Friday, December 13, 2013

The Power of Pictures: Part 2-History is Everywhere

About a month ago I came across an idea thanks to #nebedchat and the discussion surrounding "The Power of Photos in Education."  I blogged about the discussion and created a project with my students that included them having an assignment over Thanksgiving Break!  Check out my previous post here.

Basically the students had to each take at least 1 photo of something relating to history-send it to me via email-and that it.  My goal for this project was to reiterate to the students that history is everywhere!  Everywhere you look, anywhere you go--something relates to history.  The students did an excellent job and some sent me several photos.  I had photos as far back as 1804-to some as recent as 2012-in both cases, the students described the photos and their historical significance.

After gathering all of these photos, I used  to create several different collages to display these photos.  Check out all of them below!  Some of the photos are self explanatory-some needed some explaining.  The best thing about this project was hearing the stories the students had about their little piece of history-each photo was unique-each photo had a story.  Also, each student has a different definition of what "history" really is, a great discussion piece!  I really enjoyed seeing all of the photos and discussing with my classes.  I will definitely be doing this project again--the students loved it, and it was a great reminder to them the importance of studying history.  Photos are so powerful in education---students today need that visual to connect the dots, this project validated my thoughts on this topic.

A few notable items I received within the project:

  • relics from the Civil War, WWI, WWII, Korea, Vietnam, Iraq
  • numerous military service medals-including purple hearts
  • Civil War Bayonette/lead bullets
  • Nazi issued sword
  • pocket watch from 1809
  • minor league baseball bat used by George Brett
  • Numerous lamps, cars, tractors, sewing machines, typewriters.
  • Wheaties boxes featuring the 94 National Champion Nebraska Cornhuskers (the kids doing this project were not even born!)
After all was said and done-I displayed all the photos in my classroom, quite the conversation piece!

Look closer at all of the photos by clicking the link below--please comment or email if you have questions!  Thanks for reading!

Friday, November 22, 2013

Video Vocabulary

One thing all educators can agree on is that understanding vocabulary words, no matter the subject, is necessary to understand concepts,  and think critically about them.  One thing we do not all agree on, is how to teach vocabulary.  In History, I've used a number of different methods, flash cards, act it out, students create their own definition, etc.  For this chapter on American Imperialism I had my students create short video vignettes to illustrate/represent their assigned vocabulary term.  I have done similar assignments in the past, but my interest in doing this came from this article in the New York Times.

The assignment was simple, with a group, they were given 3 vocabulary terms from the chapter, they had to create a short video to represent their words, and upload to YouTube.  Very simple concept, and I received some great videos!  The students enjoyed doing these, and enjoyed learning from one another.  It took 1 class period, they used their own devices as well as school ipads.  I received over 90 videos, here are a few of them, enjoy!

Chapter 10 Vocabulary Playlist

Friday, November 8, 2013

The Power of Pictures in Education

Last Wednesday, #nebedchat examined the topic of photos in the classroom and the power they hold.  (#nebedchat is a Twitter chat that discusses different topics on education on a weekly basis)  After looking at the archive, I began brainstorming the numerous ways in which I could incorporate more photos in my classes.  Also this week, I came across this video-"Why Study History?" on YouTube.  Putting these two ideas together...I will be trying out an assignment over Thanksgiving/Christmas break with my students to reinforce why we study history, as well as the power of pictures.  I have yet to decide on the exact details, but it will go something like this: each student will have an assignment over Thanksgiving/Christmas break (yes homework over break!), they will each find something relating to history at their homes/relatives homes/traveling etc...snap a picture of it and send it to me.  I will gather all the photos (150ish) and place them on some sort of collage to show them the power of photos, and to reinforce the fact that history is EVERYWHERE!  The pictures they take can include nearly anything, from old farm machinery, military uniforms, signs, letters, memorabilia, long as they have historical significance they will work!

I'm very excited to see how this turns out!  I think this is a perfect time of year to reevaluate why we study history/social studies.  On another note-the power of social media is amazing!  If it were not for Twitter, and the amazing educators on #nebedchat, I would not have come up with these ideas and put them together.  (I also found the YouTube video from Twitter.)  I'll be posting the results to this mini project after Thanksgiving break...thanks for reading!

