Teamwork and Collaboration in the Classroom: An Exercise to Assess Direction Following

Teamwork and Collaboration in the Classroom: An Exercise to Assess Direction Following


How do you feel when a hundred different directions are thrown your way? Maybe your principal comes into your classroom after a stressful class period, listing off five things to-do within the next week? Or a student asks questions about an upcoming assignment, in rapid-fire succession? Or even in your personal life, a significant other lists off the grocery list quickly and without repetition, leaving you scrambling to capture the necessities on a scrap piece of paper?
Our brains are hard-wired for processing, and our students spend much time in elementary, middle, and high school developing and improving upon these processing skills. However, we often enjoy the luxury of slowing things down, repeating them, rereading them, or asking for clarification. If this luxury is taken away, our brains overload and our sympathetic nervous system switches on. We are no longer processing information thoroughly and effectively; we're simply cataloging and sorting as quickly as our brains are able, often missing key information. #processing #lessonplanning #processingskills #learningstyles #repetition

Our brains are hard-wired for processing, and our students spend much time in elementary, middle, and high school developing and improving upon these processing skills. However, we often enjoy the luxury of slowing things down, repeating them, rereading them, or asking for clarification. If this luxury is taken away, our brains overload and our sympathetic nervous system switches on. We are no longer processing information thoroughly and effectively; we're simply cataloging and sorting as quickly as our brains are able, often missing key information.

Now imagine if you put your significant other on speaker phone while he or she rattles off the grocery list. Your children each have a pen in hand, a notebook at the ready. Your youngest turns on a cell phone recording so you can double check their finished list. They capture the list without missing a single item, and one even doodles you a silly picture to enjoy while standing in the checkout line. Your sympathetic nervous system thanks you and goes back to sleep, having woken with a start when the phone rang. You may even feel a warm and fuzzy feeling that often escapes you - sometimes, we call that relaxed!

Your students function quite the same way. Throw a ton of information at them, and they'll shut down, experiencing an automatic overload of their brains! They probably won't retain or understand any of it. But, if you break things down into simpler terms, give explicit directions, and provide clarification, they're much more likely to absorb the information at hand.

Sometimes, though, it may be important to kick their sympathetic nervous systems into high gear because you're teaching them a hard-learned lesson.

A true Social Studies lesson is one that leaves an impact beyond that of a textbook quiz or multiple-choice standardized test. Impactful Social Studies lessons transport one's mind, but also one's heart. By enticing a fight or flight reaction from your students, they're likely to feel the impact of the lesson. #socialstudies #lessonplan #socialstudieslesson #teachingsocialstudies
For instance, imagine the year is 1760 and we are in the American colony of Massachusetts. The scene begins in the harbor city of Boston.

Immediately, your mind probably transports you elsewhere, and you hone in on your new location and era. However, you not only want your students to learn about a moment in history, but you want them to experience it. A true Social Studies lesson is one that leaves an impact beyond that of a textbook quiz or multiple-choice standardized test. Impactful Social Studies lessons transport one's mind, but also one's heart. By enticing a fight or flight reaction from your students, they're likely to feel the impact of the lesson.

Since this heightened sense of arousal clashes with the need to capture details and mass information, students may feel conflicted and check out. By employing the teamwork and collaboration of their classmates, just like the pencil-armed offspring in the earlier example, your students can work together to relieve the stress of the situation, adequately capturing the information at hand while still feeling the "stress" of the situation in which you've input them.

Now, it should be said that we don't want to intentionally stress our students out - at least, not regularly and not without a purpose. But, when teaching students about important historical events that have an emotional impact, a little fuel on the fire may inspire students to relate to the events on a deeper level. Also, they may understand the chaos or disorder felt by those who experienced the events firsthand. Bringing this aspect of stress into the classroom helps students to feel the dire situational stressors felt by those in wartime, in oppressed cultures, in less than desirable circumstances, in a way that they otherwise may overlook.

You can take your students to that harbor city in 1760 as well, walking them through the American Revolution with little direction. Forcing them to face the chaos and disorder of the economic developments, passed legislature, and even deaths during this brutal time. By instructing your students to work together in small groups of two or three, they can work on this big paper exercise with a small dose of that cortisol increase but also the collaboration of their classmates, testing their teamwork skills and how well they follow directions all at once. Students will understand, after the fact, why the lesson was presented in such a rushed manner. And hopefully, they'll take away a bit of that empathy within the lesson.

Try the American Revolution Drawing Game in your classroom for a multi-faceted lesson plan on the history of the American Revolution, teamwork and collaboration skills, and direction-following. #newteachers #teaching #teachinghistory #teachingamericanrevolution #americanrevolution
Try the American Revolution Drawing Game in your classroom for a multi-faceted lesson plan on the history of the American Revolution, teamwork and collaboration skills, and direction-following. You give rapid-fire verbal descriptors to your class, instructing them to capture the city of Boston on a freehand map, like the one pictured above - with no repeats or clarification! See how well they work together to test their listening and processing skills.

