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This post originally appeared on the blog Social Studies Success.

Do something different for Black History Month this year. Create a Prop Box Play on the contributions of different African Americans in U.S. History. My students love bringing history to life with plays and skits – and a Prop Box Play adds the structure you need for group work to actually work!
 
 
Follow these easy steps for your Prop Box Play:
 
Set up your prop box. This is an easy step! Run around your house and throw different items in a box! I have used leftover tissue paper from Christmas, ribbon, yarn from an old project, and some ugly scarfs that I never wear. Of course, you will need the standard classroom supplies such as glue, a stapler and markers. Just give your kids plenty of materials and opportunities to be creative.
 
 
Create your groups. You will need to create groups of four for your students. I hardly ever let my students choose their groups – too many opportunities for distraction! Each student in the group will have a different role DirectorScriptwriterHistorical Consultant or Prop Master. These are clearly defined roles and they allow you to monitor the group’s progress.
 

Choose your topics and set up your folders
. Each folder will need to include the step by step instructions for a Prop Box Play, a checkoff sheet, a rubric, and a reading passage. I used Black History Month passages from The Sweetest Thing on TpT. To add a little extra spice, I printed up Black History Month Clip Art from Drawings with John – beautiful! 
Setting up folders before the activity will allow your students to focus on what is important.

Give your students TIME! 
They will need to research their topics, create their script and props, and rehearse their play.
 
 
Look at all of the creative ideas this group had for props!
 

Sojourner Truth’s children! So cute! Research time!


ENJOY your kids’ creativity! This is your opportunity to let your kids shine – consider videotaping their performance to show parents or other students. Use a rubric for easy grading and feedback to each group.

Prop Box Play on Jackie Robinson. Prop Box Play on Sojourner Truth. My favorite of the day – Prop Box Play on George Washington Carver.

Thank you so much to the teachers in Alief ISD who allowed me to use their pictures for my blog! I really enjoyed my day in our training! If you try a Prop Box Play Let me know how they worked for you. For more engaging activities for Black History Month, try my Black History Month Lap Book. Your students will research and create a Lap Book featuring different leaders in Black History. 

I have been serving in the education field for over 25 years. I started teaching in 1993 as a 7th and 8th grade history teacher. After 13 years in the classroom, I transitioned into the role of an instructional coach based on a high school campus. This window into other teachers’ classrooms motivated my inner calling to improve Social Studies instruction. I realized how important front line education is to changing the way students react to and learn from the important life lessons Social Studies has to share. After working as a central office Social Studies Coordinator, I created Social Studies Success. I provide professional development, consulting services, and resources to Social Studies teachers. Social media has intensified my efforts to share best practices by allowing me to share ideas and teaching strategies around the globe. I want every child to understand the importance of Social Studies in their life – and every teacher to have the tools to reach them.

Visit her TpT store 

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Looking for some new ways to engage your middle and high school students? You’ve come to the right place. This week, our round-up showcases fantastic resources on the Oregon Trail, the scientific method, physical science, and functional math. You’ll also find resources for your classroom including an essay revision station, a new writing strategy, bell ringers, and more. Half of the resources are free!

DAILY BELL RINGERS FREEBIE: Growth Mindset Writing Prompts For Any Subject by Mister Harms It’s FREE! “This set of Bell Ringers will get your students thinking critically and keep the classroom engaging.”
Oregon Trail Simulation: Interactive Social Studies Game & Journaling Activity by Mister Harms “The Oregon Trail Simulation is such a fun way to experience the excitements and horrors during the westward expansion era of U.S. History. Through teamwork and journaling, students will compete with other wagons for survival in their westward adventure to Oregon City!”
Scientific Method Seek and Find Science Doodle Page by EzPz-Science It’s FREE! “Seek and Find Science is a fun and engaging way to introduce or review science content.”
Physical Science Escape Room Bundle by EzPz-Science “EzPz Science Escape Rooms are a fun and dynamic way to review science content while students practice real-world skills such as collaboration and communication.”
Revision Stations for any Essay by Read it Write it Learn it It’s FREE! “Revision stations will revolutionize the way your students revise their writing. With six stations focused on different skills and both peer and teacher conferences, students will have the tools they need to produce strong writing, and you will have the time to conference with all of your students!”
Escape Room Bundle: Poetry, Close Reading and Multiple Choice, Literary Devices by Read it Write it Learn it “This escape room bundle will get your students on their feet, engaged, and learning important ELA skills. This bundle includes all the ELA escape rooms you need: a poetry escape room, a literary devices escape room, and a close reading and multiple choice escape room that is perfect for preparing students for the standardized testing season!”
Writing with the RACE Strategy FREE by Read Relevant It’s FREE! “This resource helps students practice writing a text-based, short response question using the RACE Strategy.”
Reading Comprehension and Writing with the RACE Strategy: Passages and Questions by Read Relevant “This packet provides practice with high-interest passages in the areas of reading comprehension and writing short-responses.”
Valentine’s Day Dollar More Worksheets Freebie by The Autism Vault It’s FREE! “Rounding up to the nearest dollar is an easy way to teach paying with bills.”
Functional Money Math Interactive Books Growing Bundle by The Autism Vault “Functional money skills are super important to teach our special education student. Adapted books make it more fun!”
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This post originally appeared on the blog Always A Lesson.

There is a myth in education that states teachers can just shut their doors and teach, neglecting everything else happening outside their classroom. That approach might have worked in the past, but in today’s classrooms and schools, it just isn’t practical (and definitely not an appreciated practice).

In an elementary setting, it often can be easier for teachers to run the show from start to finish since they have the same kids from morning to afternoon and from September to June. However, as kids get older and begin transitioning from classroom to classroom and teacher to teacher, isolated practices like ‘shut your door and teach’ isn’t in the best interest of the student. There are too many variables for a student’s learning success, and all stakeholders need to work together to make it happen.

But there lies the myth. In elementary classrooms, it is just as important that colleagues work together to ensure “all our kids” reach success. Just because students don’t change classrooms or teachers does not mean educators can shut each other out. That is the first step to stunting your own growth as a teacher and that choice has a devastating effect on student progress, both in the classroom and out. New teachers succumb to the myth of “shut your door and teach” because there is so much to learn about the art of teaching that they cannot even fathom adding anything more to their plate, such as building relationships with colleagues. Some new teachers have the benefit of a mentor or veteran teacher that they go to for help, but that relationship is often only going one way (receive, receive, receive).

