A Guest Blog by Krystal of Lessons from the Middle

The post below is from my friend, Krystal, author of  Lessons from the Middle.  Her school needs your help, and I hope you will step up to this very easy task!  

Thank you all,

I feel so privileged to be writing a guest blog post here for you today. My name is Krystal Mills and I'm a grade 7 teacher-blogger from Souris, Prince Edward Island. I'll waste no time getting to the point: My school needs your help! We are in the semi-final round in a contest to win up to $140 000 for a new, inclusive playground for our school. As with many schools, students who are in wheelchairs have limited to no access to our playground equipment and recess time is not a time where they are physically able to interact with their peers. However, this social interaction is so important to their development and they deserve it! Due to age, and health concerns our current school building will be demolished at the end of this school year. We will be moving into a renovated high school building in the fall of 2014, becoming the first K-12 facility on PEI. Of course, playground equipment is not part of the budget and not covered by the government. So, my community applied for the Aviva Community Fund to help us out and we are SO CLOSE we can taste it! That's where you come in! To get into the final round (and be one of the projects in front of a panel of judges) we need votes and lots of 'em. It takes just a moment to register your email (or you can log in using your Facebook account). After you have registered, voting takes just a second. You can vote once a day from December 2nd to the 11th. Some incredible teachers have actually taken this on as a "Random Acts of Kindness" project and their whole class has registered and is voting for us every day! I'd like to thank those teachers again! If you feel that this is something you could do - it would be absolutely amazing! Also, we'd love your shares via social media: Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, blog posts etc. Any and all exposure is WELCOME and APPRECIATED! We WILL do this. I know we will. And we need people like you, to help get us there.   [caption id="" align="aligncenter" width="824"]Souris A Playground for All Feel Free to Pin![/caption]
Thank you so much and I hope to send you an update in a month or two saying," WE WON!"
Lessons From The Middle
Lesson From The Middle
Michele Luck

Walt Disney World and Testing???

Welcome Home Luck Family,

As an upcoming Disney Resorts guest, you could help us test...

Testing at Disney World?  What has happened?  How is it that our world has changed to a place where we can't get away from testing, even when we vacation to the "happiest place on Earth?"

But then... I stop to think about this view... Is testing all bad?  Did I always hate the word "testing" as a teacher?  And the honest answer to both of these questions is NO!  In my early classroom days, I was known as one of the toughest teachers in my building, usually based on my high expectations and my very thorough end of the unit tests.  Even more disparaging for my students, I expected them to retain their knowledge from each unit to the next, and my assessments demanded they be able to make the connections.

So, how is it that I've grown to hate testing?  Simple answer... Testing has changed.  It is no longer just a valuable tool we use in the classroom to assess student learning and our teaching, but it is now a punitive measure used by some districts in controlling their teachers, a numbers game that can determine where much needed funding goes for schools desperately needing interventions, and a state and federal "tag term" for political arguments.  Oh, and lets not forget how it can turn into a mockery of what we all work so hard to do:  teach.
Does that mean testing is all bad now?  No, not at all.  We just need to justify our testing as we justify any other lesson in our classrooms.  It is not where we start, but it is where we want to end up.  We want to know what our students know.  And we want to know that we have been successful in our strategies.  So, test.  Just do it in moderation.  And yes, this means we must stand aside as our states mandate more and more testing, but we can change our mindset to accept that this is simply what the world is coming to in these modern days.

So, at Disney this week, I will be wearing a new bracelet.  I was able to go online to pick my favorite color, and I was also able to pick the rides I wanted to ride and the times I wanted to ride them.  And, most importantly, I will be able to get through the admission gate much quicker, as I hold my wrist against the electronic stand and then keep walking as those with the old fashioned tickets will wait in the long lines to start their fun!

Testing... maybe not so bad after all.

Need a test?  Stop by my TpT Store for a bunch of great assessment options!
Happy Teaching!

Michele Luck

Using Movies in the Classroom

We've all known those teachers who did nothing but show movies (or university basketball games) as their daily lessons.  We look down on those teachers, shaking our heads, and asking how they get away with being such a drain on the academic system.  And then, we get to a place in our content where a high quality movie really fits, and we question our justifications for showing it, even bits and pieces in our content strong classes.

