Thursday, April 13, 2017

April is Sexual Assault Awareness Month

This month our high school GSA is planning several events the last week of April to raise awareness of the issue of sexual assault. In addition, the GSA will be selling teal ribbons over both lunch periods the last week of April to raise money for Hope House.

One event the GSA is planning is Denim Day on April 26th. We are working on posters for the event and our members plan to participate in the nation-wide event on the 26th. We also plan to sell ribbons that day to raise money for Hope House.

We just finished two bulletin boards (one for the math wing and the other for my classroom). The purpose of both bulletin boards is to raise awareness of the issue and encourage involvement (speaking out, supporting victims, etc.) among staff and students. Both bulletin boards are interactive. The bulletin board in the math wing has 27 cards which open up to display additional information for those interested in learning more about the topic. The front of each card is different. Some cards are quiz questions about sexual assault. Other cards contain information about resources for individuals in need of help. Some organizations included in some of our cards are RAINN, Crisis Text Line, No More, and National Sexual Assault Resource Center. Many of the cards have QR codes which link to websites listed above.

Our members are also compiling a list of facts, statistics, and quotes pertaining to sexual assault that we plan to include in the morning announcements this month.  We're in the process of sharing information and ideas via google docs.

Friday, March 31, 2017

Using TED Talks to Introduce a Novel

I often use TED Talks to introduce new units in my Social Studies and English courses. I wanted to find a good one to introduce our next novel, 1984. I found two powerful talks about North Korea that I shared with my English students last week. Both talks elicited a lot of questions and discussion among my students. Many concepts and themes we will be encountering in the novel were dealt with in the talks including dehumanization, isolation, repression, and abuse of power. Many of my students were eager to learn more about North Korea and read the novel after viewing and discussing these talks in class.

These are the  TED Talks I shared with my students:

I created a more formal lesson for the second talk. I used this lesson with my 6th period English 400 students last week.

Thursday, March 30, 2017

Problem-Based Learning in Social Studies

This month my Social Studies students are undertaking perhaps their biggest challenge to-date. I posed a "Big Question" to them last week. The question was, "What do you think are the biggest problems facing humanity today and what can be done to solve those problems?"

We brainstormed lists. Each student had to come up with a minimum of five problems. None of my students had any problem coming up with five examples. Many recalled examples we discussed in their World Studies class as freshmen. (Proud teacher moment.)

Here is a sampling of what they came up with:
hate, poverty, hunger, disease, violence, war, genocide, terrorism, refugee crisis, sexism, racism, homophobia, intolerance, ignorance, unequal access/lack of access to health care, gender-based violence, homelessness, greed, slavery, sex trafficking, slavery, pollution, climate change, apathy, fear, unequal access to education, substance abuse, sustainable energy

We also discussed solutions. We discussed documentaries we've watched and books we've read about people working to make a difference. Many of my students recalled the film and book "Half the Sky" from their freshmen year. Many remembered TED Talks we've watched together in World Studies, United States History, and English courses including "Billions in Change" and 60 Minute segments about Darfur and child hunger. Some of my students who've taken Civil Rights History with me shared ideas they learned in class with regard to the work done by abolitionists and civil rights activists.

To inspire more ideas, we watched one of my favorite TED Talks, Sugata Mitra's, Build a School in a Cloud. We spent two days watching and discussing the talk. In addition, I created a lesson based on the talk. We visited his School in the Cloud page and reviewed some of the "Big Questions" students have posted there.

My lesson:

I'm excited to get back to school and continue with the unit. (We are currently on Spring Break). When we return, we plan to spend some more time exploring how others are working on solving the world's most challenging problem's facing humanity. We will spend some time in the library and some time exploring online. By the end of next week I hope to start the next phase of the unit- the essay writing phase. I am going to set up pre-writing stations to help facilitate the process. Each student is going to narrow their focus to one problem and write an essay describing the problem and what steps they think should be taken to alleviate that problem.

I'm excited to see what my students come up with!

