Teaching the "Social" in Social Studies

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.

Tips and advice for teaching the role of activism and political involvement in the secondary Social Studies classroom.

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!

Happy Teaching!

Here are a few activities (Which each offer many ideas for implementation) from my TpT Store for the coming months:

Tips and advice for teaching the role of activism and political involvement in the secondary Social Studies classroom.
Important African-Americans Bio Activities Set 

Important Activists & Leaders Activities Set

Tips and advice for teaching the role of activism and political involvement in the secondary Social Studies classroom.

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

Michele Luck

Taking A Gamble: Preparing for a Sub in the Secondary Classroom

As winter set in each year, so did sinus infections that filled me with fever, mucous, and dread.  I could handle the sweats and chills.  I could take on the drips and floods.  But the thought of placing my classroom full of students into the hands of a sub TERRIFIED me!

Tips and suggestions on preparing for a substitute in the secondary classroom

Subs are unpredictable.  They come in short, tall, young, and old.  Some are enthusiastic, yet some are dreadfully droll.  They come smart, and they come... Well, you know what I'm talking about.  If you are in a larger district where you get whomever answered the phone at 6 AM, your chance of a productive day for your students will be slim to none.

I've had the pick of the litter!  There was the one with the cold that left my desk covered with snotty tissues.  C-O-V-E-R-E-D.  Mr. Mali came many times to enthusiastically teach my students the SAME lesson over and over about his country, despite our content being something totally different.  I had the future Jeopardy contestant who brought her question book to study with my students instead of my lessons. Oh, and Mrs. Foster was a sweet old lady who insisted on telling each class fairy tales - I taught high school at the time!  But the ones I dreaded the most came prepared for their day.  They brought a news paper, their reading glasses, and a thermos of coffee.

If my lesson didn't teach itself, it wouldn't be taught.

This realization brought me to the creation of my first Primary Source Analysis sets, my Geography review activities, and my SPRITE reviews.  In addition, I began to follow my own checklist for preparing my classes for a sub.  I created, I copied, I left directions on the board, and I headed to the doctor's office from that point on, no longer fearing a wasted day!

The checklist is simple:
  1. Train your students from Day 1 that your classes will go on, with or without you.
  2. Put the fear of consequences in them if they choose to not carry on in the case of your absence.
  3. Choose two students (in case one is absent) in each class that can provide reliable guidance to the sub.
  4. Always write the next day's lessons and directions on the board before leaving each afternoon.
  5. Always copy and lay out student materials each afternoon for the next day.
  6. Keep a sub folder on your desk with class rosters, generic student lessons (Primary Source Analysis Handouts for my Social Studies Classes), and an introduction sheet with clear expectations for your students and your sub.
  7. Contact your "go-to" person to have them step into your classroom before the first bell to make sure the sub is on task and ready.
My Primary Source Analysis Sets are a great resource for any Social Studies classroom.  Keep a set copied at all times in your sub folder, but also use them as part of your routine lessons to teach and practice analysis skills.  Allow students to work in small groups, and always encourage extended written responses at the completion of each set.


And all else fails, keep a scavenger hunt game available for last minute sub calls.  Allow students to "play" through your absence, when they are actually learning, practicing Social Studies skills, and keeping out of trouble!

Pictured is my Key to the World Scavenger Hunt - a FREEBIE!

Leaving my classes with a sub was always such a gamble.  I feared taking a day off to heal myself, but I eventually realized that my students needed me at my best, not a snotty, feverish, weak mess!

Tips and suggestions on preparing for a substitute in the secondary classroom

To prepare for your next sub, be sure to read all of the tips and tricks shared by the Secondary Smorgasbord, hosted by Desktop Learning Adventures and The ELA Buffet.

Helpful Product Links:
Michele Luck

Designing Units for the Secondary Classroom

When sitting down to design a unit, I am always fearful that I will not create something that will work well for my students, will cover all of my content, or will be engaging and fun, keeping everyone motivated.  To remedy that fear, I created a checklist for unit planning that helps me cross all my Ts and dot all my Is!

Learn how to design effective lesson and unit plans in the secondary (middle or high school) classroom. The steps are easy to follow and the template offered at the end is great!
  1. Determine the number of days available for the unit.  I usually do this as part of my curriculum mapping for the course or year, but some adjustment will be needed each unit if other events have interrupted the normal schedule.
  2. Considering the number of days available, determine the perimeters of the unit of study.  If I have more time, I may choose to lengthen a time period or include an additional novel, but limited time may shorten my goals.
  3. Address the content that I want to teach.  This is NOT the same as my standards.  This is what I feel is important to help my students comprehend the big picture I am trying to teach.
  4. Match in the standards that fit the content.  Do not warp lessons to fit the standards; warp the standards to fit the lessons.  Keep in mind that the teacher is the one that best knows the content and the students, therefore the teacher knows best!
  5. Plan out the lessons that will best address the content in the time period allowed.  I love Walking Tours and Archaeology Digs, but a 2-week unit may only have room for one interactive lesson that I want to include, even though I have 4 available.
  6. Write in daily, lesson, weekly, and unit assessments.  Don't overdo this!  Remember, an assessment is simply a check on what your students know or can do.  It is NOT a test!  Oral checks, notebook prompts, exit slips, and even game play are all effective forms of assessment.
  7. Add in the fun.  Allow time in every unit for interactivity, cooperative lessons, response groups, and GAMES!  Keeping students engaged is the key to keeping them out of trouble and learning.
And finally, add in something that makes the unit worth teaching for you!  If you are bored, your students will be bored.  Don't allow that!  Insert controversy, debate, interesting articles, or anything else that you find worthwhile.  Chances are, your students will love the addition!

Learn how to design effective lesson and unit plans in the secondary (middle or high school) classroom. The steps are easy to follow and the template offered at the end is great!
Need a FREE template to get you started? Click HERE!

Happy Teaching!
Michele Luck

Evaluation Time

For many, this is the time of the school year where the administrators begin coming in to the classrooms to do the official evaluations on teachers.  Remembering back to my first year and my first evaluation, I now think, "What was I thinking?"  My lesson was a debate on the 2nd Amendment with a FRESHMAN class.  Did I mention they were freshmen?  Oh, wow!  My administrators comment at the end... "You were daring!"  Was that a compliment?  I'm still not sure!

Suggestions for a positive evaluation in the secondary classroom.

Now that I have grown in my classroom and my tenure, and having worked with many new teachers through my mentoring programs, I feel confident in giving advice on those oh so important evaluation lessons!  My first piece of advice - Don't stress!

If you look back at your interview, you really did not get your job based on what you knew, or even based on what you provided on paper for the interview process.  You earned your teaching position because you showed confidence.  You were most likely the candidate that showed confidence in effectively managing a classroom, in planning and teaching the required standards and content, and in effectively working with students to help them build their own confidence.  That's what a good teacher does... they teach confidence!

So, as we discuss the evaluation process, think about it in the same manner.  Be confident.  Be ready.   
Be excited!

In most states, your administrator is required to evaluate your teaching multiple times in the school year.  Be excited about this.  It is a good thing for administrators to be in the classroom, and you should be welcoming and inviting.  On that note, do not treat them like they are a foreigner.  Instead, include them as though they are a new student in the room.  Ask them the questions you are asking the students.  Expect them to complete the assignment as the students do!  Now only will this give the administrator a better understanding of how students feel in your classroom, but it will also show them you are confident in what you are doing there.  You are in charge of your domain!

Now, you should be meeting with your administrator to discuss you lessons before the evaluation and after to discuss the outcomes and impressions.  Do not fear these meetings.  Use them as you would a college course.  Go into it thinking, "What can I learn?"  And make sure your administrator knows you are still learning and will always be learning.  It's what will make you a better teacher!

Finally, teach!  Do what you do best.  Be prepared for the class.  Have detailed lesson plans.  Have a curriculum map that shows you know where you are going next.  Have already established a community in your classroom with good rapport and relationships.  And finally, hold high expectations - for your students and for yourself!

Don't be afraid of evaluations.  They help us to improve.  They help us to be the most effective teacher we can be in our classroom for our students.  And in the end - it is just one day in your classroom, a snapshot of your year.  If it is a bust, make things better.  In the long run, you will learn that teaching is not about being successful every day.  It's about coming back each day to try again!

Need some organizational tools and creative ideas for your evaluation?  Take a look at my TpT products to help you be the best in your classroom!

To establish and build rapport for a classroom community - Free Identity Bag Homework Assignment

To maintain effective classroom management -  Secondary Behavior Contracts

To plan solid standards based lessons - Curriculum Map & Lesson & Unit Plan Template

To create a fun and differentiated classroom - Creating Game Boards & Human Game Board Pieces

To assess student progress and help students self-assess - End of Unit Student Study Survey

To assess your own impact in the classroom - End of Unit or Year Survey

And in the end, it doesn't hurt to have a bit of good luck!  I wish you much!

Is it almost time for your teaching evaluation? Getting ready for an observation is stressful! Read these ideas and tips for a successful lesson and year. #teacher

Happy Teaching!
Michele Luck