Showing posts from 2015


Student Historians worked with Popplet for the first time today. The app creates concept maps that can include text and images. Concepts, called Popples, can also be color-coded. The app seems fairly easy to use--I created one about the 3 levels and 3 branches of government while my students were creating theirs (I did add a few pictures later, though, and that took longer to do). I was realizing that searching for pictures of people like our current Supreme Court members, for example, was a very worthwhile activity. Students (and adults, for that matter) need to know who our country's leaders are.

The lite version is free and lets you create one map at a time. The map can be downloaded but it then becomes a PDF or JPEG and can't be edited. My Effective Teens are also working on a Genius Hour Popplet and we managed to get around this "one map" issue by moving the second map to another part of the screen. :)

My first impressions of Popplet are very good. I've been…

Two Completed iMovie Trailers

Student trailers have been completed and the results are impressive. 
I've realized I really like trailers because they are an excellent vehicle to challenge students to pull out essential facts and details in subject matter. Students really had to stay focused on the rubric and had to be concise, yet persuasive. (Trailers are kind of like Tweets--you have strict guidelines to stay within.)
I was also proud to see the grit and determination in my students when they became frustrated by the limits the iMovie trailer put on them. Student teams found ways to add information into pictures or slides, for example. Overcoming obstacles is an essential life skill that needs to be practiced!
Here are two examples of student work. Enjoy!

Coming Attractions: Student iMovie Trailers!

Student Historians began a project-based assessment today--an iMovie trailer supporting ratification of the Constitution. Groups are to take on the perspective of the Federalists in 1787 and create a persuasive video supporting our Constitution. (I decided to have all students focus on the Federalists because their arguments would have detailed explanations of the Constitution--they will refute the Anti-Federalist arguments against ratification, as well.)
The groups are excited and so am I--I've never used iMovie in class before. The project is in a Schoology folder and is primarily paperless (I do have a paper rough draft storyboard for each group, though). 
I can't wait to see how my students interact with this app. I'm sure their final projects would make our Founding Fathers proud!

Veterans Day Activities

We have spent a few days this week focusing on modern history and the sacrifices our men and women in uniform have made for all of us.
I found a story this summer about a military tradition I'd never heard of and wanted to share it with my class: 
America's White Table, by Margot Theis-Raven, is a story of the Fallen Comrade Table. The tradition was started to honor all Missing In Action and Prisoners of War during the Vietnam War. An empty table is set for those who will never return and the items on the table symbolize the sacrifice of those who are missing.
The Social Studies teachers at Boulan and I decided it would be powerful to replicate this table during the week surrounding Veterans Day and it was met with great reverence and respect by the students. Some classes read the book at the table and others completed a See-Think-Wonder Visible Thinking routine at the table. All students were moved by the display and felt gratitude for these soldiers.
Eighth Grade students al…

Student Tech Leaders and Taking Risks

Having a 1:1 iPad classroom has been really exciting this year. I look forward to every opportunity to use technology in the classroom and have been trying to utilize it on a daily basis (in a way that makes sense and honors our curriculum). 
It's a real risk to use technology in the classroom because of the many issues that invariably pop up. One example is that the app or site might not work well and patience is definitely called for. I've noticed another issue that's come up several times a week, though--the fact that I'm not well-versed in some of the technology we use. (One Note in particular is really keeping me humble!!) This is where Student Tech Leaders (a term I've coined for them) are a necessity.
I am truly grateful to these knowledgeable students and eagerly give them the opportunity to shine and show us all how something is done. It gives these leaders the chance to practice speaking in front of an audience on the fly and to be viewed as a technology…

November is Gratitude Month


Teaching the American Revolution using Music

I really enjoy incorporating music into my classroom on a daily basis. I play classical music while my History students are working on group activities, Motown hits for my Effective Teens when they are planning their Genius Hour projects, U2's "Pride (In the Name of Love)" to honor Martin Luther King, Jr. and analyze his impact on the Civil Rights Movement, and relaxation music when I sense student stress levels are high. 
Yesterday I utilized music in a different way--to help students deeply review the American Revolution.
The piece I used was the main theme to the movie "The Patriot", composed by John Williams. This piece is brilliant, in my opinion, because it so clearly takes the listener through the history of the American Revolution. One can hear life before British taxation in the colonies, the impact of events like the Boston Massacre and Intolerable Acts, the early, middle, and turning point battles of the wa…