And that is the best argument:  Our questioning our selves, and being able to justify the use of these great films.  Here are a few of the simplest justifications:
    A great post on effectively using movies in the secondary Social Studies classroom
  • They will help to engage our students in the content.  This is the most powerful justification.  Our students are visual learners now; it is all around them.  If they are not "into" the lesson, we have lost from the start.  If a feature film can draw that interest, we've scored a win from the start.
  • Some films provide more content in two class periods that I could provide in a month!  This is true of many of the films I have fought to show in my classes.  Schindler's List is the first to come to mind to justify this argument.  Spielberg does an incredible job of showing the facts of antisemitism far better than I could ever attempt.
  • Well done movies, even ones that are created as "fiction" can help to make a point better than any primary source could.  I could teach imperialism all day long: read and re-read Kipling's White Man's Burden, show the political cartoons, and introduce the slave journals.  And then I show Avatar, and all of a sudden, my students gain a sense of empathy they could not grasp before.
Still, some rules should be followed when showing movies in the content classroom.  Keep these in mind, and reinforce that your follow them as you present your requests for showing such movies to your administrators!
  1. Never make it a habit or a time filler.  Movies are wonderful for supplementing content, but they should not be your go-to for lesson planing to address content, or your fall back for filling a class period with a lame sub.
  2. Introduce movies only as a resource, an additional tool for providing strong content to your students.  Always ask yourself if the movie holds its own, or if you will need to "explain things" afterwards.  If it is the latter, where is the value?
  3. Allow students to practice taught skills when viewing movies in your classroom.  Critical thinking is a skill practiced when watching any movie, but the good ones require the students to be at their sharpest to keep up with the pace.
  4. Do NOT interrupt or provide commentary.  Students must make the connections for themselves.  If you are always pointing it out for them, you might as well spoon feed them your entire curriculum.  What is the point?  Now, I do have a few exceptions to this rule:  First, you must introduce the movies and set the expectations for your students.  Tell them what you want them to find.  And, wrap it up.  As you finish the movie, allow students to discuss the film, and let them make the connections you hoped they would find.  Finally, some things must be announced or they will be easily missed by the first time viewer.  The prime example:  As we view Schindler's List in its entirety, I always calmly ask my students to watch for the color red as the first scene where it is present appears.  
  5. Use guides or set expectations for expected behavior and attentiveness.  Sleeping is NEVER allowed in my classroom, so it would not be accepted during a movie.  Quiet discussion, however, may be helpful for students to evaluate what they see and hear.  And on an important note, always be aware of your student's maturity level and the requirements for each film.  Get parent permission when needed (and even when not), and plan adequate learning activities for those unable to participate.
A great post on effectively using movies in the secondary Social Studies classroom
Movies can be very valuable in the classroom, when used effectively.  Just always refer back to rule #1.  When it becomes an expected activity in your classroom, just like any other "special" activity, it looses its effectiveness and you lose your power as that awesome teacher that is always changing things up and making learning fun!

A few of my favorites:
  1. By far, Schindler's List tops my list.   In teaching my 3 week Holocaust unit, I always made time for this very important film.  I followed it by the TV version of Nuremberg, and both helps my students to connect the facts in a way they would not otherwise have the opportunity to do.
  2. Avatar is a great addition to my Imperialism units.  While I had previously shown clips from Amistad, Avatar does a far better job at helping ALL of my students connect to the content.
  3. Luther is a great supplement, if time permits, for the Renaissance and Reformation unit.  It shows much of the content students struggle with in our modern world, such as paying indulgences or other corruptions within the Catholic Church.
  4. Amistad is still a significant film to show in clips, emphasizing the treatment of the slaves in your units that cover the trade eras or slavery itself.  The film will not keep the attention of most classes in entirety, but key points can be made with short excerpts.
  5. Good Morning, Vietnam is valuable in showing the discontent and unexpectedness of the Vietnam conflict, but if you do not have an edited version, it can be too much for any classroom. 
  6. Saving Private Ryan is another good one for showing the aspects of war, with consideration made in assurances for accuracy in the film making process.  This is one, however, that I only show clips from to emphasize specific points.
  7. Sometimes, there are lessons that do not cover content, yet are still desperately needed for your student's benefit.  The Emperor's Club does a wonderful job in importance of academic honesty.
And I'm sure the list could go on and on for those teaching Science classes or ELA.  Just remember, just because a movie is given the same name as significant content (eg. Romeo & Juliet) does not mean it is significant or appropriate for your middle and high school students to view!

Now, on this rainy Saturday is usually sunny Orlando, I'm going to get back to my movie... I hope he saves the Tree of Life this time!

