Inspiration 2: Internment Camps
Posted by newbie-tchr at 4:44 pm in 1

For the second change to my curriculum, I was inspired by a new WWII book I’m reading called “The Great Escape,” a novel that details the plight of British and American POW’s in German camps.

Often when people teach about WWII, we discuss Japanese internment camps in a brief, cursory manner. What I wanted to do instead was to spend a day focusing on the experience of the Japanese-American citizens in the camps, before having students debate in assigned roles whether or not the government should have the right to do such a thing.

For the resources I would use to have kids get a closer look at life in the internment camps, I plan on having a few computers set up with the following websites up: The first is a site from the National Park Service that looks at the experiences in certain “relocation centers.” The second is a gallery of photos taken by the famous Ansel Adams that document the experience, and the third is a site from PBS that has many primary sources, including Executive order 9066 and the history of what happened in 1988 when victims were issued apology and reparations.

After students have had time to explore all the sites, most likely accompanied by some self-made graphic organizers, I plan on having a discussion on whether or not the government should be allowed to put citizens in internment camps, and what sorts of things can/if ever it can be justified.

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Inspiration 1: Examining Slavery
Posted by newbie-tchr at 9:08 am in 1

My curriculum was rewritten recently, so that 7th grade teachers now start with Reconstruction versus just after. As such, I thought that slavery – the reason for a lot of Reconstruction laws, would be a good place to start.

In order to give students a better grasp of what slavery was like, I intend on treating slave songs as primary sources that students will analyze to see what the system was like, or how slaves in particular felt about it. I found some great songs to use, here and here. My plan is to create three different rotation centers, two using the PBS website with students listening to different songs & the third to have printed paper copies of songs from the first. Students will analyze the sources using APPARTS & then the class will come together to share answers and discuss what their impression of slavery is.

While a short activity (probably one 43 minute class) I think it has the potential to teach students what life was like prior to the Civil War, and why the Reconstruction government attempted to drastically change it. Not to mention that it’s a textbook free way of looking history:)

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New focus for July!
Posted by newbie-tchr at 1:18 pm in 1

I’ll be the first to admit – I’ve been embarrassingly bad about keeping up with the blog over the past month. School ended, got married, went on a honeymoon – who knew those things could take up so much time? But, I’m back & thanks to the all the reading I was able to get done ocean-side last week, I’ve got a new focus!

One particular book that I read inspired me – Lies my Teacher Told Me, by James Loewen. I know I’m a few years behind the times, but the book had some really great points that I intend to incorporate in my classroom this fall. (The focus of the book is going beyond textbooks, and teaching students real American history versus the watered down, slightly incorrect version they normally get.

So, for the rest of July I will focus on activities, lesson plans, resources that I can incorporate in my teaching to better teach students accurate history! Should make things wonderfully easy come fall:)

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End of the Year Madness
Posted by newbie-tchr at 12:56 pm in 1

As of right now I’m experiencing my first end-of-the-year as a teacher, (my school goes until the 22nd – eek!) and it is MADNESS. It’s as though every parent got the notion to email me in the same day, their kids are turning in late work left and right, and wondering what they can do to “help their grade.”

Not to mention that on a personal note – I’m getting married in 18 days, so the stress level is already at a super fun high.

I’m glad the kids care about their grades, but why do parents insist on not getting involved til the last minute? Why care now? Why not care three months ago when your kid was failing tests and you could have actually done something? It drives me nuts. But I think the real crazy thing is when parents helicopter in on kids who already have A’s – so they can get higher A’s. Are you serious? Am I the only person who realizes that the number grade never matters after this school year, it’s only the letters high schools and colleges look at? Not to mention that’s the definition of asinine. and overkill. and obnoxious.

I’m also left wondering where on earth I’m supposed to store my stuff over the summer. The school makes everyone take their stuff down over the summer, and I’m not 100% certain where it’s all supposed to go while I’m waiting to start working again. The bright side is that I’ll be working in this same classroom next year – yay for getting hired! The downside is that I have a little apartment with not a lot of room for lamps, plants, and posters of Rosie the Riveter. Suggestions?

