less formal setting with the skills they need for success.
  5. Games & Play - Using Big Paper with Scavenger Hunt clues can turn your classroom into a giant game board where students interact with your content and with each other, fueling competition and excitement for learning!
How to teach with big paper in the secondary classroom

Tips for Using Big Paper in the Secondary Classroom
  • Don't spend a fortune on fancy presentation paper for Big Paper activities.  Visit your local newspaper and ask for the "end rolls" from their printing lines.  These rolls are perfect for big paper activities and also for bulletin boards and so much more!
  • Use silence in conjunction with the Big Paper for the greatest student participation and collaboration.  Students are much more willing to share when they have the opportunity to hear their own thoughts!
  • Allow ample time for students to visit the Big Paper locations and to cultivate their responses to the questions or activities posted.  Use an online timer such as Online Stopwatch to keep the flow and productivity going.
  • Utilize well developed resources for greatest student benefit with Big Paper activities.  While you can use simple questions or prompts with the activity, deeper lessons can emerge when content-strong resources are added for student evaluation and consideration.  Resources that provide the guiding questions can also help students move toward the higher levels of Blooms in their activity participation.  
  • Provide great tools for great Big Paper contributions.  Place varied colored pens or pencils at each location.  Layout highlighters where students can emphasize their own or others points. Even atlases or other relevant tools could add to student thought and development.
  • Always allow students to return to each Big Paper location to read other student responses and to add counter-points to enhance the discussion.  Doing multiple rounds allows for detailed rebuttal and greater thought.
  • Set standards for Big Paper use.  Go over the rules before the activity and always reinforce the classroom rules.  Monitor your students as they contribute to assure appropriate participation.
  • Facilitate learning by traveling the Big Paper locations and discussing your students contributions with them as they post.  Ask questions, make suggestions, and even play devil's-advocate.  However, do NOT give your students the answers or demean their individual contributions.
However you choose to use Big Paper in the classroom, it will be worth it for your students.  The collaboration and participation that it brings will be unprecedented, and the learning will be evident.

Happy Teaching!