September 11th, 2012

Eleven years ago... 

I was in my classroom teaching World History to a group of rowdy sophomores in a small town high school.  When the announcement came over the intercom to turn on our televisions, I thought it was another basketball story from our every story-making state university.  What had the coaches done this time?  A player?  But, oh, was I wrong.

The first thing we saw was the gash in the side of the tower.  In my mind, I was trying to count - how many floors?  How many people working per floor?  Oh, so early in the morning, maybe some people were not to work yet.  How many could be in there?

And then my students started asking questions.
What about the people on the higher levels?
Are they going to get the people out of there?
Who do you think would do this?
Are we safe?  Are we going to go to war?  Will they draft us?
Reality was setting in that this was  an American tragedy happening right before our eyes, and there would be consequences.  Those consequences, though, could not even be imagined at the time - we were too engrossed in the moments.

The second plane.  I stood, tears streaming down my face, my hand over my mouth, trying to choke back the knot in my throat, trying to appear strong and confident in front of my students.  But, what else could I do?  We watched it hit the tower and every student in the room made sounds that only fear and anxiety could create.  I will never forget that moment.

More students started coming into my room.  They had questions.  They were afraid.  They wanted explanations.  I tried, but I only teach history; I cannot explain something like this.  There is no explanation.

Another student comes into the room, surrounded by friends.
"His parents are there.  They are supposed to be visiting the Trade Center this morning.  What can we do? He can't get ahold of his mom or dad."

Holding this broken young man, I direct others to collect phone numbers.  We write the numbers of every family member on the board, and those of us with phones begin calling.  No connections.  Phone lines are crashing, just like the planes.  We keep trying.

People are jumping from the buildings.  The fires are burning and you can see people screaming from the towers, crying for help.

Word of other planes, an attack at the Pentagon...

Finally, one student reaches my young man's aunt and she has received a call from his parents.  They woke up late and had not made it to the Trade Center when the first plane hit.  They were safe, but watching the tragedy unfold as tourists in the chaos.

We all stayed stationary in the room that day.  I do not remember eating lunch, nor do I remember how we all managed to leave at the end of the day.  I do however, remember the longing I felt in my stomach the whole day, wanting my own daughter, who was just next door at the middle school, to come be right next to me where I could hold her and protect her.  At the end of the school day, I did just that, and I didn't want to let her go.

That day, we had no idea what would happen next.  Terror, war, discrimination, economic effects, societal changes, so much more...

And now we are so many years away.  Our students now were so young then; they do not see it the same way we do.  Some do not even seem to care.  Is this the way history has always unfolded? 

I will be teaching it as a history lesson in my classes beginning the day before the anniversary.  As students view the images and read the quotes and see the statistics, I hope they can understand.  I hope they will find empathy for the victims.  I hope they will realize the implications of that day, of those 4 planes, of the simple fact that hate can cause such destruction and loss of life.

Will you be teaching about 9/11 in your classes?  What will you share with your students about that day?  What impact do you hope for in your classroom?

My 9/11 Centers & Response Group Activity

Here is a great service learning project and assessment tool by Tracee Orman on 9/11 that would complement this activity well!
9/11 Service Project & Writing Prompt

Michele Luck

Can They Read?

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 in their courses.  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 over the years.

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 pray:
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 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?


My Lessons to Engage the Non-Readers:
The Lorax Complete Service Learning UNIT - A Reading to Teach to Learn Activity
This activity is for any age group to encourage the LOVE of reading!  It is a service learning unit in which upper grade students work with younger groups to teach the love of reading using Dr. Seuss' The Lorax.  My high school students were absolutely inspiring in completing this unit!

A Walking Tour of Florence in the Renaissance - A Centers Investigation Activity
Civil Rights Movement in Pictures - A Spiral Questioning Activity
WWI Trench Warfare Simulation - An Interactive Exercise Activity
Daily Life as a Roman - An Interactive Centers Investigation Activity
Ancient India Archeological Dig Activity - An Investigation with Artifacts
To Tell the Truth Role Cards Game - A Review Game Activity

Folktales Story Boards Assignment - A Read and Create Activity

Michele Luck

Centers, Centers, and More Centers

Centers, Centers, and More Centers!

School has started and you are determined to make your middle or high school classroom different than the rest.  What do you do?  Easy!  Transform your classroom from the desk and chair lecture monotony to an interactive walk through history or geography with Centers, archeological digs, response group lessons, or other fun, engaging activities.  

While elementary classrooms have utilized centers activities for years, it has been a foreign conception at the middle and high school levels.  Many classrooms still focus on the instruction gathered through the use of textbooks and lecture notes, while students grow more and more apathetic and disengaged by the minute.  Change that!

Some may argue that with all of the content secondary teachers are challenged with presenting in their curriculum, it is virtually impossible to create, set up, and assess centers activities without giving up your entire life.  This is a valid consideration, unless you choose to NOT reinvent the wheel.  Find already created centers activities, either from my TpT Store or from other curriculum based programs such as TCI.  These lessons will not only provide the content standards to your students, but they will make your classroom one that is fun and engaging. 

Your classroom will be one that is loved by all!

Try these great Centers or other Interactive Lessons from my TpT Store!

Michele Luck

Back to School Sale!

It is time for the best sale of the season: 
The TeachersPayTeachers Back to School Sale!  
Be sure to fill up your carts and make your purchases this Sunday and Monday, August 12th & 13th for super 10% savings in my TpT Store!  
And don't forget to use the TpT Coupon Code (BTS12) for additional savings!  
Oh my, what all will you buy?!!!!
Michele Luck

The bell...

Da plane, boss!  Da plane!  For those of you old enough to remember that expression, it well exemplifies how I feel at the beginning of each school year.  The guests are coming, and I need to be ready to make all their dreams come true!  Are you ready?
If you are anything like me, I need a checklist to make sure I have everything done for that magical first day.  And knowing that I will not sleep at all the night before, I must be of sound mind all of the days leading up to it to make sure things are the way I want them.  So, here is my checklist:
  1. Classroom is arranged in a manner conducive to learning (and for building a community in the early days of the year).
  2. My walls are bright and welcoming, with great examples of student work and select motivational posters scattered throughout.
  3. Learning expectations and classroom rules are posted and are clear for student understanding.
  4. The syllabi are printed and copied for each student, detailing my expectations, rules, and an outline of the year.  An explanation of my course is also provided, as well as a note to parents that must be signed and returned.
  5. Student examples of my first assignment are laid out for me to show as I assign the homework at the end of the first class period.  It won't kill them and it helps get them off on the right foot!
  6. A bottle of Lipton Green Tea is sitting on my desk with a few assorted snacks next to it.  I know myself, and from years of experience, I know that I will not take the time to eat lunch.  I'll be too busy working to make my classroom look perfect for the next group coming in, so I must have some nutrients on hand.  More importantly, knowing that I will talk way too much on the first day, that green tea may save my voice from class to class.
  7. And on the night before, knowing there is no sleep ahead, I grab my copy of my book.  It reminds me again and again why I go through all this stress every year.  It reminds me what my "job" is all about.  And most importantly, it reminds me why I love all of it - tomorrow the kids will come!  And no matter what age they are, they are your kids and will be your bright, shining stars for the coming year.
I hope you are prepared for your first day.  If not, I hope this checklist will get you there!

Have a great school year!

Michele Luck