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Cute student/teacher moment
Posted by newbie-tchr at 8:43 pm in 1

So at my school they have this really cute pen pals program, where kids in a computer skills class are assigned pen pals among the staff members. Luckily, the program started in March so I was able to be there in time to participate – and I have to say it’s the cutest thing ever.

I got two little pen pals, one boy and one girl, and every week they write me letters telling my about their home lives & asking me questions about my puppy, spring break, etc. Well today was the culmination of that project, and the kids got to interview their pen pals in person with some few final questions.

What I really liked about this whole thing was getting to know these kids better, and the conversations that started from our interview. The one girl who had me is one of my secret favorite kids, just because she works so hard in my class – not to mention she’s just a likable kid. Her letters were especially revealing – I learned that she and all her siblings are adopted from different orphanages in Russia, and that we both have a love for pitbulls. (I’m a sucker for underdogs) But the best part about just her letters was how it made her noticeably more  comfortable in class. She even brought in pictures of her pitbulls for our in-person interview today so we could share about it! So cute – I love 7th graders.

Getting back to the interviews – the process of getting to sit one on one with the kids was again revealing and really nice to get a chance to talk individually with them. (Something that doesn’t happen much when you have 135 students) It did get me thinking though – this could be a really great year long history project, if I had kids write to family members, or maybe even veterans – if I could tie it into first hand accounts, or primary sources. Not to mention that I wish someone had made me have this kind of communication with older family members when I was in 7th grade. It’s still in the works, but it’s something that has a lot of potential, and I think would be really cool to do.

So the question is – has anyone done something like this? Successful, or unsuccessful!

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IEP part Dos
Posted by newbie-tchr at 12:49 pm in 1

Last post I talked about the IEP meeting I was excited to go to – and after being delayed three times, we finally had it today. Woohoo! Keeping in tradition with how everything has been has been handled with this poor kid – it went horrible

First off, the teachers, SPED instructor, case manager, parent & child all meet in the conference room. And who should be 20 minutes late? The translator – because he’s not important or anything. After sending two people out to get him, the case manager attempted to start the meeting having the child translate for the mom when no one was returning with translator in tow.

While we really didn’t have much else to do without him, the mom was understandably irritated & I couldnt help think the entire time what a bad message we were sending the student and the parent. Walking away from that meeting, (which ended up lasting only ten minutes once the translator came) I felt like the attitude the school had the entire time was “why can’t you just speak English.” Yes, it was difficult, but between the tardiness and the frustration seen in the staff, how could the mom or student walk away feeling like something positive happened?

I don’t normally complain a lot, but what’s frustrating me so much in this situation is that this is a girl who both needs and wants special ed services. Yet, the school does nothing to help her out. In fact, they go out of their way to do nothing. Yet there are other kids who are lucky enough to have parents who can advocate them, and despite the fact that the kids are apathetic and don’t want help – we have to pull out every stop. It just gets so frustrating to see good kids miss out on advantages they’re entitled to because their parents don’t know how to manipulate the system.

It just gets so aggravating, and I’m still not sure what I can do about it.

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IEP Madness
Posted by newbie-tchr at 3:12 pm in 1

I’ve yet to figure out if it’s an end-of-the-year thing, or just a 7th grade thing, but the IEP’s seem to be piling up lately. With in the next week or two, I’ve got three meetings with different students. So far I’ve volunteered for those that I could go to, partially because I want a chance to meet the parents, and partially cause I think it’s nice to hear if other teachers are seeing the same thing I am.

The one that I’m most eager about is on Friday, and it’s for one of my favorite students – which actually isn’t the only reason I want to go. The reason I’m so eager to go is because I personally think the school’s been ignoring the girl’s needs all year, and she needs an advocate. Apparently in her IEP it states that she has a read-aloud requirement for tests, assessments, etc…but for some reason, no one notified any of the teachers. It was only after I started to ask around about her poor test scores that it came to light.

The only reason it really bothers me is because there are plenty of students who have parents that are constantly arguing for their kids, and this poor girls’ parents don’t understand that they have the ability to. So, my hope is that by going to this meeting, I can at least help make sure that someone is there looking out for her best interests.

