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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!

Quick Tips for Teaching Geography: Name Games

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 #2: Name Games
Learning the names of places in the US or around the World can be a great challenge, but it can also be fun when it is done with games!
Here are a few Geography Games to get your students closer to mastering those far off locations!

Quick Tips for Teaching Geography: Playing Name Games to learn the states and countries of the world.

Globe Throw
For my students, the appearance of the globe ball meant they could finally throw something in class. But beware - where your thumb hits, you must quickly name the country and provide one fact about the location. While the names are provided on most blow-up globes, you can create a decoupage globe for an added challenge!
Quick Tips for Teaching Geography: Playing Name Games to learn the states and countries of the world.

Topic Tag
This simple game can be played in any class, but for my Geography students, it was a quick call review for continental country names. Each student, when tagged, must name one of the countries being studied in the current unit. Bonus points could be added by the student locating the country on a map or globe!

I See, You See
Using projected state or country shapes, students must identify their shape and then call on a friend for the next one. Reviewing for units can be done in this fun way, and the competition can get real as the locations get more challenging! Make it even more fun with this Spin the States Game and a simple game spinner!

Shape Match
With any blank map or blank state or country card sets, students can play matching games to learn the names with ease.  Practice while playing Go Fish or let the students create their own games for matching names to shapes. For those with online access, Sheppard Software has games for all countries and states to help students practice with varied levels of difficulty.

Sing A Song
For years, elementary students have learned songs to practice naming the states. Continue using music to reinforce the names and their locations. With blank maps, students can label as they sing, or get kids up and moving by having them take turns pointing to the correct location on wall maps as names are called. 

Be sure to click on the Quick Tips category over on the ride side of this blog for more great strategies that can bring more fun and learning into your classroom!

Happy Teaching!

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!