Sunday, November 29, 2015

Free Downloads for your Secondary Classroom freebie from Julie Faulkner                       Grades 6-12

RACE takes a writer from the beginning of a paragraph to the end. Therefore, it can be expanded to an entire essay. Using a brain-based strategy such as this one frequently will produce so much growth and improvement in writing fluency. 

A freebie from Doc Running             Grades 6-12

Newspaper projects can be a valuable way for students to learn about a subject or assess what they know, but they can be tough.  These graphic organizers will help students visually gather their information and write their articles.

A freebie from Michele Luck                Grades 5-12

Allow your students to practice their longitude and latitude skills while having fun with this Super Bowl Scavenger Hunt Handout. Students can work individually or in small teams to trace the coordinates, locate the teams, and identify the NFL stadiums. 

A freebie from History Gal                Grades 6-12

See how much your students know about the Pilgrims and the origination of Thanksgiving with this free bingo game! 

A freebie from AlwaysLearning          Grades 4-7

Understanding mood and tone is integral to gaining deeper meaning from text. The CCSS requires a realignment of a reading program as well as additional skills and strategies to better comprehend text. Understanding text at a deeper level requires readers to comprehend the connotation of words that an author uses to create mood and tone. This mini-lesson and activity defines the two and provides a large group of words for small groups or partners to sort into Neutral, Positive, or Negative groups. This activity can be done on chart paper or easily adapted to Interwrite boards. 

A freebie from 2 Peas and a Dog  Grades 5-9

This product is a collection of 6 graphic organizers to help student engage, connect and think about their reading. Students are given lots of room to write their thoughts as they read their novels. Boxes are big enough for students to record their thinking on sticky notes and then collect them on the graphic organizer of their choice.

The organizer has six different reading strategies graphic organizers: plot, characters, connections, questions, predictions and a combination organizer for students to fill in before, during and after reading.               

A freebie from Leah Cleary               Grades 6-12

This is the 4th complete vocabulary unit in my world history series. It serves as an organization tool and framework for a unit on the European Middle Ages. This method provides students with the consistency they need to reinforce vital content vocabulary concepts in an entertaining manner. 

A freebie from Bridget Riggs         Grades 10-12

A breakdown of ACT Test Strategies, Question Types, & Section Timing
The ACT test is quickly becoming the most popular test taken for college entrance. Help your students know what to expect and how to study for the ELA section of the ACT.
This 29 page PDF file is a collection of information about the English section of the ACT test for students. 

A freebie from Writing by Rachel      Grades 6-12

Refresh your writing prompts with this freebie! creARTive writing is a unique way to integrate art and to inspire creative writing. Students will create an original writing using Henri de Toulouse Lautrec's painting Quadrille at the Moulin Rouge. 

A freebie from The Teaching Room    Grades 9-12

10 Writing Strategies Posters (8.5 x 11 in).
Black and white, plain and practical.
Includes teacher notes with a purpose for each strategy.

A freebie from Susan Traugh            Grades 9-12

"Prioritizing" is a free mini lesson from the Daily Living Skills series of workbooks featuring transition skills designed for mild-to-moderately affected special needs high school students, but appropriate for any young person wanting independent living skills.

Monday, November 23, 2015

Tech Talk for Teachers: Test Prep and Interactive PowerPoint System

by Jacqueline Miller
TpT Store: For the Love of the Children
Blog: For the Love of the Children

We know that our students need a lot of practice reading on the computer, but most of our instruction is done at a desk in a classroom.  This does not prepare them for the rigorous, computer-based standardized assessments that they are expected to complete each year.  When we have an opportunity to purchase computerized programs, we can not always afford them year-after-year. When we are able to purchase programs to use with our students, we sometimes run into Internet issues that prevent them from being used effectively.  Therefore, I created a computerized test prep program in PowerPoint that gives students the practice they need while reviewing a plethora of standards.  With this program, students work on their fluency by reading words before they disappear from the screen.  Then they respond to fourteen multiple-choice questions.  The questions contain built-in hints so that students are never stuck.  Students receive immediate feedback for correct and incorrect answers in order to adjust their thinking.  Finally, students have an opportunity to respond to an extended response or a constructed response item. This portion is completed in class, just like the written portion of standardized assessments.  Exemplar responses, grading rubrics, and answer keys are provided with each installment of this program. It's a system that will better prepare students for high-stakes, computer-based assessments. You can learn more by visiting my blog and downloading a free sample.

