Tuesday, June 18, 2013
Like most middle school teachers, I love to end the year with something very interactive. For those of you that don't teach middle school, just close your eyes and imagine why you don't teach middle school. Now multiply it by 12. That is what we eighth grade teachers call June.
Usually I end with the kiddos making plays or videos about the various groups that went west, but I decided to abbreviate my Manifest Destiny and add in a unit on Social Reformers. I didn't have time for plays so I went in my way back machine and pulled out an old favorite machine. They're called tableaux (defined as an interlude during a scene when all the performers on stage freeze in position and then resume action as before.) or living monuments. Students have to convey information through a single staged scene with no words. They are encouraged to use props, signs and we also use Google Presentation to create backgrounds for our monuments.
The above are backgrounds one of my groups made for Frederick Douglass. They made the train he was on when he escaped slavery, a crowd he spoke to, and his newspaper.
The project was perfect!!!! The kids told me they had a blast and it was a great way to keep them on track for the end of the year.
Teachers Pay Teachers and you can buy the project there. It comes with rubrics and research graphics organizers.
What do you do at the end of the year to keep your kids engaged?
Monday, June 17, 2013
No, I did not run away or fall off the edge of the planet. For those of you who are already dipping your toes in the pool and sipping margaritas at 4pm, please remember that I live in New England. You know.... That place that had a blizzard this winter and a hurricane in the fall. That means that my kiddos aren't getting out till the 25th and I'll be out somewhere around the 27th. You heard me right.... The 27th of June. Needless to say I have been busy with my Grad Dance, final grading, end of the year evaluations, end of the year hiring and next year's budget.....you get my point. Well, as we speak almost everything is done but the budget and that is so close (over 1000 markers later).
So, now I get to play. Although I've been a bit lazy on documenting lately, I thought I would share some of the fun things I've been doing with the kiddos.
1. About 10 years ago, I had my kiddos keep interactive notebooks and although I loved them desperately, I was too early in my career to figure out how to grade them without ending up in a straight jacket. My department head said she could always tell when I was at the end of a unit because I was in tears and my hair was falling out. This is what happens when you collect all notebooks and grade every page.
Well, I'm older and wiser (and much chubbier) and Pinterest has renewed my interest so I've been doing some activities that are notebook worthy in order to practice.
First, after doing a round robin activity on the major inventions of the Industrial Revolution, we talked about how all regions would benefit from the inventions but one region would benefit most. I gave kids a map with the regions drawn in and pictures of the inventions. I had them number the inventions and write the names at the bottom then we talked it over. The students soon realized that the west was going to boom with the inventions, the north was finally going to prosper and the south was going to become more isolated and dependent on slave labor. We talked about how the south just got a box with combs and major transportation lines actually ran to its north. The kids were able to mark up their pictures however they wanted (I.e. arrows, letters, etc). I used to do this as a class with no artifact, but the kids loved making their own.
2. One of my favorite things to teach is Manifest Destiny and I love to start it with an analysis of the picture. If you teach it right after the Industrial Revolution, it dovetails brilliantly because the kids can really take in the telegraph lines, Transcontinetal Railroad, steamboats, etc. This year, in my readiness for interactive notebooks, we guided the conversation by making this:
We worked on the definition using this Prezi and then I instructed them to circle three things in the picture that they noticed, wanted to talk about or wanted to question. Underneath the picture they had to make a guess as to what they circled. Once everyone labeled three things, I had students point out things in the picture and we discussed them as a class.
Because I have a long throw projector, I gave the volunteer the "magic paper" and had them isolate the object and then step away from the board about two feet. Voila!!! They loved this and didn't even mind volunteering just to ask a question. They had amazing conversations and our principal even got in on the action. Nothing like a fabulous launch to the unit.
3. Last but not least.... Good old notetaking and foldables. In order to end the year we have toplow through how we acquired the United States from coast to coast. I have the kids read various resources and answer basic comprehension questions. Most of the resources I used were Bentley Boyd's Chester the Crab comics.
My students love these, they come in 5 comic units and even though they are comics, they are challenging enough because they include dialogue, sidebars, etc. Students really need to focus on all aspects of the cartoon to understand what is happening. Using all this information, students created a foldable that they used an an open note assessment.
I so rarely do traditional notetaking, my kids said this assignment was like a "scavenger hunt". Ha!!!! I love when you fool them and make them learn at the same time.
So, do you use an interactive notebook in social studies? I would love to get some suggestions and pointers because come this September(yes, we don't go back till September) I'm all in!
Saturday, June 8, 2013
As they were walking in I had this music playing....
This is just a playlist, I actually played clean and appropriate versions of these songs from iTunes.
On the back wall I had this playing on a loop...
