Friday, May 11, 2018

Teaching about Civic Literacy and Engagement

I just finished a Civic Literacy and Engagement Workbook for my Life Skills students. Civics is not offered at my high school so it is incumbent upon our U.S. History teachers to infuse the topic into their history lessons. This is a huge challenge considering the difficulty involved in covering the content we are expected to cover in U.S. History, especially in any depth.

I've been a strong advocate of civic literacy my entire teaching career. I make it a priority. I infuse these topics into all my courses, any chance I get. This year I've expanded my "Civic Literacy and Engagement" unit in my Life Skills class to a month-long unit from a two-week long unit. I spend 2-3 days covering the basics (which is essentially review because most of my Life Skills students have taken U.S. History with me where I cover this material more extensively). We review the structure and framework of local, state, and federal government as well as key terms. The following week, we work in our Civic Literacy and Engagement Workbooks focusing on topics covering what it means to be a "good" citizen" and the various ways in which citizens can become engaged in the civic process. I've included 48 task cards in my workbook as well. We try to complete one lesson a period and conclude the period with 5-10 minutes completing "tasks" included on the task cards. Some days we start the period working on the task cards and finish the period wrapping up a previous lesson.

Each lesson is centered around a program or program segment from NPR. My students are becoming more adept at "close listening" as I've also made this a priority over the course of the year. I use podcasts and NPR quite often in my courses. Many of the task cards include activities and games from the amazingly awesome site, icivics. Most of my students LOVE the games on this website, especially "Argument Wars" which I also use in my Civil Rights History course following my lesson on the landmark Supreme Court case Brown v. Board of Education.

Some other activities I include in my unit: a mock voter registration, a mock election, a mock trial, "What would you do? scenarios, a gallery walk, a bulletin board project, etc.

I'd love to hear from other teachers, especially those who teach in schools without a formal Civics course offering. How do you infuse civic education into the curriculum?

If you are interested in my Civic Literacy and Engagement Workbook (which includes 48 task cards) please click the link below. Please follow me on TpT for resource updates and freebies!

Happy Teaching!

Civic Literacy and Engagement Workbook (Includes 48 Task Cards!)


Friday, May 4, 2018

Historical Thinking Video Bell-ringers

This resource started out as an extra credit project I was working on for a student in my U.S. History class. The next thing I knew, I'd created ten cards (four questions on each card). I decided, rather than use the cards as an extra credit assignment, I was going to incorporate them into my History class later in the week.

Each card focuses on a topic from the 30s or 40s. I thought it would work best if I broke my class into groups of four and gave each group a card. Together, each group will watch their assigned video and answer the four historical thinking questions pertaining to the video. 

I laminated each page so my students can write their responses on the cards. When they finish, I will wipe the cards off and use them with my next class. 

Some of the topics covered in this set are: the Dust Bowl, Dorothea Lange and Migrant Mother, the CCC, Holocaust Survivors, Pearl Harbor, Japanese Internment, Hiroshima.


*Update... I used the cards with my 7th period class (my most challenging group). I used the cards as a "bell-ringer" activity at the begining of class. I had to provide very little direction. The cards are pretty self-explanatory. The activity went very well! My students got right to work. Their responses were thoughtful and thorough! I was impressed. Definitely using these with my other sections!



Historical Thinking Video Bell-ringers

Tuesday, May 1, 2018

Using Eve Bunting's "The Terrible Things" in a High School History Class

I've been using Eve Bunting's The Terrible Things" in my high school history classes for years. I have my students read a choral reading version of the powerful children's book (an allegory of the Holocaust) and participate in small and large group discussions following the reading. In my opinion, it's one of the more memorable lessons and activities of the school year. To help facilitate discussion, this year I created task cards to hand out to students working in small groups. Each task card has a question relating to the allegory. The task cards work much better than how I facilitated discussion in the past - usually by me shouting out questions to the class one at a time. The problem with that method was some groups were ready to move on and others weren't finished discussing the last question.

Teacher tip: I laminate my cards so I can reuse them year after year.

I am offering my task cards for free in my Tpt store if you would like a set for your classroom. Please follow my store while you're there. Followers receive updates on new products, discounts, and freebies!