Friday, November 13, 2015

Here's an Idea: Using Acronyms

by Michele Luck TpT Store: Michele Luck's Social Studies

 Successful social studies teachers fill their teaching toolboxes with tools to help student comprehension and retention.  Some of my favorite tools are ACRONYMS.  Find one that's right for your students, and use it regularly in class to create the foundation and structure to help your students establish strong learning habits for their entire academic careers. One of my favorite is my BRAGS sheet.

Students are asked to Brainstorm before reading, Read for information, Anticipate what may happen next, Graphically Organize the gathered information, and Summarize the content collected on a specific topic. It hits on the key social studies elements, while also calling attention to student success!
Here are a few others you may find useful:
SPRITE - Social, Political, Religious, Intellectual, Technological, and Economic
PERSIA - Political, Economic, Religious, Societal, Intellectual, and Area (Geography)
G-PERSIA - Geography, Political, Economic, Religious, Societal, Intellectual, Arts
SPEC - Social, Political, Economic, Cultural
GRAPES - Geographic, Religious, Arts & Architecture, Political, Economic, Societal

You can find these and other great social studies posters in my Social Studies Classroom Poster Set.

Tuesday, November 10, 2015

CreARTive Writing

Writing by Rachel

As an English teacher, I think it’s important to collect a writing sample at the beginning of the year. Obviously, its practical application is that it helps me see where this new group of students is in terms of writing skills. And, it allows me a glimpse into how each student approaches writing—who is literal and who is more comfortable playing with narrative.

As a first-year teacher, I simply asked students to write one page about anything they’d like—a personal narrative from their summer, a creative piece. But that seemed inadequate unless this was to remain a one-off assignment. I wanted it to fit into a program that developed writers. Ultimately, I wanted students to learn and to apply habits of thinking about writing, as well to master writing skills. So, back to the drawing board.

Next time, I merged my desire to integrate art into my curriculum. On the first day of class, I showed students a painting and asked them to share their observations and their questions about it.

We began with pure observations:
*What did they see?
*What words would they use to describe it?
*What is the tone of the painting?
*What stood out?
*What details did they see?
*What was going on—what was the action?
*Where were the gaps—the pieces the painting did not provide?
*What questions did they have?

Then we added our own interpretations:
*If this painting were a story, what genre would it be?
*What story did this painting tell?
*What character was not shown but was there and what would he/she report?
*Was there a conflict?
*What was the setting? What was the tone? How did this piece make them feel?
*What happened in the moment before this painting’s scene, or in the days after?
*What connections did they make between the painting and their own lives?

Our conversation not only primed the pump for writing, it introduced how to think like a writer, and it developed skills students could use to read other primary source documents.

After our conversation, I turned students loose to write, no more than one page front and back, that was inspired by the painting. The writings that were born from this conversation were rich and varied—mysteries, personal narratives, dramatic conversations, and scientific-style observations. They indicated where there was work to be done--grammatical weaknesses, structural challenges—but also where there were creative fields to be mined. From the very first day of class, I had student samples to use in class and a snap-shot of students’ writing skills, and they had a rough draft to work with.

These writing from art days—creARTive writing—became a staple of the class. They were something worthwhile to fill the days in-between units, a way to connect literature to art, a way to inspire student writing during each unit, and always, a source of information about their writing skills.

What always astounded me was how energetic our conversations were, how quiet the room became while they wrote, and how much I looked forward to reading the mosaic of their creations.

And so, I share with you a creARTive writing assignment. It has a place in every English class.

Refresh your writing prompts! creARTive writing is a unique way to integrate art and to inspire creative writing. Try out the Freebie. Students will create an original writing from a work of art.

Looking for a more? Try a bundle of five creARTive writing prompts.

Tuesday, November 3, 2015

Approaching World History through Source Analysis and Fiction

Leah Cleary
 I know we’re not supposed to play favorites with the kids, but I can’t help it. I have six kids, but I most definitely have a favorite. Respectively, my kids are English I, English III, U.S. History, World History, Sociology, and Psychology.

I love them all, truly I do—I’ve spent so much time with each, reading, planning, and teaching, so they really do all feel like my kids--but if I had to pick one to spend the most time with, it would be world history.

“Why?” you might ask, especially when they are all wonderful and English was my first.

Well, I think it may have something to do with what drew me to English in the first place—stories. World history is a bunch of wonderful, disturbing, beautiful, tragic, funny stories. They are stories that explain who and where we are and how we got here. They are stories that connect people in the U.S. to people in Estonia, and people in Nigeria to people in Malaysia.

