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Monday Mapping: Addressing Current Events with Historical Facts

As we get closer to the end of the school year, and especially after testing, it becomes more and more challenging to teach in the content-based, unit to unit way we are used to in our Social Studies classrooms.  Students are less willing to read from texts and are more apt to share their opinions rather than support anything with fact.  This pushes us, the dedicated to the end teachers, to pull out lessons that will engage, and maybe even some that will entice anger, frustration, or sadness, just to get a response!


Most lessons of the sort will not be an easy find, or even an easy creation.  They come from knowing your students, and knowing what will rile them up!  Still, here are a few tips to get you started:
In the end, just find a theme.  Something you know travels through time, and is still significant today.  While a few years old now, Jimmy Carter's "Losing my Religion" piece is perfect for stirring up conversation (and review).  Read along in the piece (at the link), and then ask yourself where these questions could take your classroom...
  1. What does religion mean in your life?  (Yes, you can ask this!  No, it does not mean you are introducing or judging any religion or breaking any law.)
  2. How do you think religion affects society?
  3. How does religion impact the political system or laws?
  4. What historical support can you come up with for President Carter's points on the oppression of women by religion?
  5. Are some religions more or less accepting of difference than others?
  6. How does the discrimination discussed by Carter compare to other, more current discrimination? 
  7. What groups or peoples are the brunt of discrimination in modern society?
  8. How has history taught us to be tolerant?  Forgiving?  Accepting?
  9. What do you think is the overall goal of The Elders?
  10. Do you think people can practice their faith and still be accepting of difference?  How?
  11. Why? Why? Why?  This is the big one... As your students why we should look deeper at this issue and those similar.
  12. And finally, What can you do?  You see what Carter has done through this piece.  Other world leaders joined him in statements regarding their own faiths or beliefs.  What can you, as individuals in our modern world, do to make a difference now and in the future?
Teaching the last days of each school year can be an incredible challenge, but it can also be a great learning experience for you and your students!  Enjoy your time with them, and help them take away everything they can from the classroom experience.

Teaching with current events in the middle and high school classroom can be a great way to get students engaged and to teach them historical context. Read these tips for getting started at any time of the school year. #teaching

Happy Teaching!

Secondary Smorgasbord: Games to Keep Them Engaged at Year's End

Teaching new content at the end of the year is most often out of the question with crazy schedules and early dismissed groups as events and other obligations draw our students in every direction.  Still, we know we must wrap-up our content with students to help bring lessons together and to help them review for coming final exams or course tests.  How can we keep it together as everything seems to be falling apart in the final days of the year?


Keeping students engaged can be the greatest challenge for any teacher.  While some teachers choose to give up and offer free time to their students those final days, I could never give up that time, or my sanity to the chaos, and instead set up organized game play for my students each and every school day right up to our final exams.

Here are a few of my Game Strategies for the Secondary classroom:
  • Use Practice Games -  design games to address specific content, skills or standards and course curriculum.  Create your own questions and create competition among your students to keep them engaged and participating.  Offer incentives to highest scoring groups.
  • Allow Students to Create Games - divide your class by the number of units covered in the course and assign one unit to each group for game creation.  Allow students to use existing game resources (game pieces, etc) or encourage them to create every aspect of the game for every greater involvement.  Use the final days for groups to exchange game boards and to compete for course prizes.
  • Play on a Human Game Board - One of my favorites!  Turn your classroom into a human game board using the tiles on your floor as spaces.  Roll the dice or award points based on question values and review the course content from beginning to end. 
No matter how you choose to spend your final days in the classroom, just remember that your sanity, and the success of your students, will be best maintained if you keep order and structure to the very end.  That said, maintain that order and structure while you have fun in the last days!  Your students will remember your content, and they will remember you for being the cool teacher you are!

Be sure to check out the other posts in the Secondary Smorgasbord for great ideas to help you get through the end of the school year!  And, thanks to Meatballs in the Middle and Desktop Learning Adventures for hosting these wonderful blog posts!




Happy Teaching!

Monday Mapping: Evaluation Time Again! Tips for Success

It doesn't matter what career you are in, or how good you are at what you do, when you are told it is time for your annual observation/evaluation, you become just a bit unnerved!

Those of us who are somewhat cocky (tenured and over-confident) may scoff that it's no big deal, or that "anyone can step in my classroom anytime they want!" Well, while that is true, and I personally do welcome everyone into my classroom, it is still unsettling to know someone will be entering with a clipboard in hand and an assortment of category boxes waiting to be checked off in my affirmation.

Even the most confident teacher will feel some anxiety as the observation approaches. We are in a career where we want to do our best. We want to impress. We want to engage everyone - and often we want to entertain. It's what we do. And that slight fear that we will be the comedian on the stage with the dead-silent audience (cricket, cricket) sets in our minds and weighs us down like a lump in the throat.

So, what do you do? You do your best! Oh, those words... Do your best! But they are true!
You do your best, and let the administrator observing you do the rest. They are in their position to be your leader, your guide, and your mentor. They are your administrator because they were once in your shoes and they worked their way to the front office by being the ones who did well on their own observations and evaluations! They are there to help you become your best, and they can be your greatest cheerleader. Trust in them to do their jobs well!

Now, I give all this advice as I sit knowing I'm no longer subjected to the torture! But that's okay! I can still feel your pain.  And anxiety!  But I know you will do your best and be your best. Make them laugh, make them cry, and make them cheer with joy at your lesson.  Be a teacher. It's what YOU do!


Need some light reading to get your through the anxiety?  Read my book, A Lesson Plan for Teachers, New and Old!  It's also available on Amazon!  And be sure to download all of my Freebies for Teachers on TpT!

If you are a teacher preparing for your annual evaluation, you need to read these great tips!

Happy Teaching!