"Make a Good Decision"

My historians turned in their first assessment for me today. It was a graphic organizer outline (I am a huge proponent of graphic organizers--they're a terrific tool to organize thinking and writing) and an analytical writing piece. 
The first assessment is always a stressful time for my students--most want to make sure they follow all guidelines and complete it "perfectly". This is also usually the first time one of my favorite teacher phrases is spoken:
Discussion of the assignment specifics usually goes along these lines: 
Students: "Should we print or use cursive?" Me: "Make a good decision." Students: "Would you like us to use pen or pencil?" Me: "Make a good decision." Students: "May we submit it online?" Me: "Make a good decision."
My poor students usually get increasingly confused by my statement. I want them to decide for themselves how to complete the details (I do have writing guidelines and factual …

DocsTeach Activity: Road to Revolution: Patriot or Treason?

Student Historians will utilize a fantastic site tomorrow (I'm hoping eventually students will be able to download the app on their iPads--we will use the Smart Board tomorrow instead).
DocsTeach is a National Archives site and is rich with primary source materials. Teachers can create activities to share with other teachers (I have made a few) and the National Archives has created activities, as well. Tomorrow's activity is called  "Road to Revolution: Patriotism or Treason?". Students will practice OPVL, then analyze some of the viewpoints and perspectives related to events leading to the American Revolution. 

Big Changes this Year

For the past 20 years I have started teaching every September with classes full of 8th Graders that are eager and ready to learn. This year's students are as ready to learn as ever but there is one big change:
every student now has an iPad.
Technology and I have come a very long way in the past eight years and I look forward to this new challenge. My goal is to let the History content drive the use of technology in my room, not the other way around.
This article from TeachThought has been very helpful for me on this journey: 
I need to be ok with taking it slowly--I have a organized, highly-functional classroom where students learn deeply. I don't want to lose my focus because I'm so excited to jump in to all that having a 1:1 classroom can bring. I will take these tips to heart and attempt to do a few things well. I am really looking forward to publishing student work, ways…

Primary Source Analysis: OPVL

Student historians learned  today about OPVL, a method of primary source analysis used in IB and AP History classes. The acronym stands for Origin, Purpose, Value, and Limitation. OPVL is a method that will allow students to determine the context primary sources are set in and also think deeply and reason what the source says about the time period it came from.
A professional development session I attended earlier this month gave me the idea to first model OPLV using personal student items. Students brought in an item they have pride in and we prepared for a Primary Source "Show and Tell" session in class today. This activity really helped me learn more about my students and I also discovered was a great example of character education. Students needed to reflect on the value these items had on themselves and what our society values, as well. I look forward to our discussions about these special items tomorrow.

New Classroom Signs!

I have made a few new signs for my classroom and wanted to share...

These signs are for my students' interactive History notebooks. We keep them in the classroom on shelves. I am fortunate to teach part-time and I'm changing my schedule from mornings to afternoons--it will better serve my daughter's new school schedule. (This will really be a big change for me--I've taught mornings since my son was born twelve years ago!)

This sign represents my new favorite word. I absolutely love Twitter--it's an amazing resource for cutting-edge educational theories and ideas. Recently I discovered a post about the power of the word yet. People (myself included) often limit their potential with negative thinking (for example, saying or thinking "I'm not good at ______.") I'm looking forward to discussions with my students about how adding this word to the end of a pessimistic sentence gives them the power and the potential to change and grow. I will now also ha…