Oh, but before I forget, here are a few useful movie guides or activities from my TpT Store:
Whether you are teaching U.S. History, World History, Geography, or Government, there are great movies that can enhance student learning. Take a look at this great list and engage your students as the content is reinforced with flare! The first one is definitely worth the time. #movies #classroom #teaching #holocaust #history

Happy Teaching!
Michele Luck

Reaching Today's Students (and CCSS) with Today's Resources

Teachers face great challenges as they try to create or find resources to address the ever-changing standards for their ever-changing students.  In addition to finding the resources, rising costs and other teacher financial obligations often keep teachers from accessing the resources they feel will work best for their classes.

In my presentations at state and national conferences, I try to help teachers find the resources they need without having to break the bank!

Download the presentation HERE:

In addition to the resource links in the presentation, you can also find the resources from the links below:

Online & Print Resources & Lesson Plans for Teachers:

National Archives (Primary Sources): www.archives.gov/education/lessons and www.digitalvaults.org
Discovery Education: www.discoveryeducation.com/teachers
The History Channel: www.history.com/shows/classroom
PBS Teachers: www.pbslearningmedia.org
Teaching American History: www.teachingamericanhistory.org
White House Official Site: www.whitehouse.gov
United States Memorial Holocaust Museum:  http://www.ushmm.org/educators
Teaching Tolerance: www.teachingtolerance.org
Facing history & Ourselves: www.facing.org
European Union Lesson Plans & Resources: www.Euintheus.org
Modern Germany from the Goethe Institute:  http://www.goethe.de/ins/us/lp/prj/top/mat/enindex.htm     or for print materials: http://reports.balmar.com/goethe/goetheform.aspx
Books by the Foot Library Books: www.booksbythefoot.com



K-1 - Mrs. Jump’s Class: http://mrsjumpsclass.blogspot.com/

Elementary - Rachel Lynette’s Minds in Bloom: http://www.minds-in-bloom.com/

Middle School Blog Log (All Content Areas): http://2peasandadog.blogspot.ca/p/middle-school-blog-log.html

High School:

ELA – Ms. Orman’s Classroom: http://www.traceeorman.com/

Social Studies – MY BLOG: A Lesson Plan for Teachers: http://www.alessonplanforteachers.blogspot.com/

Facebook: Teacher Made Freebies @ https://www.facebook.com/TeacherMadeFreebies

TeachersPayTeachers: A Open Marketplace for Educators (Freebies & More):
Happy Teaching!

Michele Luck

A Standard A Day Keeps the Admins Away: CCSS Standard 10

Finally, we reach the last standard in this series on Teaching the Common Core in the Secondary Social Studies Classroom!

How to Teach Common Core Standard 10 in the Secondary Social Studies Classroom - Read and Comprehend Texts
Common Core Standard 10 for Social Studies:

CCSS.ELA-Literacy.RH.9-10.10 By the end of grade 10, read and comprehend history/social studies texts in the grades 9–10 text complexity band independently and proficiently.

How to Teach Common Core Standard 10 in the Secondary Social Studies Classroom - Read and Comprehend Texts
My baby girl on the way home from the library at age 4!  She is now an avid reader and is also working on her second BA - this one in Elementary Education!
For generations, some Social Studies teachers have stood strong in their claim that it was not their responsibility to teach reading and comprehension; that fell to the Language Arts teachers and, more importantly, on the lower grade levels.  Officially, that has changed!

According to this final CCSS standard, Social Studies teachers are responsible for helping students to read and comprehend in their classes.  And for those of us that have taught in the History Department for a while, we are singing our praises loud and clear!  To us, this single standard finally brings credit and validation to the Social Studies teacher; it is justifying the need for our department in the school building, and reminding everyone that we have a purpose.
How to Teach Common Core Standard 10 in the Secondary Social Studies Classroom - Read and Comprehend Texts
So, how do we accomplish this task?  Simple!  Review my blog posts for Standards 1-9, and add one elementary aspect - making sure your content and lesson materials are age, grade level, and reading level appropriate.

Here is where my advice may differ from many in the mainstream.  Throughout my teaching and writing career, I have been referred to in many terms:
  • A "High Expectations" teacher
  • Old School
  • A "Rise to the challenge" teacher
  • An "If you build it, they will come!" teacher
  • A "Raise the bar" teacher
Oftentimes, these were not meant to be compliments!  I was called out at faculty meetings for "expecting too much," and my book was reviewed with the comment, "She sets the bar too high for her students, and I feel sorry for them."

