menu   Home About Me TpT Shop Conferences Travels  

Monday Mapping: The Struggle for High School Reading

I just finished reading an inspiring blog about reading and the easy impact one can make for our young ones.  The question I am left with, as a high school teacher, is What can I do now?


Many of the students I teach struggle with reading.  Not only are they deficit in skills, but they have now grown to HATE reading and anything that involves reading.  Think about that... anything that involves reading.   That would include English, Social Studies, Science, Math, Humanities, and EVERYTHING else.   

Reading is everywhere, and our students who struggle with reading now hate having to read.  So, what are our options?

From the first day that I stepped into a classroom, I realized that I would have to teach my different students in different ways.  I worked from that point on to design lessons that would engage all of my students.  To that end, I...

  • played music and sang to my students
  • provided comics for my students
  • read in circle time to my HIGH schoolers
  • used pictures and other images in my lessons
  • allowed my students to listen to oral histories 
  • and created my own curriculum to cater to the very different learners in all of my classes
Still, I am learning that this challenge becomes more and more difficult each year as more and more students come into my classroom with that incredible hate toward the staple skill of reading, and therefore, learning.  I NEED my kids to read. More importantly, I NEED them to have the desire to read so they can have the desire to learn

By the time they reach high school, is it too late?  I hope not.  
I hope that I can still make a difference for these kids.

So, this is what I hope for our future generations:
Parents will step up to the realization that it is their responsibility to introduce the love of books to their children when they are young, and that an appreciation of learning should come from the home and starts on Day One!

Preschools and Daycares will introduce reading programs and will STRESS reading and the love of books to the children under their care. 

Elementary teachers and others who interact with young children will encourage reading and the love of books.

Elementary administrators will stand firm in the expectation that all students under their watch will learn to read, and they will retain those students, enrolling them in special programs, until they learn to read on the level required for movement to the next grade.

District superintendents and the Boards of Education will realize that schools are about teaching and learning, NOT making money.  Adjust class sizes and provide resources so that every student has a chance.

Politicians will stop treating education as something that can be legislated and will simply provide the resources to those who actually know what education should be - the teachers!

And for the rest of us - Read!  Set good examples that reading is something that everyone could and should LOVE.  Read what you like -  Read the news.  Read a magazine.  Read the sports statistics.  Read comic books.  Read romances.  Read mysteries.  Just read!

And in my high school classroom, I will do what I can.  I will read to my students.  I will read in front of my students.  I will tell my students about what I read.  I will share with my students how much I love to read.

What else can I do?
Happy Teaching!

Quick Thought Thursday: An Early Self-Assessment

At the start of the school year, we were all so filled with excitement. We were anxious to meet our new students, enthusiastic about the new lessons we had prepared, and hopeful that we would do it all "right." Now that we are a few weeks in, we start to question ourselves about that great success we anticipated. Am I doing this right? Are they getting it? 


I always started my year with a super fun-filled unit on the basics of Geography. Most of this unit should have been review from the 6th grade, but some of the activities included current articles and modern issues to be considered by my new-to-high-school 9th graders. My unit included vocabulary practice, investigative skills, competitive games, and plenty of map skills practice. Each of the days brought fun and laughter, inquiry and investigation, and many light bulbs glowing bright!

Throughout the unit, I assessed my students through daily exit slips, "POP-ORAL QUIZZES" and simple questioning as my students worked on activities or completed tasks. I often found myself impressed with the answers my students were providing, and even in the questions they were asking me about the topics of study. This unit was a hit!

And then came the first test. The summative assessment. The big finale! And how did it go? Well, I'll just say: It did not go as I expected. Some of my students performed incredibly, while others seemed to sink in the testing quicksand. How could this be? Did I fail? What do I do now?

How could this be? Simple. Students are different. Some studied. Some did not. Some took their time on the test, some finished before I had them all passed out. Some cared about their performance, some are trying to test the high school waters.

