This Week in NHD

I've been trying to come up with a way to update our National History Day journey when the name jumped out at me--I suddenly remembered "This Week in Baseball", a sports show I used to watch with my Grandpa when I was a kid. (Google it for some great baseball memories!) "This Week in NHD" it is! I met with all 8th Grade US History students again yesterday and we completed a few business tasks--we logged onto NoodleTools, the website that will help us organize our sources and ideas this year, joined the Schoology 8th Grade NHD Group I made for all 8th Graders so that I can easily send every student, not just my students, information and resources, gave a brief overview of the project this year, and shared the Symbaloo Webmix I created for them. 
This Webmix is going to become an essential resource. The necessary resources are all in a user-friendly format, color-coded and organized for ease of use. I will add tiles to the mix as the need arises and I look forwa…

NHD Topic Ideas

Our first foray into preparing for National History Day went really well last week. I saw every 8th Grader throughout the day for a mini-lesson and front loading the topic with the students was definitely the way to proceed! The Explain Everything worked really well and afforded students the opportunity to brainstorm without worrying about the specifics of the contest--they could just spend some time thinking about US History.

The image above is proof that our students do have a working knowledge of US History, my job now is to help them find topics that fit the theme and that have primary sources to support their eventual theses.

Another critical role for me is to make sure the student finds a topic they are passionate about. I always need to remember this learning journey is based on Genius Hour. They will spend many hours researching and learning about their topic, it must be something they care about.

My task this week is to introduce the main components of the project, the Symba…

NHD Theme Introduction Video

I created an Explain Everything video for all schools to use when introducing this year's National History Day theme. Teachers can show this to the whole class at once and pause regularly so that students will be able to work throughout the class period.
I will have students complete this introduction BEFORE I even discuss the NHD project! Frontloading students to think about the theme and provide examples using think, pair, share activities worked REALLY WELL last year. It prevented students from feeling overwhelmed and frustrated, uncertain that they could ever think of a topic. This year's theme is more challenging than last year's theme and that makes this method of delivery even more  necessary for student success. By the end of class students will have a list of topics to begin to research. They will also be able to find a topic that speaks to them and sparks their interest.

Week One is In the Books!

The first week of school went by so quickly! Student Historians were busy taking part in various stations that represent important facets of our classroom this year. One station consisted of deciding, as a small group, what an ideal teacher, student, and classroom looked like (using details and sensory examples). 
They completed  an online survey for me to get to know more about them as an individual (I now have a spreadsheet with a wealth of information regarding their likes, dislikes, and facts they feel I should know about them)!
Another station had them explain, on a paper coffee cup, who in History they would most like to have a cup of coffee (or hot chocolate, or lemonade) with and why. Still another was a textbook and syllabus investigation searching for the "specifics" of the course. Students also surveyed one another to find out how they spent their summer and what they might have in common with their new table mates.
These activities, as I later pointed out, empha…

The More, the Merrier: Cross-Curricular Opportunities for Student Historians

My Student Historians will, once again, complete National History Day projects this year. I'm eager to give them the opportunity to explore student-centered, project-based learning that is rigorous and challenging.  Our Media Specialists have been invaluable to the process and they will continue to help this year. There are, I'm pleased to say, two new twists to this endeavor.
One change is that all of the 8th Grade US History teachers in the district have decided to join us. Every student in the district will complete projects! 
The 8th Grade Language Arts teachers in the district met with us History teachers today and they will, to varying degrees, be working on this project within their Language Arts classes, too! We will now give our students a cross-curricular Capstone project opportunity that is authentic and based on student choice. The expertise and knowledge of our Language Arts and History teachers working together will help our students' projects shine even bri…

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…