However, my argument is simple and well proven.  I did often introduce materials that were WAY above the current abilities of my students.  Sometimes it frustrated them, other times it encouraged them.  Most of the time, it led them down a path of curiosity and inquiry that led to their learning.  And for those who are "testing" people, my test scores proved my success.  More importantly, my students' achievements in later academic endeavors and in career and life choices says it even better!

In preparing your lessons and in choosing the materials you will use to teach your content, reach for the stars!  Always include reading content that is just a step ahead, yet also provide content in ways that can be easily understood or evaluated by all.  Allow the students the time and the opportunities to mesh the difficult together with the easy to formulate their best understanding.  That will help your students meet this standard, and many other challenges they may face in their lives.

And in addition to the short readings that are used to introduce content in lessons, add novels, news, and magazine reading to your classes.  Here are some of my favorites:
  • Night by Elie Wiesel when teaching the Holocaust 
  • Hitler's Willing Executioners by Daniel Goldhagen, a different perspective on the Holocaust
  • Triangle: The Fire that Changed America by David von Drehle for the Progressive Era
  • Lies My Teacher Told Me by James Loewen for U.S. History
  • The Jungle by Upton Sinclair for Progressive Era
  • National Geographic for any Geography class
  • Your local newspaper for any Social Studies class (the obituaries have great lessons!)
Finally, I want to add one last opinion before I sum up this series on implementing CCSS.
Life lessons are not always learned by following the rules.  If I had always followed the rule in my teaching career, my students would not have been able to investigate the Holocaust for 3 weeks, learning more about themselves than they did in any other lesson.  If I had always followed the rules, my students would not have been forced to think outside the box and to step away from the norm, and may not have learned the most valuable lessons the world has to offer.

And on this specific standard... If I had not started each school year by using resources WAY BELOW my students' reading level (Reading the Lorax in circle time to high schoolers sitting on the floor around me to start my Geography unit), they may never have learned to have faith in me and my teaching ability to be able to push the boundaries I so often asked them to push.

"Oh, The Places You'll Go!"  Always the final text reading with my students... And such a valuable lesson inside!

Whether you are a CCSS school or are simply teaching students how to Read and Comprehend Texts, these ideas will help you reach and engage the students in your middle or high school classroom. You and your students will love reading the last suggestion! CCSS ELA 9-10 #teaching #CCSS #reading #comprehension

Happy Teaching!

Some of my activities that can help to address this standard:
Holocaust Complete Study Package
The Lorax Reading & Service Learning Complete Project (FREE Dropbox Download)

For a variety of interactive lessons that can help you to implement this standard, please visit my TpT Store.  Be sure to check out my Complete Units, including those for World History, U.S. History, Geography & World Religions!
Michele Luck

A Standard A Day Keeps The Admins Away: Standards 7-9

We are almost to the end in this series on Teaching Common Core in the Secondary Social Studies classroom.  Now we tackle three in one!

How to Teach Common Core Standards 7-9 in the Secondary Social Studies Classroom!

Common Core Standards 7-9 for Social Studies:

CCSS.ELA-Literacy.RH.9-10.7 Integrate quantitative or technical analysis (e.g., charts, research data) with qualitative analysis in print or digital text.
CCSS.ELA-Literacy.RH.9-10.8 Assess the extent to which the reasoning and evidence in a text support the author’s claims. 
CCSS.ELA-Literacy.RH.9-10.9 Compare and contrast treatments of the same topic in several primary and secondary sources.

How to Teach Common Core Standards in the Secondary Social Studies Classroom!
American Regions Centers Activity
 Integrating knowledge and ideas in the Social Studies classroom is another one of the skills we practice on a regular basis.  Through the analysis of primary and secondary sources, we ask students to apply reasoning and to make comparisons for every topic we cover.  When we add in quantitative information, we allow our students to apply the information in a new and broader fashion.

