Category Archives: engaging

It’s the most troublesome time of the year . . . engaging kids at the end

Happy Monday! Anyone have a countdown to the end of school? As we near the final stretch of another crazy school year we once again face the challenge of keeping kids excited and engaged. I thought I would share something that I discussed at the end of last school year to give you a couple of ideas to keep those creative juices flowing.

So, it’s April . . . track meets, warm weather, field trips, crazy schedules, finals, and we’re supposed to keep kids engaged?  Maybe one of the greatest challenges in education is the end of the year. How do we find creative ways to keep kids interested in learning?

One popular survival mechanism is plugging in a movie that is connected to your curriculum.  Do you really think the kids will find it much fun to watch Gettysburg and complete a worksheet connected to the movie?  Sometimes we are required to give a semester final but to ask the kids to take a long drawn out test that you may not be interested in grading when the school year is done lacks a lot of appeal. Frankly, the last month of a school year can be a real struggle and make you feel like our friend pictured above, but it doesn’t have to be that way. You just need to inject a little creativity into your year-end routine.

So as we get near the end of the year, try one of these game changers: Continue reading It’s the most troublesome time of the year . . . engaging kids at the end

I Can’t Count That High: PBL in the Social Studies Classroom

statistics-of-population-research-paperOne of the new initiatives in my school district during the 18-19 school year has been to begin a Project Based Learning community.  This is a group of teachers who came in over the summer for two full days of training, and have continued to meet quarterly during the school year to learn about PBL together and support each other as they implement PBL in their own classrooms.

My mentor teacher, Kim Zielsdorf, teaches 7th Grade World Geography and Kansas History, and she jumped right into PBL from the beginning of the school year with a highly engaging, yet short and sweet project to introduce the students to the World Geography curriculum.  Kim presented this question to the students: How big is 7.7 billion? The students then worked with partners to find creative ways to represent the global population.  How long it would take Crayola to make 7.7 billion crayons, how far you would travel after taking 7.7 billion steps, each partnership came up with their own way to represent a number that is so high it can be hard to grasp.

Beginning the school year with a short PBL unit allowed the students a fun and engaging way to ease into the school year and get to know each other, while also giving Kim a chance to practice the fundamentals of PBL and learn more about her students’ interests through the decisions they made while completing the project.  Do you use PBL in your classroom?  What is your favorite PBL unit to teach?  Share in the comments below!

Simple things, really. But with huge impact.

miracleI recently ran into a guy named Michael following a session at a social studies conference. Michael teaches history in a large, urban high school with a ton of low SES and ELL kids. His situation seemed so desperate to me that I had to ask him what strategies he used to convey content and meaning, how he got kids to makes sense of historical information.

He began sharing some of ideas and I realized that his situation wasn’t desperate. The kids in his classes – the low SES kids, the ELL kids – are learning and they’re learning at high levels. And it’s because of Michael.

I’ve read the ton of research out there documenting the importance of quality teachers. But it was fun to actually sit down and talk with someone who knows the content, who understands what works, and spends time honing his craft. To talk with someone whose actions suggest that the research is right.

A few of his ideas? Continue reading Simple things, really. But with huge impact.

Saving Kiribati and the Kansas Social Studies conference. Two great things that go great together

Still on the fence about the 2018 Kansas Social Studies Conference? Not sure about meeting and listening to Joel Breakstone from the Stanford History Education Group share ways to engage kids in online civic literacy? Thinking about whether or not asking Don Gifford from KSDE questions about the new and improved state standards and assessments? Perhaps the free food and drinks at Sunday’s evening reception just hasn’t been enough to jumpstart your registration process.

Maybe all you need is the chance to listen to a couple of the many awesome presenters who’ll be sharing their best stuff at the conference.

Casey Krouse and Dylan Owings from Pleasant Ridge Middle School in Overland Park are asking their students to think about and solve authentic problems – like the problem facing the Pacific island country of Kiribati. Rising ocean levels are erasing areas of land and could soon engulf the entire nation. Their students are attacking the problem by using Design Thinking.

During their conference presentation on Monday, October 29, 2018 at 10:30am, Casey and Dylan will share their lessons and instructional designs. So. Are you looking for a new way to address climate change in the classroom?  Curious about the Design process? In their hands-on lessons, students work through Stanford’s Design Thinking Process to develop empathy for Pacific Islanders affected by sea level rise and engage in real world problem solving. Come learn more about how you can adapt their lessons to your classroom.

Learn more about rising sea levels on Kiribati by viewing this CBS News overview. Then head over to the Kansas Social Studies conference site and get that registration started!

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Summer Professional Development . . . on Instagram?

barefoot beach blur break

Teacher Perks: “You get summers off.”

How many times have you had someone outside the education profession say this to you? If you are reading this blog post, chances are you know that it’s really not true. You probably know that teachers use these precious summer months to recharge, refuel, and LEARN. We strive to find ways to perfect our craft and answer questions that came up over the past school year.

This is the first summer that I did not physically attend multiple professional development conferences or workshops in June and July. I say “physically” because looking back on the past few months, I do feel that I attended professional development in a new and different way. Over the past year, I have found a new community on Instagram.

access blur close up colorful

This community is filled with educators from all different content areas and age ranges. Educators are posting lesson plan ideas, classroom management strategies, classroom organization tips, and even personal stories and experiences. Many of them have stores on Teachers Pay Teachers, blogs, or vlogs and are sharing content / pedagogical strategies for the world to access at our finger tips.

How to Get Started

I first started by creating a separate account just for my education world. I tried to Continue reading Summer Professional Development . . . on Instagram?