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8 weeks left!
Posted by newbie-tchr at 8:53 pm in 1

The end of the year is coming up, which means that the SOL’s are too. Because of the constant test prep, the laptops and computer labs have been claimed for the next month. Tragically for this blog, that means my technology finds for the next month will be restricted to those I can use on my laptop alone.

On the bright side, maybe this means I’ll find some realllllly creative ways to incorporate technology into my classroom.

On a side note, why in the Lord’s name are state SOL’s so much earlier than the end of the school year? There’s almost a full month between the SOL’s and the end of the school year, which means that unless I hear otherwise, hope my kids are prepared to learn about a unit called “random things I find interesting that there wasn’t time for during the school year.” Unit full of US history conspiracies and oddities – YUP. This girl’s pretty excited.

Quickly before I go – used this site for some fantastic lesson plans about the Civil Rights movement, check it out!

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Thank you Spring Break:)
Posted by newbie-tchr at 1:25 pm in 1

This past week was Spring Break, and I could not think of two better sounding words in the English language. A week off was awesome, and was just long enough that I was excited to come back, versus the dread you sometimes feel after a short three day weekend.

Besides mooning over spring break, I did want to share an activity that I did right before the break, reviewing some history figures that my great state has determined children need to know about.My dilemna during my “postWWII culture” unit was that the state required my students to know about Ray kroc, the original franchiser of McDonalds, and not topics that I thought were more valuable, like say – Watergate, Iranian Hostage Crisis, Women’s Liberation Movement, etc.

My solution was to shove Mr. Kroc and some other less than stellar historical characters picked by the State standards to exist in a homework assignment/game, so that I could spend more time on topics I thought were more important. I’m attaching two different versions of the assignment, differentiated for different levels, and the review game we used on the due date. (I gave the kids 4 or 5 days to do this)The review game is a history-fied version of my all-time favorite board game – Taboo. Simply divide the class into boys v. girls, and have them play “taboo” projecting the names on to a white board that only the groups can see. Flipping back and forth between boys and girls, give each team 30 seconds to get their representative (who is turned so they can’t see the projector) to say the name. The catch is that in each level, it gets harder, with an increase in words they can’t say – just like the real taboo! My template is incredibly simple, but the idea can be recreated to span any unit in history. It gets a bit loud – but the kids definitely loved it!

My Supplies:

1.  The “harder” version I used for the Gifted and Talented classes…this one requires access to a computer at home, so I gave enough time for the assignment so they could work at school if

2. The “easier” version I gave to my gen-ed kids, less challenging BUT it focuses on the more difficult information…academic-guess-who.doc

3. The PowerPoint game we played during class on the day it was due…VERY simple outline, but easily edited!taboo.ppt

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Behavior Management Refresher
Posted by newbie-tchr at 1:05 pm in 1

Every week, the Principal sends out an article to the staff about some method or finding in education to keep us up to date, which I think is a really nice way to 1) remind me to look at new ideas and 2) give me something to do while the kids are taking exams. The other week he sent us one that encouraged teachers to simply talk more with students, in the hopes of developing a more open relationship.

The article was good, and with some extra time to kill (I know, a rarity) I figured I’d give it a try. WELL, I will definitely say I have a more “open” relationship with some of my students…but I’m wondering if these kind of strategies were developed with 7th graders in mind.

Things I now know about my students…some hilariously bad, some very cute and good:

1. A few enjoy lighting things on fire in mall parking lots…oh joy

2. A girl who seems to be failing all her classes may be doing so because she hangs out in parking lots checking out “skater boys” all weekend

3. One child is a tennis pro who just got featured in the local newspaper. (he ended up bringing the article in and it’s now hanging up in the classroom!)

4. One student runs a babysitting business…major flashbacks to reading babysitters club books on that one

5. Another kid literally plays 20 hours of video games a weekend. 20 HOURS!

6. A few now watch the History Channel because they think it’s more interesting…this warmed my little nerd heart.

7. I was apparently the only middle schooler not allowed to watch rated R movies…because it seems like ALL of them do it now, and quite frequently.

Although it does take time, all in all, I’d say the experiment was a success. The best part about it was that after I asked once, the kids have continued to talk more openly to me, and I can definitely notice a greater sense of community. Excluding a new fear of parking my car in mall parking lots where they hang out – success.

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