5 Resources for Teaching the Midterm Elections

Sunday, September 30, 2018 1 comment

5 Resources for teaching the Midterm Elections to Upper Elementary, Middle, and High School students #civics #usgovernment #activities

Regardless of partisan politics, election time is a magical time for social studies teachers. We love to teach the current events of the time and intertwine it with the history of our country and elections. Here are some great resources to enhance your students's study of the midterm elections.

1) Five Thirty Eight

Five Thirty Eight is one of my favorite websites to help middle and high school students analyze the polls for the elections. The website is the brainchild of Nate Silver, a statistician who loves to use data to describe politics. He and his team offer a number of graphical representations of data that really help students visualize what is going on.

I love the cartogram because it is a much better representation of how people vote in America.

2) 270 to Win
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270 to Win has one of the best interactive maps out there. You and your students can see the people running in each district and state, making it a great way to do some visual research.

3) PBS News Hour #MonitoringTheMidterms

PBS has some amazing lesson plans that come with activities and videos to help your middle and high schoolers understand the important topics that surround a midterm like gerrymandering, the voting age, swing states, misinformation, etc. Definitely head on over and check this out!

4) ICivics

Image result for icivics cast your vote

iCivics has been my go to for a long time so please forgive my fan girling! First off, I love that Sandra Day O'Connor has worked in collaboration with this company to bring civics education to the youth of America. Secondly, every time I used iCivics to reinforce concepts of government in my classroom, the students always walked a way with a deeper understanding. I have had parents tell me that playing Win the White House made them finally understand the Electoral College as an adult!

Although iCivics does not have a midterm election game, they have a bunch that will help your students better understand the legislative branch! Click on each picture to go to the game.

5) Midterm Election Escape Room: Save Democracy!

I have created a super fun and low prep escape room to help teach students about the midterm elections! It covers the topics:

  1. What are the midterm elections?
  2. The House of Representatives and the Senate
  3. U.S. Election Fun Facts
  4. History of Voting Rights
The item comes with a fun launch video to get your kids excited! Each "Lock" comes with a reading and a puzzle activity to solve a combination of a lock! This item would also be a great addition to any government unit, regardless of whether we are in an election year or not!  Click here to check it out!

Happy election season!

Podcasts To Spark Learning in the Elementary and Middle School Classroom

Saturday, September 29, 2018 2 comments
Podcasts to spark learning in the elementary and middl school classroom! #character #setting #elementsofastory

I LOOOOOOOVE PODCASTS! I am seriously obsessed with podcasts and am not ashamed to work a suggestion for a podcast into a conversation with a stranger. "Oh, you like (insert topic of interest here)? Do you like podcasts? Do you know what you should listen to....". 
Seriously, I'm sure my friends and family will one day limit the amount of podcasts I'm able to recommend in one conversation. If you are doubting my love of podcasts, just know that my Valentine's gift this year was to watch the taping of the West Wing Weekly podcast. That is right I watched a taping of a podcast that discusses a show that hasn't been on the air in about 15 years. Like I said, I love podcasts:)

I have passed on my love of podcasts to my own children (or maybe shoved it down their throats)! We are constantly listening to a podcast in the car. I really think it is helping my kids (7 and 12 years old) become better listeners and has made them work their imaginations. They love to discuss them as a family and have learned a ton of information from some of them! Just to recap:
  • better listening skills
  • increased creativity and imagination
  • increased communication
  • heightened vocabulary
  • increased knowledge of the world around them
I have a growing list of student friendly podcasts to use in your class right now (scroll to the bottom of the page), but here are our favorite 3!


Wow in the World! 

Hosted by Mindy Thomas and Guy Raz from NPR, my family can't get enough of this science show. Every week they take on a current science topic while building a hilarious world with crazy characters, time machines, and sassy pigeons name Reggie. I can totally see an elementary teacher using this to fit science into their day. It would be awesome to listen during snack time or transitions between subjects.

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Six Minutes

OMG! This is addictive! It is taking all my will power to only listen to it with my kids and not go ahead! This podcast is about a girl name Holiday who is found unconscious by a family. She can't remember who she is and each episode gives us a bit more information. The coolest thing is each episode is only 6 minutes long! This would be awesome to launch a class with and it would be a great study in characterization! In the chart below I say it is for 4th to 8th grade but my 2nd grader is listening to it with me and she just needs a bit of guidance.

