Countdown to the Election – In the classroom.


An election year is like catnip for social studies teachers: our content in action, teachable moments galore . . . but then you get a race that’s unlike any in our lifetime. Granted, the United States has had elections as contentious before (in the 19th century, multiple times) but that doesn’t make this year’s election any easier to teach. Tonight we’ll all have front row seats as the candidates meet face to face in what promises to be an interesting debate. This also means that we’ve been getting lots of lists of election year resources, but what do they look like in practice? Here’s just a glimpse of what I’ve been doing in my 8th grade U.S. History classroom (but could definitely be used in multiple grade levels).  

icivics-debateI’ll be sending my kids home with the kids home with iCivics’ Political Debate Guide this evening and there will be two more debates after tonight if you want to get your kids watching. Can I say how much help iCivics has been this year? It’s not just good for the games, I’ve been loving their Politics and Public Policy and Government and the Market units.

The Politics unit has lessons that break down a political process that can be confusing into understandable pieces and doesn’t leave out the media’s role. As focused as elections can be on the economy, lessons from the Market unit went along way to help me explain taxes and our federal budget. But the iCivics game Win The White House was hit after all the facts and figures. Just about all the kids got the correct answer for the number of electoral college votes required to win the presidency on my elections test.

seeker-youtubeI also supplemented the above with Seeker Daily explainer videos on the candidates and parties. If you haven’t used Seeker Daily videos yet I highly recommend them. They’re all around three minutes long and explain matters both foreign and domestic – a great companion for CNN Student News. When CNN Student News has a story that I feel the students could use a little more background on, I go to Seeker and can usually find something that will clarify the issue. What is the difference between Sunni and Shiite Muslims? Got it. Why does Russia hate the United States? Yup. If you don’t use CNN Student News on a regular basis I would recommend them on Fridays. Beside all the regular election coverage they’ve had a series on Fridays focused on the election in general: electoral college, battleground states, history of televised debates…good stuff.

I hope this helped a little. We may not agree with everything the candidates are saying, but you can’t deny that they have the kids’ attention. We need to do what we can to capture this interest and hopefully create some engaged citizens in the process.  

Serious about Serial

serial-podcastI come from the world of middle schoolers. I spent six years teaching ancient history to 6th graders and American history to 8th graders. So it was a shock to many of my colleagues when I decided to make the jump from tweens to teens last year.

After going through a mixture of emotions about my content change, I was so excited when I received my course load. American history (Yay! I can pick up where I left off!) and an elective – Sociology. I feel that Sociology is a dream class for social studies nerds. It literally incorporates everything and anything you can imagine: American history, world history, geography, psychology, science, current events, ethics, morals, values, beliefs, culture, religion. I could keep going and going. What I wasn’t prepared for, however, was my department head to tell me that there is no real curriculum in place for this semester-long course. I was starting with basically nothing.

Enter Pinterest and Teachers Pay Teachers! I was able to find some amazing resources online. The ones that stood out the most revolved around the popular podcast, Serial. I had never listened to it but had heard that it was extremely addictive. So when I found these incredible materials created by Mike Godsey on TeachersPayTeachers, I dove in headfirst with my students.

What is Serial about?

Continue reading Serious about Serial

KCEE and CEE are just the thing for standards aligned lessons

kcee-logoOur state standards here in Kansas are a bit different than most other states. We focus on five big ideas rather than specific content. It’s a great idea based on research but it can be difficult at times for our teachers to align their instruction. And I know that many of you around the country are always on the lookout for quality Econ resources and lesson plans.

The Kansas and national Councils for Economic Education are just the thing!

A quick example. The first Kansas standard is Choices Have Consequences. (And I know that there are similar sorts of standards and benchmarks around the country.) So how might we design instruction that aligns to that? Continue reading KCEE and CEE are just the thing for standards aligned lessons

It’s a Google World and I’m Just Teaching In It (Part 3)

imgresLast school year I wrote two separate Google posts, one on using Google Forms in the classroom and one on using the Flubaroo add-on to create and grade quizzes.  This year I’m going to start off by updating both of those posts, because Google has completely updated their forms!  Not only can you create and grade quizzes without using an add-on now, but you can also get more advanced reports from your students’ responses.
Continue reading It’s a Google World and I’m Just Teaching In It (Part 3)

Literally #FindYourPark with free maps!

nps park mapOn August 26, the National Park Service celebrated its 100th anniversary and as one part of the celebration, we’re asking you to “Find Your Park”. The NPS now has over 400 sites across the nation that offer something for everyone. If you like mountains, the beach, or history, we’ve got a site for you.

There are more than 84 million acres across the U.S., at sites as diverse as national monuments, Civil War battlefields, and historic sites. There’s a big range in size among NPS sites, too: The biggest is Wrangell-St. Elias National Park and Preserve in Alaska, at 13.2 million acres, while the smallest is Thaddeus Kosciuszko National Memorial in Pennsylvania, at 0.02 acre. These sites attract more than 300 million visitors every year.

Shelton Johnson, a park ranger at Yosemite National Park and published author, shared his thoughts on this important milestone: Continue reading Literally #FindYourPark with free maps!