Did I fail? While I always take my students' failures as personal failures, I always try to remind myself that this is never the end. This is just the first test in the first quarter or the first year of high school. There will be time to change the early failures to great successes. I just have to work to find the correct strategies to make a difference.

What do I do now? I teach. I go in tomorrow and I begin the next unit. Of course, I have now adapted this coming unit to include the concepts that were not "absorbed" in the last unit, and I plan to stress the importance of the process in my future lessons - the entire process from start to finish.

Teaching, just like learning, is NOT about the test. The test is just one more tool we use in the classroom to see where are students need us more. The test is never the end; it is just a new beginning.

So, you ask, how are my classes going? Tomorrow we start a new unit, and I am so excited! We will be learning about new things, reviewing some old, and investigating what it means to be a student in this world. What could be more fun?!

"...Our lessons come from the journey, not the destination."
-Don Williams Jr.

Happy Teaching!

Monday Mapping: Games to Reinforce Geographic Knowledge

While many schools introduce basic Geography skills and knowledge through year long courses, others only call for the integration of Geography into other Social Studies courses.  This often leaves students with gaps in their learning, where basic map or cultural knowledge would come in handy.  To remedy that, start off the school year with a quick refresher on the basic  
Geography Skills and Knowledge needed to support learning with all the rest.


And to teach the skills or review the content, 
use games to make it fun and memorable!
  • Use inflatable globes for tossing games to review continents, countries, capitals, or other content needed for an upcoming lesson.
    • Pass the globe from student to student.  Where the thumb lands is the topic of discussion.
    • Toss the globe in the air.  Ask a review question.  Students retrieve the globe and answer the question with the location identified.
    • Cover the names of pertinent locations for review.  Have students pass the globe, name one of the locations, remove the cover, and pass to the next student for the next location revealing.
  • Paint a wall map or invest in a Dry-Erase Wall Map for daily use with bellringers, quick quizzes, or other skills practice.  
    Available on Amazon or at the retailer here... http://www.houzz.com/photos/4627063/Kids-Dry-Erase-World-Map-Wall-Decal-contemporary-kids-wall-decor
    • Play relay games to identify locations, perform skills, or detail facts with dry erase markers assigned in varying colors to identify teams and create competition.
    • Have a quiz bowl with 2 students at a time poised to find and label a country for quick location reviews.  As students become more knowledgeable about locations, use culture clues rather than country names to make the game more of a challenge. 
    • Use the wall map as an entrance ticket or exit ticket each day.  As students enter the classroom, they can identify locations tied to the day's lesson, or may be required to share a fact about the location gathered in the day's lesson on the way out of class.
  • Play Matching Games to help students review key vocabulary, to match locations to facts or features, or to cluster information about a culture or location for further study.
    https://www.teacherspayteachers.com/Product/Geography-Basics-Review-Games-Centers-Activities-Wrap-up-149025
  • Set up teams for class competitions to complete world or us puzzles (available at Dollar Tree), to identify longitude or latitude for assigned locations, or to create maps that detail the locations learned about in historic lessons.
And there are so many other options for making Geography learning fun.  The big thing is to make Geographic learning and review a regular event in your Social Studies classroom.  While some skills learned in school may pass to the wayside after graduation, Geography skills will be used for a lifetime.

If you need lessons to review or teach Geography in your classroom, please take a look through my TpT Store for many options from Games to Scavenger Hunts to Task Cards, Centers, and more!

Happy Teaching!

Practice Annotation & Primary Source Analysis Using Family Photos


Students often have a hard time knowing what to "see" in images we use in the classroom to help them investigate various topics in history.  While there are many guides to help us ask the right questions, there are few activities that allow us the opportunity to practice the skill in a fun and friendly way.  This one is quick, easy, and will do the trick!
  • Have students bring in family pictures of their choice.  Action shots are the best!
  • Make photo copies of the photographs leaving plenty of white space around each.
  • Distribute the copies throughout the class, allowing each student to have 3-4 of their classmate's photos.
  • Direct students to annotate what they see and to create caption bubbles to detail the scene or situation in the image.
  • Finally, have each student share their picture with an explanation of what was actually taking place and being said at the time.  Allow discussion to compare what students analyzed versus the reality!
Once your students have had practice with fun photos from their friends, move onto pictures from newspapers, magazines, or popular movies.  In no time, your students will be image primary source analysis experts!