Click below! Once in my store, select "free" to find "The Terrible Things" task cards!
Alt-Ed Toolbox


Wednesday, April 4, 2018

May is Mental Health Awareness Month

I spent a day over spring break working on a new "Mental Health Awareness" bulletin board for my classroom. I generally leave my bulletin boards up two-three months so my mental health bulletin boards (often put up the first week of May) are often an afterthought. I usually don't spend as much time and effort on them and my students pay little attention to them. They stay up over the summer collecting dust- ignored and forgotten.

Mental health awareness is an important topic. Mental health services in most public schools are limited or nonexistent. The stigma is so prevalent, many students are afraid to discuss the issue with friends or trusted adults. The repercussions are manifested in a variety of ways, including high absenteeism, academic challenges (low grades), and credit-deficiency (which is a result of both absenteeism and low grades). Coming to school and focusing on school work is a huge challenge for students with unmet mental health needs.

This year I decided to be more proactive. My first step was to create a bulletin board focusing on defining terms, reducing stigma, and sharing resources. I put up my classroom board over spring break and I'm thinking of putting up a second board in the hallway outside my classroom. I'm also working on a lesson plan which utilizes the bulletin board. (I often infuse my bulletin boards into my lessons. Most of my bulletin boards are "interactive." I think they are more meaningful and useful if students are actively engaging in the bulletin board rather than just looking at it (or ignoring it altogether).

My bulletin boards and mental health related lessons are a few of the many ways I try to infuse mental health issues into my courses. (I teach Life Skills, Psychology and Social Studies at the high school level in an Alternative Education program.)

Here are a couple photos of my classroom bulletin board:

If you are interested in using this bulletin board in your own classroom, click here:

If you are interested in using mental health-related TED Talks in your classroom, click here:

Tuesday, March 20, 2018

Woman a Week - Weeks 1, 2 & 3

Inspired by a tweet I read last week regarding the teaching of women's history, I decided one small change I could make in my classroom is to profile one influential  woman a week. Every week, I will create a simple poster to display in my classroom door window. I'll include a few facts, a quote and an image. I plan to incorporate my "woman of the week" into my classroom lessons and activities (I'm still brainstorming creative strategies to do this!).

My first "woman of the week" is my favorite woman in history - Ruth Bader Ginsburg. #notoriousrbg


Week #2


Week #3



Sunday, March 18, 2018

March is Women's History Month

Every year I design a Women's History Month bulletin board for the bulletin board in the hall right outside my classroom. I wanted to encourage more students to interact with the bulletin board this year so I asked some of my teacher friends on Instagram for ideas. I knew I wanted to implement a school-wide contest, I just wasn't sure what to offer as a prize. Someone suggested a gift card to a movie theater or bookstore. Great idea! So, one night after school I went to our local bookstore and bought a gift card. The very next day, I had a winner! A student (not even one of my own) correctly identified all the women profiled in my Women's History Month bulletin board.

This weekend, after reading a thread on twitter shared by the Zinn Education Project regarding one teacher's attempt to infuse women's history into the curriculum, I started to think more deeply about my bulletin board and other techniques and resources I use with students in my attempt to infuse women's history into the curriculum. I came to the harsh conclusion that I need to do a much better job. My bulletin board contest only sparked minimal interest (and only from young women) and another activity I recently implemented in my Social Studies class "flopped." The activity "flopped" in part due to an abysmal lack of prior knowledge regarding women's history for my students to draw upon. I guess I shouldn't be surprised. Every year at the beginning of the year, as an experiment I ask my students to brainstorm as many historical figures as they can in 2 minutes. Their lists are often lengthy (and usually include mostly white men). I do the same thing for women and people of color. These lists are short, sometimes shockingly so. I've had students who can not list a single Asian-American, Latino, or Native American figure in history. Student lists of women usually  include Rosa Parks, Sacajawea, and maybe a couple First Ladies.

What does this mean? For me, it means I need to make Women's History a priority. My bulletin board and other activities I currently use are great, but not enough. Inspired by the thread I read this weekend on twitter, I'm making it my personal mission to infuse prominent women into my curriculum every day for the remainder of the year.






Tuesday, January 16, 2018

Howard Zinn LinkedIn Profile Activity!

We had a snow day yesterday so I thought I'd take advantage of a few extra hours of free time and create a cool activity for my U.S. History kids (this year as extra credit and next year as an introductory activity).

