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End of Year Review? Play Games!

At the end of each school year, students are restless, but they still need to be enticed to prepare for their end of year exams.  In my classes, I let my students create and play games!
Creating and playing games allows students to practice many skills and review content we have learned in the Social Studies class through the year, but it also reinforces the need for students to work together and to complete large tasks on a short timetable - a great skill for their futures.

Creating board games can be implemented in a number of ways to best fit the needs of your individual classes.  Make the project as big or as small as you want to fill the end of the year and prep your students at the same time.
Most importantly, give your students time to play all of the games created.  Game play not only reviews the course content, but it allows students to compete and to interact with each other in a fun, engaging way!

If you enjoyed reading this Bright Idea, please follow my blog for future posts and tips for the Secondary classroom and take a look at my TpT Store for the tools to make your classroom engaging and fun. 

 
For more Bright Ideas from other bloggers, please browse through the linkup below and choose the topics or grade levels that most interests you!  Thank you for visiting.


Traveling from the Classroom

Toward the end of the school year, student focus can be a great challenge.  I always found that my students started looking more through the windows than they did toward the board as the spring months rolled around and summer was on the horizon.  To remedy this, I scheduled my last weeks of school as a student-centered travel-based PBL (project-based learning).  

Teaching about travel can be a great Geography skills review, but also helps students dream about their future possibilities to set life goals.

The premise of my assignments were very easy... 
If you could go anywhere on a dream vacation, where would it be?

Now, I've done this activity over and over again.  Each time, I work my hardest to make it a reality!  And once I've completed all parts, including the actual travel, I start all over.

Teaching about travel can be a great Geography skills review, but also helps students dream about their future possibilities to set life goals.

While my original goal was to encourage student review of my geographic and historic content, the real lesson became in goal-setting and dream-planning!  Both are great lessons to learn, and can be incredible motivators for student success.
Teaching about travel can be a great Geography skills review, but also helps students dream about their future possibilities to set life goals.

So, as your school year starts to wind down, and your students start to wind up, give them a project to work on that can take them far beyond the classroom.  Let them travel the world!

Here are just a few options for a PBL for your students:
Geography World Travel Project (FREE!)
U.S. Travel Project
World Travel Project

Happy Teaching!

Teaching in the Springtime!

Believe it or not, students do still have the capacity to learn in the springtime!  Even after testing!  Even when the calendar warns of summer on the horizon and the crisp, clean breezes are blowing through the windows.  

For me, as a teacher, I could not tolerate staying inside on a warm spring day.  There is nothing more oppressive than having to stay in a moldy building when everything outside the door was fresh and full of new life.  So, as soon as I earned tenure, my spring days were spent with my toes in the grass.

This doesn't mean my teaching stopped!

 Teaching in the springtime can be a huge challenge. Use these tips for creating the best end of the year for you and your students!

Teaching outside in the springtime can be a great experience for you and for your students.  With the freshness and fragrance in the air, our creativity is at its best and we are more likely to think outside the box.  More importantly, we can breath the fresh air and take in new ideas for change or progress that just simply didn't appear to us in the past.

 Teaching in the springtime can be a huge challenge. Use these tips for creating the best end of the year for you and your students!

While you can't take all classes outside, here are a few ideas for getting out in the sun:
  1. Read!  Anything is better when it's read outside!  Choose a wonderful novel or weekly readers and find a soft spot to circle your class in the grass.  Read aloud or assign silent reading.
  2. Write!  If you want your students' creative juices flowing, take them out and allow them to find that perfect spot for their writing task.  Students, when taken outside to create, will work harder and longer than inside the stale classroom.
  3. Peer editing is a boring task for most, yet at the end of the year, it must be done.  As students are facing deadlines for portfolios, college applications, and other writing tasks, take time to review, edit and revise under the sun.
  4. Playing games!  After covering so much content through the school year, unit reviews (recapping past content with the current) is so vital.  Take students outside to play review games on the bleachers or on the sidewalk.  Use the football field to mark progress or to work toward content mastery.
  5. Discuss!  While some will argue that students taken outside will only be off task, I argue that this is the perfect place for whole-class discussions.  Pick controversial topics, or those near and dear to your students' hearts, and share a spot on the grass to carry on the valuable discussion.
  6. Research! Now that most research tools are mobile, allow students to work in small groups in the fresh air.  They will be more productive and their ideas will be more refreshing than those typically created in the classroom.
  7. Present!  As the school year comes closer to the end, it is also time to hand over more responsibility to your students for the collection and presentation of content.  And take those thespians outside where the world is their stage!
Finally, take time to relax and reflect.  Time spent with your students in the final days of the year can be the absolute best or the absolute worst.  Take time to reflect on the school year, to talk about the future, and to share your thoughts and feelings about the successes and failures of the year.  Sitting under a big oak tree can help bring on that reflective feeling that will foster great discussion that is not only valuable in the present, but also for the future!

