Showing posts from 2017

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…

This Week in NHD: The Wall

Student Historians will continue work tomorrow on their National History  Day research. We are at the point in the process that all of the students will experience frustration and a setback or two of various degrees. This is what I've termed "The Wall".
Creative, open-ended projects are messy. 
Project-Based learning is messy. 
One "correct" answer doesn't exist to solve the problem. 
The learning that takes place doesn't follow a prescribed plan and it's not linear. 
This is disconcerting to students, especially those that have found great success with traditional education. Parents and teachers want to help students but the best thing we can do when the going gets challenging for them is to walk our talk.
We consistently tell our students that we believe in them and in their abilities (and we mean it). We let them know we think they are capable of great things. 
It's our time to show them. 
We cannot rush in to "fix things", though,…

This Week in NHD: 4Cs Theme Analysis

This week featured a deep dive into this year's theme utilizing a graphic organizer (entitled "The 4Cs") from the National History Day organization. We were fortunate to have Ms. Amy Bradfield, Education Services Manager with the Historical Society of Michigan, observe part of 5th and all of 6th hour Tuesday. Ms. Bradfield helped us all (myself included) enhance our understanding of the theme and I'm truly grateful for her knowledge and expertise! 
The Cs refer to Conflict, Compromise, Context, and Change. The first two, Conflict and Compromise, represents the lens all students must view their topic in History through. Students do not have to represent the conflict and the compromise of a topic equally, it's perfectly acceptable to have an uneven representation of the two, as long as both are reflected in the thesis, document selection, and persuasive justification. Students need to clearly state the problem of the situation and the give-and-take involved in the…

I'm a Better Teacher because of Twitter

Twitter has transformed my life as a teacher. The world has become much smaller and the role my students play within it has grown due to this social media outlet.
Twitter is a terrific way for me to allow parents and the community to witness our learning in action. The teens in my classroom may not always connect with their parents about their day. Posting the successes and events happening in our room 2-3 days a week (on average) enables parents to have a starting point for conversations about the learning and thinking that occurs. 
Twitter brings the world into our classroom. I have followed and been followed by leaders in Historical research, Authors, Educators, and educational organizations. My Student Historians and I have been assisted time and again by these experts and my students are excited to take part in these adventures. (So am I!) We've Tweeted to authors during Skype sessions, interacted with the National History Day Webmaster, been asked to Tweet our thoughts rega…

This Week in NHD: Theme Narrative

Tomorrow students will go to the Media Center for National History Day work. This year's theme is our focus. Here's our agenda: Noodle Tools app (approximately 5 minutes)Databases (from last week's Sway)Read the 2017-2018 NHD Theme Narrative and answer 6 short questions on Socrative (these questions are simple if you have read the information). Link: Complete tasks left from last week's to-do list on Noodle ToolsThe day is once again very technology-centered. Students will use many sites and apps (is that app-smashing??) and will explore the theme "Conflict and Compromise" in depth. The theme is two-fold this year and both parts must be analyzed and represented in projects. 
The National History Day organization has developed a Theme Narrative that gives students examples and breaks down the concepts of historical compromise and conflict. I've written a very short quiz on Socrative--all students will ta…

This Week in NHD: "The Shift"

This week in NHD featured "The Shift". The Shift is moving from my planning what we are doing the entire class period to the students taking responsibility for their own planning. Our agenda:
*Noodle Tools--write to-do list (we will do this one together to model it--you will create individualized to-do lists from now on) *take survey (if you haven't already) *see Symbaloo updates (links to previous category descriptions, etc.) *search MS Media Databases (they're on Symbaloo) *write research question in Noodle Tools *write 1-2 checklist items of your own
This project, as previously stated, is multi-faceted. Students need to have some general guidelines so they aren't overwhelmed. What they equally need, though, is the parameters to take on planning themselves. To-do lists are an excellent way for students to clarify what needs to be done and note when these tasks are completed. (Many students know how to do this, but just as many do not.) I intentionally modeled t…