Collaboration with colleagues has many benefits to the student, teacher, and school overall. However, shutting classroom doors to “do your own thing” ensures collaboration becomes extinct in and around the school building. That one choice guarantees zero benefits result for the student, teacher, and other school members.

The secret to building successful relationships and collaborating with colleagues is this:

1. Be available. A closed door or mind is not welcoming to passersby. Open up your classroom door and your mind so that you can be perceived as an approachable individual.

2. Be open to new ideas and perspectives. Make the decision daily that new ideas and perspectives can enhance your ability to teach and therefore you will appreciate any new thoughts you hear from your peers during the day.

3. Give and receive. Relationships require a give-and-take song and dance. Collaboration is stunted when an individual performs the same part of the relationship over and over. It is important to be on both sides of the coin, giving to help others as well as receiving for your own benefit.

4. Model collaboration for students. Students are always watching. They should see their teacher chatting with colleagues about instruction, getting excited to try new approaches, encouraging one another to do a great job, celebrating new territory explored, etc. Teamwork is easy to replicate when students see it in action from professionals- their teachers.

5. Share stories, examples, and research. Help your colleagues see the benefits in your own teaching journey by sharing stories of how collaboration has shifted your practices and impacted student achievement. Get personal with specific examples as well as share the latest research you uncovered. Collaboration will spread when it seems relatable.

6. Move beyond your geographical location. A colleague doesn’t have to be a person in your school building. It can be an educator miles away geographically, but with just a quick text, phone call or social media message they are near when it counts. Connect with other amazing educators around the world to better your practices.

The secret as you can see is not a one-size-fits-all approach or a simple recipe to follow for guaranteed success. It is, however, a shift in mindset with immense impact on the daily work of a teacher, professionally and personally. The steps listed above cannot occur without that mind shift; therefore, the secret is to shape our notions and thoughts about collaborating with colleagues so that when we apply the steps mentioned above, we learn, grow and reach our own potential for the benefit of our students. Educators are the most flexible people on the planet, so it is no wonder changing a mindset would be easy for them too! 

***

Gretchen is a teacher trainer and educational consultant with a decade of experience as an elementary educator in both urban and suburban environments located in Charlotte, NC. She holds a master’s degree in Curriculum and Supervision and earned her National Board Certification as an Early Childhood Generalist in 2012. Empowering students to think deeply and work independently was the goal of her work in the classroom. Gretchen later took those same goals and utilized them to cultivate instructional talent in new teachers to impact the city’s neediest student populations. Always A Lesson is Gretchen’s educational blog where she originally shared her classroom experience, but has since taken this blog and turned it into a website that features webinars, educational resources and a podcast to empower educators. She looks forward to learning and leading with other educators.

You can connect with Gretchen here:

Email: gretchen@alwaysalesson.com
Blog: Always A Lesson
Facebook: Always A Lesson
Twitter: @gschultek
Instagram: @always.a.lesson
Teachers Pay Teachers: Always A Lesson
iTunes Podcast: Always A Lesson’s Empowering Educators Podcast

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This post originally appeared on the blog Look Between the Lines.

A few years ago I began teaching a painting class, after taking a a three year break to focus on ceramics and sculpture. While I loved teaching 3D art, I was excited to move back to the two dimensional world. I always loved painting. and couldn’t wait to teach a course that focused on it. However, in order to teach a well rounded painting course, I knew I would have to teach watercolor. And I hated watercolor. My mom is an amazing watercolorist. Not only was she an amazing watercolorist, she was also an amazing portrait artist. Two skills that I am not naturally gifted at. Growing up, I remember a number of times when my mom attempted to teach me watercolor techniques. Despite her many tips and suggestions, I was impatient and couldn’t wrap my head around the need to plan ahead and work in layers. At the point when I took over the painting and advanced 2D courses and realized I would have to teach an advanced level watercolor project, I had yet to create a successful watercolor painting. It was time. I was going to have to learn to properly paint with watercolors, because I was about to have to teach it. I started with the basics. I needed to plan ahead and pace myself. I knew from experience if you went too heavy too quick, you could never get back to whites and lighter colors. Watercolor is about glazing, adding thin layers on top of each other, and letting the layers dry in between, to create detail, depth, and build in shadows. I began doing watercolor testers. First, just blobs of wet on wet, dry brush, and adding other material such as salt. I watched YouTube videos and checked out a few watercolor books. Next, I began combining the techniques to create simple landscapes. The above path started with wet watercolor, allowing the first layer to dry, then adding in dark shades. I left lighter areas untouched, and tried not to go too heavy too quick. The final layers involved adding the detail such as the grass. I didn’t shy away from incorporating other colors, such as blue and purple, into the shadows.

I continued to work with combining techniques, planning ahead, and building my color in layers. I had my mom once again show me her techniques, and began thinking and applying them in a different way than I had before. I realized at heart, I am an oil painter. I like to throw down color, mix it together, and cover up mistakes as I go. You don’t have the luxury of that with watercolor. You must plan ahead. You must work slow. You must think highlights vs. shadows before you lay them down. I had to change the way I thought about painting in order to successfully complete a watercolor. For the example above, I tested wet on wet by wetting my paper first, then adding green, yellow, and blue watercolor. I allowed the first layer to dry, then added brown and more blue to push my shadows and value. I then used a mostly dry brush and painted in a floral shape.
Once I felt confident in the watercolor techniques I was testing, I decided it was time to start my project example. The assignment was for my Advanced 2D art class, the last step before AP Art. They had to select a part of our school’s campus to turn into a watercolor painting. They could go inside, outside, it was up to them, but it had to have some sort of architectural feature in it. This assignment forced them to go out and take pictures to work from, making them consider angles, framing, and composition. It required them to focus on perspective and lines, with the architectural element. And it also focused on honing their watercolor techniques to create a realistic image. Although they were focusing on a section of the school, I encouraged them to think about what part of the school was important to them. Where was their favorite class? Where did they spend the most time? What space best reflected their view of the school?

