Category Archives: Uncategorized

Chicken Foot

A great activity I like to use with my students is called “Chicken Foot”. 1) They love the name. 2) It’s a good way to teach students to pick out the main points of a text, primary source document, picture, etc. I learned this strategy at a Pre-AP Summer Institute I went to in 2010 in Norman, Oklahoma. 

After viewing the document, students write the main idea on the “leg”, then they pick three points or elements of the text that the students feel are super important and that everyone needs to know about the document. They write the three main points on the “toes” (if that’s what they are??).

This then can be used in a variety of ways….for jigsaw presentations, writing essays, answering DBQ’s, summarizing, etc.

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A different type of professional development

Ok, we all know that one of the perks of being a teacher is that for about a month and a half we can think of this other than school. But if any of you are like me (which I’m guessing since you’re reading this blog in the summertime – you probably are!) summer isn’t as leisurely as people think. I feel that summer is a perfect time to reflect on my teaching philosophy, think about new things I want to try in my classroom, read blogs, maybe attend a workshop here and there, find ideas on the internet for experience-enhancing activities, and so on. The beauty of being a teacher is that we get to try things over and over again if we messed up the first time! I’m so happy that I get a new set of kiddos in August because I learn so much over the summer. USE YOUR FREE TIME WISELY! There aren’t many other careers where employees are given almost two months to just…reflect.

Also, don’t forget about your colleagues! Summer is a great time to meet with your fellow social studies teachers and chat about new things you are excited about for the coming year! Those two work days before school starts in August don’t leave me a ton of time to chit-chat. Connect with your department. Bounce off ideas. Share places that you’ve been to, blogs you’ve read, or things that have just popped into your head our of nowhere!

The idea for this blog post stemmed from a meeting I had with one of my colleagues today. She is the head of our social studies department and I was interviewing her for a masters course on curriculum development that I am taking this summer through KSU. While I was interviewing her, we had great discussions about our new curriculum for the coming year and things we wanted to try out with our students. She shared some awesome things that she received at her TAH meeting (See Glenn Wiebe’s previous post). It was so nice just to talk social studies again. 

So, yes summer is a time when us teachers are supposed to relax and forget about our problems and issues and things that make us stressed. But I truly believe that the school year will go so much better if we take this wonderful time that has been given to us as a chance to reflect on why it is we do what we do and why we love to “do” social studies. 

Writing your own textbook isn’t as scary as you think…

Well, it’s a little scary…but the rewards outweigh the scariness, I promise!

ImageOur social studies department has been working for the past year to come up with a new curriculum that replaces textbooks from a publishing company. There has been a lot of discussion at PLC meetings and (thankfully so) a lot of attending professional development workshops. 

I first heard the term eBooks from Glenn Wiebe when he met with elementary and middle school social studies teachers to discuss the new state standards and strategies we can use in our classroom to go along with them. But it wasn’t until I attended the workshop “Creating Content with Apple’s “iBook Author” with Kendall Warkentine (Derby USD) at the KCSS No Citizen Left Behind conference last fall in Topeka that I really started processing the idea of creating my own content. 

I decided to start with something that I knew fairly well: Ancient Greece. Then I took all my materials that I typically use when working through this unit with my 6th graders and sorted through information that I wanted to include in my “textbook”. The format I used was iBooks Author – you must have OS Mountain Lion to install the iBooks Author software. To create my “textbook” I just thought about what I would say to my students during a lesson over the different subtopics with Ancient Greece, and typed them up as text. I even included the little jokes I make and sayings I used to help them remember vocabulary. What’s great about iBooks Author is you can also include videos and pictures in your book. A great place to find content that does not violate copyright laws is http://search.creativecommons.org/. The videos were not as easy. My all time FAVORITE videos to show my students are the Horrible Histories series by BBC. If you aren’t sure whether a video or picture is copyright-friendly, just ask the publisher! Usually they are sympathetic to educators, and I did not make any money of my book so that helped as well. I’ve done this several times with the writers at Go Social Studies Go and they are always very quick in responding to my request. You can also include different widgets like photo galleries, Keynote presentations, 3D models, and review questions!

In the end my iBooks ended up being about 5 chapters long. When I do this again, I will not create one large book for my whole unit – this took entirely too long to download onto 29 iPads at school. I will probably break down each chapter separate iBooks to make it easier to access. 

Responses I got from students when I posed the question “If you could describe the iBook you read about Ancient Greece in one word, what would it be?”Image

  • “Awesome”
  • “Cool”
  • “Different”
  • “Fun”

I think the students liked being able to read and engage in the content at their own pace. We would do formative assessments as the students worked through each chapter and I was amazed that the students actually retained the information they read without taking any form of notes whatsoever!! It was so nice to step away from the far-too-traditional lecture style of presenting social studies content and let the students discover it on their own. Also, it was personalized to my own style of teaching. The kids knew when they read certain things that “that’s something Ms. Klassen would say,” rather than reading something that was edited by a teacher across the country that had no clue my students were even reading their work!

If you are looking to freshen up your curriculum and have access to technology with your students I would highly suggest you consider writing your own textbook. It is so rewarding and will benefit your students in the long run!

Image
This is an example of a post-reading exercise I used called “wall-talk”. I wrote questions about the reading and posted them around the room and students went around answering questions and discussing what they read by “talking to the wall” or writing their discussions on the poster.
Image
Another example of “wall-talk”

Writing your own textbook isn’t as scary as you think….

Well, it’s a little scary…but the rewards outweigh the scariness, I promise!