Monday, October 28, 2013

Writing in Social Studies

My classes are currently studying the Gilded Age and the Expansion of cities during the early 1900s in US History.  Recently we discussed European Immigration and Eliis Island, looking back on family histories to see if we could connect the dots!  The students were eager to discuss and desribe what it must have been like for the individuals entering America for the first time.  Writing is something I really strive to do more in my classes, and this was an opportunity for my students to be creative, practice their writing skills, and imagine what it must have been like to have been an immigrant and experiencing the process of Ellis Island, where nearly 40% of Americans can still trace their roots!
The assignment was very open, I provided them with 6 writing prompts, placing them in different situations surrounding the topic...they had to choose four and just write!  I was amazed at the results!  Many of them really painted a picture with their stories, and students who I never would've expected to get into this assignment, surprised me with their skills and creativeness.  Although they may not tell me, I feel as if many students really enjoyed the activity, I hope to do more like this in the future.  Also, in concluding this activity, I explained to the students that writing is a life skill, not just one that they will use in school.  For this reason we will continue to "practice" this skill in my social studies classes!  Below are a few excerpts of student writing, as well as the assignment given to them.  Enjoy!

Writing Prompts:

Tuesday, October 22, 2013

Google Rules

My students recently completed projects on Native American tribes.  Instead of giving them specific guidelines, I gave the students a choice on how they would display their information.  They could use anything...from a hand drawn poster, a video, or any online presentation website.  I figure I would get a wide variety of presentation tools, I figured wrong!  I have a total of 147 students in 6 sections of American History, 137 students chose to use Google Slides/Presentstions, yes 137 of 147!  The other sites used included Prezi, Glogster, and SlideRocket, with one video and one hand drawn poster.
So what does this tell me?  While I gave the students a choice, an overwhelming majority chose to use Google.  The reasons for this vary, but come down to this: my school is a Google Apps for Education (GAFE) school, all students have google accounts and the simplicity is great for the students.  Familiarity of the product, and the ability to work in the cloud (access their work anywhere, on any device) make Google perfect for this sort of project.  Finally, all students have a "hand in" folder that is shared with me on Google Drive, so access to their projects by the teacher is seamless, no "my dog ate my project" excuses!  I joked with my students that they were all "boring" because they all used Google, however I am proud of them in utilizing the tools that our school has provided them with. Keeping it simple, and being pragmatic are both traits that extend beyond the walls of my classroom.  A ton of great projects were turned in, and more importantly they all took responsibility for their own learning, and acquired new knowledge.

Wednesday, October 16, 2013

Reflections of Quarter 1: Setting the Table

The first quarter officially comes to an end today, hard to believe how fast its gone!  In my American History classes we've covered the time period extending from Reconstruction to about 1900.  It is my goal to get through WWI by the end of the second semester.  Although my students are often engrossed in subject material, the first few weeks of a new school year are about more than just American History, Algebra, or Biology.  To me the first quarter is about students learning how to interact in certain classes, understanding routines of each teacher, and getting used to the responsibility of a new school year.  Students have a lot going on, and the first quarter is about setting the table for the remainder of the semester/year.  I've been very pleased with how quickly my classes have learned the routines of my classroom, things have gone smoothly, I have learned a ton about these groups and they are beginning to understand how my classes function.

Other than the goal of getting through WWI in the 2nd quarter, my goals for my students over the next 9 weeks include: begin to create content rather than just consume it,  begin thinking critically about history, and continue discussing/analyzing current events and how they affect us individually.  It's been a great start to the school year, lets take it to the next level in quarter two!

Friday, September 27, 2013

YouTube in Education

Recently in my American History classes we covered a unit on Industrialization and development in the United States in the late 19th century.  When we finished the unit, the students were assessed on the material.  Assessment does not always mean a test, as we complete projects, essays, quizzes, etc, however in this case they had a test on the unit.  I always prepare a study guide for the students and did so in this instance as well.  Rather than discuss the study guide in class, I recorded audio of a discussion and shared it on YouTube with students to access at their own convenience.

I have done a few of these in the past, however my students this year really appreciated this method. (See picture below for # of views!)  It allows them to study when they want-and not have to rely on just hearing the review in class.  They may access this as many, or as few, times as they'd like.  If they miss the class period we review during, they can still get every bit of information they need.  YouTube is a great tool for this and many other practical solutions in the classroom.  I simply recorded my voice on and uploaded my videos to my YouTube channel.  You can capture videos, create photo slideshows, insert sounds or music, all from your computer's webcam on YouTube, and they have made it very user friendly and simple.  I anticipate this being something that many teachers will be attracted to, as students today are busy-and the more access you give them to your material-the more they will access it!

For an example of my test review click here.