Happy Teaching!


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Brittany Cloyd
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How to Use Sticky Notes for Assessment

How to Use Sticky Notes for Assessment


Using sticky notes for assessment in the classroom may seem overly simple, but even first year secondary teachers are likely running out of fresh and exciting ideas for lesson planning. Instead of overthinking the next lesson or wracking your brain for new ideas, go back to the basics with sticky notes!
Using sticky notes for assessment in the classroom may seem overly simple, but even first year secondary teachers are likely running out of fresh and exciting ideas for lesson planning. Instead of overthinking the next lesson or wracking your brain for new ideas, go back to the basics with sticky notes! #stickynotes #interactivelessons #lessonplanning #visualteaching

Sticky notes are the perfect lesson companion for middle school and high school classes because they're inexpensive, you probably have a ton of them already lying around, and they are extremely versatile! Though it may seem like your options are limited with sticky notes, they really are limitless when it comes to "sticking" them into your lesson plans.

COLOR WARS. As sticky notes come in many different sizes and colors, they're innately ideal for comparing and contrasting, categorizing, or differentiating. You can use sticky notes of the same color or size to highlight similarities or group things by likeness. You can use differently-colored sticky notes to bring attention to differences or separate unlike items. By using them for the most basic of tasks, sticky notes can make the repetitive process of searching for comparative qualities easy and fun. Students could even compile their sticky notes onto a large big paper Venn Diagram or other group response display.

BIG IDEAS, SMALL SPACE. You can also use sticky notes to make a large, daunting assignment seem quick and easy, lessening anxiety among your students. Assigning an opinion writing prompt or response group activity may illicit groans from your class, but reinforcing that students focus on the important ideas by limiting their response to the small three-by-three square may ease the stress.

STICK TO EXIT. Instead of having students log their exit slip in their overflowing Interactive Notebooks, offer them reprieve from the three-ring binder by passing out sticky notes for exit slips. Students can stick their responses to the white board on the way out.

ANONYMOUS NOTES. Students could orchestrate a debate by anonymously picking a side and then writing out their evidence, support, or opinion. Have students draw someone else's sticky note from a jar or hat to present an anonymous opinion to the class as part of a structured debate or lighthearted discussion group.

MATCHING GAME. Use sticky notes to match data points, such as populations of countries. Label large paper with country names and fill out that county's statistics on each sticky note (i.e. sticky notes would hold population, primary language, life expectancy, etc.). For even more depth, have students use one color for all similar statistics (i.e. all population data is on a pink sticky note) so that when they compare countries against each other, they can easily compare related data. Alternatively, put all statistics from one region on one color of sticky notes and then have students identify which country matches their results!

MAP PINS. Instead of the traditional pushpin-on-map dynamic, switch it up with sticky notes! Have students label a post-it note with a country, region, state, etc., and stick it to the correct area on a large classroom map. Collectively, they can label a whole continent or region with everyone's sticky notes. Use this activity with the complete Geography Introduction Unit which details the five themes of geography!

BAR GRAPH REPRESENTATION. While recording classroom data for comparison in a government or economics class, have students stack their sticky notes up the wall or board to form a bar graph, ensuring that your graph will show an accurate representation since each student's sticky note is the same size. Use different color sticky notes to add additional dynamics to your data collection. For example, in a blended class, Freshman can use one color to record their favorite subject, and Sophomores can use a different color. Then, draw conclusions about each based on the data trajectory.

SHORT STUDY GUIDE. Allow your students a small reprieve from the stress of your next exam by giving them one sticky note for a cheat sheet. Better than an open book test, students will still have to study the information to find the most important bits to record on their small slip of paper.

TASK CARDS. Have students use sticky notes to flag important information on Gallery Walks like this Roaring 20s Walking Tour, where information is distributed around the room. Or, allow them to collect important information on sticky notes to organize their thoughts as they visit each walking tour stop.

Bonus Teacher Tip!
DISCOURAGE CHEATING. This one is more of a teacher tip than a specific exercise in itself, but if you find your classroom full of wandering eyes, read quiz questions aloud and have students record their multiple choice answers on a sticky note. With only a sticky note on their empty desk, you will be able to quickly scout out anyone who is using extra resources to answer the questions!


Ditch the complicated lessons for your next unit and replace your difficult plans with easy sticky note activities! Or, use sticky notes to replace a daily activity that you can utilize throughout the year (like the exit slip idea). Either way, let your middle school and high school students use this commonly-overlooked office supply to amplify their lessons and inspire their creativity and curiosity! #teaching #lessonplanning #lessonideas #outsidetheboxteaching
Ditch the complicated lessons for your next unit and replace your difficult plans with easy sticky note activities! Or, use sticky notes to replace a daily activity that you can utilize throughout the year (like the exit slip idea). Either way, let your middle school and high school students use this commonly-overlooked office supply to amplify their lessons and inspire their creativity and curiosity!