If you like this tip for your classroom, please consider following my blog or my Pinterest board for using primary sources!  Also, be sure to hop through the other posts to find an amazing assortment of Bright Ideas for your classroom!


An InLinkz Link-up

Happy Hopping!

Monday Mapping: Supplemental Books for High School History

Taking a look at so many resources for the Social Studies classroom, it appears as though reading is coming OUT of the curriculum.  This saddens me greatly, leading to this quick post on GREAT BOOKS to assign in the High School History class to supplement the content and lessons taught throughout the year.  

© Michaeljung | Dreamstime.com - College Students Reading Photo
And keep in mind, books do not need to be read all at once, completely, or as an absolute in-class activity.  Be creative in your selection of readings and in your assignment of them, and maybe you will spark an interest in reading historical fiction for your students that wasn't there before!

To get started, books by James Loewen can set the stage for your history course.  His books bring to light the misinformation that is often taught in the classroom through textbooks, and can spark great discussion on the importance of verifying, or at least questioning, everything we learn about our nation's and our world's history.

Geography
  1. Anything James A. Michener.  Each of his books take you on a visual journey into the lands and people of a region.  Have students read to compare his descriptions with those of other informational reading sources.
U.S. History
  1. Triangle: The Fire That Changes America by David von Drehle is a long read, but a good one that provides great detail in the union movement and labor issues surrounding and leading to the Triangle Shirtwaist Fire.  The gripping images presented during and after the fire will draw the attention of any reader.
  2. The Things They Carried by Tim O'Brien provides an interesting perspective on Vietnam and the plight of the soldiers who fought the war that was not a war!
  3. Children's books can be a great tool to set the stage for lessons in the high school classroom.  Baseball Saved Us by Ken Mochizuki is a great discussion started for teaching Japanese Internment and the emotional hardships of the camps during WWII.  
  4. Teaching about slavery can be a topic that creates tension in the secondary classroom, but Letters From a Slave Girl by Mary Lyons helps students better understand the time and the reality of slavery in American history.
  5. Willa Cather's books provide varying tales from the Old West, the Age of Immigration, and the lives of average Americans from the 17-1800s.
World History
  1. One of my favorite reads in my classroom is Faithful Elephants by Yukio Tsuchiya.   While this is a children's book, it is a very emotional account of WWII and the fear during the war from the Japanese perspective.
  2. When teaching the Industrial Revolution, Charles Dickens' stories help students see and feel the grit and grime of the lives lived by ordinary people in an extraordinary time.
  3. The Kite Runner by Khaled Hosseini shares the tales of life in Afghanistan during the Soviet invasion and under the early rise of the Taliban, helping students to see the impact on civilian life.  Khaled Hosseini's follow up books are just as fascinating and valuable for the classroom.
Holocaust
  1. Night by Elie Wiesel is the foundational read for studying the Holocaust.  It steps the reader through the Jewish faith, the formation of the ghettos, life in Auschwitz, and liberation.  
  2. Jodi Picoult's The Storyteller opens up great discussion on the different perspectives on guilt and life after the Holocaust. 
Of course, there are many other great titles that could enhance your student's knowledge of history or draw their attention to the tales of the past.  The important thing about reading historical fiction in the classroom is not what your students are reading, but that your students are reading!

Happy Teaching!

Secondary Smorgasbord: How I Use Pinterest for Education

Let me start by being totally honest.  When I was first introduced to the idea of blogging about my favorite Pinterest boards and their uses for the Secondary Smorgasbord Linky, I was not at all enthusiastic.  While I use Pinterest, I have spent many days cursing its existence.  I just didn't get it.  It seemed overdone and just too transient for me.  But then, I got it!  
I finally figured it out, and that's made all the difference.