Wednesday, September 18, 2013

L to J Update

About a month ago I gave a brief overview on a form of classroom assessment known as L to J, to read my post click here.  As of today, we are through 5 full quizzes in each class and are starting to get some early results!  Its interesting to note that while all classes take the same quiz-not all classes achieve the same results for a variety of factors!  As we progress through the semester-the trend should obviously lead to greater results, so far we've only scratched the surface!  Here are our current results after 5 weeks:

Friday, September 13, 2013

Teaching 9/11

This past Wednesday marked the 12 year anniversary of the horrific attacks on America.  Many of my students (freshmen) were just 2-3 years old when this happened, hard to believe its been that long ago.  Teaching 9/11 has always and will always be a delicate topic for educators everywhere.  Where do we begin?  What do we include?  What do we omit?  All of these are difficult questions, however one thing is certain: we must teach it!  It's too important and too historic to omit.  I have done a variety of lessons in the past, I tried something different this year and spent a bit more time preparing, it went well and the students learned a great deal.

To preview the lesson I asked the students in each class to jot down the first 5 words that came to their mind when I said 9/11.  I then typed each of these words into which created the word clouds in the pictures below, fascinating to see what the students know, think they know, and possibly don't know!  We then viewed news clips from the day, discussed the facts of what happened, and used google earth and the sphere app to take virtual field trips to these sites.  

The lesson went well.  I am always amazed to find out how much confusion there is over what exactly went on that day 12 years ago.  Here are a few takeaways for me from the lesson: (1) no details are too small to omit.  Many students don't know if Iraq/Afghanistan/Syria or who was involved, teach the facts and explain them thoroughly. (2)  Descriptions of the day in words are good, but video/audio footage gets the students to really understand the gravity of this situation and can be extremely powerful. (3)  Finally, more schools/teachers need to teach 9/11..every year, in every grade, in every subject, if we do not...9/11 will become another date on the calendar.  Never Forget.

Friday, September 6, 2013

Talk a Mile a Minute

Recently we completed our review unit on the Civil War and Reconstruction.  We then took our first test of the year.  To prepare for the vocabulary section of the test we used a review activity that I picked up from Toby Boss at ESU 6 in Milford last year.  This is a great activity that gets students up and moving, lets them be a bit talkative (loud!) and allows peer review and instruction.  The students loved the activity and we will definitely be using it again!  Below are a few pictures from our activity.

Thursday, August 22, 2013

L to J

This week I introduced L to J to all of my students.  Although many of them are familiar with the process, I took the time to explain it to them in full so they understand the logic behind this learning tool.  L to J is a simple, yet very effective way of measuring student/class learning throughout the year.  For a full explanation of the process check out the website: I have 6 sections of American History classes this year, each section will be competing to attempt to break their previous all time bests (ATB) with each quiz.  Students love competition and thrive when they have clear goals in mind.  L to J is a great way for students to compete with themselves, as a class, and against other classes.  Most importantly this is a great way to track student learning throughout the school year.  Below is a snapshot of our week one results by section.

Tuesday, August 13, 2013

First Day of School

The first day of school is matter how many "first days of school" we have all been through, each one is unique and filled with anticipation of what's to come in the school year.  It's also nerve-racking, intimidating, and scary for many students and teachers alike.  As I enter my sixth year in the teaching profession, never has this been more evident.

 For the first time in my career, I'll be teaching all students of the same age, incoming freshmen.  Starting tomorrow, I will welcome in 142 new high schoolers who I will spend roughly 175+- hours with over the next nine months.  As excited as they'll be on the outside to enter the hallways of a building they've yet to have classes in, I know that deep down that intimidation, fear, and curiosity of what's to come will be weighing on them heavily these first few weeks.  For these reasons I will focus not only on my subject matter (American History) but also lessons in character, citizenship, and responsibility.  Teaching and modeling proper behavior has never been more important for educators, and this will be a goal of mine throughout this year.  They will experience things during this school year that they never have, it will be a year full of "firsts."  They will also experience adversity, and I believe it is part of my job to teach them how to handle it properly and learn from it.

I've heard a lot of "hype" about this class of 2017..both positive and negative.  Fortunately for these students, and myself, I rely on a quote from legendary football coach Bill Parcells who said: "I don't listen to the hype, I go by what I see."  I'm looking forward to a great year with these kids.  Let's make this First Day of School one to remember.

Friday, July 19, 2013


Welcome to my blog!  My name is Kyle Steinkuhler and I'm currently heading into my 6th year of teaching high school social studies.  This will be my 2nd year at Norris High School in Firth, NE where this year I'll be teaching 9th grade American History.  I am also an assistant varsity football coach.

What to expect from my blog?  Ill be posting classroom happenings, announcements, photos, and other random awesomeness that my students/parents/patrons of my district may be interested in.  It is my goal to make my classroom an open environment, and blogging (bragging!) about achievements in my school/classroom is a simple way to meet this goal.  If you have questions/comments let me know!  Enjoy!