Standard 7 asks teachers to utilize charts, graphs, and other quantitative information in evaluating information about a specific topic.  While some may look at this and think it leans more toward the math and science curriculums,  it is very much in our realm.  How?
  • As students evaluate the battles of the Civil War, ask them to consider the number of deaths and injuries.  Examine the survival rates for those injured in the Civil War to those of later wars in American History?  What new care is introduced during the Civil War that helps to improve these numbers?  (Answer:  The chance for survival is much better after the Civil War thanks to Clara Barton beginning the American Red Cross to treat those injured in war or other disasters.)
  • Introduce timelines with any unit and allow students to compute the time in which changes occur.  Then require students to make judgments about the time period or the changes that evolved in the short period of time.  (Example: Evaluate the changes in rights for Jews in Germany as the Nuremberg Laws and others are passed by Hitler's Nazi Party.)   
Standard 8 can be one of the more challenging standards for students to complete.  It not only asks students to identify the claim (or main idea) introduced by the author of a text, but it also requires that students find enough support in the text to justify the claim.  Many secondary sources will lay this out for the students, but primary sources are the challenge, therefore, teaching this requires great attention to finding that claim and finding the support provided.
  •  Use journal entries from any era in history to practice this skill.  Have students search for the claim made, and then return to the entry for support to the claim.  
  • Develop this skill through writing assignments in your classroom.  As students write claims, adding supporting evidence, they will be better apt to find the claims and support in others' writing.
How to Teach Common Core Standards 7-9 in the Secondary Social Studies Classroom!
Standard 9 is another staple for the Social Studies classroom.  For generations, History teachers taught with one textbook and it was assumed that the text provided 100% accuracy on every topic included.  This was not the case, and new history teaching methods require that students be exposed to a variety of sources to make their own judgments about each topic in history.  While this may seem daunting, it actually places the task of determining the truth in history on the students and allows them to become the researcher, evaluator, and assessor.
  • Use political cartoons to provide opposing views on topics in history, and allow students to determine "the truth" through their investigation of the topic with additional resources.
  • Introduce topics with images and allow students to improvise or role play to determine the meaning and significance of the images.  Use spiral questioning to develop the topic further, and follow-up with the evaluation of resources to support or refute the student ideas.
In addition to addressing each of these standards individually, utilizing tasks that will incorporate all three standards will help students gain a better understanding of the topics in history, and will also help them to develop the skills needed to become better historians and better students.

Some of my activities that can help to address all three standards at once:
Coming of Age in U.S.: Immigration through Stats and Images
Imperialism of Africa 4-Thought Organizer
Impact of the Civil Rights Movement 

For a variety of interactive lessons that can help you to implement this standard, please visit my TpT Store.  Be sure to check out my Analysis Activities!

And finally... Here is the final post in the series: CCSS Standard 10.

Are you trying to teach analysis with text, reasoning and evidence, or compare and contrast in the middle or high school classroom? This post on How to Teach Common Core Standards 7-9 in the Secondary Social Studies Classroom will be a great help! The ideas on Standard 9 are favorites in my classes. #teaching #CCSS #commoncorestandards #standards CCSS Standard 7 8 and 9

Happy Teaching!
Michele Luck

A Standard A Day Keeps The Admins Away! Standard 6

Welcome to my series on Teaching the Common Core in the Secondary Social Studies Classroom! I hope this series will help you address the standards while being able to keep the course your own.
How to teach common core standards in the secondary Social Studies classroom - Point of View
Common Core Standard 6 for Social Studies:

CCSS.ELA-Literacy.RH.9-10.6 Compare the point of view of two or more authors for how they treat the same or similar topics, including which details they include and emphasize in their respective accounts.

This standard is actually asking you to attack two Social Studies skills in one task: Comparing and identifying perspectives.  Both are very valuable skills, and when applied in conjunction, they can help the student to better evaluate situations and to better understand the past, present, and possibly future.
How to teach common core standards in the secondary Social Studies classroom - Point of View
While this standard is easier to comprehend (by teachers and students!), it is very expansive in its requirements.  For my students, and in my lesson planning, I would break this one standard down into the following for each task:
  • Identify the perspectives presented on the topic:
    • Who is the author?
    • What role did they play in the situation?
    • Male/female?  Does their gender matter?
    • Race/Religion/Status?  Does it matter in the situation?
  • Analyze the perspective for detail and emphasis.
    • What is being said?
    • Gather the Who, What, When, Where, How, Why.
    • What do they stress as important?
    • Do they have a goal?  Are they trying to persuade the reader?
  • Compare the perspectives for meaning.
    • Do the facts match up?
    • Where do the align?
    • Where do they differ?
    • What could account for the similarities or differences?
  • Compare the perspectives for significance (in time/situation).
    • Whose perspective is more important?  Or would have been more important at the time?
    • What impact would the perspective have had on the topic/situation?
    • What influence would the perspective have had over on others?
  • Analyze why each perspective is as it is.
    •  Is there importance in WHO has presented the perspective?
    • Why do you think the topics were important to the author?
    • Why are the perspectives important in history?
To teach and practice this standard, use analysis assignments, class discussions, role playing, and perspective face-offs.  Allow students to form their own opinions, based on the information provided in the text, while always emphasizing the importance of considering the differing perspectives when making assumptions about history.