If you follow my blog, it's probably pretty obvious I love Howard Zinn. Not to brag, but I have seen him speak three times and have met him personally, twice. I also have three autographs (one is addressed to my son who was an infant at the time).

Howard Zinn and a favorite professor from my college days (Dr. Parker) are the reasons I teach history. They are the reasons I am PASSIONATE about teaching history.

I wish I had more time to share and discuss the work of Howard Zinn with my students. Often, the only students who dive in deep with regard to studying the works of Howard Zinn are students seeking out extra credit opportunities. (Note: I use Howard Zinn's A Young People's History of the United States as one of my texts in my United States History class.)

This morning I shared my Howard Zinn LinkedIn activity with my History students via Google Docs. I hope someone bites! I'm offering it as extra credit this semester.





Download this activity here! (Link to my TpT store where you can find this activity for only $1.00!

Tuesday, January 9, 2018

Martin Luther King Day (Group Project)

I have a few creative, ambitious young ladies in my Civil Rights History class who are always asking if there is something "extra" they can do. A couple months ago I created a few collaborative murals for students to work on (as extra credit, during "down-time," on sub days etc.). My favorite is the MLK collaborative mural. I'm going to print copies for my students today! I will post the finished product when they finish!



https://www.teacherspayteachers.com/Product/Martin-Luther-King-Jr-Collaborative-Classroom-PosterBulletin-Board-Display-3452502?aref=6ba6bz0u

Sunday, December 31, 2017

Creating a LinkedIn Profile for a Historical Figure

I'm feeling productive (after suffering with migraines three days in a row). Ugh. I spent yesterday afternoon and most of today working on a new activity I plan to use with my U.S. History students. Many of my current History students are also taking a Life Skills class with me this semester. We just finished working on resumes and next week I am going to have my seniors create their own LinkedIn profile pages. So, LinkedIn has been on my mind! I thought it might be fun to create a LinkedIn page for George Washington as a culminating activity as we wrap up our current unit in U.S. History!

I created two versions of the activity (some of my students prefer working with Google Docs and some prefer traditional worksheets.)

This is what I came up with:





I believe most of my students will appreciate this activity/alternative assessment. Considering mid-terms are coming up, I am sure most of my students will welcome a break from traditional paper/pencil exams!

I uploaded this activity to my TpT store. Check it out!
https://www.teacherspayteachers.com/Product/George-Washington-LinkedIn-Profile-Assignment-wGoogle-Drive-Option-3558876

Of course I had to create a Ruth Bader Ginsburg version too! Here it is:




Friday, December 29, 2017

Washington and Adams' Presidencies

I spent the last couple days of winter break re-vamping some of my resources for my next unit in U.S. History. I am especially excited to introduce a brand-new activity I created for my students based on Washington's concerns about his role as the nation's first President. In this activity, students will examine five specific areas of concern and research Washington's correspondence with his most trusted advisors regarding how he should handle each area of concern. The five areas students will examine are:

How to Act Like a President
Developing a Presidential Style
The Institutional Workings of the President
Polling Public Opinion Before Polls
Managing a Quarrelsome Cabinet

I created an interactive notebook page for my students to glue into their notebooks. Included are the links necessary to complete the activity. This link below includes everything students need to complete the activity. In addition, supplementary videos, links to primary sources can be found here!


When we finish, I plan to facilitate a class discussion in which we can compare and contrast Washington's concerns and how he addressed these concerns with how President Obama and President Trump have handled these issues.


This worksheet is included in a resource bundle I just added to my TpT store for $1.49! (I plan to offer this product for 50% off through the end of January). This resource includes 8 pages of interactive notes and a visually appealing PowerPoint on the Adams' Presidency. My PowerPoint includes one bell-ringer as well!

Sunday, December 3, 2017

Civil Rights History Unit 3

This week my Civil Rights History students will begin watching the first episode of what I consider the best documentary on the Civil Rights Movement, "The Eyes on the Prize." We spent the last week learning about the landmark Supreme Court case Brown v Board of Education, the Emmett Till Murder, and The Montgomery Bus Boycott.

