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How To Create a Meet & Greet for Back to School

The first days of school can be rough on teachers and students alike.  Finding strategies to help break the ice can be time-saving in building a positive learning environment and can help you step into your content in a creative and engaging way.  One of the easiest strategies to implement is the Meet & Greet for Back to School.
How to create a Meet and Greet for Back to School

What is a Meet & Greet?
A Meet & Greet is the perfect Back to School activity.  It is a simple strategy where students find one another to match up topics, people or other characteristics, meeting one another and creating a cooperative bond in the process.

While there are many different methods for creating a Meet & Greet, my favorite is using historic figures to help the students find their work mates.  With matching clues to the historic figures, students use varied resources to tack down and meet up with their alias.  In doing so, students not only break the ice on that first school day, but they are also learning cooperative skills that will set the standard in your classroom for the year.

Steps for a Meet & Greet
The steps are quite simple and can be adapted to fit your individual classes or students.
  1. Find a resource with matching cards. These can be vocabulary terms, important people, or other characteristics.
  2. Provide texts or online tools around the room to assist students in solving their clue.  
  3. Once students know the term or person they are looking for, they will navigate their way around the room, interviewing other students to see if they share a common term or person.
  4. In addition to asking about their clue, students should ask a question or make a comment to each student they meet, searching for commonalities in their classmates.
  5. Once all matches are made, students should find seats in pairs where they can create a Facebook or Pinterest profile on the topic or person that they will present to the class as they also present themselves.
    How to create a Meet and Greet for Back to School
For a more exciting Back to School activity, make it a game.  Encourage competition and offer prizes or points for the first teams to meet and greet!  This will set the tone for learning in your class, where students can have fun and learn at the same time.
How to create a Meet and Greet for Back to School

In my history classes, I use historic figures that we will later study.  This activity then serves as a preface to introduce the course syllabus and to discuss the people, places and things that will be studied in the coming year.  And to further set your classroom expectations, wrap up the activity with a writing prompt or simple assessment.  Not only will this conclude the activity, it will also help you to meet and greet your students where they are in terms of academic ability as well.

How to create a Meet and Greet for Back to School in the middle or high school classroom. A fun and engaging activity idea for the first day of school.

Happy Back to School!

For more great Back to School Tips, link through this Blog Hop for posts by some of my TpT Social Studies friends! 

How-To Use Music in the Social Studies Classroom

Social Studies teachers often hear how boring our content is from students of all ages and ability levels.  However, these same students will listen to music of all kinds, often engaging with the tunes in every possible way.  Why not use this addiction to the beat to our advantage?

Great tips for using music in the social studies classroom

How can you use music in your Social Studies classroom? Here's a quick how-to and a short list of my favorite toe-tapping tunes for each Social Studies content area!

Read more for tips on using music in the Social Studies classroom

First the How-Tos:
  1. Introduce units with music from the times.  Have students analyze the beat, the lyrics, or simply the feel of the music.  Encourage students to share their thoughts on the music or to predict the theme of the unit based on the music.
  2. Allow students to listen to music from historic eras to evaluate opposing viewpoints or perspectives on the times.  Create t-charts or Venn diagrams on the board with students adding points as the music plays.
  3. Have student create their own songs to describe eras in history.  They can perform the songs or simply present the lyrics to share researched topics or to review content.
  4. Utilize available technology (including student cell phones) to record videos on topics of study or content chants to help students remember and retain content.
  5. Use time appropriate music in centers or Walking Tours where students can immerse themselves in the period for a better understanding of the time period.
  6. Introduce music and dance from each era, teaching students the most popular moves, allowing them to examine the change in both music and dance over time.
  7. Simply play music in the background as students read, research, or complete assignments.  Music can be soothing, will help with memory, and can engage those otherwise distracted.
And now a few of my favorites:
Using music in the classroom will not only enhance your students' content knowledge, it will also help them to retain the content they learn.  But more importantly, it will keep them engaged and excited about learning Social Studies. That's the best benefit of all!

Using music in the middle or high school classroom can help students engage in content and retain that content for later recall. Here are how-to tips and ideas for reaching those auditory learners.

Happy Teaching!

My Biggest Fears of Going Digital

Go Digital!  We are hearing the call to action everywhere.  Go one to one! Jump on the Google Drive wagon!  Take your students into the 21st century!  But wait; how do you do that?  And do I really want to switch from my proven teaching strategies to the online methods?  I'm scared.  I have some really big fears of going digital.