Trusting in the (Learning) Journey

Creating a large-scale endeavor like a National History Day project takes time. Going through the process for the first time can be overwhelming for teachers and students alike. It's critical to remember, though, that it is a journey.
These projects are rigorous and require many steps. Too often we expect immediate gratification--this is not the type of project that will offer quick results.  Students will be thinking, reflecting, pre-searching (to use a colleague's term), researching, selecting a topic in US History they are passionate about, locating primary and secondary sources, writing a research question, developing a thesis, grappling with this year's theme and applying it to their topic, writing digital note cards, keeping track of resources, developing a project, ensuring they place their topic in historical situational context, creating a process paper to reflect on their experience, and possibly back-tracking and at any point if they lose focus. 
Students will …

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…

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…

National History Day Wrap-Up

The Student Historians that competed at the Michigan History Day State Competition have so much to be proud of! They presented their projects and answered the judges' questions with detailed and knowledgeable responses. 
The final results revealed that two of the three projects placed 3rd in the State of Michigan in their division and these students were alternates in case one of the top two entrants was unable to attend the National History Day Competition this June! (They found out today that the Finalists in their categories will all be attending and their projects are no longer needed this year.)
Every one of my Student Historians has now capped off a fantastic year of learning and can look back on their experience with a great sense of accomplishment. Each and every one of my students created a persuasive and analytical project on a person in US History that was significant to them. I couldn't ask for anything more! My goal was to replicate a Genius Hour project within t…

Reflecting on National History Day

National History Day projects have wrapped up for all but a few students in my classes. Six students are competing next Saturday in the Michigan History Day State Competition and had time to reflect and enhance their projects between the March 4th District competition and the State Competition. These students represent three different projects: a group website centered on Supreme Court Justice Thurgood Marshall and his work toward equality for African-Americans, a poem about the achievements of the Culper Spy Network during the American Revolution, and a dramatic performance about former First Lady Jackie Kennedy's stand to save Lafayette Square from demolition.

As I've previously written, the National History Day process has been a new endeavor for me and for my classes this year. Since none of this process is familiar to me I've had to reflect on each component during and after in order to put it into context and, more importantly, decide if it was a worthwhile project …

TouchCast Manifest Destiny Project

Student Historians demonstrated how five events from the early-to-mid 1800s proved the idea of Manifest Destiny, the justification Americans had for land acquisition "from sea to shining sea". They used Touch Cast to create news stories demonstrating their knowledge.
My Student Teacher and I had never used it with a class before but I'm proud to say that she took a risk with this new technology and it was successful! Most of the students had never used it before, either, but all quickly learned how to navigate the site. One of the biggest tips learned was the importance of having a green screen to make the final project look more professional. We have 2 green screens in the building but Ms. Berger was resourceful and make a few more paper screens (which we will hang up and save for future projects). 

Time management for the project was very good--the few groups that finished early were given the real-life task of creating a "dos and don'ts for Touch Cast" …

Mentor Teaching in the 21st Century, Part 2

My Student Teacher is gaining momentum in the classroom this semester! My instinct was that she was going to be a strong candidate and I'm very pleased to see this is, in fact, the case. She's taking over classes and proving herself to be more than adept at the rigors of teaching. 
Even though it makes perfect sense, I am still amazed at how intensive student teaching is from when I was a candidate--she is being evaluated with the same evaluation model I am evaluated on. She must also demonstrate student growth and provide data proving this growth, like I am required to. It definitely benefits her to start with these goals even before she has a permanent placement in a district and will help her "hit the ground running" when she has her own classroom.
She is a reflective teacher, I'm very pleased to say, and is also a quick study. Her attention to detail and follow-through on those details will be invaluable in this profession. Her care and concern for students …

Growth and Change Thematic Assessment Spark Video Examples

This assessment is an excellent example of how Student Historians analyzed the events that occurred during the Early Republic. They did a thorough job of answering the questions and thought critically about the events on their graph.

This video also gives detailed answers to the questions and analyzes the events well. The two graphs  featured in these videos are different--this is due to different historical interpretations of the same events. Both groups have solid justifications for their events and those justifications were examined in class. 
I am very pleased with the results of this assessment. Many groups surprised me with their knowledge of history and their knowledge of math--some groups used the terms "independent variable" and "dependent variable" when discussing their graphs--they were able to apply mathematical concepts to this social studies assignment with success.