How to teach common core standards in the secondary Social Studies classroom - Point of View

My Sumer Perspectives Assignment is a good example!

And one valuable lesson we can all learn from history and its many perspectives:  What is truth to one is a lie to another.  No one ever sees the exact same in every situation.  History is what we make history out to be.  It is what is important to us, and what we choose to apply in our own lives as important lessons.

As my own daughter just stated to me loud and clear, "Mom, I don't remember everything from your class.  I only remember what was important to me!"

And she is living those lessons in her life today!

For a variety of interactive lessons that can help you to implement this standard, please visit my TpT Store.  Be sure to check out my Analysis Activities and Response Group products!

Attack Standards 7-9 in my next blog post on CCSS!

Read these great ideas on how to teach common core standards in the secondary Social Studies classroom - Point of View. The checklist in this post is awesome! #pointofview #teaching #social Studies #CCSS CCSS Standard 6

Happy Teaching!
Michele Luck

Surviving Back to School

Surviving the Back to School rush and the rest of your 280+ days to come begins with advanced planning, thorough preparation, and skillful implementation starting well before the very first day of school.  But more important than anything else on those first days is creating a classroom climate of trust, curiosity, and excitement.

Tips and tools for surviving the Back to School rush from A Lesson Plan for TeachersThere are many tips that teachers can share about building this classroom community.  You can start by clearly establishing the rules and requirements for your class, you can begin by thoroughly examining your class expectations with a syllabus, course outlines, and other class tools, or you can begin with activities that immediately show your students that your classroom will be filled with all of those things you desire from the first day to the very last!

My favorite activities are those that allow students the opportunity to get up and get to know one another on that very first day.  Students can use "Find Someone Who..." or "Meet & Greet" activities (many varieties available in my TpT Store), they can create "Summer Newsletters" to share and display, or they can introduce themselves in a number of fun and creative ways.

MY VERY FAVORITE:  My FREE First Homework Assignment Identity Bags get your school year started off on the right foot by allowing your students to share what is most important to and about themselves!  It gets students engaged, keeps them interested and curious, and helps them to quickly understand your classroom expectations. 

And don't use this assignment simply for students introductions - Begin your very first day by presenting your very own Identity Bag to the class.  Tie in your classroom expectations and your course outline through your "identity bag items," as well as sharing personal information that may help you relate to your students and their interests. 

By the time you have cleaned out your bag, your students will know who you are, what you expect, and that your class will be one they will enjoy and respect through the year.  You'd be surprised how the items you include will help your students bond with you from that very moment on!

Happy Teaching!
My TpT Store

Michele Luck

A Standard A Day Keeps The Admins Away: Standard 5

Welcome back for more on Teaching the Common Core Standards in the Social Studies classroom!
Teaching Core Content Standard 5 in the Secondary Social Studies Classroom - Text Structure

Common Core Standard 5 for Social Studies:

CCSS.ELA-Literacy.RH.9-10.5 Analyze how a text uses structure to emphasize key points or advance an explanation or analysis.

Teaching Core Content Standard 5 in the Secondary Social Studies Classroom - Text Structure
Text structure and organization is something typically discussed in the English/Language Arts classroom on a daily basis.  And, in AP History courses, these tasks are vital for success on the AP exam, yet for some reason, they are less stressed in the typical Social Studies classroom.  Why?  The writing element.  AP requires skillful writing, while our Social Studies standards have typically allowed ORQs and other "bullet" writing that does not need or require structure for "the perfect 4."