Prepping for a New School Year: How to Teach...Making Friends

I found a fascinating post on Twitter today titled "How to Teach...Making Friends".  Adults often think making friends at any age should come naturally but I don't believe that's the case. Children and teens often lack the social experience necessary to introduce themselves to others and cultivate positive relationships. Our dependence on technology seems to decrease the amount of time we spend practicing genuine listening and other essential conversational skills that are vital to gaining and keeping friends, as well. This topic is important to me for two reasons: I want to help my students be better friends and teammates in class because I have a discussion-centered classroom environment and I also want to help my own son and daughter because they are the "new kids" in their schools this year--we moved over the summer.
I can't wait to examine t…

Creating Family Traditions

The days of summer break are coming to a close and thoughts of a new school year are on many of our minds. I saw this article on the Today Show parents page and wanted to share it: 
I like this article because it explains that now is a great time to begin a family tradition, before school starts and life gets even busier than it already is. It also reinforces the fact that family traditions don't have to be elaborate or expensive to be effective--the repetition of a tradition is comforting and reinforces family bonds. Families create and strengthen family history when they participate in family traditions and it's never too late to begin them. 
I would love to hear about a favorite family tradition you have or if you are going to try any new traditions!


A student of mine this year, I will call her Ashley, is a wonderful young lady, confident, and has lots of friends. She is a good student athlete and volunteers in our school's Autism room as part of a class. Ashley has never been a Student of the Week throughout her middle school years and I overheard her mention it to classmates a few weeks ago. (She wasn't complaining, just more a statement of fact.) I'd meant to make her a student of the week several times during the year for various reasons but hadn't remembered to.
I needed to make this a priority during her last week of Middle School, submitted a certificate for her, and was looking forward to seeing  her expression when her name was called. (She was in my class during announcements.) Ashley ended up surprising me first, though, and this is one of the reasons I teach.
When the student of the week announcement began I looked over to Ashley's table and observed her. The first name announced was the name of a …

Thank You

Today was the 8th Grade Promotion Ceremony and tomorrow is the last day of the school year. I would like to take a moment to say Thank You to all of my students.
I love teaching 8th Grade US History and Effective Teens. I'm so incredibly fortunate that I've learned so much from my students over the years. As demanding as teaching is I truly know that I have taken the right career path but this path is always made easier with students like I've had in my classroom this year. They have been a joy to guide and instruct. I know I am a better teacher for knowing them and, for that, I'm truly grateful.
Enjoy your summer, Historians and Innovators!

Dred Scott Decision: Peel the Fruit Routine

8th Grade Historians examined the Dred Scott Decision today. This landmark case reinvigorated the anti-slavery movement and propelled the United States toward war. Dred Scott, a slave, sued for his freedom because he had lived in free territory with his master. The Supreme Court ruled that Scott wasn't considered a citizen and therefore had no grounds to sue. The Court also stated that slavery couldn't be denied in the western territories. This ruling was a huge step back for all people against slavery.
Students completed a Peel the Fruit Visible Thinking routine to delve deeper into the feelings and thoughts surrounding this case.
The outer ring asks students to state what they notice about the topic. The second ring requires students to pose questions about the case and the impact it had on America. (These questions can be rhetorical.) The third ring requires students to practice an essential social studies skill: they must consider different perspectives and viewpoints, st…


I have been thinking about a "March Madness"-style tournament for our US History content for several years now. The schedule changes we've had lately helped to make a tournament a reality--I needed an activity we could complete in my classes on an as-needed basis.

We will be taking part in the Ultimate US History Tournament!

Who (or what) is the most important person, idea, or event in US History from the Declaration of Independence until the start of the US Civil War (July 4, 1776-December 31, 1860)?
Let’s find out!

