Tuesday, April 28, 2015

Smart Devices and the Past...

I decided I wanted to do something fun and new with my 6th graders this year when teaching about President Nixon. I found myself wondering what life would have been like for historical figures if they were to have cell phones and smart devices during his or her life time. Would their impact have been greater? Would they have been able to accomplish more? I searched the internet for a cell phone template that I wanted to use but could not find one that included everything I wanted to do. I decided to make the template for my students to use next week.

This week, I am beginning my unit on Nixon's foreign policy and geopolitics. I know, this doesn't sound interesting but trust me, it will be. Life is too short to not enjoy what I teach so it will be fun for the students and informative. Students already have some background knowledge of Nixon due to learning about the Vietnam War. However, this week, we will dig deeper into his foreign policy and his unfortunate scandal.

The plan is to teach the background knowledge and when students are finished learning about Nixon, they will design Nixon's smart phone. I plan to use the smart device template as a form of assessment in order to see what the students learned about Nixon. The template I created includes space for 9 apps, contacts, text messages, and a call log featuring missed, received, and sent phone calls. I am hoping this goes over well and can be used for other historical figures. The other template assignment I created last year, the Instagram template, worked very well and the students thoroughly enjoyed it.

If you'd like to check out the Smart Device template, you can do it by clicking here!

I have not yet taught this but I think it is going to go well and I am excited! I will report back after next week to see how it goes.

If you haven't checked out my Teachers Pay Teachers website, be sure to check it out. I am having a 10% off sale between now and Friday!

Tuesday, November 11, 2014

Who Dun It? - Murder Mystery Activity

Update! This is available on my Teachers Pay Teachees website. Please check it out! 

It has been a while since I wrote and for that, I apologize. It has been a crazy school year considering school started on August 1st. Yes, you read that correct, August 1st! As Thanksgiving break is nearing, I cannot imagine how ready the students are as I feel I need a little break as well. So how did I spend my day off today? Writing lesson plans and making items for my classroom of course. I enjoy it when I don't feel like I am on a time crunch. When I can just sit back, listen to music, and work, I truly enjoy it. I made a DBQ on the Blitzkrieg for my students today. However, that'll be a post for another day.

Today, I am going to share with you the Who Dun It? Mystery. After talking to a colleague, she sparked my interest by explaining that she set up Archduke Ferdinand's murder as a mystery for students to solve. I continued to brainstorm ideas of how to make this work in my classroom and when I pulled it off, the kids loved it!

The set-up:

The first thing I did, was scour the internet for primary sources to use as clues. I did not want students to just see a crime scene. I wanted them to investigate using the skills I have been teaching them this year. I wanted students to be able to analyze and make observations and inferences as to what happened and to whom it happened.

Once I found a variety of clues including newspaper clippings, eye witness accounts, photos, and even a mugshot. I cut them out and glued them onto construction paper. I laminated them but quickly realized a laminator and construction paper do not mix very well. My clues did not stay laminated and all day I had to endure hearing "Mrs. Johnson, this is falling apart." I digress. Next year, I am gluing them on cardstock and laminating. Oh well, you live and you learn.

Of course no clue is legit without a classified envelope or folder!

Then, I begged and borrowed enough clipboards so each group could have an official clipboard when they began their activity.

I made a worksheet, "Who Dun It" Murder Mystery, for students to complete. Of course, I had to endure this all day, "Mrs. Johnson, you spelled 'done' wrong." I had to then explain to them what this meant and that I had not spelled it incorrectly. Kids can be so literal sometimes ;)

Within their groups, students went from station to stay and opened the envelopes. I had 6 groups so I had 6 stations set up with clues inside the envelopes. It was so great to hear the conversations students were having and I knew they were truly engaged and having a blast. To this day, 3 months later, students can still tell you everything about the murder of Archduke Francis Ferdinand. Isn't having fun and learning what it really is about, in the end?

My amazing partner, the language arts teacher, paired up with me to make a culminating activity in which students had to write a news report about the murder based on the clues they had pieced together in my class.

This was probably one of the most fun days I have ever had teaching. While yes, it did take a few hours for me to get everything together, I had so much fun doing it. Now, other than having to relaminate, I have a great activity I can continue to use and tweak each year.

The clues and worksheet will be available on my Teachers Pay Teachers website at a later date.

