Wednesday, March 26, 2014

UNESCO Resource

During my recent unit on Renaissance I found the UNESCO World Heritage site.  This is a description from the website,
"The World Heritage List includes 981 properties forming part of the cultural and natural heritage  which the World Heritage Committee considers as having outstanding universal value.
These include 759 cultural, 193 natural and 29 mixed properties in 160 States Parties. As of September 2012, 190 States Parties have ratified the World Heritage Convention." 

The link to the website can be found by clicking here.  I like the overview (they call it the synthesis), photos and the videos.  Check it out- I bet you will find something you can use.
Happy Teaching!

Saturday, March 22, 2014

Book Presentation

The county I teach in is divided into different zones.  In each zone there are multiple elementary schools that feed into one middle school per zone.  That one zone middle school then feeds the zone high school.  Twice a year we have Vertical Team meetings.  The members of the team are all of the social studies teachers in our particular zone.  This coming week is our meeting and I am leading this time.  

A dear friend of mine had a similar meeting in her zone a few weeks ago and presented a book to her team.  The book is called "Teaching for Recall and Analysis: New Strategies for Improving Student Achievement in Social Studies" by R. Michael Pryor.  After reading the book I would say I disagree with the "new" part of his subtitle.  I have, or know teachers who, do all of the strategies.  However, he did take these old strategies and breathe new life into them.  Perhaps a better subtitle would have been "New Breathe to Proven Strategies for Improving Student Achievement in Social Studies".  But no one asked me.  

I thought I'd share her PPT and the information that I am going to present to the group.  

This is the initial slide that goes over the purposes of the book.  The author identifies some common problems within the social studies classroom: mastery of content, not just regurgitation of facts to be forgotten, performing well on standardized tests, students who have the ability but may not have the tools to be successful in Advanced Placement classes, ensuring that all time is used in the class- that bell-to-bell instruction and finally, giving different ways to show how you can allow students to show that mastery.  

            This slide discusses the main ways history "works".  Of course, chronological flow is crucial to the teaching of history.  Some teachers have different standards when it come to chronology: do you want students to know specific dates (The Battle of Hastings happened on October 14, 1066, the fall of 1066, in 1066, the early part of the 11th century or the 11th century) or do you want student to simply know that the Battle of Hastings happened before the Hundred Year's War?  Either way, this is that chronological flow. Also, students need to know that events were caused by certain things or how did an event affect other happenings.  On a side note, NPR had a fascinating article about how the 20th century would be different had WWI not have happened.  There are two links to that story: story one and story two.  Then you have the tiers of facts, inferences and judgements about a person or event: What are the facts, what can you infer about those facts and then finally you synthesize or make judgements about those facts/inferences.  Finally, the author discusses the comparing and contrasting (one of my personal favorites!).  This can be done a few ways: Venn Diagrams, Think Map (c) double bubble are two ways that come to mind.

Now we get to the new breath: the author describes how the old Venn Diagram can be revamped.  One idea he discusses is the use of colored Venn Diagrams: the teacher has colored balls that match the colors of the Venn Diagram and the students/teacher toss the ball to classmates.  If the student catches the green ball they have to give something that goes with WWI (see picture), if the student catches the yellow ball they have to give something about the Spanish American War.  In addition to the yellow and green ball you would have a blue one too: yellow and green make blue (right?!).  If the student caught the blue one they would have to give something that they both had in common.  In addition to the interactive Venn Diagram, the author suggested using three bubbles for three topics that have similarities and differences.   The third suggestion he had was combing that sequence with the Venn Diagram and have multiple interlocking circles that are order and then could be described and have something in common with the next event.                                                                      

Another strategy Pryor offers is the use of timelines.  He suggests that the teacher make LARGE cards (either photocopied or written on large index cards) and students can make create their own floor timelines.  A game for this would be to make it into a race- once the students are finished they ring a bell or shout their team name when they have correctly placed the items in chronological order.
The third strategy, not included in this powerpoint, is the History Wall.  In a History Wall, the teacher places pictures of people, events, things, etc on a wall in the classroom.  It can be changed as the unit changes or the teacher can keep it going throughout the school year.  A few activities suggested were the use of a spotlight (the book had an overhead projector highlighting areas; however, I have not had an overhead in my room for four years- perhaps a flashlight or some other way to highlight information?).  Students were to write as much information about ONLY the highlighted area.  Another strategy was call out with sticky notes two or three items on the wall and have students write how they are related (cause and effect) to one another.  I personally would like to do this next year and keep it up the entire year as the World History curriculum goes back in time  to cover new civilizations.  

 This is the wrap it up slide.  As educators we want students to be creating.  I heard a wise teacher say: You shouldn't be working hard- you've already been to school.  If the students can create it- let them.  After all, isn't that the highest part of Bloom's?!  

If you are interested in the book, click here.  It's an easy read and does have practical strategies that could be used for most any subject.  

Happy Teaching!

Monday, March 17, 2014


Surprise!  Another snow day!!  I think we are up to nine for the year thus far.  I REALLY hope this is our last one.  Okay- I'm done complaining.

I wanted to share this great resource with you.  It is called ReadWorks.   It has wonderful resources, for World and U.S. History, to use in the classroom.

Over the past few years I have noticed that our SOL has become an reading SOL.  Students must read through information to find the question and information to use to answer the question.

Also, I found it half way through the year so I think this would be a great resource to use for SOL review as well.  It may remind them of information from early in the school year.  

On another note, I planned to start my last unit today: I wrapped Japan, MesoAmerica and Africa together.  I am excited to show the students pictures of my travels to Tulum.

Happy Teaching!

Wednesday, March 12, 2014

Renaissance Review

In preparation of our upcoming Renaissance test I put a Venn Diagram review together. In a Word document I made a table and filled the spaces with important Renaissance concepts, people, books or works for art. I put "Northern Renaissance", "Italian Renaissance" and "Both" on three sticky notes. Students then placed the slips of paper under the post-it that it corresponded with. When students were finished I went around and verified accuracy.  After each groups was checked we discussed items that stuck out in the Venn Diagram: Italian words look "Italian", the items in the middle were more economic concepts or schools of thought while the "Renaissance" columns were people or works of art.

Beginnings in Florence
Da Vinci
Medici Family
Catholic Church
Van Eyck
Van der Wyden
Higher Living Standards
Praise of Folly
The Prince
“Arnolfini Portrait”
“Portrait of a Lady”
Sistine Chapel ceiling
“The Last Supper”
“Mona Lisa”
Printing Press
Growing Wealth
Trading centers
Letters of Credit
Increasing secular education
Rules against usury
Adoption of Arabic Numbers
Sir Thomas More

Tip: to keep the slips in the correct envelope, I had the students number each slip with the same number that correlated to the number on the envelope I gave them. That way, when the inevitable slip falls out I know that the slip goes with that same numbered envelope.  

Here are some pictures of students hard at work!


Sunday, March 2, 2014


This past week my students had an assignment to log onto and post to our discussion board. Their assignment was to post one thing they learned and a question for their classmates.  They then had to answer to questions their classmates posted.  I blogged about in this post if you want to more about it.  

At the end of the week I copied and pasted our discussion into  Here are our wordles. 

I really like the pictures becuase the words that are the largest are the ones that were used the most in the student's posts.  I plan on printing them out and hanging them on the wall tomorrow.  

Happy Teaching!