Students will determine the most important person, idea, or event and justify their rankings. A class tournament bracket will decide the winner of the Ultimate US History Tournament. 
The four regions are the American Revolutionary War regional, A New Nation regional, the Growth and Change regional, and the Road to the Civil War regional.
I feel this is a really good way to review the big ideas in History this year and have fun while doing so. The students are en…

Haiku Poems about Factory Life in the Mills: Fourth Hour

These haiku are created by my Fourth Hour historians: 
Young children could work long, hot, and tiring days very poorly paid ~Ben
Conditions are bad dust and cotton fill the air suffocating kids
Very low wages little kids wanting to learn no education ~Annette

Young girls are working in cotton mills, they suffer in harsh conditions
Windows are closed shut machines are crying loudly they cry for the girls ~Shivani
A dollar a week at first seems good but later... future is ruined ~Sahaja
Sweat forms on our brows we are not educated we work for money
The air is dirty danger constantly finds us our wages are low ~Ronak
Working at the mills I think I need some water it is very hot ~Drew
Others play outside I am struggling inside my factory life ~Karma
The factory life was really hard and it was really, really hot! ~Louis
Young children work hard hot and loud environment low pay and safety ~Nate
I was happy in the firsts nine days then something happened after eight days finally I understa…

Haiku Poems about Factory Life in the Mills: Third Hour

The historians in my third hour would like to share their creations with you:

Working at the mills dirty working conditions humid like summer
Supporting family woman making small profits hopeful for success ~Mark
Poor environment the girls are risking their lives very low wages ~Aishwarya
The place is like winter everybody is confined no one can escape
Life is like summer the air is hot and humid the place reeks from lamps ~Vasanth
Very little pay working conditions were poor some girls got injured ~Luke
Very dangerous working conditions are bad get paid very low ~Ravi
Girls work very hard some died or had injuries the air was dirty
Girls were bruised and scarred dangerous work conditions working long hours ~Yousif
Working in the mills hard dangerous conditions make it out alive
Long days in the mills twelve or fourteen hours long girls work with caution ~Jenna
Kids are suffering with not much pay and high rent kids even get killed ~Matthew
Deafening noises working hard and long hours …

Haiku Poems about Factory Life in the Mills: First Hour

My 8th Grade Historians have been learning about life in Northern factories during the Industrial Revolution. The task today is to create haiku poems about factory life. This life was exciting for these children but was also very dangerous. Many girls worked in the mills because it was their only chance for independence in society and provided the opportunity to earn good money for themselves and contribute financially to their families. 
I would post these poems in the hallway but our hallways are currently being painted so this blog will be our display board for some of the the creative work my students have written today.
Working day and night risking my life for money little time to rest. ~Abby
No windows open almost like stuck in summer just trapped in, not out. ~Abby
Hot like the summer lives falling away like leaves as sad as winter. ~Oliver
Two books ain't enough boarding takes half of my pay the strikes haven't worked. ~Oliver
In summer it starts each moment stifling…

The Industrial Revolution, 21st Century History, and Character Education

The Industrial Revolution is an exciting topic to teach because of the way it relates to character education, modern history and the exciting (but also scary) concept of change.
My classes were asked to compare the Industrial Revolution's human power/factory change to today's humanpower/technology change. Several classes brought up the idea of driverless cars--there is at least one concept car in existence and we all enjoyed watching a clip of it in action. 
The opportunity to think about character came into play when we discussed the decisions of Samuel Slater. Slater was very knowledgeable in textile machinery in Great Britain. Britain was a forerunner in the Industrial Revolution and Slater was confident he could replicate these factories in America. He ignored British laws that prevented skilled workers from leaving Britain after memorizing the information he would need. Sla…

Planning Successful Jigsaw Activities

Jigsaw activities are a useful classroom activity that promotes individual student accountability as well as the opportunity for peer sharing and character education practice. Jigsawing occurs when students form one group, become experts together on a particular topic, and then move to a second group to compile and synthesize learning from each expert group.

I am a believer in the benefits of jigsaw activities but, to be honest, the logistics of the activity can be daunting and have prevented me from using it as often as I could. (I can remember how nervous I was the night before I attempted a jigsaw in an observation--I was worried that my second "switch" wasn't going to go according to plan.) We all have our weaknesses! :)

I believe I have found a way to simplify jigsawing using colored paper clip tokens and table signs. I hope it helps others use this strategy more often in their classrooms.

I have 5 tables of 6 students and a classroom capacity of 30 students. Each …