Friday, March 10, 2017

LGBTQ Awareness Bulletin Board

I am an advisor to my high school's GSA. We've stepped it up a notch this month with our school/community education and awareness campaign. Members are planning an assembly for next year, organizing movie/discussion nights, inviting guest speakers to present to classes and the GSA and most importantly, researching the issues so we can be better informed ourselves! One idea we came up with at a recent meeting was a LGBT Awareness bulletin board inspired by several bulletin boards we found on Pinterest. We wanted our bulletin board to be informative and empowering. We also wanted it to be visually appealing. We wanted people to notice it and engage with it! This is what we came up with.

Thursday, March 9, 2017

Black-out Poetry

Today my English classes had a lot of fun creating black-out poems inspired by the book, Room by Emma Donoghue. I was really impressed with their poems. Some of my students enjoyed the activity so much they created several poems!

Thursday, March 2, 2017

Legos for High Schoolers

Wisconsin weather is back this week and my students (and I) are really struggling to stay motivated (and positive). Today I am using a modified lesson I used with my students a week ago. Last week we had a blast working our way through an outdoor obstacle course in our 6th period English class. Since temps have dropped below 30 again, we're back indoors all day. So, I created a short indoor course for my 7th period Social Studies class. My favorite station is the "Lego Station." I can't wait to see what my students create!

Thursday, February 23, 2017

How I get my English kids ACTIVE...

This past week we've enjoyed unseasonably warm weather (mid 60 degree temps). That doesn't happen very often in Wisconsin in February! I wanted to take advantage of the warm temps and get my kids outside. Yesterday I created a quasi-obstacle course on the high school track for my 6th period English class. I created 16 stations and at each station kids completed a physical task and answered a question about the book we've been reading in class. I also included a couple "sit down and read" stations. The activity was a huge success! Definitely doing this again!

Another important benefit of getting kids outside and active:

You can find my Outdoor Literature Obstacle Course Activity here:

Friday, February 17, 2017

Women's History Month Task Cards

Women's History Month is fast approaching. This year, in addition to the Women's History Month bulletin board project I usually do with my kids, I thought I would make some task cards to use in conjunction with the bulletin board. Once I got started, I decided to not only assign "tasks" incorporating the bulletin board, but I thought it would be beneficial to assign tasks incorporating our school library's Women's History Month display, community events planned to honor women's history and other tasks which would get the kids out of the classroom (and out of their "comfort-zone").

Here is a sampling of some of the cards I created:

All 32 task cards can be found in my store:

My Independent Study student and I also made a Women's History Month QR code bulletin board! Madeline helped with the "cutting" and assembly of the bulletin board. I love her! She helps with these sorts of "tasks" all the time, often without me even asking! We did run into a problem with the QR codes not working (apparently our school's internet filter blocked them). With the help of IT, the problem was quickly resolved. Whew!

Here is the finished product:

Saturday, February 4, 2017

Pentagon Papers Film Guide (Interactive Worksheet)

One of my favorite topics to teach in my high school history courses is the Pentagon Papers story. I love teaching that time period. I love any story involving freedom of press. I also love stories about unsung heroes. This year I tried a new lesson with my students. This is my first year using interactive notebooks in most of my classes. To be honest, I was a little surprised how much my high school students liked them! So, I created an "interactive film guide" I could use with "The Pentagon Papers" (it would also work with the documentary "The Most Dangerous Man in America." My students did a great job on the lesson. I'm thinking about creating similar film guides for other films I use such as "All the President's Men."

Tuesday, January 31, 2017

Role-Playing in Social Studies (Introducing "The Most Dangerous Man in America")

Yesterday I planned a role-playing activity for my Social Studies 400 students. We've been studying the First Amendment- Freedom of Press the past week and a half. I'm planning to show "The Most Dangerous Man in America" and although I've lectured on the topic of the Pentagon Papers and New York Times v. United States, I still felt it would be beneficial to review the "cast" of individuals involved in the story as well as their relationship to the story. I found a fun role-play activity on the Zinn Education Project Page. Despite having a small class yesterday (four kids absent), the activity was a success. Each student played the part of a key figure involved in the story. Each student was given mini-biographies, a photo of the person they were role-playing, a name tag, and a role-play worksheet. In the activity, students pretend they are at a reception. Students circulate around the room and visit with each of the "characters" trying to learn as much as possible about each individual in the time available. Students answer questions about each individual as they circulate among the "cast of characters" in the role-play. The kids enjoyed and learned from the activity. Description of the activity and printable biographies and worksheets can be found on the Zinn Education Project website. Search "Most Dangerous Man in America."