Pinterest is now a tool that I find very valuable for personal use, but also for the classroom.  For one, it is a great organizational tool.  Like quilting in the olden days, it helps us record what matters most so we can find it later to share it with others.  But more importantly, it can be the inspiration we need to help us finish a task, travel the world, or investigate a curiosity.

For teachers, Pinterest can help us find the resources we need to keep our classes creative and engaging.  It's a tool to help us organize our lessons, and it can help us find all we need to pique the interest of our students.

Overall, Pinterest is what you make of it.  Whether it serves as a tool for a simpler life, a gathering place for resources, or an escape to the places of which you dream, it is the best way to organize it all on one simple screen!  For me, it's all of the above!

Since I love traveling, teaching, and reading about history from primary sources, my favorite boards help me keep track of those exact topics!  The two at the very top of my list are...
  • My Vacations Board is where I pin everyplace I hope to travel and everything I hope to do as I RV my way around the world in my retirement days!  I also pin to this board when I find great places or topics that would work well for Geography courses and all things Culture!
  • My Primary Sources & Analysis Resources Board is a great mix of websites devoted to sharing quality primary sources from all around the world and all through time, as well as great activities and lessons that help students best analyze and learn from those resources!
Happy linking as you visit the other blogs on this week's Secondary Smorgasbord!  And a special thank you to ELA Buffet and Desktop Learning Adventures for organizing these helpful linkies for our classrooms!

Monday Mapping: Back to School Shopping Tips to Save Time & Money

It's almost back to school time, which for teachers means it's time to go shopping!  Of course, you need your staples, and most of those can be found at your local Walmart, Target or Office store.  But some things can be found for FREE... if you know where to look!


Here are a few tips for prime goodies!
  1. Pencils somehow manage to disappear in the secondary classroom.  Paying for them, even at 10 cents a pack is just too much.  Instead, stop in at your local GOLF COURSE.  Ask the golf pro of the course to donate a box of pencils.  These pencils are perfect for encouraging your students to remember to bring their own, and the one box of mini pencils without erasers will last the whole year!
  2. For classroom decor, stop by your local Lowes or Home Depot.  When materials are damaged, they discount it or offer it up for those willing to take it away.  Warped pieces of wood or paneling can serve many purposes in the classroom and appliance boxes can provide a great supply of cardboard that can be used for projects throughout the year.  Both stores also offer classroom support programs.  You will need to write a thankful letter detailing all of the materials requested, and the store manager will need a few days to submit the request to corporate.  But don't be greedy; those over $50 are often rejected, while those $25-$50 are approved easily!
  3. If your students use paint for projects, stop by your local PAINT STORE.  While you can't choose your color and the paint is not the watercolors you are used to, you can often collect the mis-matched leftovers.  You'd be surprised how much paint is mic-colored each day!
  4. If you are a Social Studies teacher, get in touch with your state Geographic Society.  They are usually affiliated with the state university, and will provide you a great variety of maps for your classroom.  Tourism agencies will also provide maps, brochures, and other goodies your students can use for research projects or for informational text practice.
  5. Stop by your local NEWSPAPER.  Besides collecting old newspapers you can use for reading or other skills practice, you can also find all the presentation paper you will ever need for Big Paper activities, group reporting or bulletin boards.  Ask for the end rolls that are leftover after the pages are printed.  Be sure to tell them it's for your classroom, and most will let you take what you can carry for FREE!
The best tip to remember is simple: Just ask!  You'll be happily amazed at the generosity of businesses all around you.  You may have to think more creatively for using the resources you collect, but in the end, your pocketbook will suffer much less!

And one last tip: Be sure to price match when you have to pay for school supplies!  Walmart and some Targets will price match with an ad, and currently Staples is offering a 110% price match for basic school supplies.  Gather up your ads and do all of your shopping at Staples to save time and money.

Happy Teaching!