While I focused on our school for this project, it’s also a great opportunity to have students think personally, and bring in a photograph of a place that is important to them. For my example, I did not focus on a section of the school. Instead, I opted to kill two birds with one stone, complete an example and create a wedding present for my brother-in-law and his wife. I chose an image of their wedding venue, a beautiful southern house called Magnolia Plantation in Charleston, SC. There are two ways I like to do my examples. The first is to complete them before my class starts the assignment to make sure I like it and it will be successful. The other way is to do it along with them. I chose option B for this project, which was scary since I was not confident in my watercolor ability. The benefit of working on my painting along with my students is I can tell them what issues I come across as I work through them. It also allows me to continue demonstrating techniques throughout the project. And although I wasn’t very confident in my watercolor painting abilities, it showed them that I could do it. I kept telling them if I could do it, they absolutely could as well.

Before I introduced the watercolor project, I completed my base drawing. I used pencil, then went ahead and traced over the lines using a waterproof pen. I kept the ink lines tight in sections I knew would be in full view, and loosened up in the areas that would have foliage overlapping it. I at least wanted to base drawing to be complete, so when I introduced the project I could go ahead and demonstrate some watercolor techniques. Next, I began painting. First of all, I apologize for the huge jump from zero paint to 75% complete. I always intend to photograph throughout the process, but I often get caught up in what I am doing. I started with the sky, using wet on wet and blotting out the clouds. Next, I went into the roof and walls of the building using a combination of wet on wet, dry brush, and adding salt for texture. I then continued adding details and blocking out color for the background. As I continued to add detail, I slowly built up the shadows and was very careful not to go too dark too quick. I constantly told my students they could always go darker, but couldn’t go lighter. They were going to paint the painting at least four times through the layering technique.

The final touches came with the trees and bushes that overlapped the front of the building and were the darkest color. I then went back in with pen and added more lines as needed. I was very pleased with the final product and with myself for pushing out of my comfort zone by tackling a medium I had never liked before. Since this painting was completed, I have done a number of other landscape and architecture watercolor paintings. I have a new found love for it, and although it will never be my first choice, it isn’t one I will shy away from anymore. I matted and framed the painting for them as a Christmas gift. I hope they cherish is for years to come. My students’ painting also turned out beautifully. I love putting the campus painting on display in the school. It gives the faculty, administrators, and student body a chance to see their school in a different light. It’s always interesting to see what part of the school they choose to focus on. Megan and Vince were married in gardens right next to the plantation home. It was beautiful with the Spanish moss and pond as a backdrop to the beautiful wedding party, bride, and groom. The reception took place on the porch of the house. It was an amazing day from start to finish. This was a picture of my husband, brother-in-law, sister-in-law, niece and myself during the wedding weekend. It was so much fun celebrating with the Panetta family and witnessing Vince and Megan’s commitment to each other. Nick and I also announced the coming of our first baby the same weekend, who is now a two-year-old wild man Cooper.

Thanks for taking the time to check out my blog! You can find the lesson plan and all the resources I use to teach this watercolor project at my TpT store here. I have also created watercolor how to posters here and here. Also check out different ways I use watercolor in my visual journal here and here. Help me spread the word by sharing this post on your social media site of choice. Thanks for stopping by.  

***

As a daughter of a 30+ year elementary art teacher, I believe I was destined (and raised) to be an art teacher. I am in my ninth year teaching high school art, and have loved the journey of being an educator so far. Over the course of my nine year teaching career, I have had the opportunity to teach all aspects of art from intro to ceramics and sculpture to 2D AP Art. In my spare time, I love to create mixed media works of art and participating in festivals in the Atlanta area. I began dabbling in Teachers Pay Teachers almost four years ago, and have found more joy than I expected in running my own business. In addition to teaching, TpTing, and making my own art, I am a mother of two, wife, and dog and chicken owner. Learn more about my projects and life by following me on InstagramFacebook, or checking out my blog.  
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This post originally appeared on the blog Frogs, Fairies, and Lesson Plans

_________________________________________________
Disclaimer: All of the ideas in this post come from the bottom of my heart. If any portion of this post is offensive to anyone, please forgive me, and educate me so I can do things better. My email is frogsfairiesandlessonplans@gmail.com, and I do want to hear from you.
Thank you.
Adriana Leikind
_________________________________________________

If you are getting ready to teach your students about Harriet Tubman for the first time, or if you are a veteran looking to add to your repertoire of ideas, this post is for you!

Here are my teacher-tested ideas that will help you plan quick and engaging lessons for your kids!

1. Set up the Stage!
A few days before you start your Harriet Tubman unit, prepare your classroom and your students for it.

  • Create the background of a bulletin board, but leave the “meat” of it empty to create curiosity. Add to the board as you teach the unit!
  • Start telling your kids a little about Harriet Tubman’s character traits, the hard times that she lived in, and how she saved the lives of so many people. When you finally teach the lesson, your students will be eager to learn more about her!
Here are some creative bulletin boards that I found on Pinterest. 
 
Found on Pinterest.
Found on Pinterest.
Found on Pinterest. From Pittsylvania County Schools.
 

2. Create an Anchor Chart!
It doesn’t have to be pretty! Just make sure that you are ready to record all the new information that your students will learn in the next few days. 

One of the best ways I know to help students retain information is to create anchor charts together — and to use the writing/drawing on the chart to review what was previously learned.

You can do all the writing, or you can invite students to write on the chart!

3. Act it Out!
The best way to understand the Underground Railroad is to act it out! Move your furniture out of the way or go outside!

Give students the role of slaves running towards freedom, or the role of people who opened their homes to help them. Then switch roles so everyone has a turn to act out both parts.

  • The helping people work in pairs. They hold each other’s hands above their heads to form a little “house” in between them. They stay where they are and don’t move.
  • The slaves walk around and look for safe homes to hide in.
  • When the slaves “walk into a house”, the hands that were above the students’ heads come down to “hold” the slaves safely inside.
You can be the one telling students when it’s night time (so they are walking) and when it’s day time (so they are hiding).
 
Have kids walk a number of times and go through a number of homes, then switch!
 
Keep in Mind: This is always a delicate subject that is difficult to work with. No matter how you teach this lesson or do this activity, please be mindful of everyone’s feelings about the matter, and be thoughtful about how you distribute roles. I usually split my class in half and assign roles to each half. 
 