Also, history is an art—the art of looking at vast amounts of seemingly unconnected evidence, making sense out of it, and weaving it into a narrative.

I think that is what I truly enjoy doing and encouraging students to do. I love it when they say, “History doesn’t change.” My challenge is to have them question that assumption by the end of the term. I want them to see that when they read a textbook or an online article, they are looking at one person’s (or an editorial board’s) interpretation of evidence.  While events and primary sources may not change, interpretations of those events and sources are wide-open to change.

Keeping that in mind, there are a couple of approaches to teaching world history that I like to take: 1. implementing primary and secondary source analysis and 2. bringing short fiction into the curriculum to illustrate points and approaches.

The first approach is vital to any world history curriculum. The best way to make students aware of the historical process is to have them engage in it. First, students must understand the difference between primary and secondary sources. I give a brief lecture about the difference and then guide students through a process of analyzing a primary source (we do this together).

Then, I put students in groups of four and give each group a set of task cards. They have to determine whether the source on each card is primary or secondary and explain why they answered as they did. To take it a step further (and really demonstrate using evidence to draw conclusions), I like to pair students off and give each pair a copy of a receipt. They have to look at the purchases on the receipt and construct a narrative about the person doing the shopping based on the purchases.

It’s fun to have an actual personality sketch of the person behind the receipt so that students can compare their narrative to the actual person and see how close they came to accuracy.  I cinch the lesson by explaining that this is what historians do. They may be right, wrong, or close, but they have to have evidence from primary sources, and their claims should be reasonable based on that evidence, or it is not a reliable source.

I like to use snippets from various secondary sources, all with differing assertions about the same topic, for students to compare. A topic that fits the world history curriculum and lends itself to differing opinions based on primary source evidence is the fall of Rome. It’s difficult to find two historians who agree as to why it fell, let alone if it fell at all.

Students need to see that the narratives we hear in history class are conclusions woven from evidence. They should engage in the process so that they can unweave the narratives and see the individual yarns from which they are created. This will make them more discerning in what they accept as fact.

The second approach I like to take uses short fiction to illustrate the humanity of the people and cultures we are studying. I knew I wanted to do something along these lines the first time I taught world history. The students couldn’t wait to get to the Holocaust.

I was perplexed by their excitement over such a horrific subject. “I love the Holocaust,” I heard more than once.

“Really?” I would say. This troubled me. I thought a lot about it. There are three reasons my somewhat limited mind could fathom that someone would “love” the Holocaust: 1. they are truly depraved, 2. they enjoy the feelings of superiority that “good vs. bad” scenarios give us all (we would never engage in something as horrendous as that—we  would help), and 3. they are genuinely missing the human element in this calamity.

I believe that a very few of the students I have ever taught fall into the first category (although, statistically, some must). So, that leaves the majority falling into categories two and three. “Us against them” is human nature, so category two is understandable. It’s the reason teachers often give for spending so much time on the holocaust, “We do it so that it won’t happen again.” This is noble. After all, Hitler himself remarked, “Who still talks nowadays of the extermination of the Armenians.”

But that excuse neglects one important truth—it still happens. Ask the Syrian migrants flooding into Europe. Visit the Sudan. Or just watch Hotel Rwanda. That excuse insults the masses still enduring genocide, and it gives us a false sense of the times in which we live.

So that leaves us with category three. I think that many of us get swept up in the atrocities and neglect the human element. Actual people were tortured and killed. Actual families were ripped apart. And that is why we study the Holocaust and other such atrocities—to remember and honor the victims.

I could tell my students this, but I don’t think it would mean much to them. I chose to illustrate the point with a short story instead. Many of us have brought historical fiction into a history class, but I think an effective way to discuss historical themes and approaches can be through short fiction.

Before beginning a unit on World War II, we discuss nationalism and civil war in China. My lesson on this time period involves a brief PowerPoint with cloze notes, primary source analysis (of course), and an original short story to encourage students to consider appropriate ways to approach a subject that sadly plagues the remainder of the course—genocide.

It is my goal to humanize these events for the students, not to look at gruesome pictures and tut-tut the actions of the perpetrators, or worse….Fiction delivers lessons that are more palpable than lectures. Often times, students don’t even realize that it is a lesson. Fiction allows students to draw their own conclusions, often through empathy. STEAM in the classroom.

So, my favorite kid is world history, I’ll admit it. But it dawned on me as I was writing this—perhaps it’s my favorite because it offers me the opportunity to bring in the elements that I also love about the other five, which are also near and dear to my heart.