Teaching the Whole Student

January is a tough month for many, middle school students are no exception. It's been really cold where we live so students aren't getting outside as much, the cold and flu season is peaking, the days are among the shortest of the year and lack of sunlight is impactful. Post-holiday let-down leads right into the end of the quarter/semester and a final push with projects and tests. I've had so many reminders lately of the importance of teaching to the whole student (and to try and follow my own advice).
Caring for ourselves is crucial but it's particularly essential now. I need to be flexible regarding my expectations in the classroom and more patient with my students.  They are finishing quarter/semester activities in all of their classes and studying for assessments.
Taking the "emotional temperature" of the class each hour when the bell rings has been a great guide for me. It's pretty evident whether students are relaxed or not and many class periods l…

Student History Fair Preparation

Happy New Year!
This month Student Historians will finish their National History Day projects and present their theses to peers and the school community. 
One aspect of the History Fair is the valuable feedback Historians will receive on their projects. I debated creating a digital feedback program but decided to make paper-and-pencil reflections because it will be easier for the Student Historians to receive feedback. An audience Student Interaction sheet promotes deep exploration of projects during the History Fair and makes these projects interactive for both creator and viewer. Student creators will also realize how their work has impacted others. 
Audience members will complete the following statements:
One COMPLIMENT I have about how this project was made is...One QUESTION the information in this project makes me wonder is...One CONNECTION I have with this project and something I know (or learned) in Social Studies is... These sentence starters ensure the audience will engage wi…

NHD Project Updates: Graphic Organizers Rock!

Student Historians are working diligently on their National History Day projects. I have been meeting with student groups according to categories to remind them of the benefits of the Symbaloo Webmix created for them #rightsideofthewebmix and to give them individualized help. 
We have a few groups creating a dramatic performance and I received some help from our Forensics teacher and compiled her tips as students were writing their scripts, along with a plot diagram for them to use. (I have always utilized graphic organizers with my students, they are incredibly helpful with project development by helping students work effectively and with a focus.)
Each group needs to write a Process Paper--a graphic organizer from me should make that process run smoothly, as well. (I will post this document on my Twitter page,  the Webmix is only for web links.)
Our school-wide presentations are January 23rd (my History classes) and January 24th (our other History teacher's classes). The Distri…

This Week in NHD: Overcoming the Wall

Student Historians have been overcoming challenges related to their in-depth, student-centered National History Day projects while persevering and finding success as they wind up their research and continue their note taking.
I have noted with interest how so many students (and teachers) lately seem to be focused on the finish line and completing these projects when, to me, the process, not necessarily the product, is essential. 
It's natural, I suppose, to want a project completed and "checked off" of a To Do list, but the true test for these Student Historians lies in the multitude of steps that must be taken to get to this end result. These steps should be celebrated and acknowledged. Rushing this process doesn't give students ample time to be mindful of the many components of the project or have the chance to reflect upon their work, step by step. Time can even demonstrate the worthiness of an assignment. We model this worthiness by continuing this work over the…

The Power of Support

Yesterday's National History Day work featured the power of support. Eighth Grade Student Historians were once again fortunate to have Ms. Bradfield, State Coordinator for Michigan History Day, join us, along with our Teacher Librarian Mrs. Chatel. I'm happy to say that Ms. Bradfield will be joining 8th Graders from Smith Middle School in two weeks.
Students were able to ask Ms. Bradfield questions about topics, finding sources, and thesis development. They were also able to learn more from Mrs. Chatel about maximizing the benefits of Noodle Tools for research, digital note cards, and citations for their Annotated Bibliographies. 
My expertise in assisting students with National History Day projects is strong. My reaching out to other experts, though, hopefully demonstrates to my students my firm belief in Synergy. This notion that we are stronger together when we work with and learn from others should be practiced and reflected upon often.
I have worked alongside and served …


Link to my NHD Symbaloo Webmix 
Symbaloo is one of the best technology resources I've found to assist my Student Historians and me on our National History Day journey this year. 
I learned about Symbaloo at the MACUL (Michigan Association for Computer Users in Learning) Conference this past March. I was intrigued by its ease of use and by the company's commitment to education. My first thought was to utilize this resource for National History Day.
Over the summer I created a Symbaloo Webmix to simplify the NHD process. Developing the Webmix was a matter of breaking down the project components (thinking about possible topics of interest, understanding the theme, pre-searching, researching, writing the thesis question, learning about project types, seeing project examples, creating digital note cards, housing resources, developing an Annotated Bibliography, and learning about the contest) and creating tiles for each these web links. 
The left side of the Webmix focuses on researc…

The Wall: Update

Students did experience "The Wall" today while working on their National History Day projects (see yesterday's post). One group finally overcame a challenge today and it was really exciting to witness.
Two students have been interested in learning more about the Salem Witch Trials, but have been struggling with developing their thesis. (I studied this topic in depth in college--the trials were about economics, class struggle and sociology, not about "witchcraft" at all.) This year's theme is challenging, which added to their frustration. I guided, but mostly listened. Reminding these Historians that they have a powerful topic (which they do) gave them the encouragement to take the risk and try again. Walking them through developing a thesis that gave their audience more factual information was important. We also talked about how not "showing your hand", but creating curiosity about your topic, is key. 
This team has been trying to create a persua…