Creativity, Music, and Technology in the History Classroom: GarageBand

Two quotes are the basis for this reflection. The first is from someone I had the honor of hearing speak this past spring. Sir Ken Robinson is an author and education and creativity expert. The second is from William Plomer, a 20th Century writer and poet. Both quotes relate to the heart of my educational philosophy and the never-ending journey to make my classroom a place where creativity is an integral part of the process of thinking like a Historian.
I came across a post yesterday that linked these ideas beautifully. "How to Use GarageBand in the Reading Classroom" by Monica Burns has some terrific ideas on how to use this music app in Language Arts classes. I believe that they can successfully be used in Social Studies classes, as well.
The second tip was special and I can't wait to add it to the project-based learning my Student Historians will undertake this year! Ms. Burns suggests students compose a music piece that evokes a particular emotion from a book the st…

Legacy Project

Every spring I observe my 8th Graders responding to the impending end of their Middle School years at Boulan Park.  Almost all become nervous but their nervousness manifests in different ways--a few may act out more, others try to act cool and put on a brave face. I have been searching for a way to help my students process these feelings but haven't found anything when the idea suddenly came to me last week! I tried it out and believe it was successful. We analyzed the concept of "legacy".

Students defined the term and then wrote several reflections on different aspects of their legacy at Boulan over the course of a week and a half and culminated on the last day of school. We had 20 minute classes and that time was the perfect opportunity to write thank you notes. 
I started the class by asking for highlights of their promotion assembly and party the previous day. I pointed out that the day was about them and that all of the hard work and effort from parents and staff me…

Civil War iMovies

Student Historians were given one year of the Civil War to analyze (see Civil War Investigation iMovie post). The following video was the overall selection voted by my students from all classes and was entered into a district video competition. The video is excellent and a great example of the work we do in class. Bravo!

Another video worthy of showcasing is presented below. This group also clearly followed directions and found excellent primary sources. Well done!

I Think I "Flipped" My Class This Evening!

Student Historians completed their video analysis of one year of the Civil War today. Students needed to have time to also vote for their classroom winner but most groups worked until the end of the hour so voting today wasn't possible. (My classes were asked to enter a district-wide video contest for the first time this year.  It was almost-perfect timing--I'd already had this video planned but we were up against the contest deadline and need to submit our overall winner Wednesday. We had a field trip, a career planning program, and guest speaker in the interim!) My solution to get the voting done in time--I think I flipped my class! (Who knew?)

Students uploaded their videos to our Schoology page today. I downloaded the videos and uploaded them into folders by hour so that students could view them. Students now need to view all 6 of their class videos tonight or before school tomorrow and, using Google Forms, vote on the one winner from their class. I will compile results to…

Civil War Investigation iMovie

Student Historians started their Civil War investigation this week. Teams were each given one year of the war from 1860-1865 (1860 was included because of the significant events that directly impacted the war) and will rank and justify 3 events they believe impacted the end of the war. 
Project-based learning never gets old for me as an instructor. I find such joy in seeing the students interact, think deeply, and work together. I move from group to group questioning and guiding while team members sort through primary sources, storyboards, and apps and discuss and debate with one another. The sense of purpose is palpable and our class minutes tick away productively. 
Today team members each chose one of five project roles: Producer, Director, Screenwriter, Special Effects Director, and, of course, Historian. Tomorrow each role will have specific tasks to complete, including deciding on the overall tone for the year being studied and developing justification for this tone, locating 3 …

Memories of an Impactful Teacher

I found out that my 8th Grade Homeroom teacher passed away this week. This made me think back to all that I remembered about her.

For years she was the teacher I'd always hoped I'd get when I was in 8th Grade (I went to a 1st-8th Grade school so I'd known of her for many years)--she was smart, fun, artistic, printed so neatly, and always dressed so nicely. I was fortunate (so was my twin--we were in her homeroom, together for the first time in our school career) to find myself in her room. What struck me, though, once I was in her class, was how much she cared about teaching and her students. I learned so much about Science from her but, more importantly, I learned how to lead.

I was a shy, awkward teen but she saw my potential. I earned a leadership role and went to a 2nd grade classroom everyday that year to help with lunch and recess. I never saw myself as a teacher but she did and that experience probably laid the groundwork for my career today. The irony, though, is t…

Believing in Dreams

Discussions with two of my 8th Graders yesterday led to this post. One of my students, a wonderful young man I will call Michael, and I were talking at the end of class when the topic of career choices came up. He mentioned to me that he was now discouraged about his choice. It seems an adult he had had a conversation with didn't feel he should want attempt to be a professional hockey player when he gets older. I stated that maybe this adult was concerned he didn't have a "Plan B" to fall back on in case of injury but Michael explained to me that he will go to college regardless of a hockey career. He is an excellent and committed student, I have no doubt he will do just that.

Another student in the same class period surprised me with his creativity and ingenuity: he created a homemade "fidget spinner". He took note of the latest fad to hit Middle School and decided to create one himself. I marveled at the details--a round Styrofoam disc with ball bearings…