ImageOur social studies department has been working for the past year to come up with a new curriculum that replaces textbooks from a publishing company. There has been a lot of discussion at PLC meetings and (thankfully so) a lot of attending professional development workshops. 

I first heard the term eBooks from Glenn Wiebe when he met with elementary and middle school social studies teachers to discuss the new state standards and strategies we can use in our classroom to go along with them. But it wasn’t until I attended the workshop “Creating Content with Apple’s “iBook Author” with Kendall Warkentine (Derby USD) at the KCSS No Citizen Left Behind conference last fall in Topeka that I really started processing the idea of creating my own content. 

I decided to start with something that I knew fairly well: Ancient Greece. Then I took all my materials that I typically use when working through this unit with my 6th graders and sorted through information that I wanted to include in my “textbook”. The format I used was iBooks Author – you must have OS Mountain Lion to install the iBooks Author software. To create my “textbook” I just thought about what I would say to my students during a lesson over the different subtopics with Ancient Greece, and typed them up as text. I even included the little jokes I make and sayings I used to help them remember vocabulary. What’s great about iBooks Author is you can also include videos and pictures in your book. A great place to find content that does not violate copyright laws is http://search.creativecommons.org/. The videos were not as easy. My all time FAVORITE videos to show my students are the Horrible Histories series by BBC. If you aren’t sure whether a video or picture is copyright-friendly, just ask the publisher! Usually they are sympathetic to educators, and I did not make any money of my book so that helped as well. I’ve done this several times with the writers at Go Social Studies Go and they are always very quick in responding to my request. You can also include different widgets like photo galleries, Keynote presentations, 3D models, and review questions!

In the end my iBooks ended up being about 5 chapters long. When I do this again, I will not create one large book for my whole unit – this took entirely too long to download onto 29 iPads at school. I will probably break down each chapter separate iBooks to make it easier to access. 

Responses I got from students when I posed the question “If you could describe the iBook you read about Ancient Greece in one word, what would it be?”Image

  • “Awesome”
  • “Cool”
  • “Different”
  • “Fun”

I think the students liked being able to read and engage in the content at their own pace. We would do formative assessments as the students worked through each chapter and I was amazed that the students actually retained the information they read without taking notes!! It was so nice to step away from the far-too-traditional lecture style of presenting social studies content and let the students discover it on their own. Also, it was personalized to my own style of teaching. The kids knew when they read certain things that “that’s something Ms. Klassen would say,” rather than reading something that was edited by a teacher across the country that had no clue my students were even reading their work!

If you are looking to freshen up your curriculum and have access to technology with your students I would highly suggest you consider writing your own textbook. It is so rewarding and will benefit your students in the long run!

Image
This is an example of a post-reading exercise I used called “wall-talk”. I wrote questions about the reading and posted them around the room and students went around answering questions and discussing what they read by “talking to the wall” or writing their discussions on the poster.
Image
Another example of “wall-talk”

TACOS anyone?

Fortunately for me, my school district sends teachers to an AP Institute every other summer put on by College Board. In 2012, I attended one in Plano, TX and enrolled in a Pre-AP U.S. History course with Rhonda Johnson (who I decided is my hero). I learned so many great skills and strategies that promote historical thinking and analyzing in my students! I went thinking I would get ideas for my 8th grade American History course (non-Pre AP) but instead I applied almost everything to my 6th grade Pre-AP social studies class. I’m increasing reading and writing skills while (quietly and discretely) preparing these 11 and 12 year olds for AP courses in high school! It. is. awesome.

Some examples:

TACOS! 

This is a beginners version of APPARTS for primary source document analyzing. With 6th graders, I use political cartoons. Usually they are relevant to current events – sometimes they’re funny, sometimes they’re serious, sometimes the kids have no clue what they mean, but they are still analyzing a primary source. Oh and we also do this every Tuesday (Taco Tuesday! They love it and they know that it’s coming at the same time every week). They come in the room and the cartoon is projected on the board. My students know immediately to get their notebooks out and start “Taco-ing” before the bell rings. Here is what they are looking for:

  • (T)ime: When was this document created? I always remind them that they are not looking for the setting of the cartoon, rather when do they think the author created it? What clues in the picture can help you figure it out?
  • (A)ction: What is going on in the picture? What are people doing/saying?
  • (C)aption: Write down all the words or text that you see in the picture (captions, thought bubbles, labels, etc.)
  • (O)bjects: List everything that is visible in the picture. Watch out – the kids can get very specific on this one!
  • (S)ummary/So what?: What does this have to do with real life? What does this mean? Why is this important?

It gets us talking about current events. Kids know what’s going on in our world – even 6th graders. I feel that it’s important to study why these things happen!

Another Pre-AP strategy is to practice writing thesis statements. Now, granted some of my students can’t even say the word “thesis”, I had to simplify it a bit.

It’s called “TAG”. This idea came from some of the reading teachers at Maize Middle School where I completed my student teaching. We use it to learn how to answer essay or short answer questions correctly. Each answer must have two sentences!!

  • (T)urn the question into a statement
  • (A)nswer the question
  • (G)ive more details 

Here’s an example: What is a peninsula?

TAGged answer: A peninsula is a landmass nearly surrounded by water. Greece is an example of a peninsula.

Sometimes we will do TAG3 (I call it TAG cubed). Instead of just writing one extra detail, they have to write three.

This is the first year where I have applied these strategies all year. By February my students knew that there were definitely no multiple choice questions coming for them on the test!! If they continue this in their 7th and 8th grade Pre-AP courses, I truly believe that these kids will slice through the APUSH exam like butter.