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The Unexplainable Disappearance of Mars Patel

This podcast is amazing!!! I found out about it from Haylee Harwick on over at Hello Mrs. Harwick. Catch her Instagram Stories to see how she did a class transformation to listen to this with her kiddos!
This podcast is about a young man named Mars Patel whose friends are disappearing. It has twists, turns, and suspense. I just finished listening to season two and am psyched to know season three is being released soon.  There is so much you could do with this book. It would fit wonderfully into mystery unit and would be a great way to teach prediction and setting!

Below is a list of even more podcasts for kids and the classroom. I'm adding to it all the time and if you have any suggestions, please let me know! I love to share!!
Click on the "Genre/Subject" and "Grade Span" buttons to tailor your searching. Click on the right arrow in the top and bottom right hand corners to see more podcasts. The list is best seen on a computer as opposed to a phone or a tablet. If you have trouble seeing the list you may view it better here: https://awesome-table.com/-LNbUp_4epLAssI40-76/view

If you are interested in trying any of these podcasts in your classroom and would like some resources to help lead the way, head on over to my Teachers Pay Teachers store and check out my new Podcast Listening Graphic Organizers!

Happy Listening!!!

Flipgrid + Mystery Location Calls = Instant Engagement!

Friday, September 28, 2018 No comments

Use Flipgrid to connect your students to other classrooms to play a Mystery Location Game! #flipgrid #edtech #mysteryskype #classroom #elementarysocialstudies #socialstudies #geography

Happy fall everyone! I hope you all are settling into the school year well! I've been doing a ton of beginning of the year training on interactive boards and Google but this week I got to start doing the fun stuff. I took two second grade classes on a live drive and Q and A with a safari in South Africa and Kenya. I've talked about this here:)

I then combined two of my favorite edtech trends: the Mystery Location Call and Flipgrid! For those of you that are new to these here is a bit of an overview:

  • A Mystery Location Call is a game played between two classes that are located in two different places in the world. Usually, the classes connect through something like Facetime, Skype, or Google Hangouts. They then ask each other yes and no geographical questions (i.e. Are you East of the Mississippi River?, Are you located in the Central time zone?, etc.). The object of the game is to geographically pinpoint the location of the other class. Go here to read how I used it in my class!
  • Flipgrid is a website that allows teachers to post questions, activities, etc. and students can respond to them though video. It is s super amazing tool to get kids speaking, communicating clearly, and is also a fabulous tool for students who struggle to communicate through the written word. 
I worked with a 3rd class this week to combine the two! Instead of meeting live, we are sharing a 
"topic" with another class and leaving each other daily video to respond to!

There is probably an easier way to do this but this is how I did it: 

I created a Grid for Mystery Location Calls and set it for "PLCs and Public Grids".

I then created a topic and named it Mystery Location #1. The next classroom connection I'll make will be #2 and so on.
I shared the student link with the other teacher we are connecting with, so we actually can both access the "topic".

The class I was working with went first. They recorded a video and asked a question. Later that day, the other class recorded a video, answered our question, and asked us a question. This will continue until the first class can guess the location of the other class!

Another thing that I super love is that Flipgrid has a pretty good closed captioning option. I teach in a district with a high population of students that speak English as a second language and closed captioning is a great way to scaffold for them. The particular school I was working in this day also has a large population of students with a hearing impairment so I love that they can fully engage with this activity.

I will update you more at the end of this process! Here is a list of questions I give to kids to use for reference. I'm working on creating a free resource that will help you implement this in your classroom so stay tuned!

Labor Day Sale!

Monday, September 3, 2018 No comments
Hey all!  I'm trying to take the labor out of your Labor Day! Head on over to Teachers Pay teachers and give yourself a break from planning with one of my bundles!  today and tomorrow, my bundles will be an additional 20% off their already discounted price!!!

Enjoy your Labor Day!