Happy Teaching,

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Michele Luck
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9 Must-Read Books to Accompany Your Holocaust Unit

9 Must-Read Books to Accompany Your Holocaust Unit


As with teaching all sensitive or controversial Social Studies topics, you may feel less than comfortable teaching about the Holocaust. However, teaching about World War II and the Holocaust with confidence and professionalism is critical to ensuring that your students take the topic seriously and understand the importance of the lessons they are learning. Even though you are a Social Studies teacher, perhaps even a seasoned secondary teacher with many years of experience and education, you may feel less than equipped to handle the delicacies of the Holocaust.

As with teaching all sensitive or controversial Social Studies topics, you may feel less than comfortable teaching about the Holocaust. However, teaching about World War II and the Holocaust with confidence and professionalism is critical to ensuring that your students take the topic seriously and understand the importance of the lessons they are learning. Even though you are a Social Studies teacher, perhaps even a seasoned secondary teacher with many years of experience and education, you may feel less than equipped to handle the delicacies of the Holocaust. #Holocaust #teachingtheHolocaust #WorldHistory #WorldHistoryTeachers


Put frankly, this dark time period in our world’s history was a time of conviction of strongly-held beliefs, a time period which left many human beings fighting for the right to live. Many lives were lost due to these convictions. You may wonder what makes you an appropriate authority to speak on such grave historical topics.

Often, when we feel poorly equipped to teach a certain lesson, especially one with this strong of a worldwide impact, we may feel that we are not the right spokesperson to broadcast the much-needed message at hand. In many cases, we may be right! As Social Studies teachers, and secondary teachers in general, we may be the proverbial mouthpiece - the amplifying microphone - to disseminate historical information, but we may not be able to speak from our personal experiences, from a persecuted person’s perspective. Using books authored by those who did face certain atrocities firsthand may feel more sincere, genuine, and accurate.

In my secondary classroom, I used books of all reading levels to accompany my World History and US History lessons. My middle school and high school students deeply enjoyed folding to a comfortable cross-legged position on a carpet square, transfixed by the bright colors and impeccable rhymes of Dr. Seuss. They also fixed their attention on the words of literary texts beyond their reading level, scrutinizing with the tools we used when analyzing historical documents. Reading fiction and non-fiction books of all levels, my secondary students often held tightly to every word.

Though I love teaching about the Holocaust feel adequately prepared in my lesson planning and my continued education about the subject, and believe that I have equipped myself with the knowledge and tools to share the history of this time period, doing it justice, I also understand that I am not and cannot be an authority on the Holocaust, at least not in the same plane as someone who lived through it - struggled to hide, to fight, to survive. They are the best witness to the times.

It is in these instances where I realize the power of text - the importance of using the actual words of those individuals who faced marginalization and fought so hard to live another day - in helping us to communicate this content.

Using books from Holocaust survivors, as well as accurate historical texts written about the times, I able to transport my students from my classroom to a concentration camp, a hidden cellar, a makeshift attic hiding place, to a world existing after the War ended. I can read true accounts of hiding, of horror, of the atrocities and crimes committed during the Holocaust, and I can introduce very real individuals behind the words we read. This not only helps my students to relate to the text in a more sincere, personal way, but also provides them an authoritarian voice on a subject that I feel only partially equipped to teach justly. Though there are many excellent books and resources to aid in teaching the Holocaust, these great books stand out as vital resources in the World History Classroom.

Using books from Holocaust survivors, as well as accurate historical texts written about the times, I able to transport my students from my classroom to a concentration camp, a hidden cellar, a makeshift attic hiding place, to a world existing after the War ended. I can read true accounts of hiding, of horror, of the atrocities and crimes committed during the Holocaust, and I can introduce very real individuals behind the words we read. This not only helps my students to relate to the text in a more sincere, personal way, but also provides them an authoritarian voice on a subject that I feel only partially equipped to teach justly. Though there are many excellent books and resources to aid in teaching the Holocaust, these great books stand out as vital resources in the World History Classroom. #Holocaustbooks #Holocaustsurvivors #WorldHistorybooks #teachingworldhistory #socialstudiesteacher

1. Night, Elie Wiesel

Bonus! Try this Night Reading Journal & Task Card Activity to accompany the reading of Elie Wiesel’s book.

Though I love teaching about the Holocaust feel adequately prepared in my lesson planning and my continued education about the subject, and believe that I have equipped myself with the knowledge and tools to share the history of this time period, doing it justice, I also understand that I am not and cannot be an authority on the Holocaust, at least not in the same plane as someone who lived through it - struggled to hide, to fight, to survive. They are the best witness to the times. #primarysource #teachingwithprimarysources #teachingsurvivorstories #holocaustsurvivors #livetotell

2. Survival in Auschwitz, Primo Levi

3. Escape from Sobibor, Richard Rashke

4. Hitler’s Willing Executioners: Ordinary Germans and the Holocaust, Daniel Jonah Goldhagen 

(This one is great for teaching how regular people could participate in the horrific acts like those of the Holocaust.)

