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!