Math in History Education

Students have been using math in History this week and I'm eager to hear their reflections today. We have been studying the early years of the American Republic and I created an overarching unit to tie these events together.
Using the theme of growth and change, each student began by reviewing 9 events/ideas and individually ranked them on a scale of +5 (positive change/growth) to -5 (negative change/growth). In group meetings, these historians were asked to average their findings and develop 2 justifications for their averages.
The next step was to graph their findings. I gave them graph paper (the x-axis labeled "events 1-9", the y-axis labeled "rating") and the groups created their graphs.
The final step was to create a Spark Video analyzing their data. They needed to more thoroughly explain the x-axis and y-axis (possible answers: the events show the growth and change of the country over time from Washington's Administration to the Missouri Compromise)…

Using the Engineering Design Process in History Education

We all have our strengths. I have learned long ago that science and math aren't strengths of mine but I've continued to challenge myself in areas of weakness in order to grow. My Business Calculus college course comes to mind--I've never been prouder of a sub-par grade before! (I also didn't need the class to graduate when I switched majors!)
Another realization I've made over the years is that the need to provide opportunities and connections for my Historians that aren't necessarily in my realm of expertise is important. This might give students their "aha!" moment and help them see the impact social studies has on their lives. It's up to me to step out of my comfort zone and provide this.
I implemented Genius Hour in an elective course two years ago and promised myself it would be put into practice in History this year (using the National History Day competition structure). While researching Genius Hour makerspaces and the engineering design p…

Presidential Primary Source Project Video Conference Opportunity

Today my school had the opportunity to take part in an interactive video conference, with great success!
Project details, according to the organizers:
The National Park Service, U.S Presidential Libraries, and Museums, the Internet2 community, and cultural and historic organizations nationwide are proud to offer the annual Presidential Primary Source Project (PPSP), a series of free, standards aligned, 45 minute interactive videoconferencing programs aimed at students in grades 5-12. The series will run from January - March 2016. Each program will also be live streamed and recorded for on demand viewing for free.
I signed up for the program about President Grant, titled "Daughters of Freedom:  Ulysses S. Grant and the Rise of the Women's Rights Movement" from the Ulysses S. Grant National Historic Site, St. Louis, MO. This topic relates to the US History content I teach and Womens' History is also interwoven into the activity.
I thought about just having my 4th hour clas…

Tug of War Thinking Routine

My Student Teacher and I are going to help students read with purpose and analyze the United States' entry into the Second War for Independence, also known as the War of 1812, by having students take part in the Tug of War Visible Thinking routine on Monday.
I am a firm believer in the benefits of Visible Thinking and I find it to be an incredible equalizer for students of all levels. Every student can achieve deep learning in their own way through routines. They are challenging and promote rich discussion.
Groups of Student Historians will be given cards with 9 topics/events on it. They will read a text section with purpose, looking to explain these topics in their own words. Students will place the cards on a continuum according to whether or not the United States should have entered the war. (The vote for war was the closest ever in American History.) 
The most interesting part of the activity will occur when two student groups will compare and contrast their continuums. The s…

National History Day School Event

Tuesday was the Big Day--my Student Historians hosted a National History Day School Event! Students dressed professionally and displayed their Historical Exhibits, Documentaries, Websites, and Papers in the Media Center for our school community to experience. (There was one Dramatic Performance and this student performed in front of a small audience.) What a day we had!
Special thanks to our Media Specialist, Mrs. Chatel, for all of her help with research and detailed explanations of how to complete our Annotated Bibliographies--we couldn't have done it without you!
Mrs. Loch, a Media Specialist from two of our Middle Schools, came to help determine which projects would be eligible to enter into the Michigan History Day District contest. She previously taught Social Studies and had entered students into the contest. (Some were even selected for the National Contest!) She has been incredibly helpful this year and I'm grateful for her support!
The Social Studies teachers made i…