The kids were awesome and had an amazing time... as for myself....I need a nap :)
Tuesday, May 14, 2013
I don't know about anyone else but I was devastated when the photo editor Picnik shut down. I have a lot if photo editing software and apps but that was just my go to for making fun stuff, especially at school. To replace it, I have been experimenting with PicMonkey and so far....great.
We then uploaded them to Picmonkey and the kids used the Halloween features to distort their faces. They have enhancer a that add features of witches, goblins and more.
Does anyone out there have a go to photo editor for kids? Let us know!!!
I've linked up with one of my favorite blogs, Technology Tailgate for their Techie Tuesday Link Up.
Head on over if you are looking for other fabulous tech suggestions!
Friday, April 26, 2013
I know that my posts tend to be a bit too detailed and long winded (sorry.... It's the liberal arts major in me... Write what you know... Give plenty of detail... Make them think they were there! Ha!). I'm going to try to do some BRIEF posts on some of my new favorite edutech over the next couple of weeks.
First up, YouTube video editor! That's right... You can now edit keep on Youtube as well! What does does this free and amazing service have to offer?
1. Access to clips you have uploaded to YouTube
2. Copyright free music and ability to upload your own
4. Add text to the beginning, in between videos and pictures and over videos and pictures.
5. Cut clips, slow them down or make them longer.
6. And my favorite.... In the basic editor, after you upload, you can blur faces!
My world language teacher has used this with the kids and she said it went very smoothly. It has actually become her student editor of choice. We have access to YouTube in our school but our kids do not have access to upload so our school Google God started a class login for me and all kids can login using the one password.
I'll be using this in a couple of weeks when I make se In Plain English videos, so I'll let you know how it works it. Here is a demo I made..... And it was sooooo easy! Enjoy!
Wednesday, April 24, 2013
Since I live in MA but teach in NH, the hub and son were on vacation last week. The little midget and I get to hang this week and it really is stress free because a singular trip to Target is like a day trip for a two year old. The worst thing about April vacation, though is when we get back the kiddos go to DC for a week, and then..... Well of you have spent anytime with middle schoolers you know that that just means its the beginning of the end. They check out and yet we have six weeks left.... the tragedy of it all.
On to more educational ramblings..... In the past two weeks I really tried my hand at my first exercise in Project Based learning!!! It wasn't a true PBL because we went immersed in it for a month but to was a great way for me to get my toes wet. In the end the kiddos loooooved it! The whole project was centered around presenting information to a grand jury to push for the indictment of Andrew Jackson on multiple counts of crimes against humanity concerning his relations with Native Americans.
1. I brought the kids to the library so our wonderful media specialist could show them how to use our online databases. Ebsco and Student Resource Center by Gale. I love The Student Resource Center because it offers encyclopedia articles, magazines, primary sources, ages and tons more. All the sources are vetted and authentic and they can be organized by lexile score. I actually use this resource to find high quality articles to meet the CCSS.
2. The kids chose a name for their law firms (their absolutely favorite part) and chose at least two crimes from the list they felt they could start to research (they had already done a brief reading about Andre Jackson and the Native Americans in their Arndrew Jackson: Leveling Up! Activity so they had basic knowledge to kick start them on their research).
3. After two days in the library we moved our research and creation back to the classroom with our mobile laptops and databases. I created an Edcanvas that included the databases, some websites I approved, some great videos on YouTube and a BrainPop. The students could use other resources, but if they used mine, I gave them the proper citation. If they used outside resources (and some wonderful books the media specialist wrangled up for us), they would have to use EasyBib to create a proper citation.
5. When they were done, I was going to have them write an individual paragraph with claim and counterclaim but the project lasted a couple of days longer than I originally planned and we ended up finishing on the day before April Vacation. I really wanted them to spend some time reflecting on the information on an individual basis. I changed the writing prompt into a more casual blog post with some prompt questions and had them do it on their KidBlog.
The project was am amazing success! It was hard for me to adjust to letting the kids learn on their own, instead of just giving them the information, but once I saw how much they were learning, it was very easy to step back. I listened to a podcast recently that said teachers new to stop being "the sage on the stage and be the guide on the side". This project hammered that home for me. My favorite part was listening in on the conversations around the room because they were all about he project.... No socialization!!!! One group had a great conversation that if they tried and failed to charge Jackson with extermination, the evidence they gathered would at least be enough for murder. Brilliant!
After they get back from DC, they are going to get all fancified dressed up and present their findings to the grand jury (our media specialist and an assistant principal) and they get to do their presentations in the library. I'll let you know how this work out.
Have you tried PBL with middle schoolers ? Did it work for you? I would love to hear from others!
If you would like a copy of the project, click here!