Nail Your Students’ Names on the First Day!

Heading back into the classroom after a nice, relaxing summer vacation can be daunting. Aside from decorating my classroom, writing new lesson plans, and sitting through boring faculty meetings, I used to be terrified that I would not be able to remember all of my students’ names! That was until a few years ago when I learned the magic of Mind Mapping.

Joshua Foer’s book “Moonwalking with Einstein” changed my entire mindset on remembering students’ names.  Foer shared that the way to remember almost anything is to develop your very own memory palace in your brain. All you have to do is partner images with words and retrieve them in your palace.

In order to remember students’ names better, try to do as Foer and Business Insider suggest- strengthen the connection between someone’s face and name by creating reminders for yourself. For example, “say you just met a Tom, for instance. The word “Tom” makes you think of “Tomcat.” Come to think of it, Tom does look a little cat-like, you think to yourself. The next time you see Tom, you’ll remember Tomcat” (and you’ll hopefully remember to just call him Tom).  Foer mentions using this technique in his TED talk when he points out that people are more likely to remember that someone they’ve just met is a baker than that their last name is Baker. ‘The entire art of remembering stuff better in everyday life,’ Foer says in the talk, ‘is figuring out ways to transform capital B Bakers into lower-case B bakers —to take information that is lacking in context, in significance, in meaning and transform it in some way so that it becomes meaningful in the light of all the other things that you have in your mind.”

If you need the 20 minute version check out his TED Talk here, and the full Business Insider tips for remembering names here.

Good luck to all the teachers heading back to work tomorrow! Now if only I could remember where I put my backpack…

Teach Hamilton (the Musical) In the Classroom

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Many moons ago (2009 to be exact), before Hamilton was a big hit on Broadway, Lin Manuel Miranda presented a rap song to President Obama at the White House Poetry Jam.  It was funny, fresh and historically accurate – in other words PERFECT for my US history class to view.

The first year I showed the clip, my students were enamored. I had them rap it as a class the second time around. WHO IS THIS GUY?! asked the students (referring to both Hamilton AND LIN!)

They were hooked, students wanted MORE Hamilton… (Little did they know they were in for a round of Oklahoma shortly thereafter).

As the years went on I joshed to my students, “Oh, they are supposed to make this into a Broadway show some day, maybe you will get tickets to see it once you graduate”. Little did WE know that this was going to be the biggest musical hit of our generation!  I have had so many students have email me over the past year asking “WERE YOU IN THE ROOM WHERE IT HAPPENS?!” aka, “DID YOU GET HAMILTON TICKETS YET?!” The answer, yes…. I was one of the lucky ones.  I was not giving away My Shot. In fact, I tried every day when it played at the Public Theatre to no avail. But once it was released on Broadway I bought tickets for the first week (6 months out of course).

Opening week, there I was, mouthing every word to the opening song “Hamilton”.

How does a bastard, orphan, son of a whore and a
Scotsman,
dropped in the middle of a forgotten
Spot in the Caribbean
by providence, impoverished, in squalor

Grow up to be a hero and a scholar?

I was obsessed. I knew I had to bring more of the play into my classroom. Previously, when I taught the topic of the early Colonial Period and the American Revolution, I did a painting analysis of John Trumbell’s Revolutionary War paintings. BUT… when the play came out I created more curriculum to bring in lyrics from the play.

Here’s how I did it by Topic:
All the lyrics are online for you to view here: http://atlanticrecords.com/HamiltonMusic/
M
y recommendation is to print out lyrics for students to underline, then analyze as you listen to the music.

The Early Colonial Period

Topic:  Immigration
Song: Hamilton
Obviously, the first song “Hamilton” is the hook. Have students review the lyrics.
Questions to consider:
Infer – what was the immigrant experience like in the 1700s?
Can you draw any parallels to today?  Can any of you relate to Hamilton? Why?

Notable Lyric Sample:

Alexander Hamilton
We are waiting in the wings for you
You could never back down
You never learned to take your time!
Oh, Alexander Hamilton

When America sings for you
Will they know what you overcame?
Will they know you rewrote the game?
The world will never be the same, oh

The ship is in the harbor now
See if you can spot him
Another immigrant
Comin’ up from the bottom
His enemies destroyed his rep
America forgot him

Topic: American Revolution
Subject Matter: Loyalists vs Tories, Olive Branch Petition

Song: Farmer Refuted
Questions to consider:
How can we differentiate between the Loyalists/Tories and Fence sitters during the American Revolution?
Which side would you be on and why?

Continue reading “Teach Hamilton (the Musical) In the Classroom”

What is the purpose of education?

What is the purpose of education? A great question to consider as we start the new school year. Horace Mann asked this very question when he designed and reformed our modern school system in the during the antebellum era. But fast forward to today (the 2nd gilded age?!) – we are still asking the same question. Educators, Parents, Politicians, students – perhaps we all have different answers (and questions!)

Is an education to prepare for the workforce?
Should students have a rigid structure or should students have flexibility and Freedom in the classroom?
Should teachers give homework?
Should teachers and students have the summer off?
Should education be free from birth?

