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Teaching the Holidays all Year Long

As I wrote about in my Activism blog entry below, I am always hesitant to take time out of my annual curriculum map (Yes, I am that OCD) to stop everything for a "Holiday Lesson."  At the elementary level, I completely understand the celebrations, and having seen my husband bring holidays alive in his elementary school, I would not contradict that decision at all.  However, at the middle and high school level, I simply want to address the holiday topics all day, every day, all year long.  Whether it is Black History Month or President's Day or Women's History Month, I want to be teaching the history of ALL people every day. 

With that said, I often create lessons or activities that address the everyone or the contributions of many over those of just ONE.  I love for my students to be able to compare and contrast the lives and contributions of many great people, and to be able to apply their life lessons to their own lives.  In the end, I always want them to be asking theirselves:  "What contribution can I make in this world?"

For those of you celebrating and teaching about Black History Month, take a different approach.  Read my Activism blog entry to get ideas and lesson activities that will open students' eyes to the every day people that have made a huge difference in the advancement of all minorities in our country and in our world.

As for President's Day, there are so many real lessons that can enhance the content learning that we stress every day. 
  • Use flashcards on the presidents for students to study one a day as a bellringer in your Social Studies classes.  Ask students to read about the president and discuss their contributions.  Also allow students to address their weaknesses.  What would they have done differently?! 
  • Set up a walking tour around your classroom where students can visit and investigate the contributions of the presidents.  Encourage students to create "Tour Cards" on themselves, depicting what type of president they would be.  What contributions would they make if president? 
  • Allow students to investigate the presidents, but to also have fun with the information they can find on our great leaders.  Presidents are human, and for middle and high school students seeing this human element, it makes the presidents more real and more interesting.  Discuss the "truth" and allow the lessons to be fun.  Have students create Presidential Facebook pages or Pinterest pins.
For my students,  I wanted them to see that the presidents were average guys that did something extraordinary for our nation and our world.  I wanted my students to see and understand that it could be them in that oval office, and it could be them making the news each and every day.

And next will be Women's History Month.  Oh, don't get me started on all the contributions made by average, everyday women every where! 

Happy Teaching!


Make the Classroom Fun!

Most of the lessons I create have an element of fun in them.  I, myself, cannot stand to sit still in a classroom, so why should I expect that of my students?  And anyway, it is so much better when the body and the brain is moving - great ideas, great discussion, and great revelations come from it all!

As I posted my latest product, A Walking Tour of the Roaring 20s, I thought about what it was like teaching this crazy decade in my class.  Fun!  And then I realized, that in simply providing my products for other teachers to use, I was leaving out some very important information.  So, here it is!
  1. When I teach about eras (Or any topic) where music is significant, use music to teach it!  During the 20s, we always followed the steps from the youtube video to do the Charleston to the great jazz music of the decade.  And let me tell you, there is nothing more entertaining than watching Midwestern high school boys in their Carhardt wear and boots doing the Charleston!
  2. Movement is vital.  I will not cite research here, but I will tell you from experience that students remember what they learn while moving.  With that said, every lessons should involve movement.  Whether we are dancing through the decades, or hula-hooping, or simply marching or sitting in trenches while learning about soldier's experiences, movement makes it all memory.
  3. Students must FEEL to learn.  Boredom only sets in when students just don't care.  If you share with them real stories from history or science or ELA or whatever, they care more about the lesson.  While we can't make everything like a Jersey Shore episode, there are always elements that make it just a bit more scandalous, and therefore, more interesting to learn.
  4. Competition is vital.  You might find a few students in your classes who do not care about success, but the rest of the world likes to compete and they like to win.  Games for review in the classroom, or just for fun, bring out the best, and worst, in us all, but they also help the students learn and retain your content.  Use my game boards to turn your classroom into a human-size review game or allow students to create their own games and have a competition day for content review.
In the end, it is no longer acceptable to stand at a lectern and deliver a lesson.  Your students must live the lesson for it to be real in their lives.  And more importantly, for your own sanity, make your classroom fun.  That's the point where your job becomes more than something you do each day from 7-4.  It becomes something you love!


Celebrating Activism in the Classroom!

I can remember my first year of teaching quite well.  I often heard one comment from students over and over:  "You can't teach that!"  Being a history teacher, and one that is adamant that it is important to tell all sides of all stories, I often rocked the boat.  I knew this, and even after many calls from parents and to the principal's office, I still felt it was important to teach my students to think for themselves!  That is the "social" part I want them to study.

As holiday's approached, I always rejected the administrations demands that I "take a day" from my regularly scheduled lessons to address the topic or focus of the year.  I explained that every person should be taught every day, and that isolating groups for a holiday is the same as isolating them in general.  So, to be defiant, while complying (advice from my mentor), I did things my own way!

Holidays such as "Black History" or ML King Day or President's Day do not need to be a rehash of one person's biography year after year.  It should be a celebration of the contributions made by every day people in our every day world, those significant individuals included.

In addition, we must remind our students, and ourselves, that movements can be started by one, but to get them finished, they must involve many.  Change can start will just one drop of water, but the waterfall is going to create the movement of the mountains!


Here are a few activities (Which each offer many ideas for implementation) from my TpT Store for the coming ML King Holiday, Black History Month, or President's Day:

Important African-Americans Bio Activities Set 

Important Activists & Leaders Activities Set

President's Centers or Small Group Activities Set

American Presidents Facebook or Pinterest Activity Set

American Presidents Walking Tour Centers Activity

The Presidents Matching Card Game Set