On Monday I plan to implement a modified version of a Teaching for Change lesson I've been using with my Civil Rights History students the past couple years about the Montgomery Bus Boycott. The lesson allows students to practice social/civic engagement skills in the classroom.

The Role-Play Activity Link and Handouts can be found here:
https://www.civilrightsteaching.org/desegregation/resource/teaching-montgomery-bus-boycott/

This year I have been using more guided notes sheets and interactive notes pages/workbooks with my Civil Rights History and United States History students. My students are performing better on unit exams after I started utilizing these resources. I know some of my students struggled keeping up with notes AND listening to the lectures. Some of my students also struggled with the organization of their notes. Guided notes and interactive notes pages work for my students so I will continue to develop new sheets to correspond with my lectures. I've put a lot of TLC into these resources so I've decided to put them in my TpT store. They are tailored for my courses, however, others might find them useful.








My Civil Rights History Guided Notes and Interactive Notes Bundle can be found here:


Sunday, October 22, 2017

Service Learning Domestic Violence Awareness Mini-Unit (Day 1)

Tomorrow is my first day with the Service Learning students. I will have them for one week. I have a PowerPoint presentation with a guided notes sheet planned for Monday and Tuesday. I plan to share some PSAs and a couple TED Talks later this week. Throughout the week I have some activities planned and a guest speaker on Friday. We are also organizing and implementing a week-long drive for Passages, a domestic violence shelter in Richland Center, Wisconsin. This year, students will be collecting paper goods (diapers, wipes, toilet paper, paper towels, tissues, feminine products, and computer paper- both white and colored).

Tomorrow I will start my first session with this bell-ringer:


My Current Events and Life Skills students have been working on bulletin boards this month to raise awareness of domestic violence.



Civil Rights History- "12 Years a Slave"

On Monday, we begin Unit 2. I am going to introduce the film "12 Years a Slave" and we will begin watching the film. I spent the morning updating my viewing guide for the film.



This week in U.S. History...


I am really excited about our next project in United States History. We spent the last two days discussing the Declaration of Independence. I introduced the topic with a fake breakup letter, similar in format to the Declaration of Independence. We discussed the parts of the letter and compared it to the real Declaration of Independence. On Monday, my students are going to create their own version of a "breakup letter" to King George III.

My lesson was inspired by these similar lessons I found online:
"Breakup" Letter Assignment

Breakup Letter Instructions

Some videos I share with students on the topic:

A Reading of The Declaration of Independence

TED-ED: What You Might Not Know About the Declaration of Independence

Sunday, September 24, 2017

Ally Week, Homecoming and More!

This year we plan to celebrate ALLY WEEK the first week of October rather than September 25-29. Homecoming week at RVHS begins tomorrow. Our GSA felt it would be better to reschedule our Ally week activities until after Homecoming, concerned that with all that is going on for Homecoming, Ally Week would get ignored/forgotten/overshadowed.

So far our GSA members have planned a daily "scavenger hunt" activity, (we are still working on riddles which have turned out to be more challenging to write than anticipated) and daily announcements.  Last week several GSA members visited all of the "homerooms" to share information about the GSA and Ally Week activities. So far, all of the feedback I have received from students and staff  has been positive!

Our first "public" event of the year is planned for this Thursday night's Volleyball game. We will be selling concessions to raise money for much needed baby-changing stations for the restrooms. We will also be raising money for hurricane victims.

Friday our members will be marching in the homecoming parade!

Hoping to post some photos soon!

Saturday, September 16, 2017

Unsung Heroes Mock Interview Project (Howard Zinn Interview)

Assignment # 1- Unsung Heroes
Part I (20 points):

1. Find one person who stood up against slavery.
2. Find one person who resisted the unequal treatment of women and African Americans.
3. Find one person who used nonviolent civil disobedience as a form of resistance.
4. Find one person who was willing to use force if necessary to achieve the goals of their cause.
5. Find one person who thought the best method of bringing about change was to change laws.
6. Find one person who thought the most effective way of bringing about change was to organize people at the grassroots level.
7. Find one female civil rights activist.
8. Find one person who fought to expand voting rights.
9. Find one person who played a pivotal role in the Brown v. Board of Education decision.
10. Find one person who has held important leadership positions in civil rights organizations.

Once you have located all of these people and your handout is completely filled out, return to your desk.