Happy Springtime Teaching!

Effective End of the Year Review

At the end of the year, there is so much content to review, but so little time.  Finding effective methods for reviewing a full course can be a great challenge.  This is why I created the resources I needed to help my students review for AP exams, end of year testing, and state assessments without the stress and anxiety that often comes with preparing reviews.

Effective end of the year review ideas for the secondary social studies classroom

First and foremost, I love using games for review.  However, before games can take place, the students must have a firm grasp of the content.  To get that level of content understanding, I use two simple tools:
  1. My SPRITE Graphic Organizer - this organizer helps students categorize the social, political, religious, intellectual, technological, and economic aspects of each decade or topic in history.  More importantly, they allow students to evaluate the Big Picture and the Significance in History, setting up an outline of history for students to reference in their studies.
    Effective end of the year review ideas for the secondary social studies classroom
  2. A Blank Map - maps can help students to connect the content in a visual manner and to see the connections they need to evaluate events throughout history.  Encourage students to bullet information on maps or to draw illustrations to help add to the visual representation of the event or topic.
    Effective end of the year review ideas for the secondary social studies classroom
Using the two tools together can help your students create a 2-page overview of each unit of study, condensing their course content into an easy to navigate study tool.

Enlarge the organizer and map to wall size or board size, and you have an incredible discussion tool for whole class review and student assessment.

And remember, the end of the year is coming quickly!  You're almost there!

Happy Teaching!

Teaching Geography IS Teaching History

Over the weekend, I spent countless hours listening to many teachers discuss their struggles with getting students to understand some historical topics, especially those involving location-specific events.  This led me to ask how many of those teachers started their courses or units with Geography tasks or introductions.  They looked at me like I was speaking a foreign language, and then they each explained that they didn't have time to cover all of their history content, much less teach Geography too.  

There's the problem!

Teaching Geography is key to teaching history in a secondary course

Teaching Geography IS Teaching History.

Students cannot evaluate historical events without a basic knowledge of Geography.  More importantly, they cannot understand our current world conflicts without first having a grasp on World Geography.

All that said, it is still a challenge to cover all of your content, so it's important to include Geographic lessons where they fit best.  Here are a few ideas:
  1. Introduce each unit with a Geography Overview.  Have students identify key physical features, important locations, and significant geographic challenges.  Take a look at my Middle Ages Mapping Activity for a good example.
    Teaching Geography is key to teaching history in a secondary course
  2. Incorporate the Geography into the lesson.  Annotated and Illustrated Timelines are a great tool to cover large amounts of content while also reinforcing skills.  Add a Geographic component and students have the full picture of a major event.  My Cold War Events Timeline & Mapping Activity covers decades with content, Geographic skills practice, and creativity!
  3. Make Geography the center of your lesson to examine significant historic events where land played a key role in the event's outcome.  My Mapping the Lands of Russia Activity helps students better understand the Geography of Russia to examine its impact on WWI or WWII.
    Teaching Geography is key to teaching history in a secondary course
  4. Introduce a History course with Geography lessons.  I always spent the first 3 weeks of my year reviewing everything about Geography.  This included reviewing skills and content.  But if time does not allow such an intensive review, simply examine Geography's Effect on Settlement.  The basic ideas of Geography's impact will set the foundation for future lessons. 
    Teaching Geography is key to teaching history in a secondary course
Any my latest series project is on Geographic Unit Introductions!  I'm working hard to create a quick lesson for each unit in both U.S. and World History courses.  Please let me know if there is a unit you'd like me to cover sooner rather than later!

Happy Teaching!