Digging for CCS

You are now challenged to teach students the Common Core Standards, yet you have the same resources you've always had while your students are drastically different than those of the past.  What do you do?

In today's classroom, it is absolutely key that your lessons be engaging.  Students can no longer sit still for an hour (or more) listening to teacher-directed instruction.  They must be involved.  They must be moving.  They must be drawn to participate!

One thing a teacher must remember is that your students are still kids.  Elementary, middle or high, they are all still kids, who just love to play.  I can't tell you how many high school football players I have heard squeal with joy when they saw I planned to read to them at my carpet time station or when they realized we were doing "one of those things you do" in my class that day.

So here's my fun and engaging idea of the day:
 Transform your classroom into an Archeological Dig!  This can be used in ANY classroom with any subject area.  Create the dig, design (or purchase) activity cards, bury the cards, and let the activity begin.  What could be better for a cross-discipline lesson?  Just think about the possibilities!

  1. Create a square frame in your classroom or outside.  Use wood, cardboard, or any materials available that will hold the structure.  Make the frame as large as you desire, based on the number of students you will have digging at a time.
  2. Fill the frame with dig material.  I often used shredded paper I collected from the Guidance Office shredder!  You could use sand if you are really daring, but I would suggest something more long-lasting and reusable.  Another easy use item is (uncooked) beans or rice.  Scoop it all up at the end and place it all in a big crate for the next time you dig!
  3. Quadrant off the dig site.  You could have this step complete before the activity, or make it a math lesson for students to complete.
  4. Assign your students to teams and provide directions for the activity.  It is a really good idea to reinforce your classroom rules at this point, reminding students about safety and fair play.
  5. Allow students to dig!  Use dig cards that provide information or pose problems for students to solve.  Encourage students to work together in their assigned teams to complete task cards or to discuss the information they gather.  
  6. Wrap-up the activity by reviewing the content and asking appropriate questions for content analysis and evaluation.
  7. Clean up!  Involve your students in this step.  Its a valuable lessons all students should learn before they go off to college!  :)
Chinese Dynasties Archeological Dig Product Link
American Colonies Archeological Dig Product Link

Easy, Content-filled, and ENGAGING!   What could be better for a spring activity?!

Michele Luck

The Middle School Conference

This week, I've had the pleasure of representing a group of TeachersPayTeachers sellers at the North Carolina Middle School Conference.  With samples of their products in hand, I was able to meet and talk with middle school teachers from across North Carolina to tell them about the great people and products they can find on TpT!

It is always a wonderful experience to meet with teachers.  They share their ideas and they talk about their concerns, with all comments in the interest of our students.  The best part for me, however, is when I meet up with teachers that have never heard of TpT, and they respond to the information with such appreciation and enthusiasm.  What could be more exciting than finding out you don't have to reinvent the wheel in your classroom everyday, but can still teach students with the latest and greatest, common core aligned, fun-filled, engaging activities out there?!

For those of you I met at the conference, here are the links to those super teachers I shared with you.  Visit their stores to see all of the incredible resources they have available.

Social Studies:
My Store!  Michele Luck's Social Studies
Arlene Manemann

Lindsay Perro
Miss Math Dork
Mary Carr Math
Tracee Orman
Jen Maschari
Angie Kratzer
Laura Torres
Arlene Manemann
Science Stuff
Jen Maschari

I Am Bullyproof Music

Foreign Language:
Spanish Plans

All Subject Areas:
Always Learning


Michele Luck

Teaching Controversy

Throughout history, teachers have faced controversial topics in their classrooms.  Do they teach these topics or do they adhere to convention and ignore the opportunity to open young minds?  For those of the past, asking students to consider new theories could be career ending, and sometimes dangerous.  But for teachers today, teaching students to think for themselves is expected, and controversy should be a part of every classroom experience!

Here are some history lessons to consider:

What would the world be like if Socrates did not teach his students to think?

What would the world be like if Martin Luther did not teach his disciples to question?

What would the world be like if Galileo didn't teach his followers to investigate?

What would the world be like if Scopes bowed down to the power of his peers?

What would the world be like if Martin Luther King Jr. allowed the status quo to remain in effect?

What would the world be like if WE did not teach what we know?  If we just passed on the FACTS, and never asked our students to think or question or investigate?  What would our future be if we didn't support our students in standing up against peer pressure and facing off against the status quo? 