So, how do we address this standard in our Social Studies classes?  Simple
  • Teach students to search out the obvious!  Structure is in everything we read.  It may be good, and it may be bad, but there is structure.  Start with what is directly in front of you.  What is first?  Is it a more important point the author is making?  What is last?  Why is it at the end?  Did the author repeat certain information?   Did you get an overall meaning or feeling from the reading?  Find the obvious!
  • Look for cause and effect.  Cause and effect is history!  Find these examples in the text and analyze them for significance.  More importantly, teach the difference between chronological order and cause and effect.  One may occur without the other.
  • Identify the various perspectives and how they are introduced.  Understanding perspectives in history is vital.  Understanding perspectives in structure is even more so.  Why does the author include certain perspectives, but not others?  Why are some introduced first, others last?  Are some given more emphasis than others?
  • Search for comparisons and their significance for the topic at hand.  When authors directly identify similarities and differences, they are attempting to show a broader picture of a topic.  Help your students learn to search for that bigger picture. 
  • Utilize the text (again, any primary or secondary piece that can be used in the classroom for content understanding) tools.  Very few writers WANT to be mysterious in their writing.  Most want you to know exactly what they are going for in their piece.  Considering that, use the clues they give you.  What title did they use?  Are there headings that sub-divide information?  Are some entries clustered or organized in charts, graphs, or other format?  Are there entries in bold or italicized?  And overall, what benefit is there in the tools the author provides?
  • Always use organizational tools for content recording.  Acronyms and other graphic organizers can help students to see and evaluate texts in a different way, often helping them better process the information at hand!  
    Teaching Core Content Standard 5 in the Secondary Social Studies Classroom - Text Structure
  • Encourage your students to ask WHY!  Each and every standard can be touched on with specific tasks in the Social Studies classroom.  None will be COMPLETED if you do not require your students to ask and answer WHY.   Critical thinking is vital in helping students to learn what we want them to learn in the Social Studies classroom:  How to be better, more effective citizens in our world!
 The bigger issue is HOW to tackle these simple tasks!
  1. Provide texts that will help students to clearly identify the structure and meaning of that structure.  This does NOT mean spoon feed them or given them texts that are below level. 
    •  Lesson Example:  When teaching the Holocaust, have students read Elie Wiesel's Night.   But also provide them excerpts from Hitler's Willing Executioners. To follow up these drastically different perspectives, read from Jodi Picoult's Storyteller.  Then, ask WHY Jodi Picoult would include both of these perspectives (and the others she includes)?  What is her goal in structuring her book in such a way?  What is the bigger lesson?
  2. Set up tasks that will incorporate a number of the activities listed above.  Be sure that NO lesson is complete until all of the questions have been asked and answered.
    • Lesson Example:  Set up centers, such as my Colombian Exchange Activity, where students must find and match up information with where it belongs.  Helping them learn to organize with hands-on activities will reinforce the mental process.  And, in concluding the activity, require students to find similarities and differences as they identify the big picture.  What was the significance (or the multiple significances) of the Colombian Exchange?
  3. Address the tasks with starter (bellringer) activities or with daily exit slips to not only assess student learning, but to help them practice the skills they need to achieve the standard.
    • Lesson Example:  As students enter the classroom, have a primary source document projected up on the screen.  Using Interactive Notebooks (see my blog post on the value of this too!), direct students to state the obvious.  The Civil Rights Movement is one of my favorite units for U.S. History.  Project the image of the woman reading the newspaper with the Brown ruling.  Keep in mind, the image in this case can be your text! What is the title?  Where are they sitting?  Why this woman?  Why a child?  What is the author's purpose in creating this image?  What could the significance be?
    • Lesson Example:  At the end of the same class (after a fill lesson on the beginning of the Civil Rights Movement), project up the same image.  Ask students to complete the task again, this time incorporating what they learned in the class lesson.  
  4. Ask students to think outside the box, and establish a classroom where ideas (even those way out there) are appreciated and considered.
    • Lesson Example:  Utilize spiral questioning and interactive lectures whenever you MUST be the one speaking in your classroom.  When you are teaching any topic, give students the freedom to take over the historic character's conversation.  Encourage act-it-outs in front of an image on the screen, or provide role cards to help your students step back in time.  And encourage impromptu and ad-lib performances.  In my Gilded Age Immigration lesson, students use the role cards to get them started, but then the immigrants can become real as the students use their information-based imaginations!

And finally, just ask WHY all the time!  You ask it.  Encourage your students to ask it.  Even prompt your administrators or fellow teachers to walk into your classroom and randomly ask your students WHY?!  Teaching them to always be prepared to answer that simple question is one of the greatest lessons you will ever teach! 

For a variety of interactive lessons that can help you to implement this standard, please visit my TpT Store.  Be sure to check out my Analysis Activities and my Interactive Lecture products!

Find ideas for Standard 6 on my next blog post!

Are you having trouble reading and implementing the CCSS Standards in your classroom? Read to learn how to best teach the standards without stress. Click for Teaching Core Content Standard 5 in the Secondary Social Studies Classroom - Text Structure, and then link to the other standards for a complete explanation of the lessons you need to reach your students' greatest potential. #lessons #CCSS #standards #teaching

Happy Teaching!

Michele Luck

A Standard A Day Keeps The Admins Away! Standard 4

This is part of my continuing series on Teaching the Common Core Standards in the Secondary Social Studies Classroom!

