Reflection, Research, and Risk-Taking

Student Historians have been busy reflecting on their project and thinking about their work so far as they completed "The State of My Project" reflections. (The title is a take on the Presidential  "State of the Union" Address.) 
Students were asked to let their classmates know what topic they've settled on, what the approximate start and end date of their project topic is, how they feel their research is going so far, showing us their 4 Ts graphic organizer work at this point (especially the "triumph" and "tragedy"), and to let us know about any Aha moments or tips they may have for their classmates.
These quick presentations are really going well (we're doing a few each day). It's providing us the opportunity to celebrate the learning that's taken place, giving students the chance to publicly reflect on their work, and to learn from one another as they provide tips or share moments when things started to "click" for …

Presearching and Researching

This week in NHD featured presearching and researching topics in order to finalize choices next week.
Student Historians continued to wonder and find questions about the topics they learned about last week in the Media Center. The Speed Topic-ing lesson was a hit and left many students wanting to know more about at least some of the topics they examined that day.
This week started with a mini-lesson from Mrs. Chatel as she asked this group if their topic questions could simply be answered with a "yes" or "no" or if their questions were "Big Mac" questions--ones that would take many weeks to complete. A Big Mac question is the perfect National History Day project endeavor.
Presearching and researching went well. These students are going to decide their project topics, partners they will work with, and what type of project they will create this week. Language Arts teachers will support this work with helping students begin to formulate a thesis. History cla…

Speed Topic-ing and Student Passions

This week's National History Day work centered around staff /guest collaboration and giving students the opportunity to explore their interests.
The reason I first dove into National History Day projects three years ago was because of the success my students found when I introduced Genius Hour into an elective class I used to teach. Genius Hour centers around students researching subjects that interest them and sharing their knowledge with the world. I spent the summer of 2016 planning how to replicate that in my US History classes when, unbeknownst to me, it already existed. I stumbled upon the National History Day website and the rest is history (pun intended).
While I am tremendously proud of my NHD work with my students I feel that we've moved away from making these historical passion projects. This year I'm emphasizing the concept that my students should determine their interests first, then relate the history to their passion. 
Tuesday's Speed Topic-ing Activity…

Introduction to "Triumph and Tragedy in History"

Our National History Day journey began in all US History classes this week. 
I am always striving to improve and streamline my lesson plans and I've realized how essential this blog is for that purpose. Last year's posts (and their labels) were extremely helpful as I continue to hone our NHD work.
All History classes were combined for two mini-lessons to begin to delve into this year's theme of "Triumph and Tragedy in History". Student Historians defined both terms and began to think of examples of triumphs, tragedies, and of topics that relate to both. I am once again very excited after seeing initial student topic ideas--they are interested in a wide range of local and national topics from Early Explorers to 21st Century issues.
Starting slow helps to set the stage for choosing a topic that is relevant and interesting to the student, it also lessens the chance of explaining this project all at once and potentially overwhelming them. This experience will be one…

Bringing the World into Our Classroom

Teaching in the 21st Century never ceases to amaze me. 
As stated in a post last year, I utilize Twitter in my classroom through a classroom Twitter account several times a week. I find it to be an incredible way to allow parents and our community to witness the work that goes in my History and Study Skills classes and to showcase school events and the amazing young people I teach. 
While posting a reminder about our school football teams' games on Wednesday a top hashtag caught my eye: #AskAnArchivist was trending.  I follow the United States National Archives  on Twitter and their latest post advertised an hour-long session in which a team of Archivists would answer questions tagged with this hashtag. I had less than 45 minutes before this window of opportunity closed.
My third hour class took advantage of this teachable moment and it turned out so well!
Student Historian groups came up with questions they hoped to receive answers for, I tweeted, and we began our planned activi…

My First Teacher

My Mom passed away last Thursday and I've understandably had many emotions and reflections since. I'm hoping this post will help me organize my thoughts since, at this time, my eulogy is not much more than a list of memories. This blog is about my experiences as an educator, I would be remiss if I didn't write about my first teacher. 
One of my earliest lessons from my Mom was about how to treat others. I can remember the kind way she would speak to everyone she encountered, no matter their occupation or position in society--all were equal in her eyes. She listened to others, made a comment or joke that would put others at ease, and showed through eye contact and body language that people mattered to her. This example of respect is one I try to follow and pass along to my children and my students, through my actions and words. 
My Mom taught me resiliency. When life got tough she would allow me to get upset but then walk me through my own problem-solving session. She woul…

Setting the Tone for the New School Year

A new school year is a fantastic opportunity to mindfully and consciously emphasize what matters to me as a teacher in my classroom community. The Student Historians (and Study Skills students) in my classes have:

sat in tables, not rows, to help strengthen our learning communityhad the opportunity to either reacquaint themselves with their classmates or meet a new studentdiscussed what they believe the ideal classroom, student, and teacher should look and sound likerealized that I try to be flexible when it comes to locker and restroom passes (no coupons from me)know that it matters to me that they belong to a school club/sport/activityunderstood that teamwork is valuedhad practice with activities that are creative, open-ended, and challenging realized that leadership matters, whether it's sitting with a new student at lunch or helping with classroom jobs I've been thinking a lot about the concept of "what I teach". As much as I love History and love teaching it I f…