My biggest fears of going digital in the secondary classroom
Now let me start by saying that I'm NOT an old school, desks in rows, textbook teaching instructor.  I am an old school, interactive classroom, students working collaboratively teacher.  And I LOVED using online activities, utilizing the Internet for resources, and even allowing my students to research and review using technology.

But then we got the shiny, new Macbook Airs, and our superintendent gave an order: Go Digital! 100%. No turning back!  This is when my fears of going digital set in...

My Biggest Fears of Going Digital:
  1. Students will play and not be engaged!  This is fallacy number 1.  Students, if given the opportunity, will play with a broken pencil, a calculator, a tear in the carpet.  A laptop is no different.  That means we need engaging resources and a great classroom management plan to keep them on task and learning.
  2. Students will not collaborate.  If you go digital in the right way, you will find that students can now collaborate more and have incredible tools at their fingertips for enhancing their lessons and their products created in the application stage of learning. 
  3. Students will become dependent on technology.  This is already true.  And again, it is no different than in generations past.  I was dependent on my telephone, only it was attached to the wall with a long cord that I stretched from the kitchen into the bathroom for privacy.  Simply remind students that no addiction or dependency is a good thing.  Teach balance and teach an appreciation for learning through all methods, not just those with a keyboard.
  4. Students will not retain what they learn.  Learning requires repetition.  It's that simple.  And while the verdict is still out on the risks or benefits of learning online, we do know that learning that is done with constant reinforcement does work.  Present your content to your students in a variety of ways, use differentiated strategies to reinforce content, and assess often to check for gaps in learning.
  5. Students will no longer need me!  Now the truth comes out... This is the big fear.  What if the online resources provide all of the instruction better than I could and my students no longer need me?  But this is an unfounded fear.  I am still the teacher. I still have the content knowledge to share and I still have the skills to help them learn.  More importantly, I am the facilitator that will guide them through the lessons and help them to navigate the online world.  
Teaching in the 21st Century is not really that different than how we taught for centuries before.  We just have new tools with which we can teach. And while it does take us a bit of time to adapt to the new tools, they can open doors for our students that they would never have encountered in the past.  Now I can show them the world, one webpage at a time!   So, don't fear; Go Digital!

My biggest fears of going digital in the secondary classroom

Are you concerned about going digital in your middle or high school classroom? Consider these ideas for a smooth 1:1 transition and your students will be the ones to see the great learning benefits.

Happy Teaching!

How-To Teach Primary Sources in the Secondary Classroom

When common core standards first came out, many Social Studies teachers went crazy worrying how they would teach primary sources.  After all, for those who had taught out of textbooks, the transition could be a scary one.  On the other hand, for those who had taught an interactive classroom with various collections of primary and secondary resources at their disposal, this challenge was a welcome one!
How-to Teach Primary Sources in the Secondary Classroom
However, while many teachers loved the idea of teaching more with primary sources, they were often ill-equipped for knowing the right strategies for helping students break apart the documents placed in from of them.  So, here's my quick how-to suggestions:
How-to Teach Primary Sources in the Secondary Classroom
  1. Encourage student collaboration.  Whether students are analyzing text, images, charts, maps or graphs, they can be easily overwhelmed with the task.  Many complain they do not know where to start or they feel they are not following the correct steps to complete the task.  But if students are working in pairs or small groups, they can discuss the guiding questions and work their way through the reading material together.
  2. Use Think-Pair-Share activities (my next how-to post!) or a Jigsaw to allow students the opportunity to process the content and to reinforce it through discussion and "teaching" with their peers. 
    How-to Teach Primary Sources in the Secondary Classroom
  3. Always encourage step by step analysis. I love using spiral questioning with my primary source analysis activities, and this method gives students the confidence to read further and to leap with assumptions they can then further investigate to prove right or wrong!
  4. Vary the primary sources you use in your instruction.  If students only see text, they will tire out quickly and will lose interest in the topic of study.  Instead, add in images, music, video, and any other form of media available to make your topic much more fun and engaging for students to enjoy as they learn. 
    How-to Teach Primary Sources in the Secondary Classroom
  5. Always allow students the opportunity to process what they have learned.  Whether you use a short exit slip or a full writing prompt, be sure to assess your students understanding of the content and their ability to take from the documents the relevant content.
 And finally, use quality primary sources!  The information provided to students must be strong in content and strong in written development.  Snippits only leave students confused and frustrated.  Find many primary source analysis activities in my TpT Store at

Be sure to check out the How-To Category of my blog, A Lesson Plan for Teachers, for more great tips for the secondary classroom!

Easy how-to instructions and ideas for teaching primary sources and analysis in the middle or high school classroom.  Add the first step to every lesson plan for greater student success!