And if you are not completely comfortable, skip this activity altogether!
 
4. Pencil to paper!
Once your students have a good understanding about Harriet Tubman, have them write about her! A simple piece of paper with space for an illustration will do. Or you can give them a little more support with a graphic organizer like this one:
  • First, students write the facts they feel are most important in each box of the graphic organizer. They can use your anchor chart, or do it in groups with each other’s help.
  • Then, using the organizer, they write a paragraph with the information they learned.
Find it here.
 
5.Get Crafty!
You will be pleasantly surprised to know that there is ZERO prep for this idea!  I literally just give my students sheets of construction paper and tell them to make Harriet Tubman. 

I LOVE the different versions that my students created!

If you want to add their writing to the project, here are the directions:

  • Take the large, black sheet of construction paper and fold it in half.
  • Use the other construction paper on the table to make Harriet Tubman on ONE SIDE of the large sheet you just folded.
  • Glue your writing to the other side of the paper.
And there you have it!
 
If you’re looking for more resources and activities to do with your students, I offer a Harriet Tubman packet in my TpT store. In it you will find graphic organizers, writing activities, booklets with her biography, and an assessment for the end of your unit. I have a detailed preview to show you what’s inside. It’s worth taking a look!
 
Available from TpT.
 

***

Adriana Leikind, from Frogs, Fairies, and Lesson Plans has 20 years of experience teaching early elementary grades. She believes that establishing a good rapport with her students and developing a strong sense of community are key steps for a successful school year. 
 
Adriana feels that it’s important to meet students where they are and to challenge them to grow further. Her students enjoy her warm and welcoming teaching style, and know that they are expected to always do their very best every single day. Adriana creates resources that reflect her teaching style. They are fun and engaging, easy to use with a variety of levels, but rigorous and challenging at the same time.
 
Besides creating resources, Adriana blogs at http://www.frogsfairiesandlessonplans.com  In her posts, she shares her tried and true tips for teaching a variety of topics. You can also connect with her on Facebook at here.
 
Adriana lives in Georgia with her husband and two daughters. She loves dancing, baking, and listening to podcasts.
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This post originally appeared on the blog Mrs Beers: A Language Arts Classroom.

When I think back to the beginning of my teaching career, which began in August of 1998, while I was an enthusiastic college grad, fresh from an enriching student-teaching experience, seemingly ready to take on a classroom of well-behaved and on-level students, I truly knew nothing!

I began my career teaching 5th grade at a small Catholic school in an urban community. Most students were not Catholic, but parents scraped by, struggling to afford the tuition because it was a better option than the local public school. The pay was abysmal, and I had to bartend three nights a week in order to pay rent, my car payment, and have the tools my students needed to learn. We didn’t have a book room, so the books I wanted my students to read were selected on Fridays from our small school library, brought in with my teacher collection card from our community public library, or purchased by me.

I couldn’t tell you what level my students were reading or anything about their fluency, but I loved that crew fiercely and made sure they always had books in their hands. I remember going to Barnes & Noble to purchase multiple copies of Frindle by Andrew Clements and Wringer by Jerry Spinelli and whipping up handwritten and word processed novel units to teach these books.

In 1998, I put little thought into the fact that the characters in these books I was teaching were white, middle class boys yet I was teaching black, working class children. In 2018, I know better, so I do better for my students.

Take a quick assessment of your classroom library. As you peruse the titles and consider the characters and settings of the novels you are sharing with your students, do the books represent the lives of all young people? Can the students in your class find characters like themselves in the pages of the books on your shelves? Mine did not and so I have been far more aware and purposeful about the books that I teach, add to my classroom library, and encourage my students to independently read.

If you are looking for books to read, teach, and add to your classroom library, here are a few that I recommend you get your hands on ASAP…

#1: The Hate U Give by Angie Thomas

While the book is 444 pages, Angie Thomas captivates the reader with a riveting story about Starr, a sixteen year old girl from Garden Heights who has witnessed her friend’s death at the hands of a police officer. Starr lives a bit of a double life as she resides in the inner city with crime and gang violence, while attending a private school in the wealthy suburbs. When Starr is forced to testify, what she does or does not say can turn her community into a war zone. This quick read addresses issues of racism and police violence in a thought-provoking and honest way.

While I recommend this book for students 8th grade and up, I recommend every teacher read this book. Our students come to us from very different places and with a multitude of life experiences. Doing everything we can to connect and relate is essential to building connections and relationships with our students.

#2: I am Malala by Malala Yousafzai

I am certain I have said to both my own children and my students, “Do you realize what a gift you have being able to attend school?” No is the answer! Our kids struggle to fathom their good fortune because they have never been told they CAN’T attend school and could face death if they challenge the system.

Malala Yousafzai was only 10 years old when the Taliban took control of her region. “Women were banned from laughing out loud or wearing nail polish, and they were beaten or jailed for walking without a male family member.”

Malala was taught to stand up for what she believes, and she fought for her right to be educated. On October 9, 2012, she nearly lost her life when she was shot in the face while riding the bus on her way home from school. While no one expected her to survive, Malala is an international symbol of peaceful protest and the youngest ever Nobel Peace Prize winner.

Malala’s powerful story will amaze your students and encourage them to think beyond the walls of their own school and education.

#3: Esperanza Rising by Pam Munoz Ryan

I have had the good fortune of teaching a number of students who are immigrants. These students have not always been well-received in the community, and their life is hard. Language is a barrier and the transition can be overwhelming. I want my students to have empathy for one another’s life experiences and I want my students to see themselves in the pages of the books they are reading. While I am hopeful my students haven’t had to live through great tragedy to come to the U.S., I know their experience has not been easy.

In Esperanza Rising, Esperanza Ortega thought she’d always live with her family on their ranch, El Rancho de Las Rosas, in Mexico. Esperanza lived like she’d always have fancy dresses, a beautiful home, and servants. The death of Esperanza’s father and the fire that has been set to destroy the ranch forces Esperanza and Mama to flee to California during the Great Depression, and to settle in a camp for Mexican farm workers. Esperanza isn’t ready for the hard labor, financial struggles, or lack of acceptance from others she meets. When their new life is threatened, Esperanza must find a way to rise above her difficult circumstances and do what she can to support Mama.