Wednesday, July 30, 2014

Learning Targets

Learning Targets is a great strategy to utilize in the classroom. It helps students understand what they are learning and helps them take ownership of his/her learning. You may not be familiar with learning targets so I'll spend a little time on this blog post explaining them.

A learning target is the key information you want your students to learn. Learning targets are created from your CSOs, Next Generation Standards, or whatever buzzword your state is currently using to outline what skills and information you need to teach your students. Learning targets are often referred to as "I Can" statements. I like to write mine this way. For example, I teach Social Studies and one of my standards is that students are able to classify the causes and effects of WWII. I would turn this into a learning target and "I Can" statement by saying "I can categorize the causes and effects of WWII."

What makes learning targets so important is how you use them. Learning targets should be displayed and reviewed in the classroom. I have my white board divided into sections with one area designated to my learning targets. I put these on the board when we are learning them/using them in the classroom. (see how my white board is set up in a previous post here.)

At the beginning of each unit/new lesson, I will write the learning target on the white board under the section designated for the learning target. After the bell ringer (welcome work), we will tackle the learning target together. I like to double underline the verbs and underline the concepts using two different colored markers. As a class, we discuss what the verbs are and the key concepts we are going to learn through this lesson/activity. I started learning targets half-way through my second year of teaching in a low SES school. I wish I had started using them earlier. The learning targets made a complete difference. Students were more engaged when they discovered why we were learning something and what exact skills I wanted them to walk away with. Students looked forward to "unpacking the learning target" at the beginning of each lesson. Unpacking the learning target is when myself, or a student, guides the class and walks through the learning target by asking for the verbs and the key concepts students found in the target. This is a great springing board for further discussion.

I have used learning targets for the past 3 years and I feel that they truly make a difference. In 6th grade, we cover WWI through present day. This year, I wanted to spruce up my white board for my learning targets. I decided to do a play on words (kind of). I love Rosie the Riveter and she is in my curriculum when teaching about WWII. We all know her famous saying "We Can Do It." So I decided, wouldn't it be cute to have a cut out of her and a talking bubble saying "We Can..." for the learning targets? I blew up an image of Rosie the Riveter which I got from loc.gov and printed her out. I then used Microsoft Word to use a talking bubble shape and typed "We Can" inside the bubble. I printed both of them out and laminated them.

I then had to cut them out. Rosie was quite the trouble maker when trying to cut her out but I succeeded. I think it turned out pretty cute and I cannot wait to stick her on my white board! I'll add a picture on Friday of
the finished project. Back to the grind on Friday :)

Thursday, May 15, 2014

Web Questing through Iran!

With only 9 school days left, I am beginning to spazz about getting all my material covered. I know I have taught the essential skills my students need to take with them to be successful in the 7th grade BUT I love my content so much I just want to teach it all. I am fortunate enough to cover WWI through present day issues and I enjoy it. I use to believe WWII was my favorite unit to teach but I have really grown to love the Cold War Era. It is all very fascinating to me and the kids love it because of the espionage aspect. Gotta love a good spy story!

We have made our way through Vietnam and have made it into the Nixon, Ford, and Carter years. The goal is to keep my students engaged because at times, history can become a bit monotonous. To actively engage my students, I have created a WebQuest on the Iran Hostage Crisis. I created a website for the students to navigate. I have done WebQuests in the past where I have just given the students various links to sort through. However, I did not find this as effective because since I was not maintaining those websites, I would often not be aware the websites were down or of broken links until a student would raise their hand which then prompts the other 10-15 students to raise his or her hand and tell you the exact same thing, "Mrs. Johnson, it's broken!" So, to eliminate these issues, I decided to use Google Sites and create a website designed specifically for my students and this WebQuest.

If you have never used a WebQuest in the classroom, I strongly urge you to do so. It is a great way to teach students to use resources to look for an answer. A WebQuest is similar to a scavenger hunt. Students have certain pieces of information they are looking for and you give them specific sites in which they can find the information. When I created my WebQuest, I incorporated primary sources: maps, photos, interviews, and video footage. Students are expected to analyze and study the documents to answer text dependent questions. I think added a RAFT activity (role, audience, format, and type) to the assignment as a final project.

My students are currently working on this activity and they seem to enjoy it. I'll post some pictures of completed RAFTs next week!

