Use an avatar in the classroom and for Parent Teacher Conferences!

Ever since the movie Avatar came out I have loved weaving speaking characters into my classroom. Not only is it fun to watch for students (and parents) of all ages, but students get a kick out of seeing the characters on the screen. You can create your character and add a voice to it so it can speak. You can change the backgrounds as well. Here are four ways I use avatars in my classroom:

  1. Have students make historical avatars. They can  type text to each other on the computer that would be appropriate for the historical period.
  2. Make an avatar of yourself (the teacher). Leave it up on the classroom smartboard. Hit a button that has pre-programmed sayings for when you see students are off task during groupwork.
  3. Use avatars during parent teacher conferences. Have it up on the smart board or in the waiting room for parents once they arrive.
  4. Use avatars during college conferences. I have created an avatar to emulate a student so I could walk through the college admissions process for a parents evening.

Continue reading “Use an avatar in the classroom and for Parent Teacher Conferences!”

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”

The Great Pumpkin Challenge

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One more day until October! The month of Pumpkin Spiced Lattes, Apple Picking and my favorite THE GREAT PUMPKIN CHALLENGE! My students know how much I love food challenges (see my posts on The Great Cookie Challenge!The GREAT “HOLIDAY” Baking Challenge! and I’ll share my Food Network Challenge with you in a couple of weeks). So OF COURSE I always do a GREAT PUMPKIN CHALLENGE!

If you have a google classroom make sure to get our great october headers!
See them here:
Halloween Background
October Themed Headers

The lesson rules are simple:

I like to do this in groups of 2-3 students. Each group should Bring in a pumpkin OR a pumpkin dessert (that no one in the class will be allergic to – baked at home). So… a regular ole pumpkin to decorate, a pumpkin spice cupcake, pumpkin bar, pumpkin gingerbread cookie, pumpkin donut, pumplin pie whatever floats your boat. In class – studnents 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 pumpkin or pumpkin food. Let me know how your great pumpkin challenge goes!

Find the Perfect Match (for College)

nofiredrills.com/blog

Love comes in many forms. But finding the right match for college well… there’s no dating “app” for that. (Yet! I suppose 🙂 ) So what does that mean for teachers, parents and students who are ready to make their college “lists”? Well… (like dating) you will have to dedicate quite a bit of time to finding the right college. Here are some tips to get you started!

  1. Think broadly. Do you want to stay close to home (and live at home) or are you okay with travel (car, bus, train, plane?). If you are willing to go 8 hours north you should be willing to go 8 hours west, east and south.
  2. Once you have made a decision on location, start to do your research. Check out these websites for help on  finding a college based on “I know what I want”, “I am not sure where to start”
     – College Board Website
    –  College Confidential

    – Forbes College Quiz
    – College Match Quiz
  3. Take a campus tour once you have narrowed down your choice. See if you can stay overnight with a student many colleges have a program set up for you to see what its like.
  4. Research Campus Safety.
  5. If money is an issue check out my post on finding scholarships. Start early!
  6. Don’t forget to ask your teachers for college recommendations. You will need at least two. Try to ask them as junior year is concluding so you are locked in for the fall. Teachers need tips on writing a college rec – here are some sample letters!
  7. Say thank you to all those who are helping you along your journey! But remember…
    The path to true love never does run smoothly. So don’t be afraid to transfer colleges if that first match wasn’t a right fit for you!

Speed Networking in the Classroom

 

It can be daunting to try out a new teaching method, but TRUST ME, this one is A HUGE hit! I’m writing an extension to my post on History’s Great Mystery (How can I make my classroom more interactive?!) and Why I put the SOCIAL back into SOCIAL STUDIES! so you can try out this awesome technique in your classroom. This lesson can be modified for primary/middle school and high school.

I like doing this lesson for a number of reasons.
One –  This lesson give students practical, real world experience. The students are required to practice their interviewing skills on their peers as they bring a business card, a name tent and a resume with them of their historical figure (on the high school level). See below I modify this for the younger grades.  This gets my students thinking about creating their own resumes and business cards and career prospects.

Each resume and must include the following: Name, birth date, education, background, known associations (with a definition), notable accomplishments, and 3 references. Each resume must also have a “job sought” paragraph at the top. This must be between 3-6 sentences long and should include long term goals and other pertinent information. I have students bring a resume which should also include a picture. I require that these must be typed (you need two copies – one for you and one for me!) . You should have students work on this in groups if they are each assigned the same character. 

Two – I require each student to shake hands with the person as they move around the table. I give them a quick “this is how to do a proper handshake” and “smile nicely” when I hand out the instructions and again before the activity begins. This requires they practice their social skills.

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Mnemonic Device To remember the original Thirteen Colonies

my-new-neighbor-can-not-re-paint-my-dark-violet-no-shiny-grey-bungalow-colony-2Awesome Mnemonic Device to remember the original Thirteen Colonies! Its about that time in US history where teachers are reviewing the 13 colonies. Perfect timing for a Mnemonic Device to remember the original Thirteen Colonies! When they think of the word “colony” they can easily remember one sentence – My New Neighbor Can Not Re-Paint My Dark Violet No Shiny Grey! [Bungalow Colony]. Each 1st letter of the word stands for a colony –

  • Massachusetts
  • New Hampshire
  • New York
  • Connecticut
  • New Jersey
  • Rhode Island
  • Pennsylvania
  • Maryland
  • Delaware
  • Virginia
  • North Carolina
  • South Carolina
  • Georgia

Have you tried teaching with mnemonics? Ready for another one for the early presidents? Here you go!

Pottery Barn Lesson Plan for your Classroom

One of the nice things about working in a high school is the students can explore their interests without a commitment to a college major. In order to scaffold a lesson for my more creative students I created a history lesson where students can create their own houses from different time periods – a Pottery Barn Style lesson!

For Global History have students design a home from around the globe for the Phoenicians (ancient history), the Medieval Era, the Renaissance, and modern history. They should use different textures that were available and furniture, and even set the table with foods from the period. This can be done in PowerPoint or a diorama style model.

For US History – this is a lesson through the decades. Design a home for colonists, the 13 colonies, Jacksonian Era, Progressive Era, World War Eras, Great Depression, the Decades “50s – 00s”. They should use different textures that were available and furniture, and even set the table with foods from the period. This can be done in PowerPoint or a diorama style model.

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