Happy Teaching!

How-To Teach Comparison in the Secondary Classroom

Teaching comparison in the secondary classroom is a requirement, but it can also be a great challenge.  Students are easily frustrated with an open-ended assignment, and they are often flustered with the task of finding comparison criteria when not provided clear direction and content-strong resources.

Find 7 ideas or tips on how to teach comparison in the secondary classroom that go beyond the Venn diagram and stress student-centered learning activities. Remembering the last tip is so important!
Here are a few simple steps to find comparison success.
  1. Find quality resources with content-strong readings that allow students to step into comparison tasks with clear direction and objectives. 
    Find 7 ideas or tips on how to teach comparison in the secondary classroom that go beyond the Venn diagram and stress student-centered learning activities. Remembering the last tip is so important!
  2. Arrange centers that organize the content in ways that will help students see the categories for comparison.  Discuss categories at the beginning of the activity for early comparison learners.
  3. Provide graphic organizers that allow students to select and sort information as they visit each center.  Check on student progress as they visit each center and redirect as needed. 
    Find 7 ideas or tips on how to teach comparison in the secondary classroom that go beyond the Venn diagram and stress student-centered learning activities. Remembering the last tip is so important!
  4. Utilize clear wrap-up questions that push students into small group discussion on the topics for comparison.  Encourage thorough discussion and conflicting points of view.
  5. Outline expectations for topic comparison and assign writing tasks with choice options.  In the example shown, students can compare overall religions or can make comparisons between individual categories among all presented religions.
  6. Allow students to share ideas and to report out conclusions to wrap up the activity and to reinforce the content.  Hang big paper at each center for students to leave comments and access feedback from other students (and you!).
  7. Review as a whole class to discuss the main points for understanding and to examine the comparisons made for strengths and weaknesses.
While learning the task of comparison can be a daunting task, it can be easy when the right tools and steps are followed!

*My World Religions Comparison Centers Activity is the example shown in this post.

And be sure to see my other How-To posts for making your secondary classroom interactive, engaging, and fun!

Find 7 ideas or tips on how to teach comparison in the secondary classroom that go beyond the Venn diagram and stress student-centered learning activities. Remembering the last tip is so important!

Happy Teaching!

How To Use Variations on Think-Pair-Share in the Secondary Classroom

Think-Pair-Share is an old strategy that works!  However, if it is used often in your classroom, it can become stale, and less effective.  So, change it up!
How to use variations on Think-Pair-Share to make your classroom more engaging!
Here are a few how-to suggestions for ramping up your Think-Pair-Share lessons:

How to use variations on Think-Pair-Share to make your classroom more engaging!

Think-Pair-Talk: The simplest variation on the original.  Students think about the question/term/or task on their own, pair with a partner to discuss their ideas, and then talk with a small group for further discussion.

Think-Pair-Walk: Instead of wrapping up with a small group, one student from each pair walks up to the front of the class to present their findings.  This is perfect for larger research topics or current events.

Think-Pair-Chalk: In this variation, students can silently go up to the board to add their research findings.  When discussing controversial topics, this quieter method helps to maintain respect for all perspectives or points of view.

Think-Pair-Post: Using a Facebook template, students can report out their topic research and post them around the room to create a Facebook Feed on the unit content.

Think-Pair-Toast: With this twist on the original, students will create toasts to their assigned topic.  This can be a fun wrap-up for concluding a unit and reviewing content topics or vocabulary.

Think-Pair-Roast: Just like the toast option, students will have a little fun while reviewing prior knowledge.  Encourage funny stories, tall-tales, or the telling of jokes to share the main ideas.

Think-Pair-Tweet: For vocabulary or people review, have students write simple tweets on the key terms.  Learning to summarize in 160 characters or less can be a huge challenge!

Think-Pair-Meet: Similar to the original, after pairs have discussed the topic or term, they draw out table numbers where they go to meet up and share their findings.  (Similar to a Jigsaw)

Think-Pair-Draw: One of my favorites, students draw to illustrate the meaning or significance of a topic.  Doing character collages can also help students bring significant people back to life for class discussion.

Think-Pair-Find a Flaw: When looking at conflicting points of view or arguing cases, this method is fun and engaging.  As students post their findings, others search for opposing points of view to counter each statement.  Build up the activity by allowing students to continue the activity over days or weeks through the unit.

How have you modified Think-Pair-Share for you classroom?

Activity ideas and variations on using Think-Pair-Share in the middle or high school classroom for better student analysis and content learning.

Happy Teaching!