I love sharing this story with my students because the theme is perseverance. We can tackle the unthinkable when we make the choice not to give up. If you are looking for a novel study to help you implement this diverse book, grab my Esperanza Rising Novel Unit for Grades 4-8.

#4: Maniac Magee by Jerry Spinelli

This book is one that I could teach my students year after year. We NEVER know what someone has experienced or might be going through. While tragedy impacts our students in various ways, it is essential that we look for the good and work to bring out the best in everyone.

Jeffrey Lional Magee might have had an easy life had his parents not died when their train plunged into the river, leaving him an orphan. After spending eight horrible years living with his arguing aunt and uncle, Jeffrey takes off running… and his legend begins. While on the run, Jeffrey quickly takes on the nickname Maniac, and becomes reknowned for his running, his inside the park “frog” homer, and his ability to untie any knot. By the end of the story Maniac will be remembered by your students as a boy who took care of others and crossed the color lines, helping a community that was racially divided.

Your students will laugh, cry, and cheer for Maniac. Grab my Maniac Magee Novel Unit for Grades 4-8.

#5: Bud, Not Buddy by Christopher Paul Curtis

“There comes a time when you’re losing a fight and it just doesn’t make sense to keep on fighting. It’s not that you’re bring a quitter, it’s just that you’ve got the sense to know when enough is enough.”

Bud is a 10-year-old orphan living at the “Home” in Flint, Michigan in 1936 after his mother passes away. His mother never told him who his father was, so Bud has dreamed of finding his father. It is after his horrible placement with the Amos family, that Bud takes off on the run in search of finding Herman E. Calloway, the man Bud believes to be his father. Your students will laugh out loud at the adventures of Bud Caldwell and cheer for him as he seeks to discover the fairy tale ending finding the father he has hoped for.

Grab my print and go Bud, Not Buddy Novel Unit for Grades 4-8.

While you may not have students by the names of Starr, Malala, Esperanza, Maniac, and Bud in your classroom, I am certain you have students who have shared in some of their life challenges and experiences. Read these books and share them with your students. If you are looking for more, stay tuned. Here is the list of books that I just received from my class’s Scholastic book order and I am in the process of reading…

Books on my nightstand:

  • 90 Miles to Havana by Enrique Flores-Galbis
  • The Hero Two Doors Down by Sharon Robinson
  • Ghost by Jason Reynolds
  • Patina by Jason Reynolds

When you are considering books to add to your literature circles and your classroom library, take a look at the students who surround you. What books can you share with them to better connect them to the characters and settings they can relate to, learn from, and grow with? Check them out of the library and share them.

Happy Reading!

***

Erin has spent 17 years in the classroom teaching 5th-8th grades. She has loved her time with upper elementary to middle school students. She has taught everything from reading intervention to science, but teaching reading and language arts is her passion. Erin began creating classroom resources to supplement the curriculum she was teaching. She focuses on creating emergency sub plans, high-interest novel units, readers’ theaters, and close reads to excite and engage even the hardest to reach learners.

Read about her classroom adventures on her blog 
Check out ideas she loves on Pinterest 
See her life in action on Instagram 
Follow updates and fun on Facebook 
Grab some of her classroom resources from her TpT store

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Start your February off right with some amazing resources from some amazing Teacher-Authors! This week, our round-up features activities for Black History Month including a flip book, drumming activity, and more. We also have long vowel task cards, writing for reading worksheets, pattern block activities, and brain break ideas. Half of the resources are free!

Black History Month Flip Book by Teaching Little Learners It’s FREE! “This is an excellent resource to supplement your lesson on Black History Month. Teach your students when, how, and why we celebrate Black History Month with this resource.”
Black History Month Books by Teaching Little Learners “These 13 books teach students about important African Americans throughout history. Includes two versions to meet the reading and comprehension levels of your students.”
Master Note Reader Editable Reward Cards by Floating Down the River It’s FREE! “This is a fantastic way to motivate students to read notes in preparation for starting the recorder or another instrument. My students absolutely love earning this master note reader card.”
Martin Luther King Jr. Drumming and Writing by Floating Down the River “Students love getting out drums, bucket drums, or even using body percussion while reviewing or learning rhythms at the same time. This also doubles as a social studies pack because it teaches about black history and Martin Luther King, Jr.”
Long Vowel Review QR Code Task Cards Freebie by The Class Couple It’s FREE! “Phonics QR codes increase student engagement while applying phonics skills. These codes can be used as a scan the room activity where students can work together to discuss the words, or as a center activity where the teacher spirals the phonics skill.”
Long Vowel QR Code Task Card Bundle by The Class Couple “Phonics QR codes increase student engagement while applying phonics skills. These codes can be used as a scan the room activity where students can work together to discuss the words, or as a center activity where the teacher spirals the phonics skill.”
Writing For Readers Writing Workshop Paper – Using Checklists! by Karen Langdon It’s FREE! “This resource teaches young writers how to use a rubric to self-assess and improve their writing and how to provide quality feedback to their peers. Students learn to use punctuation, spaces between words, lowercase letters (except in specific situations), and word wall words correctly. Having checklists right on student writing paper keeps expectations at the forefront of their minds as they work and helps teachers and students provide concrete and meaningful feedback.”
Behavior Clip Charts for Self Assessment of Learning and Emotions by Karen Langdon “This system takes the typical behavior clip chart and turns it on its head. Teachers normalize different types of learning feelings (pride in work, doing work even when interest is low, feeling focused, feeling distracted, feeling wiggly, etc.) and help children set goals to improve their own learning experiences. Teaching students to self-regulate in a positive way is a critical skill, and this resource helps students and teachers create an optimal learning environment.”
Pattern Blocks 100 Days of School Puzzles by A Thinker’s Toolbox It’s FREE! “Pattern block puzzles are a fun and creative way for your students to explore shapes and symmetry. Included in this FREEBIE are two (one easy and one hard) 100 Days of School Puzzles.”
Pattern Blocks Holidays Puzzles by A Thinker’s Toolbox “Pattern blocks are a fun and creative way for students to explore shapes and symmetry all year round. Included are 12 (six easy and six hard) puzzles that are holiday themed; Valentine’s Day heart, St. Patrick’s Day clover, Easter basket, Halloween pumpkin, Thanksgiving turkey, and Christmas tree.”
Why Are We Having a Lockdown Drill? by Carolyn Kisloski It’s FREE! “This book gently explains to children why having a lockdown drill is necessary in a positive way. Since each school has its own rules and procedures for a lockdown drill, this book doesn’t go into procedures, but only mentions the importance of the students being superhero listeners and being still and silent”
Dr. Jean’s Brain Cookies for Brain Breaks and Movement by Carolyn Kisloski “We all need brain breaks throughout the day! Dr. Jean and I put together over 90 favorite brain breaks to give your students a positive way to release energy and wiggles while reinforcing learning throughout each day.”
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The 100th day of school is just around the corner! How will you celebrate with your elementary students? Check out these fun-tastic resources for incorporating academics into the festivities. You’ll find writing ideas, craft projects, S.T.E.M. activities, and even a super-catchy “counting to 100” song. Here’s to a most fun and festive time of the year!