5. Tell Them We Remember, Susan Bachrach

(This is a great visual tool with incredible stories!)

6. Schindler’s List, Thomas Keneally

7. Maus, Art Spiegelman 

(This book is excellent for lower level readers or readers who prefer graphic novels.)

8. Nuremberg Diary, G.M. Gilbert

9. The Poisonous Mushroom, Julius Streicher 

(Sadly, this book is out of print but you can find it online! Great children’s book to examine the use of German propaganda!)

Bonus! This Google Drive activity on The Poisonous Mushroom analyzes World War II propaganda.

To help you plan with these books and resources, consider implementing the Holocaust Unit planning guide found in the complete Holocaust Unit on TeachersPayTeachers!

By incorporating any (or all!) of these books into your unit on the Holocaust, you’ll not only have diverse primary sources for student study, but you’ll also have an authoritarian voice to help your students experience secondhand what happened during the Holocaust. #teachinghistory #teachingWorldWarII #teachingwithauthority #teachingwithconviction #teach
By incorporating any (or all!) of these books into your unit on the Holocaust, you’ll not only have diverse primary sources for student study, but you’ll also have an authoritarian voice to help your students experience secondhand what happened during the Holocaust.

Happy Teaching!

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Michele Luck
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How to Teach about Privilege in the American Classroom

How to Teach about Privilege in the American Classroom


Teaching about privilege can be a great challenge for secondary teaching in American classrooms. It is often seen as a divisive topic, and can be considered risky in terms of job security and parental approval. And when you put the adjective "white" in front of privilege, it truly becomes a contested topic with all sides enraged over the idea of when, how, or even why it should or shouldn't be taught.

Teaching about white privilege or any privilege can be challenging for teachers in the middle or high school classroom. Read these suggestions and the step-by-step guide for introducing the important controversial subject to your students. #teaching #iteachmiddleschool #iteachhighschool #iteach678 #socialstudies #history #historyteacher #controversy #teachingcontroversy #writeprivilege #teachingwhiteprivilege #itstimetotalkracism

In the Social Studies classroom, teachers have an added load of responsibility in teaching about current events and modern issues. It is not only part of our curriculum, but it is written in the ideals of our country, making it very much our content to teach. Taking that point a step further, our lessons should go beyond teaching the ugliness of America's past and then dismissing the current implications of those actions. We need to address the HERE. The NOW. The ALWAYS HAS BEEN. We need to address it for what it is and what it always will be if we don't bring attention to bring change.

Teaching about white (or any privilege) does not have to be a screaming, fist pumping debate in your classroom. It can be dissected into tiny lessons that will help students see and further identify their own privileges while working toward understanding the implications privileges have on those who do not have them. Simple, right? Not!

Making it Simple

  1. As with any other lesson, begin with setting up the basic understanding of the vocabulary. Teach the meaning of the word privilege. What does it mean? What is its context? How can that context change?
  2. Make connections that your students will understand. Do not attempt to introduce a global understanding of privilege and its impact before they understand the more immediate implications. 
  3. Build up to the larger concepts and implications. Think back to when Social Studies was taught in elementary schools. First grade was "All about me" followed by "My family and home" and then "My community" and so on. Teach this lesson in the same format.  
  4. Do not allow it to become an "us versus them" scenario in your classroom.  ALL of your students are your students. They are one. And privilege impacts us all. Teach those lessons.

Step by Step

  1. Teach the vocabulary. Define words you plan to include in your lesson. Break them down to the simplest terms and then build them back up in the lesson. Don't assume students have a thorough understanding of any of the vocabulary and start everyone at the same level. Think about this in Disney terms. Disney does not hire ready-trained professionals for many of their professional positions (eg. photographers). They hire candidates with basic skills so they can train them in picture-taking the Disney way.  Make sure everyone is on the same page at the start and go from there. 
  2. Allow students the opportunity to make it about them first. Help them to find ways they have privilege and how they have been impacted by others having privilege. Start small. Examine locations (small towns versus big cities) or transportation methods (walking to school versus access to bussing). Understanding that there is an impact is a major step that must be attained before students can step back to see how others are impacted by their own privilege.
  3. Identify types of privilege. There are many types of privilege. They range from very personal level privileges (tall versus short) to global level privileges (being born in first world versus third world countries). Create a listing of any and all , large or small, privileges students can identify.
  4. Examine the impacts of the privileges. Take each privilege and determine how it may affect each individual and others. Find both positive and negative impacts. Create a T-Chart or Venn Diagram to organize your information.  This step is vital. Take the time to truly examine the privileges your class deem the most impactful.
  5. Determine the impact of privileges on groups. This is where "white privilege" comes into your lesson. Examine how systemic privileges exist and can impact large groups at a time. Discuss how systemic privilege can last (and grow and develop) over long periods of time. And predict the impacts of privilege on various groups over time based on history. 
But your lesson doesn't end there...
The greatest step in this lesson is helping your students brainstorm ways to bring change. Introduce a call to action. Make it a lesson that has greater implications than a grade or a notebook page completion. Make it a lesson that lasts a lifetime for your students and all those they may encounter in their lives. 