These are difficult questions with varied opinions from EVERYONE. Everyone has been a student. Not everyone can be a teacher.

What are your thoughts? What is the PURPOSE of Education?

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Spill the Tea

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Since we live in such a gossipy, reality TV generation, I decided to create a lesson where students get to “spill the tea”.   Think of “The Talk” or “The View” TV shows with historical figures. This lesson is always a hit and can be used on a variety of topics. Choose a moderator to host the “show”.

Here’s how it works:

Split your class into groups of 4-5 students for each “Topic”. You can do this by having students pick a tea bag out of a hat (ex: Peppermint, Roobios, Eucalyptus etc).  The 4 students with Peppermint Tea bags are a group, the 5 with Roobios are a group and so on. Peppermint gets the topic of:
Roobios gets the topic of:
Etc.

Have your entire class sit in a circle (similar to a socratic seminar). The group sits in the center and has to spill the “tea” on a specific topic while the rest of the class takes notes.

Continue reading “Spill the Tea”

The GREAT “HOLIDAY” Baking Challenge!

It may be September, but that is not stopping me from thinking about the holidays! I have shared with my readers in the past, bringing baking into the classroom is SUCH a hit! My Great Cookie Challenge at the end of the year is a great way to review historical events. BUT during the holiday season I like to have a GREAT HOLIDAY BAKING version of my  CHALLENGE WITH MY STUDENTS.

The rules:

I like to do this in groups of 2-3 students. Each group should Bring in a delicious dessert (that no one in the class will be allergic to!) that was baked it at home. It can be a donut, a cronut, a muffin, a cupcake, a cake, croissant, pie whatever floats your boat. In class – you will be decorating it with a historical event from THIS SEMESTER. You can have it be holiday specific, (Martin Luther King Day, Columbus Day, Christmas, Chanukah) or a historical event. The class judges each creation and at the end of course they eat the cakes. Here are some of my favorite photos from past challenges.

Whats another holiday pound or two for the joy of our children? Happy baking!

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The Teaching SECRET you NEED to know!

Tomorrow is the BIG day! The first day of teaching for NYC schools and students. As a seasoned teacher I always get asked the same question during my summer break… if there was one SECRET to being a great teacher what would it be? This is never an easy question to answer. But it really all comes down to ONE SECRET.

The best teachers COMBINE the TWO E’s.  ENTHUSIASM and EMPATHY.

WHY is this the secret to great teaching? Simple. Ask yourself, what type of teacher would you learn best from? Would you want to be a student in your class? In order to say YES you need both enthusiasm and empathy.

Great your students with a big “HELLO!” every day. Every class. Why? Because you don’t know what kind of day they have been having. That’s where the empathy comes into play. Maybe they didn’t have the chance to speak to their parents, maybe they got in a fight with their sibling, a peer or worse. Combining your smile with empathy is contagious.

Best of luck on this new school year teachers. Here are my favorite tips and tricks for bringing enthusiasm into the classroom! Let me know how your first day back goes!

Bring Google Classroom to Life

Howdy! How do you do? (Classroom Icebreakers 101)

Make a Magnificent Classroom Meme !

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

THE WINNING WHITEBOARD

Why I put the SOCIAL back into SOCIAL STUDIES!

SHARK TANK FOR YOUR CLASSROOM

The Great Debate (Socratic Seminars in the Classroom!)

Bored of Giving Assessments? – Use Board Games!

Holiday Themes for Google Classroom

Play-Doh is Power

Color the Past

The Mannequin Challenge – for the Classroom

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Friday Freebie – Back to School Animation!

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Its time to go back to school and meet a new group of students and parents!  Here’s a small “GIF”T! A FREE animation to add life to your September parent emails.   Adding a GIF is so easy – just insert it as a picture into an email or document to share.

Find it here at our Teachers Pay Teachers store.  Meet The Teacher Animation

 

 

 

 

Back to School Faculty BINGO

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As back to school week approaches, I thought I would share with you one of my favorite faculty games – back to school FACULTY BINGO!

For me heading back to school is filled with many emotions- I’m excited, I’m nervous. I have spent the whole summer prepping, (and enjoying a little ME and family time of course!) but by August/ September its the back to school jitters.

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The Paperless Teachers Desk (It can be done!) Here’s how –

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As you hardworking teachers know, there is a tremendous amount of paperwork in teaching. Everything from quizzes, to tests, to class handouts, to collected homework.   The goal – keep it all moving!  Over the years I have been able to reduce the amount of paper I generate in my classroom which I explored already in my post on  The Paperless Classroom? Here’s how.

BUT the REAL challenge for me is to keep track of all the other paper that flows over my desk.  The one-off sheet of paper I always spend a few minutes looking for!     I am talking about the memos from administrative authorities, weekly attendance, absent notes, late homework, hand-scrawled notes about individual students, last-minute changes to today’s  lesson or the instructional gem  I collected from a talented colleague.  It used to make me crazy..

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