History’s Great Mystery (How can I make my classroom more interactive?!)

One of the great mysteries of teaching a class like history, is how to get your students involved and interested in the material. Although the trend is towards “group work” which, in all honesty, tends to lead to “group-think”, there are other ways to get your students out of their chairs, and yourself away from that golden podium. Here’s a few tips I like to use:

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Mix it Up! (Your old, dreary PowerPoint Presentations that is!)

Office Mix

Many teachers have invested a lot of time in PowerPoint presentations.   But that was so 2015. Now, with OfficeMix, a free  add-in from Microsoft,  you can make them interactive!

OfficeMix is very easy to use.  Once you’ve got the add-in downloaded it appears on the regular PowerPoint dashboard.   You will be able to record audio, add doodles and finally make use of that webcam. (Don’t be frightened!)  Once your done with your masterpiece, you will need to upload it to the  OfficeMix cloud where it can be shared with a link or embedded into an online classroom.   You can also save your work in video format to your desktop as insurance for the inevitable internet outage.

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Make a Magnificent Classroom Meme !


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Memes are a great way to use humor in the classroom. By taking humorous image, video, piece of text,students can express how they are feeling and so can teachers! I always have my students introduce themselves on the first day of school by creating a meme and bringing it in. Memegenerator.org or memegenerator.net are two great sites and will allow students to QUICKLY create a meme to share with the class. When I teach about historical figures I have students make a meme to share with the class – this way they remember the icon! Here are some of the memes I have created and ones from my students over the years. Let me know which ones you like the best!

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The Great Cookie Challenge!

pablo (3)One way to keep my high school students motivated is to have them think outside the box. Literally. The cookie box! As the terms wind down for the holidays or the summer, I give my students my Great Cookie Challenge. The terms – make a scene from history on your cake! Just bring the cake and you design it in class. Then – we eat it.

The students always remember this activity as one of their favorites. Just make sure your students don’t have any allergies before you begin and maybe even swing the idea by your AP just for brownie points (get it?!). Here are some of the samples from my students. Have you ever tried incorporating baking into your lessons? Let me know your thoughts and try to figure out these scenes below:

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Need a Virtual Teaching Assistant?


Teaching is a lot of work and usually I love the job.  I guess all professions have grunt work, but I never imagined how many hours I would spend copying handouts, grading and recording attendance as a high school teacher.   There is also the beautifying of bulletin boards, creating rubrics and designing multiple versions of each assessment.

In the past few years I have been happily introducing technology into my practice.  I have embraced several learning management systems, created a classroom app, monitored discussion boards and created dozens of videos.    I am fascinated by the EdTech world and really want to reach students where they are – online.  It has all been fun, but working in the both the classic and digital classroom is exhausting.

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No HW assignments for 2016? Can it be done?

I’ve been spending a lot of time this summer reflecting on my best practices for teaching. I’ve been seeing all these apps that do students homework (see blog post below) and thinking about how much copying transpires amongst students and I’m debating – just hear me out – assigning NO homework for the upcoming school year. Now I teach history to high school juniors and seniors in AP (Advanced Placement courses) which I know are traditionally rigorous and the bane of most students homework woes BUT what if instead of assigning them textbook readings and excerpts from historical books to read out of the classroom – I assigned them healthy tasks to do.

Students should go outside and play baseball, volunteer at a homeless shelter, babysit their sibling, hold a door open. Would they become better more AWARE people by the end of the year? Would their test scores be the same anyway?

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Using Marketing in the Classroom

One of the greatest tools a teacher can have, especially on the high school level, is preparing their students for the post collegiate world. Students are often exploring their interests during this phase of their lives and teachers have the ability to open students eyes to more careers then the basic “teacher”, “doctor”, “lawyer”. One way to do that is to have students create their own infographics. Infographics make information eye catching, shareable and easily digestible. They also play a crucial role in the increasingly visual world of marketing. Check out some of my samples from Piktochart that I have used to show students how to market items (For example, try it during a Shark Tank activity perhaps – sell me your item!) or create them to advertise an upcoming class assignment. An invaluable lesson! My favorite site is http://www.piktochart.com.

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Using marketing in the classroom

An App For Homework?

Every teacher wonders – how many students are actually doing their assigned homework?? Surely a certain percentage of students are copying or getting excessive help via social media.   BUT…  several apps introduced over the last few years take homework “help” to a whole new level!

Have you heard of Photomath? Below is my trial of the free Photomath app which is terrific at solving math problems.    Answers seekers can type in or  snap a picture of a problem and the solution is immediately returned.  Wow!  Where was this when I went to high school?

What is on your child’s phone?


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Create your own fascinating fireworks!

I went a little crazy with PowerPoint this morning!!   It’s actually SO easy to create this effect on one slide and then export to a video. You can put it right into your PowerPoint and WOW your students.   My inspiration and know how comes from PowerPoint Spice – a guru of special effects.  See her training here and check out some more tips from me here on Pinterest.

Enjoy the fourth!