So, how do you teach controversy?  Just open the door!

Introduce the topics that some fear and avoid.

Allow open discussion, and welcome the devil's advocate into the classroom.

Encourage investigation and the introduction of new theories.

Teach respect for others and an appreciation of difference.

Do not ONLY teach the facts, but ask the right questions to allow students to discover their own interests and theories on the topics introduced.

Accept that your students will feel differently than you do about the events and topics you introduce.  Appreciate this fact, and remember that they are the future...

And finally, keep your fingers crossed!  Do not be naive that teaching controversy will not bring conflict and chaos.  Just be prepared to defend your lessons and to defend your obligation to prepare your students to the real world we live in today!

Here are some controversial lessons to get you started!
Who is the real hero?
What really happened?

What should have been done?
It wasn't a war?
Was it worth the costs?
Should we have...?


Michele Luck

Doing the Charleston!

Teaching is not always a FUN job!  It can be very stressful from time to time, especially in our high stakes, standards-based academic world.  But then there are the days...

I love teaching the Roaring 20s.  I love teaching my students about the jazz beat and the Charleston dance moves.  I love watching my students, especially my big football players and my country guys, kicking up their feet and trying to complete the delicate moves of the time!  What could be more fun?


I love teaching about the different places in our world.  Traveling with my students through virtual tours or in archaeological digs, we all escape our place and time to take an adventurous trip to the unknown!  What could be more fun?


I love teaching about the coolness and the controversy of our past.  Encouraging deep thought and investigation, followed by engaged discussion, is the most fulfilling experience!  What could be more fun?


Teaching is not always a FUN job!  But when you use your classroom as a forum to introduce young minds to all of the different adventures of the past and future in our world, it is the most fun any job could be!

Happy Teaching!
Michele Luck

Keeping Up with the Standards

As the school year navigates its final curve, many teachers begin to look toward the end, and they can often miss that last stretch of the road.  From Spring Break through testing season, and into the final days of school, the standards can often be pushed aside for other more important tasks - you know, planning for prom and graduation.

Now, with the common core standards looming over everyone's head, it is even more important that teachers have, and stick to, their curriculum calendar.  At each level, it is important to cover all of the assigned content.  If not, just imagine the gaps in our student's minds.

Take, for instance, middle school World History.  For many, the 7th grade curriculum requires the teacher to cover the beginning of civilizations TO the Renaissance.  This INCLUDES the Middle Ages.  Now, you may be able to tell this is a pet peeve of mine.  After teaching high school World History for so many years, I became tired and frustrated with the many middle school teachers who, at this time in the year, decided they were running behind, so they would just skip the middle ages and teach something more fun - the Renaissance.  Then, since the Renaissance is not really their required content, they skim over much of it, only hitting what they find fun and interesting.  You end up with every student painting like Michelangelo by laying on the floor and creating a masterpiece on the paper taped to the bottom of their desk, yet knowing nothing of the Crusades, the Feudal System, and the rise of the modern-day nations.  Hmmm... why do Christians and Muslims not get along?  We don't know, but that painting on the "Sixteenth" Chapel ceiling is really cool!  UGH!

 So, what do you do if you are running behind and still need to hit the content?

I have always been a stickler to keeping to my content schedule.  Knowing how I feel when I do not get to finish a book or a movie, I always feared my students leaving my "story" without knowing the end.  That left me almost obsessive with following my curriculum calendar, or at least, working in activities to cover the content into my final weeks.

Here are my tips:

Use Centers or Stations to cover large amounts of content in short periods of time.
Middle Ages Activity
Walking Tours

Allow your students to make decisions in what they want to learn, focusing on what is more important to them.

Asian Empires Research Project
Semester Research Projects

Assign research projects to encourage students to investigate the content further, bringing it all back together through student presentations.
Comparing Countries

Don't be afraid to mix up events or people from different "units" to introduce your students to the bigger picture.

Biography Cards & Activities
Wrap-up Research Activities

Teach the BIG PICTURE!  It is not important that they know every name, date, and location, but they should understand the significance of the lesson.
Middle Ages to Renaissance

In the end, my best suggestion is quite simple:  Do not stop teaching!  Testing, spring events, and even the final weeks of school are not reasons to give up on your obligations.  Use every minute possible to provide your students every advantage you can in this ever changing world.  Just remember - Knowledge is Power!

Michele Luck