Math, Science, and Engineering, Oh My!

Make the 100th day of school spectacular for your students as they dive into the world of science, technology, engineering, and math (S.T.E.M.) as well!

“Welcome to the 10×10 Construction Company!” says Kinderbrations. “Your crew will love building their way to 100 with these engaging math, engineering, and technology ‘job sites’ (centers). Included are 12 different centers and activities to make your 100th day unforgettable!”

Calling all collectors! “Invite students to bring a collection of 100 small things from home. Don’t worry: A parent letter is included,” says Primary Delight. “Use these special collections to complete engaging math tasks (comparing weights and lengths, grouping, and more), and create a class book about the unique collections.” Here’s to 100 days!

More math, science, and engineering activities for your elementary students: Extra! Extra! Read (and Write) All About It!

Check out these fun and engaging activities for your budding readers and writers!

Sandra Naufal created this fun “roll a story” prompt for the 100th day of school. “It targets 2nd and 3rd grades, but can also be used with students a little older,” she says. “The ‘roll a story’ helps develop both oral and written communication skills. Story elements are ‘rolled’ using a number cube, which in turn are springboards for creative storytelling and writing.” How neat!

“Read 100 words on the 100th day of school! And create a crown to celebrate this accomplishment!” says 180 Days of Reading. This resource contains lots of fantastic ideas for the 100th day of school. Different levels are included to meet the needs of all of your learners.

Or how about celebrating with a 100th day of writing activity? This fun and engaging writing craftivity from Angelica’s Resources prompts “your students [to] come up with creative responses and drawings.” Afterwards, your class can “hang these 100th day pennants in the window, hall, or your classroom for others to enjoy! It’s a great keepsake for parents,” she says.

More ELA ideas:
  • A 100 Days Activity: I Can Find 100 (Dolch) Words – With resource that enforces reading, spelling, and writing, students search for words, say them, cross them out, and write them on their recording sheet. They also cross out a number underneath the word search to keep track of how many words they’ve found. A searching strategy poster is even included to teach or remind students how to conduct a word search in a logical and efficient way!
  • 100 Days of School Collaborative Writing {Editable} – Help your students create a collaborative book that parents will cherish! Because this resource is editable, you can add your own class name, school name, dedication name and can also provide your personal signature on the parent letter.
  • 100 Days of School Mini Book for Little Kids – What a fun activity and keepsake! This 10-page book (half pages) consists of four colored pages (including the cover) and six pages that are in black and white. A fun writing activity is included at the bottom of each page.
Let’s Get Crafty!

What will your 6, 7, 8, and 9-year olds look like when they’re 100? Let’s find out! “I’ve been doing this every year for almost 20 years and it is always the talk of the hallway,” says Howywood Kindergarten. “You can do it in the weeks leading up the 100th day so they’re hanging up in the hall as the big day approaches… or it’s always fun to do them on the actual 100th day as well.” The resource includes a brainstorming tree map, a “tracer” template, photos of real-life examples, and tried-and-true teacher tips to guide you through everything you’ll need to make this project a success!

Little hands will love coloring and cutting their way to magnificent creations for the 100th day of school! Discover 100th day of school dress up ideas as well, to let your students’ imaginations run wild!

“Soar into the 100th day with this fun, no-prep, fuss-free art project,” says Glitter Meets Glue Designs. “Promote creativity and independence in your classroom with an arts-integrated lesson. Simply print out the game and picture directions back-to-back, give students dice, and watch them have fun creating their own 100 days of school balloons.”

What’s a party without a party hat?! “Students love decorating and putting together this fun and easy craft to celebrate being 100 days brighter!” says Let’s Learn S’more.

Keep Your Chin Up’s students over the years loved celebrating the 100th day of school by wearing their 100th day hats! “They colored and cut out these hat templates, and then we all took a class photo wearing them.” Get cuter!

More ideas for your pint-sized Picassos:
  • 100th Day of School Activity: Collaborative Classroom Banner & Coloring Sheets (PreK, K, 1st, and 2nd grade) – Three cheers for collaboration! The banner contains 27 individual pieces that combine to produce a large, colorful classroom poster/banner and reads, “Celebrating 100 Days of School.” Each student gets to color one piece of the banner, and the end result is amazing! Don’t forget coloring sheets as an extra activity, too.
  • 100th Day of School Craft (PreK, K, 1st, 2nd, 3rd, 4th, 5th and 6th grade) – This shape-themed lantern craft is a creative way to decorate your room for 100th day of school. Your kids will follow directions and build their fine motor skills as they color, fold, glue, cut, and create!
  • 100th Day of School Activities : Crowns and Wristbands – 100th Day Craft (PreK, K, 1st, 2nd, 3rd, and 4th grade) – Low on time! Just print and go! These crowns and wristbands are all ready for your kiddos to wear with pride!
Look Who’s Blogging!