5 Ways to Teach Social Studies Without Textbooks

Thursday, July 26, 2018 No comments

5 Ways To Teach Social Studies Without a Textbook #activities #students #middleschool #socialstudies #elementaryschool #reading #walktheroom #gallerywalk
As we approach the beginning of the school year, I'm sure many of you are thinking about changes you will make in your classroom and many of you will be entering the classroom for the first time. Congratulations!!!!!!!  When I entered the classroom, oh sooooooooo many years ago, I was handed an American history textbook that was 15 years old (the textbook had great hope that Ronald Reagan would be a great president 😜). To accompany that terrible textbook, I was given a teacher version. The only difference between the teacher version and the student version was that it had answers to the three questions at the end of every section.  I was okay though. My ed program had prepared me for a world where textbooks were not the end all and be all. Unfortunately, though, for my students I solved this problem by creating overhead transparencies for every topic. My notes were fun, included clipart, and I can tell a story like a sailor so my kids really enjoyed this but..... uh.  I lectured the content to them for 180 days. We discussed, annotated, created illustrated notes... but I lectured the content to them for 180 days. I'm sorry kiddos... I tried but I failed.

Fast forward many, many years and I still didn't teach with a textbook. We had them in the class, we used them every now and then as a reference, I use textbooks for sub plans, and for many years we used them to build pyramids in Egypt and to hold up our aqueducts in Rome! So how do I teach my content without textbooks without lecturing my content for 180 days?

1. Walk the Room/Gallery Walk

Organizing the most important content into concise notes is not a bad things, but now I like to let the kids explore the content and take notes on their on.  I will organize each topic onto a slide that is easy to read and colorful (or I print them out onto colored paper) I tape them up around the classroom and students travel with a partner and either complete a note taking activity (I use a ton of foldables) or answer some overarching questions. With my struggling learners I give them a copy of the slides with content missing so they can fill in the pertinent information but keep up with the pace of the other students. Since the students are walking around and absorbing the content at their own pace, I walk around and clarify misconceptions, ask questions, and challenge my students to make connections.  Usually when we reassemble to a whole group, I might ask one or two questions that get to the essential question of the lesson. The kids love this because they are up, moving, and socializing with friends. They also like that they get to access me more readily!
My students taking notes on the 5 Themes of Geography.

Some of my favorite Walk the Room activities is one I do on the Bill of Rights and another one for the Persian War. Click on each to see more:)

2. Primary Sources

I loooooooove to teach with primary sources but was always so intimidated by them because the reading level was often way to high for my students and to really teach them you need to unpack the vocabulary, find its place in context, etc.  One of the things I learned early was that my students didn't need to read an entire document. I started to get them to analyze just a couple of sentences or a paragraph and that allowed me to teach how we analyze primary sources. Also, I learned not to shy away from using photos, paintings, and political cartoons in our studies. These can be even more powerful than the written word.  Some great resources have come along to really help teachers get students to engage with primary sources on the appropriate age level.

My favorite is Read Like A Historian from Stanford University.

Read Like a Historian has primary sources for American and World History. The primary sources are well organized and come with questions that guide students through reading, understanding and analyzing the text. 

Two other great resources is DocsTeach from the National Archives....

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and the Famous Speech section on Newsela. These are great because you can change the reading level of the famous speech!

3. Cartoons and Graphic Novels

I loooved teaching with cartoons and graphic novels and my students adored it!  One of my favorite artists is Bentley Boyd. He creates cartoons based on a ton of history topics, but mostly American History. You can buy books of his work, by topic on Amazon and he offers previews and lesson ideas on his website.
Why did American colonists like British tea?

I also love the books through the company called Graphic Library. Here are some on Amazon.

Epic! Books also has some available. Here is a collection I organized for you!

4. The Internet with Accommodation Tools
These days we can find all the information we need online but sometimes it is hard for students. Here is a list of tools that will help you and your students access online content. My two favorites are Print Friendly and SMMRY. In the table, choose "Reading" under "Area of Concern".

5. Outside Readers

There are many great informational text readers that can be added to curriculum. I love using Newsela. They have a U.S. History and World History content area that is to die for!  Readworks is also a great place to go for history content based upon reading level.  My absolute favorite, which will not come as a surprise, is Epic! Books. Their informational text section is phenomenal and can easily be used to drive content in your classroom!

5 Ways To Teach Social Studies Without a Textbook #activities #students #middleschool #socialstudies #elementaryschool #reading #walktheroom #gallerywalkI hope that this has been helpful!  If you have any questions, feel free to reach out in the comments below and if you would like to add to the conversation please tell us how you are getting rid of textbooks in you classroom. Also, you may want to go to my TPT store and check out some activities that come with the reading or notes so you're entire lesson is all together in one resource! Click her to check some of those out!