Teaching the Common Core Standard 4 in the Secondary Social Studies Classroom - Vocabulary
Common Core Standard 4 for Social Studies:

Teaching the Common Core Standard 4 in the Secondary Social Studies Classroom
CCSS.ELA-Literacy.RH.9-10.4 Determine the meaning of words and phrases as they are used in a text, including vocabulary describing political, social, or economic aspects of history/social science.

Geography Bingo!

Teaching vocabulary is an integral part of any classroom.  In the Social Studies classroom, we have to delve further in, often addressing context and specific meaning of terms based on the time period, the historic event, and even multiple perspectives.  Considering this aspect, Social Studies teachers must be deliberate and creative in their instruction of "words and phrases" in the classroom.

First of all, the teaching of vocabulary must be deliberate.  It cannot simply be "expected" that students will "get" the understanding of terms through their use within the reading or within the context of class instruction.  The vocabulary must be its own lesson, one in which the stage is set for all else.
  • Do not ask students for definitions in the Social Studies classroom.  If they are learning vocabulary, they must describe the terms, their context, their uses for the unit, and their significance.  Be deliberate in asking for a complete understanding of the terms rather than a short, dictionary.com response.
  • Utilize graphic organizers for the instruction and processing of vocabulary.   Divide the process into categories, such as direct meaning, varying perspectives, significance in time...
  • Require repeated use of the vocabulary throughout the unit and beyond.  Refer back to specific terms from previous units, make comparisons in meaning from time period to time period, and investigate the influence of different people and/or movements on the meaning of terms.
  • Practice vocabulary as part of a daily routine.  Begin class with bellringers that USE vocabulary effectively in application or for review.  Assign exit slips, requiring students to use the terms appropriately in their response.
More importantly, the teaching of vocabulary must be creative.  Make it fun, or make it more engaging, rather than assigning students a list of terms at the beginning of each unit.  Allow students to take on the terms for everyday use, just as they would take on new vocabulary needed for visiting a new country or meeting relatives from the home country!  It must be an adventure, and one they will not soon forget, for the impression to set and the value to be gained. 
Teaching the Common Core Standard 4 in the Secondary Social Studies Classroom - Vocabulary
  • Use illustrations to help students learn vocabulary.  With each description of a new term, have them add images or symbols to show their understanding.  Even stick figures can make the impression to help a  student recall a term and its meaning at a later date.
  • Assign tasks with the vocabulary, such as creating a Pinterest Page or a Tweet for the term.  Have students add "links" or "icons" to represent the terms and its meaning. 
  • Allow students to investigate terms or sets of vocabulary in small groups.  They can discuss the meaning, work toward developing a way to "teach" its meaning to the rest of the class, and apply the meaning through a number of reporting or performance options.
    • Skits
    • Oprah/The Today Show/National Geographic Reports...
    • Songs
    • Videos
    • Prezis/Powerpoints
    • Webpages
    • Webquests
    • Travel Journals
  • Make word walls more interesting and creative with visual images that well represent the unit.  
    • When teaching about the Civil Rights Movement, have students define and describe each term in "Protest Signs" or "Newspaper Headlines" for display on the bulletin boards or classroom walls.
    • Allow small groups to create vocabulary collages with captions hidden below to explain the meaning and significance of terms.  Display the works in the hall with a banner that asks other students to try to "Guess the Meaning!"
And finally, my favorite:
  • Allow students to PLAY to learn the vocabulary or to practice it for review.   
    • Turn your classroom into a Human Game Board for quick recall of term meaning or transform your wall into a Life-Sized Word Game
    • Play Bingo or other simple games for review of basic term meaning, or step it up a notch with "significance" clues instead of definitions.
    • Divide your class into teams and play Charades with the terms until every term has been reviewed and all students are winners!
While the study of vocabulary is vital in the Social Studies classroom, it does not have to be the old pencil and paper activity of the past.  Transform this standard into activities students will love to participate in at the beginning and end of each unit!

For a variety of Vocabulary Activities & Games, search for unit specific activities or visit the Games & Game Boards section of my TpT Store.

Keep reading to learn how to implement Standard 5.

Are you having trouble meeting the CCSS standards in your middle or high school classroom. Read these tips and ideas for implementing any state or national standards.  Teaching the Common Core Standard 4 in the Secondary Social Studies Classroom - Vocabulary will get you started and then you can link for every other standard lesson idea! #CCSS #teaching #lessons #standards #iteach678 #iteachhs

Happy Teaching!
Michele Luck