Monday, January 30, 2017

Black History Month (Martin Luther King Quote Analysis Task Cards)

A couple weeks ago, I created some task cards to use with my Civil Rights History students for Martin Luther King Day. Unfortunately we had a snow day that day (and another one two days later!) Since it was the end of the semester (and mid-terms) I was unable to use the cards with my entire class. I did use them as "extra credit" for a handful of kids who had missed assignments and needed to make up the points. I ended up laminating the sheets of task cards and assigned one sheet per student. I had my students write their answers (using dry-erase markers) on the back of the laminated sheets. It worked great! Since I laminated the sheets, I can use them again with my Social Studies students next month.

Click here for my MLK Quote Analysis Task Cards:

Sunday, January 15, 2017

March: Book One & Two (Critical Thinking Questions, Comprehension Questions, Task Cards and Activity)

As an Alt-Ed teacher I am constantly looking for new ways to entice my "reluctant readers" to read. One genre many of my students enjoy are graphic novels. I was first introduced to graphic novels as a college student. A history professor introduced me to Art Spiegelman's Maus. This book was one of the most powerful books I had read on the Holocaust. After reading Maus I remember thinking, "if I ever teach history, I am definitely including this book in my history curriculum." I kept that promise and have been using Maus ever since.

A couple years ago I introduced another graphic novel into my history curriculum; March: Book One. The book was so successful with my students, I've expanded my classroom collection to include books two and three as well.

This weekend I updated my original lessons for Books One and Two. I also added a new activity based on a tried-and-true activity I have been using as a final assessment with my history students the past ten years- a "Positive-Negative Timeline."

"If you're not hopeful and optimistic, then you just give up. You have to take the long hard look and just believe that if you're consistent, you will succeed." - John Lewis

March: Books 1 and 2 Lessons:

Tuesday, January 10, 2017

Martin Luther King Quote Analysis Activity (Task Cards)

My Civil Rights History class is winding down (less than two weeks left) and there is still so much to cover! Like most history teachers, I feel there is NEVER enough time to cover everything that needs to get covered.

We just finished watching Selma so I planned a couple activities dealing with the Voting Rights Act of 1965 and recent attempts to dismantle certain provisions of this law. I found a couple incredible infographics I use with my students to help illustrate the history behind the Voting Rights Act and where we are today with regard to voting rights. I developed a lesson plan around these infographics. In addition, I have a mock voter registration activity planned for later this week.

In addition, we are working on our "Civil Rights Road Trip" projects and I still need to allow time for my kids to work on their final project, a "Positive-Negative Timeline of Tolerance and Intolerance."

Still, I wanted to do something special for MLK Day next Monday. After thinking about a meaningful activity I could infuse into my prepared lesson, I decided to make some MLK quote analysis task Cards. Most of my students enjoy task cards. I put a lot of thought and time into developing cards with interesting and meaningful questions/tasks which most of my students seem to appreciate. In addition, many of the questions and tasks require kids to get out of their seats and talk to one another. Most kids like that as well.

I use task cards in many different ways. My favorite way to use them is to laminate the cards and give each student one sheet (which contains four different task cards). I let my kids choose two or three questions/tasks from each card to answer/complete. I often give my kids post-its to write their responses on or dry-erase markers so they can write their answers on the back of the task cards. (Even high school kids LOVE writing on colorful post-its and they LOVE using dry-erase markers!)

I created 28 different task cards. Check them out here:

Download my Positive-Negative Timeline Project (for FREE!) here:

I wrote a description of the project for Teaching Tolerance Magazine. Read my about the project here: