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Setting the Tone for the New School Year

A new school year is a fantastic opportunity to mindfully and consciously emphasize what matters to me as a teacher in my classroom community. The Student Historians (and Study Skills students) in my classes have:

sat in tables, not rows, to help strengthen our learning communityhad the opportunity to either reacquaint themselves with their classmates or meet a new studentdiscussed what they believe the ideal classroom, student, and teacher should look and sound likerealized that I try to be flexible when it comes to locker and restroom passes (no coupons from me)know that it matters to me that they belong to a school club/sport/activityunderstood that teamwork is valuedhad practice with activities that are creative, open-ended, and challenging realized that leadership matters, whether it's sitting with a new student at lunch or helping with classroom jobs I've been thinking a lot about the concept of "what I teach". As much as I love History and love teaching it I f…

GarageBand in the US History Classroom

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My full circle moment. Almost one year later.
Monica Burns from Class Tech Tips wrote an intriguing article about using GarageBand in the reading classroom in 2016 and posted it on Twitter. I blogged last July about how I'd like to use this with my Student Historians. That opportunity finally came and the result was profound, especially for one group of students.
My History classes have studied the Civil War the past two years by completing an iMovie. I created a twist, though, each group studied one year of the war and ranked three events of that year they feel most strongly impacted the end of the war. Students needed to use investigative and discovery skills to learn about the entire war, then the impact of their focus year. Groups were required to find three primary sources related to those events, one Mathew Brady photograph from that year, and a piece of Civil War-era music (not necessarily from their focus year).
The GarageBand article gave the project another direction. T…

LEGACY Reflection-Y

Students completed their #MyBoulanLEGACY reflections today. The final letter of the LEGACY reflection was a tough one for me to create (Y is pretty limited!) but the topic I finally thought of is the perfect final reflection because it is positive, optimistic, and carries the students through until the final bell rings next Friday.
The final reflection topic is related to the Power of YET.
Each students' legacy isn't complete and won't be until the last day of school. I asked students to reflect on how they will carry through their LEGACY. It's a true reminder to stay strong, make good decisions, and keep focusing on being the same kid they were in September all the way through until the final moments of the school year.
I hope the Power of YET guides each and every one of us next week and throughout our lives.

LEGACY Reflections-A and C

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Students are continuing to think about their Middle School LEGACY by writing about Attitude and Challenges.
Our attitudes impact how we are remembered by others. Do we stay positive or complain when the going gets tough? I am hopeful that this reflection helped all of us remember to pause and use patience when we speak or act, especially when we are tired at the end of the school year. How we act and react to others says a lot about our character, and our legacy.
How we handle difficult situations says a lot about who we are. Students were asked to reflect this week about a time they overcame a challenge. It's been really nice to read their responses while I was stapling these to our bulletin board in the hallway outside of our classroom. (At the start of this project all students knew that their responses would be displayed and they could keep each of their reflections anonymous.) Students wrote about challenges with friendships, classes they've struggled with, and more than…

LEGACY Reflections-E and G

The LEGACY Reflections are progressing very well. Students have written about their EDUCATION during Middle School, especially 8th Grade. Each student was asked to reflect on their educational risks and how those risks translate into a facet of their legacy. Their answers were insightful and deep.
Students also reflected on GRATITUDE, creating a list of people they were grateful at Boulan and elaborate on how this gratitude impacts how they will be remembered at Boulan. I feel this is a fitting "full circle" experience related to our Gratitude Journals created in November.
This week's writing centers on attitude.

LEGACY Reflections

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I sense it with my students this time every year. A restlessness crops up in early spring and I've never felt I'd been able to adequately address it. It's what I think of as a "push/pull" mindset. 
My 8th Graders are pushing away from Middle School and feeling the excitement and pull of their new lives next school year as High Schoolers. It's a drive for new experiences along with the sadness of leaving Middle School. This often manifests in an "indifferent" attitude conveyed outwardly but this indifference (usually) masks the trepidation they're feeling inside. I believe I may have found a way to help students work though these feelings.
Last June the idea of a LEGACY project came to me in the middle of the night the week before school ended (the subconscious mind at work)! I quickly ran through the activity with my students. This year I'm able to take my time and have hopes for its success.
Students began reflections yesterday. I defined …

Reading Aloud in the Middle School History Classroom

Reading a novel or non-fiction book aloud to my students is an essential part of my school year. I probably began this practice when the district-wide Troybery Reading Program was created by our Media Specialists. In this program students, teachers, and staff read the same newly published books throughout the school year and vote on the top book of the year.  Troybery is outstanding and has been existence for more than 15 years now. 
My read-aloud selections are usually current Troybery historical fiction (or non-fiction) books. This year I have added a few other selections.
My classes have just finished "nine, ten" by Nora Raleigh Baskin, a book about the events of September 11, 2001. Teaching Twentieth (and Twenty-first) Century History is incredibly important to me and I incorporate it whenever possible. Students have little working knowledge of this time period. We read the story aloud and then discuss the historic facts embedded in the story. 
Reading aloud is benefici…