Thursday, March 20, 2014

QR Codes and Word Walls 2.0

I have been sharing this strategy and learning tool at various workshops and I have been asked to provide people with step by step instructions of how I created the QR codes for my Word Wall. I decided to write a blog post. While this may seem familiar to my previous blog post (see here), I added a step by step tutorial of how I constructed my words for my word wall.

Step One:
Construct a list of your vocabulary words & definitions needed for your lesson or unit. I prefer to do mine by unit but it is your preference.

Step Two:
Find a free QR code generator on the internet.
I prefer to use: QR Code Generator because the QR code pops up right on the screen and I can then copy & paste the image without having to download it and/or save it. You can type a definition or you can have the QR code lead students directly to a website.

Step Three:
I open a Word document and type up my words. Then I go to the QR code generator and do one word at a time. For the example below, I am defining the key term "iron curtain." I will then copy the QR code image and paste it into my Word Document. The reason I do this is to stay organized. All the QR codes begin to look a like and if you print them without labeling them, it will take extra time to sort them later!

Here is a screen shot of what I do with the QR codes once I make them. I copy and paste each image and type the word beside it. Like I said above, this helps with the organization factor and it helps me to save paper because I shrink down the size of the QR code to make them small enough to fit on my sentence strips.

Step Four:
Print all of your QR codes off. Depending on the number of the words and the size of your QR code images, this should only take 1-2 sheets of paper.

Step Five:
Write your words on sentence strips, construction paper, cardstock, etc.

Step Six:
Cut out your QR code images (be careful to not cut into the actual encrypted part or else it won't scan) and glue them beside your words on the sentence strip.

 Step Seven:
 Cut your sentence strips. I am OCD and I plan to use these for a while so I try to make them as nice and neat as possible. I prefer to laminate mine when finished as well so they can be used again next year. I just hot glue them to my concrete wall at school and voila! Word Wall is complete!

Feel free to comment with any questions or suggestions. In the next few days, I hope to have some vocab activities I do with my students using QR codes so stay tuned!

Tuesday, March 11, 2014

Differentiated Instruction with WWII

Wow, we have been hit with this "polar vortex" and it has made teaching very sporadic lately. I struggled trying to get my WWII unit finished. I struggled with whether or not to keep my final project, the choice board but I decided to go out on a limb and keep it. I AM SOOO HAPPY THAT I DID! I must admit, I was almost guilty of doing quantity instead of quality. I was so worried about whether or not I was going to be able to fit in all my curriculum this year, that I was almost ready to cut corners. I am so grateful that I stuck with my gut and decided to allow the students an opportunity to really shine with this final assessment. My students did not disappoint!

At the conclusion of my WWII unit, I presented students with a choice board that held 9 project options. I wanted to give students enough wiggle room but structure at the same time. This was the first time I had introduced a choice board of this size. My students really loved this project. I was amazed at how different each project looked. It is truly amazing what students can do when we step back and just let them learn and discover on his/her own!

I have included some photographs of students' work below:

Wednesday, January 8, 2014

Word Walls and QR Codes!

If you are like me, sometimes you may struggle with making the word wall relevant or a tool that students use frequently. At the beginning of the year, I felt like my word wall was just there, taking up space. I wanted to spruce it up and I wanted  my students to actually pay attention to it! After all, I was spending a lot of time painstakingly writing the words on sentence strips, laminating, and cutting. Then, inspiration struck me! Why not add QR codes to my word wall? QR codes are the cute little barcodes you see on everything nowadays. You use a barcode scanner on your smart device and it will take you to a website or informational text. Students have technology at their finger tips but rarely know how to use it to discover information. I love it when I hear a student ask if they can look something up on their phone. I decided to take my word wall to the next level and guess what? Students love it and use it on a daily basis!

Here is a close-up of my laminated words and QR codes. Students are able to get up and scan the word.

The words at the top need to be redone. Those are my pitiful word wall words from the beginning of the year.
Of course, just like anything new you introduce to your students, you must teach procedures for how to interact with the word wall. I do not have the QR codes taking my students to websites, instead, I have it take them to a text document that has the definition provided. I am going to start putting QR codes on students' desks when they come in and it will provide them with a discussion question. I will post about this endeavor at a later time.
Also, if not all students have smart devices, don't fret! My students are in groups of 4 so usually, at least one student in the group has a smart device and can use it for the group. Also, if you have extra iPads, you could utilize those.