Wrapping it Up

First of all, we must acknowledge that this is a lesson that can never be wrapped up. It is a lesson that must be taught on-going. It will come back into our lessons through teachable moments again and again, and should. We should encourage discussion and an open forum in our classrooms where all students feel they can address the privilege they see, in themselves and in others. Discussing the impact of privilege should not be an attack on anyone. It is simply the disclosure of fact that needs to be addressed so the danger of its impact does not spread.

Teaching about white privilege or any privilege can be challenging for teachers in the middle or high school classroom. Read these suggestions and the step-by-step guide for introducing the important controversial subject to your students. #teaching #iteachmiddleschool #iteachhighschool #iteach678 #socialstudies #history #historyteacher #controversy #teachingcontroversy #writeprivilege #teachingwhiteprivilege #itstimetotalkracism
Finally, think of privilege in the most simplistic terms... as a virus. If we see a virus spreading, do we ignore it? Do we allow it to spread? Do we not worry about its harm on the larger population? Even if that virus is in us, do we not want to get attention and help to bring an end to it so we do not infect others and spread the effects of the virus?

Treat privilege as a lesson, not as a platitude to get attention on bring out a rise of emotion. Teach it as an issue in American (and World) history that has continued to plague us into modern times. Teach it as what it is - our content. And our responsibility.

If you would like to teach more about white privileges and how immigrants coming to America are only seeking what we hold so precious (life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness), I'd suggest reading Enrique's Journey with your students. I read the Young Adult version with my students and it truly helped them to understand privilege and to take a step toward living with empathy and compassion.

Also take time to link to other great lesson suggestions for teaching about the current issues in our world that should not be controversial, but vital lessons for discussion in the secondary classroom.

THIS POST IS DEDICATED TO JUAN VELAZQUEZ WHO DIED IN THE EL PASO SHOOTING. WE MUST REMEMBER THEM ALL SO THAT WE NEVER FORGET THE DUTY WE HAVE IN TEACHING OUR STUDENTS TO DO BETTER AND BE BETTER.


And while I typically sign off my posts with "Happy Teaching", I wish to change that up for this post. I feel this one has a greater call to action! #itstimetotalkracism

Teach with purpose!
 

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Michele Luck
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The Truth about Teaching Controversial Topics in the Secondary Classroom

The Truth about Teaching Controversial Topics in the Secondary Classroom


Especially in the current climate of political correctness and divisive tactics, teaching controversial topics in the secondary classroom may seem like asking for trouble. Though it may test your patience, teaching controversial topics in the classroom actually encourages empathy, improves a student's ability to make connections and draw comparisons, equips students to address sensitive topics outside the classroom, and validates less popular opinions held by our students, inspiring individuality, creativity, and activism. In both middle school and high school classrooms, our curriculum calls for us to address controversial topics, but often, teachers gloss over less glorious parts of American and World History. Glossing over very accurate depictions of our history does our students a great disservice. Though these issues are sensitive and controversial, it is better to equip our students to face controversial topics head on, and without bias and with grace and confidence, than to sweep them under the rug.

Especially in the current climate of political correctness and divisive tactics, teaching controversial topics in the secondary classroom may seem like asking for trouble. Though it may test your patience, teaching controversial topics in the classroom actually encourages empathy, improves a student's ability to make connections and draw comparisons, equips students to address sensitive topics outside the classroom, and validates less popular opinions held by our students, inspiring individuality, creativity, and activism. In both middle school and high school classrooms, our curriculum calls for us to address controversial topics, but often, teachers gloss over less glorious parts of American and World History. Glossing over very accurate depictions of our history does our students a great disservice. Though these issues are sensitive and controversial, it is better to equip our students to face controversial topics head on, and without bias and with grace and confidence, than to sweep them under the rug. #controversialteaching #inclusiveclassrom #controversy #secondaryteaching #controversyforteachers #teachingcontroversy

Pull any history book off your bookshelf. Choose a World History or US History textbook or a historical memoir. Browse for mention of a controversial topic. Better yet, turn on a local news station, open a newspaper, or click over to social media. You're not likely to come up empty. In fact,  both on a national level and a worldwide level (even on a local level within our communities, towns, and cities), our history is laced with controversy. To gloss over controversial topics, or to skip them all together, not only does our students a huge disservice by not preparing them for dealing with controversy in the "real world" but also hinders our students in developing a strong educational foundation, equipped with facts and the ability to look at history without bias, without reserve, and examine, draw conclusions, and make predictions about our future. These skills are all vital both inside the classroom and out.

