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Showing posts from 2017

This Week in NHD

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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

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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

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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

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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

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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

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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

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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

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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

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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…

Entering the National History Day Homestretch

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My Student Historians are putting the finishing touches on their National History Day projects in preparation for Tuesday's presentations. The projects will be in the Media Center all day and other classes will be coming in to analyze their work.
I wanted to find a Genius Hour activity for my History classes this year--NHD has turned out to be exactly what we needed. The students were working on research-based, open-ended questions. They were studying a topic that interested them and completed an intensive project, working within the parameters of a multitude of competition guidelines. They will also be achieving the third tenet of Genius Hour during our Presentation Day--sharing their finished work with the world (they are Middle Schoolers--their world consists of their peers). 
I am excited for them and proud of all that they have accomplished! On to Tuesday!


Persuasive Analysis Spark Video

Students created a persuasive analysis and used primary source documents to prove George Washington was or wasn't our nation's greatest president by creating a Spark Video. These Historians researched the Mount Vernon archives as well as the National Archives to locate letters, documents, and other items that should explain why he was or wasn't the greatest president. We have used this technology once before and it's clear students knew the ins and outs of this app much better this time. Here are two excellent examples:



Mentor Teaching for the 21st Century

My Student Teacher completed her first week in my classroom yesterday and it's already clear she will be a great addition to the teaching profession. This got me thinking about how much has changed in Education since my student teaching experience. 
I was fortunate to work with the person who is, to this day, the best History teacher I've ever known. She co-taught and co-planned with me and her vision helped to shape how I teach. I hope to think I would've found success in the classroom but without her tutelage the journey would certainly have been rockier.
A sixteen week placement may seem like a long time but there's so much for my student teacher to experience and reflect upon while working with me and my students (our students). I must maximize our time together and make sure I give her exposure to as many best practices as possible. This is the time for her to try new ideas and utilize 1:1 technology. I will continuously reflect and seek ideas from my peers and m…