Be sure to check out these spectacular blog posts from fellow TpT’ers with great ideas for celebrating 100 days:

  • 100th Day of School Ideas for Kindergarten by Maria Gavin. Maria’s kindergarteners had a blast learning, counting and demonstrating their newly acquired knowledge of numbers and quantities up to 100. Her camera was never far from her throughout the day — here are some of the highlights!
  • How to Prepare for the 100th Day of School by Time 4 Kindergarten. This post is packed full of fun ideas to create a memorable 100th day of school for your students. Yummy snacks, festive crowns, decorative necklaces… bring on the fun!
  • 100 Days of School by Mrs. Beatties’s Classroom. This super-fun post rounds up some classroom-tested activities that your students are sure to love. Get ready to have fun with hundreds charts, glow wands, and more!
  • 100th Day Full of Memories by First Grade Roars. A parade (complete with 100th day headbands), fun center rotations, snacks in the shape of 100, storytime, and more! Check out all the excitement right here!

***
100 days of school is an exciting milestone that deserves to be celebrated. Here’s to your students reading, writing, counting, crafting, laughing, and learning their way through the rest of the year!

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This post originally appeared on the blog Gil Teach.

Teaching Shakespeare is truly the highlight of the school year for me. And it’s not only because I love the Bard so much that I’ve tattooed a favorite quote on my arm.  It’s also because whether I’m teaching my beloved unit on Twelfth Night or any other play, the Shakespeare unit is a highlight for my students as well. It wasn’t always that way, and I have learned a lot over the years about how not to teach the Bard.

These are my do’s and don’ts of teaching Shakespeare.

1. Don’t start with a PowerPoint about Shakespeare’s life and times. This is the kind of superficial knowledge that might sound good if a student is at a cocktail party some day, but it is not going to help them actually understand or appreciate a play. Having them sit passively and listen to information is also a great way to get students to turn off and tune out.

Instead, have students think about the issues from the inside out. I like to start every Shakespeare play with fictional prompts. I write down five to ten scenarios that will actually happen in the play. (So, for example, when we read Romeo and Juliet, I might write something like “A girl meets a boy she likes and her parents say that she can never see him again” or “A man’s best friend is killed and he vows to get revenge.”)  Then, students choose one to write from the point of view of any one character. When we get to that part of the play, it’s as if they are reunited with an old friend — they remember and understand what’s going on. As a result of starting each play this way, students realize that the issues and problems of the people living in Shakespeare’s plays are not that different from what they might face in their own lives.

2. Don’t assume that the movie version that looks most authentic is the best. In my teaching of Romeo and Juliet, I came across the 1968 version of the play. Yes, the hair and costumes are lovely, but the Franco Zeffirelli version also portrays Romeo and Juliet as romantic and beautifully tragic. Not really the message about suicide that I want to portray to my vulnerable teenage students. Similarly, the Mel Gibson version of Hamlet also has some great period-perfect looks, but I want to stay away from a version in which every female character is evil or weak.

Instead, give some of the more modern-looking adaptations a chance. I truly love the Baz Luhrmann version of Romeo and Juliet from 1996 (aka the Leo version). Yes, he takes more liberties with the plot, but he also creates a more comprehensive and thoughtful portrayal of the way that two teenagers rush into things and make lots of stupid mistakes that could be avoided. Kenneth Branagh’s version of Hamlet, while not visually perfect to the time period, is a much more rich portrayal of the play. I particularly like Kate Winslet’s Ophelia, who is not a weak girl by any stretch of the imagination.

3. Don’t explain what the play means. If at any time you find yourself lecturing to your classes about symbols, metaphors, or any other English-y thing, stop immediately. As Benjamin Franklin wisely said, the best way to make sure someone forgets something is to tell them about it.

Instead, let them figure it out on their own. I realized long ago the value of having students read and work through the text themselves —even a text as challenging as Shakespeare. I give them specific questions, and when needed, point to the specific lines where they can find what they need. But then I let them figure it out for themselves. My goals aren’t that they memorize my ideas about the play, but rather that they gain the skills and confidence to read and understand the play without me.

4. Don’t have students read the play out loud. I know that this is not a view shared by many teachers — and if you can pull off a student reading of the play, more power to you. But in my experience, a great way to kill the drama is to spend hours listening to teenagers drone through the reading when they don’t yet have any idea what they are saying.

Instead, let them read along to professional actors. I am a huge fan of the Arkangel recordings — they even have sound effects! I have found that when students listen to actors who actually understand what they are saying, they get a lot more out of the reading and actually have a pretty easy time comprehending. They know when something is sad or funny or shocking — just from the tone of the actors’ voices.  And learning to comprehend meaning through intonation is an important skill as well.

5. Don’t cover the play with discussion only. This is another mistake that I made for a long time. I love discussion — so that must mean that everyone else does, right? But this method of teaching leaves out a number of students who don’t learn this way.

Instead, give less extroverted students a chance to write about their ideas. I make a point to integrate freewrites or reading logs into every class plan. This is a great way to let students who don’t process out loud figure out what they think about an idea.

6. Don’t end with a boring essay on a yes or no question. If you have done all the work that it takes to get students to appreciate, understand, and enjoy a great work of art, the last thing you want to do is kill that experience with a boring essay that tasks them with going through the motions of making an argument. Essays like “Does Hamlet do the right thing when he kills his uncle?” or “How important is the setting to the play?” will kill students’ excitement pretty quickly. 

Instead, have students grapple with a small piece of the play in groups.  I like to have my classes end our unit on a Shakespeare play by completing a cooperative creative writing project in which they write a modern translation of a scene from the play, working together to translate as well as modernize the themes of the scene. It’s a great way to achieve my long-term goals for the unit: I want my students to feel confident enough to view or read a Shakespeare play on their own, without any hand holding from a teacher.

Of course, you will likely make many many mistakes as you teach a Shakespeare unit to your classes — it’s the only way that you’ll learn what works for you and your students. But taking note of what works and why will help you grow in teaching whatever you decide to tackle this year.

***

Christina Gil was a high-school English teacher for 16 years, but she recently left the classroom to follow a dream and move with her family to an ecovillage in rural Missouri. She blogs about empowering students to find their own answers at GilTeach.com.

She believes that analyzing a poem with 20 17-year-olds is a fabulous way to spend an hour or so, that teenagers should celebrate the epic battles of their lives, and that Shakespeare is always better with sound effects.

When she is not busy milking goats or working in the garden, she can be found homeschooling her two kids or meeting with her neighbors about the best way to run their village.