You've probably accepted that you have to teach controversial topics. The real question is how to address controversial issues properly. How to introduce sensitive information in the classroom and best equip your students for success. How to examine the dirty parts of history, the scary historical events of our past - and you know what they say about history: those who do not learn from history are doomed to repeat it.

Controversial Topics in the Secondary Classroom


Global Level Controversy: Examine global level controversy in World History classrooms (and in lessons in which you can tie in world history while examining relationships and similarities).

Many of my students sought me out years after graduation, raving about how our Holocaust unit stuck with them throughout their school days and into their everyday lives. Though teaching about the Holocaust isn't easy because it forces the students to address the atrocities of World War II, it provides ample opportunity for the class to examine their own identities, explore how they would react in a similar situation, and empathize with the victims. This unit thoroughly explores all angles of the Holocaust and even my most disinterested students usually tuned in a little more during the weeks we studied the Holocaust. 

National Level Controversy: Slightly complicated by today's political climate, examining controversy at a national level will incite some emotional responses from your passionate students, but is still high level enough to allow students the space to step outside the controversy itself for examination.

Local Level Controversy: Even more sensitive is discussing controversy that happens close to home. Tensions are high, opinions are often swayed by parental influence and media coverage, and students may feel affected or personally defensive of either position.

Personal Controversy: Lastly, the most personal of controversies are those that directly affect our students. The three higher level controversies may have personal ties which escalate the severity of the issue for each individual student. Students that fall into minority groups may identify with either side of the controversy, making the issue 'real' and relative to them. This may heighten feelings about the controversy.

In general, exploring controversy at a very high level (i.e. globally) will be the easiest place to start. While your students may relate to the topic on some level, they're less likely to be directly offended by and/or defensive of a certain position. Even when controversy does provoke a personal emotional response or investment, we still shouldn't avoid teaching it in the classroom. Instead, it is how we teach controversy that is the most important.

How to Address Controversial Topics in the Secondary Classroom


1. Teach Controversy with Confidence
Though it may seem irrelevant, teaching about controversial topics with confidence and grace helps our students to understand the severity of the topic at hand, the appropriate and/or professional response to discussing controversy, and the importance of addressing issues that are difficult or sensitive. Teachers who are timid when teaching controversial topics may give students the impression that the topic is unimportant, embarrassing, or shouldn't be addressed.

2. Teach from a Historical Perspective
You're teaching a Social Studies class - teaching history should be default, right? Approach sensitive issues with fact, valid information, and credible sources. Don't impose your beliefs (or those of popular media outlets or celebrity figures) on your students, and allow them to analyze the factual information at hand and draw their own conclusions.

3. Encourage Open Forum Discussion and Respectful Expression
Most importantly, foster a safe place for students to discuss and debate without feeling judged. Ensure students are respectful of others and are not marginalizing or vilifying. Help students analyze their own opinions without privilege or bias to ensure they are looking at controversial events and issues factually and with empathy.

4. Learn from the Mistakes of Others
Though teaching controversial historical events can rise tensions in the classroom, presenting these historical events with a lesson, an empathetic appeal, will help students to understand not only the importance of learning this specific historical lesson, but also how to exit an uncomfortable lesson, both inside the classroom and out, with important takeaways, an appropriate call to action, and armed with the knowledge and ability to recognize when history repeats itself.

5. Teach with a Validating Acceptance
Also imperative to teaching controversial issues in the secondary classroom, ensure that you teach with a validating acceptance of your students' personal controversies. Take time to teach appropriate vocabulary, empower students to own their feelings and stand up for themselves, and never dismiss a student if they identify with controversies that you do not understand. Mitigate the opportunity for hate speech, dismissive attitudes, or bullying in the classroom. Set your students up for success by providing them the safe space to be themselves and address all of their identities within your four walls.

Try this First Day of School Lesson Plan to start the school year with success and build an inclusive classroom community or a Find Someone Who activity to help studies identify allies in their class. For even better prep, browse A Lesson Plan for Teachers for more strategies on creating an inclusive classroom.

Above all, don't shy away from teaching controversial topics in the secondary classroom. In fact, teaching controversy appropriately will ensure that students develop a strong, thorough foundation of historical content (without any glaring holes around all things sensitive) while also empowering them to handle controversy in their everyday lives with empathy and understanding. Our job as Social Studies teachers transcends the textbook in all situations, and we are trusted to prepare our students to be effective citizens. Teaching controversy in the classroom may not be easy, but it's a necessity to prepare our students to be respectful human beings and seekers of justice in their communities. #teaching #newteachers #teachingtechniques #teachingstrategies #controversy #teachingcontroversy #teachinglife #teachersteachthefuture
Above all, don't shy away from teaching controversial topics in the secondary classroom. In fact, teaching controversy appropriately will ensure that students develop a strong, thorough foundation of historical content (without any glaring holes around all things sensitive) while also empowering them to handle controversy in their everyday lives with empathy and understanding. Our job as Social Studies teachers transcends the textbook in all situations, and we are trusted to prepare our students to be effective citizens. Teaching controversy in the classroom may not be easy, but it's a necessity to prepare our students to be respectful human beings and seekers of justice in their communities.