We will conclude with a brief discussion of the activity and all of the individuals we learned about.

Unsung Heroes:
Elaine Brown, Constance Baker Motley, Marcus Garvey, Malcolm X, Maxine Waters, Rosa Parks, Eleanor Roosevelt, Ida b. Wells, Melba Patilla Beals, Thurgood Marshall, Howard Zinn, Henry David Thoreau, William Lloyd Garrison, John Lewis, Fannie Lou Hamer, Bernice Reagon, Angela Davis, Frederick Douglass, Kenneth Clark, Sojourner Truth, Archibald Cox, Charles Sherrod

Use the "Eyes on the Prize Profiles" link and the "African American Profiles" links to find information about most of the people listed above.

Part 2: Mock Interview
Working in groups of three or four, prepare and conduct  a mock interview with your unsung hero. Interviews must be videotaped.

Your interview must include a minimum of six open-ended questions.  Questions and answers must be historically accurate and "believable."

You may want to do a bit of research before you develop your questions and practice your mock interview. Watch a few episodes of The Daily Show or The Colbert Report. Watch some interviews on the cable news channels or morning news programs. "60 Minutes," and similar programs are also good sources of inspiration and ideas.

Before you videotape your interviews, I need to see a list of interview questions. Once I give you the go-ahead, you may begin taping your interviews. When you are finished and are satisfied with your final product, upload to YouTube (if possible).

As a class, we will view some of the "Unsung Hero" interviews (I will ask for volunteers). If you choose to not share your video with the class, make sure you share it with me electronically so I can grade it.

One last thing...please feel free to be creative with this project. In the past, I’ve had students dress up (be respectful and appropriate when doing so) and I’ve had students create a “puppet show-style” interview. Another suggestion is to create an animated video using an app!

Wednesday, August 9, 2017

English Syllabus

Once I revamped my U.S. History syllabus, I figured I might as well revamp my English 400 syllabus  (and all of my other syllabi)  as well. After three different versions, I think I am satisfied with my final product! I am sharing all of my syllabi in my Google classrooms this year so my students will never have the excuse, "I lost my syllabus!" I include various classroom codes and other important info in my syllabus that kids will need to refer to throughout the year. For example, in my courses, we use Khan Academy, TED Ed, Quizlet, Kahoot, NoRedInk, and a number of other online tools. Kids always seem to forget class codes and passwords. Hopefully this will no longer be an issue!






Like my syllabus? It's for sale in my TpT store!

The Age of Exploration Infographic

The Age of Exploration: Life on the Open Seas

From Visually.

Saturday, August 5, 2017

United States History Syllabus 2017-2018

I am excited to be teaching U.S. History again this year! Last year was the first year I didn't teach U.S. History in my 17 years of teaching. I am grateful I was able to teach my Civil Rights History course last year which SAVED me! I've been spending a lot of time this summer revamping my curriculum, including my syllabus! I am pretty happy with my latest version!



Do you like my U.S. History syllabus? I am selling syllabus templates for U.S. History, American Government, Civics, and Social Studies in my TpT store! Click the link below.
Alt-Ed Toolbox

Monday, May 8, 2017

May is Mental Health Awareness Month

This month I plan to spend quite a bit of time in my Social Studies course covering mental health issues. I've compiled some of my best TED Talk lessons focusing on mental health into a workbook for my students to work through over the course of the next couple weeks. I plan to share a new TED Talk with my students every-other-day.

Some TED Talks merit more time than others based on a number of factors including the complexity of the topic, the length of the talk, etc. For these talks, I assign "before-viewing" activities which could include reviewing vocabulary. Sometimes I assign a writing prompt before we watch. Regardless of the length of the talk or the complexity of the topic, I ALWAYS review the lesson before we view the talk which includes reading the questions beforehand. This helps prepare students for what they need to listen for as they watch the video in addition to alleviating any confusion over questions (for example the wording of a question, unfamiliar vocabulary, etc.)

Most of my TED lessons also include "after-viewing" questions and/or activities. One of my favorite TED Talk 'after viewing"activities is a collaborative bulletin board activity I sometimes assign after watching Nancy Lublin's Talk, "Texting that Saves Lives."

I uploaded my TED Talk Mental Health workbook to my store. Check it out here:
Mental Health TED Talk Unit