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This post originally appeared on the blog Feel-Good Teaching.

Everyone LOVES STEM Challenges, right? Well, teachers know that nothing in life is that simple! Good news, though: most students do love STEM Challenges, and the few who don’t might just learn to if you make a few small adjustments in your implementation!

In the video below, I’ve identified the three most common student types who don’t like STEM Challenges and give you some small adjustments you can make to bring them around to the charms of challenges! If you prefer reading over viewing, the video transcription is also provided below.

Help! My Students Hate STEM Challenges! - YouTube
Transcription

Hi, I’m Kerry from Feel Good Teaching. All students love STEM challenges, right? Would that life were that simple! For me, they are about the most universally beloved activity that I’ve ever done with my students, but there are usually a few students — and a few very specific reasons — why some students just don’t really enjoy STEM Challenges.

If you’re experiencing this in your class, it’s great to take just a little bit of time to unpack some of the most common reasons why some students don’t enjoy STEM Challenges. This way, you can make some adjustments so that most, if not all of your students will actually enjoy the process, because we know the problem-solving and collaboration that go on in STEM challenges is really hard to match with other activities! 

Performance Anxiety

Today let’s talk about three types of students who might need just a little bit of help finding the love! Some students have performance anxiety, so time-based tasks are really stressful for them. An adjustment you can make here is to actually increase the wait time between when you introduce a challenge and when students actually begin working on it. You can let students know a full day before, or if you have a self-contained class, perhaps you do that in the morning, when you’re building in the afternoon, or before lunch versus after lunch. You get the idea! And another great adjustment to make is to do multiple iterations. When students know that their first try isn’t going to be their only try, it helps ease some of the anxiety and lets them know this is more of a draft, and you’ll have more time to think about and tinker with your designs in a future iteration.

Anti-Collaborators

Next, we have students who simply don’t enjoy working with their peers, and this is something you definitely need to unpack a little bit further because there could be myriad reasons why. One issue that frequently pops up is students that have trouble advocating for their own ideas, and they do, in fact, get their feelings hurt when their ideas are not chosen. This is something for which, unfortunately, there’s not a very quick fix, but we do commonly come back to this issue again and again in classroom meetings and in our group discussions about how the challenges went and how to incorporate different ideas fairly among our group members. And I do read the students’ individual record & reflect handouts very, very carefully to see if there are any issues that we do need to revisit — either individually or small groups or even, in some cases, whole class.

And another thing you can do is to decrease the group sizes on future challenges, so that when students are working in, let’s say pairs rather than groups of four to six, their ideas are more likely to be heard, certainly, and implemented. But I’m sure you can agree, helping students learn how to advocate for their ideas is an important life skill that is worth taking the time to explore. 

But some of your students are simply lone wolves. They don’t want to work with other people or implement others’ ideas. They really want to just hunker down and design based on what is in their minds, in their vision. And as a teacher, I know that rigidity can be extremely frustrating, because you have your idea of this sort of wonderland of collaboration and everyone’s going to have a lovely time, and we’re going to have great designs! But sometimes it’s just not the way things work.

I find it’s best not to meet rigidity with more rigidity. It usually just doesn’t work. Sometimes I do let students just go ahead to choose to work alone. Sometimes I’ll have them do that on a first iteration; sometimes I’ll have them do it on a second. And sometimes I don’t make it an option at all. But when I do, I ask the students always to reflect on the differences in working alone versus working collaboratively in a group, both in their experience of the process and in the end results of the designs. Most of the time, collaborative efforts tend to produce better designs, but that is not always the case, and it’s a good thing to explore and discuss, and don’t be afraid when things don’t turn out exactly the way you thought they would! You really can’t make students enjoy working with each other, but you can help them start to see the benefits of collaboration!

Overachievers

And finally we have our overachievers. The most common reason one of these students might not like STEM Challenges is that it’s not really laid out and clear for them the steps that they need to do to succeed. Even when you give them a criteria and constraints list, it can still be very hard for them to visualize exactly what they need to do in order to please you as the teacher or get their A. This one hits close to home because I was one of those students who was always very scared if I couldn’t visualize what success looked like.

A few things you can do for these students to help them on the path is to first just start with classic challenges: boats, towers, bridges. You know I’m always recommending that because students are able to understand what those things look like. But you don’t want to spend too long in that “classic” space because some of the most interesting challenges are outside of the classic box. You want to make sure you’re creating a culture of fearlessness in the face of potential failure, and the only way to do that is to keep trying ever challenging challenges and to help students learn to look at failure as just data points that can be analyzed and then tweaked on their next designs, which is another reason I recommend making multiple iterations part of your common practice for STEM Challenges! And as you may be aware, I’m also not a fan of assessing the designs themselves. I’ve covered that in a couple other videos, so I’ll link those for you rather than going over it again. [STEM Challenges: To Assess or Not to Assess and Stop Making 3 STEM Challenge Mistakes]

I hope that helps you out, because truly I believe that just about every student can and will love STEM challenges. We just have to sometimes make a few adjustments to help them on their way!

And to recap, the things you can do to make the most difference for these students are:

  • Increasing the time between when you introduce a challenge and when students actually begin working
  • Being flexible with your groupings, even allowing students to work with partners or alone at times
  • Multiple iterations, multiple iterations, multiple iterations! They don’t always have to be whole class. You can do them in centers, for early finishers, extra credit, or homework
  • And finally, be very, very careful what you choose to assess, if you assess at all!

If you have some students that you suspect those adjustments are just not going to make a difference for, please reach out and let me know! You can even join the Facebook group, Stellar STEM Teachers, and we can continue the conversation there. As always, I hope your week has been packed with feel-good teaching moments. I’ll see you next time.

***

Kerry has ten years of teaching experience in grades 2-7. Her masters degree is in Design-Based Learning (DBL) and she has devoted the last several years to creating engaging & adaptable STEM Challenge resources, including a STEM Challenge video library, to help teachers implement high-quality, brain-busting work (disguised as fun) in their own classrooms! Learn more using the links below:

TpT Store: Kerry Tracy

Blog: Feel-Good Teaching

YouTube: Feel-Good Teaching

Facebook: Stellar STEM with Feel-Good Teaching

Instagram: Feel-Good Teaching

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