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!