Happy (controversial) teaching!


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Michele Luck
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15 Yoga Poses to Shed the Teacher Tension and Stretch Through Chronic Desk-Job Pain

15 Yoga Poses to Shed the Teacher Tension and Stretch Through Chronic Desk-Job Pain


Except for you year-rounders, most of us have been in school a few weeks now. The question is - did you follow the tips found in my last blog post, Put On Your Oxygen Mask First: Self-Care in the First Month of School (and the rest of the year, too!), or are you fueling your fire with the tears of your students, hanging by a thread? (Just kidding. If you are fueling with your students' tears, you should be thriving!)
Whether you're an active teacher who is constantly on her feet, moving around the room and interacting with her students, or a computer-based teacher who finds himself behind a desk for many hours a day, you may eventually discover joints that don't move as smoothly as they used to, muscles that strain after a busy day, and a brain that feels overworked and lethargic. By adding a few, quick, yoga poses to your quick between-bells breaks, you can target these areas of chronic pain and stress, and take a few minutes to replenish your batteries. #teacheryoga #yogaforteachers #teacherselfcare #selfcareforteachers #chairyoga #deskyoga #preventteacherburnout

Though the 5 Quick and Easy Self-Care Methods were designed to break down barriers to self-care, you may think they're so easy that you don't have to give them a second thought. But burnout is real, and retirement is probably pretty far away. Getting through the days, weeks, months, and years, requires constant effort and mindful attention. Preserving your sanity should be your number one focus, because foregoing your oxygen mask will only lessen your ability to help your students succeed.

The first, and perhaps the most vital, of the 5 Self-Care Methods is chair yoga. Dismiss any preconceptions you may have about yoga, chair yoga, or the Instagram models in handstands on the beach. Yoga is an ages-old practice that spans cultures, geographic locations, and religions. Yes, yoga is a type of exercise or workout, but it has the potential to be so much more!

Whether you're an active teacher who is constantly on her feet, moving around the room and interacting with her students, or a computer-based teacher who finds himself behind a desk for many hours a day, you may eventually discover joints that don't move as smoothly as they used to, muscles that strain after a busy day, and a brain that feels overworked and lethargic. By adding a few, quick, yoga poses to your quick between-bells breaks, you can target these areas of chronic pain and stress, and take a few minutes to replenish your batteries.

The yoga poses in this post can be done by beginners with absolutely zero yoga experience. They can also be done in your classroom without any props. Some may be done seated - your desk chair works great! Others may be standing.
Need burnout prevention? Try these 15 yoga poses for teachers to prevent burnout and encourage self-care! #yogaforteachers #teacheryoga #teacherburnout #burnoutisreal #newteachers #experiencedteachers

Yoga Poses for Tech Neck/Stiff Neck/Neck Pain

In this technology age, Tech Neck is a very common complaint. Whether or not you have tech neck, staring at a computer screen can definitely strain your neck!


1. Shoulder to Ear, seated or standing
Inhale to lengthen through the spine, sitting up tall. Exhale to drop your right ear toward your right shoulder. Inhale to bring head back to center. Exhale to the left. Repeat as many times as you'd like, or hold each ear-to-shoulder position for a few breaths longer.

2. Neck Circles, seated or standing
Beginning with small circles, drop chin toward chest and then rotate head in clockwise direction. Continue to breathe. When ready, switch direction to counterclockwise.

Yoga Poses for Low Back Pain
Low Back Pain is one of the most commonly diagnosed issues among adults. Improving your posture can help greatly with low back pain complaints, but even the best-postured individual can still encounter pain, especially if you're standing/sitting all day.


3. Seated Cat/Cow
On inhale, pull your belly button toward your spine and round the shoulders and back, dropping the neck slightly, like an angry cat. On exhale, expand the belly and arch the upper back slightly, raising your gaze to the top of your computer, like a cow. Bonus points if you hiss and moo with the movement!

4. Seated Twist
Inhale to lengthen through the spine, sitting up tall. On the exhale, twist slightly to the right, keeping your hands at heart's center or on your lap and not using them to pull you further. Inhale to come back to center, exhale to the left side.

5. Lateral Side Stretch, seated or standing
Inhale to lengthen through the spine, raising arms overhead. Exhale to bend to the right, lengthening the left side waist and shortening the right. Keep your torso facing the same direction as your knees. Inhale back to upright, and exhale to the left.

Yoga Poses for Wrist Pain/Carpal Tunnel Syndrome
With as many grades as a teacher has to enter into the computer, it's no surprise that wrist pain is a common complaint!


6. Flex/Bend Prayer Hands, seated or standing
Press palms together near heart, shifting weight into wrist and then into fingers to stretch ligaments in wrist. Flip hands down, backs of hands against each other near heart. Again, shift weight between fingers and wrist.

7. Wrist Circles, seated or standing
Make fists or leave hands open, rotating wrists clockwise and then counterclockwise.

Yoga Poses for Ankle Pain/Tired Feet
On your feet all day? Then you definitely need to massage the joints in your ankles and stretch out your feet! No, not with more walking!


8. Flex/Point Foot, seated
While sitting, raise one foot off the ground. Alternate between flexing the foot (like you're standing) and pointing the toes. Repeat with the other foot.

9. Ankle Circles, seated
While sitting, raise one foot off the ground. Rotate the ankle joint clockwise and then counterclockwise. Repeat with the other foot.

10. Tennis Ball Stretch, standing
Keep a tennis ball in your desk drawer for an added foot stretch/mini-massage! Take off your shoe and place the tennis ball on the floor. Roll the tennis ball under one foot while grounding down through the other foot. Repeat on the other side.

11. Rock on Heels, standing
Standing tall, roll up onto your toes, then shift weight back onto your heels. Rock between toes and heels while continuing to breathe.
Barely making it through the school day? Just breathe! I know, easier said than done. But try these 15 yoga poses at your desk next time the stress bubbles up to the surface! #teacherbreaks #justbreathe #yogaforteachers #breathingforteachers

Yoga Poses for All the Other Stuff (the exhaustion, the stress, the anxiety...)
What if your pain isn't physical? What if you're fighting exhaustion or stress? Don't worry, there are yoga poses to help with those, too!


12. Seated Meditation/Breathing Awareness
Sit tall, with your sit bones grounded into the chair below you. Become aware of your breath, without changing the length of your inhales or exhales, but instead just noticing the movement of breath through the body. Rest your hands on your thighs or bring one hand to chest and one hand to stomach to feel the inhale and exhale. Close your eyes if you can steal a moment of quiet, and just be.

13. Standing Arms Flow
To help you gain awareness of your breath and slow your inhales and exhales, stand tall, grounding through your feet. Rest your arms at your sides. Inhale your arms overhead, exhale your arms back to your sides. Repeat with the breath.

14. Standing Hip Circles/Hula Hoops
Widen the feet a bit. Put your hands on your hips or out to a T. Soften the knees and pretend like you're hula hooping! Rotate the hips in a circle. Switch directions. Or, pretend like you're cross-country skiing by rotating the hips back and forth, moving your arms forward and backward with the motion. This one is extra great for mid-day stress relief because it usually incites a case of the giggles!

15. Seated Child's Pose
Child's pose is often deemed the resting pose for any yoga practice. If a practice is too challenging, too demanding, or too stressful, students are encouraged to find child's pose and reconnect with their breath. Unless you keep a mat at school or have unusually clean school floors (yuck!), you probably don't want to lay down. You can do child's pose from your chair. 

Sit back in your chair, slowly bring your upper body to meet the tops your thighs, and bring your arms toward the floor, resting them on your feet or letting them dangle. Breathe deeply, feeling the expansion through the back of your body. Think about letting the arms hang heavy and releasing any holding or tension in the neck or shoulders. 

Child's pose is a jack-of-all-trades for improving digestion, increasing flexibility, releasing head tension (headaches), awakening the nervous system, relieving fatigue or restlessness, and reducing back pain. For most of us, letting go isn't a strong suit, but regularly letting go in child's pose may be exactly what your body needs to get through the day, month, year, and until retirement!


Child's pose is a jack-of-all-trades for improving digestion, increasing flexibility, releasing head tension (headaches), awakening the nervous system, relieving fatigue or restlessness, and reducing back pain. For most of us, letting go isn't a strong suit, but regularly letting go in child's pose may be exactly what your body needs to get through the day, month, year, and until retirement! #childspose #yogaforteachers #chairchildspose #classroomchildspose #childsposeforteachers #teacheryoga

This list does not claim to make any claims to specific conditions or ailments. As always, consult a doctor if you have any specific health issues or question whether you should perform these postures.


You may not find time for all of these poses in each day, but peppering your busy day with one or two postures to target your problem areas may reduce your stress level, fatigue, and burnout! Challenge yourself to throw a pose or two in each between-bells break. Reward yourself for a clean email inbox or timely-entered grades with another posture or two or three. Relax into Child's Pose for 5 minutes on lunch. And at the end of the day, allow yourself a deep Savasana before bed. #shedteachertension #stretchitout #chronicpain #deskjobpain #teacherlife #yogasavestheday #yogaforteachers
You may not find time for all of these poses in each day, but peppering your busy day with one or two postures to target your problem areas may reduce your stress level, fatigue, and burnout! Challenge yourself to throw a pose or two in each between-bells break. Reward yourself for a clean email inbox or timely-entered grades with another posture or two or three. Relax into Child's Pose for 5 minutes on lunch. And at the end of the day, allow yourself a deep Savasana before bed.

Happy Teaching!


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Michele Luck
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