Polski3's View from Here

Quote of some personal revelence: "Is a dream a lie, that don't come true, or is it something worse?"

Monday, July 23, 2007

Some Tips for Teaching History

At this time, History/Social Studies is not targeted by NCLB. However, it is tested here in California. At the junior high where I teach, most students take history in both Grade 7 and 8. They are tested on history standards for Grades 5-6-7-8. Over the years, I have tried many things to try to make history more interesting for my students. Here are a few of the things in my teacher toolbox for teaching history.

Map Work. IMO, too many students don't know where anything is on this planet. At the beginning of each school year, I assign my students to create a map of their route from home to school. I encourage them to be creative and to include important geographical features. These are graded on a simple five point rubric: Excellent, Very Good, Good, Poor and Zero (for not turning it in.) For new teachers, I'd advise you to begin developing map resources such as a collection of black line maps / out line maps for the areas you will be teaching. There are many of these available online, at various web sites.....check out Kathy Schrock's Guide for Educators at Discovery teachers website. There are usually outline maps available at many textbook publishers text support web sites. Use the maps in your textbooks. I write some questions students answer using various maps in their textbook ( for some reason, I usually don't like the map questions that are included in the textbook and support materials....maybe I want more specific answers? Anyhow, For example, I have five to seven questions for students to answer using a "Spread of the Black Death" map found in our textbook when we get to that topic.

Before you spend any of your own money on anything for teaching history, find out which texts you will be using, what support materials are available for you for use with those texts and what stuff other people in your department have and are willing to share. Also, know what other materials you cannot use or may be called on the carpet for using. Even though you may think it is "history" and is part of the current topic, is it appropriate for your students and their culture and parents?

Know what your school/district policy regarding using VHS material you could tape off history channel etc. I bought a set of "high school World History" lectures by Lin Thompson, from the Teaching Company that I use on occasion with my seventh graders. With most of the a/v presentations I show my students, I provide a guided activity for them to do while watching the presentation. Usually, this guided activity is made up of questions with answer choices they can quickly circle or underline as they are viewing the presentation. I always ensure students that their questions are sequential with the presentation. They are to read over their questions and answer choices prior to viewing the presentation so they know what to listen for. Afterwards, we go over the questions and the correct answers. Then, I either ask students to copy the questions and answers together as one statement in the form of Cornell Notes, or they can pick five questions and write the question and answer together as one statement and create a color illustration of the data. This is usually called a "6+6" ( sheet of paper divided into six equal sections, one section is the title and the other five sections contain data and illustrations.)

I've recently learned about "Illustrated Paragraphs" from some of our 8th grade teachers who got some AVID training (Advancement via Individual Determination). Basically, students write a paragraph about "topic A"
and create three or so illustrations to picture their data in the paragraph. I believe research also indicates students learn material better if they can create something for it, and creating an illustration or two of a History/social studies key concept, event or vocabulary term could be a good way to help students learn the standards.

What do your students do at the very beginning of class? Mine typically come in (quietly....yeah, they are junior highers ), sit down in their assigned seat, get out their daily planner and copy the daily planner data posted on the boards, then do an opener activity. I use a variety of opener activities include "DOL's" (Daily Oral Language - short statements about our topic with grammar, spelling, etc errors. Students copy the DOL as written/presented, then we edit it. Students then copy DOL error-free. We do "RAP's" (Review and Preview - Ask students to write down two to three sentences to review what we did yesterday or about our current topic of study, recent readings of homework, OR, "What do you know about....(our new topic)." Sometimes, we have notes to copy as opener activity, or we do a critical thinking type activity such as "IF you were there" ( present historical scenario that students must think about how they'd deal with it if it was happening to them at that time in history.....for example, Muslims conquer Spain; do you convert to Islam or stay a Christian and pay higher taxes? Or, you live in small town on east coast of Britain and hear Viking raiders are nearby....what do you do?

After we do the opener activity, we do one or two activities regarding the standard we are currently learning, and maybe a closing activity (ticket out the door.....one or two sentences about standards data they learned today) and make sure they understand whatever homework they are assigned for the class and that If they don't understand something, come see me after school.

Don't try to cram too much in one class period. It is best for students to learn solid data rather than a mish-mash of stuff.

If you can, go to the professional Social Studies or Grade level conferences. California League of Middle Schools and California State Social Studies Council put on great conferences. And, toward the end of November, 2007, the National Council for Social Studies (NCSS) is holding their National Convention in San Diego at the S.D. Convention Center. If you do go to a professional conference, share interesting things you find with your fellow teachers.

Talk to anyone at your school who has experience and get tips about what works with kids at your school.

Thanks for reading my blog. Comments are welcome, other ideas are more than welcome.....SHARE with us !

Wednesday, July 18, 2007

Four Things Meme

Four Jobs I’ve Had

1. Assistant Manager at a haunted theater 2. Coffee shop Waiter
3. Summer Camp Crafts Director 4. Enumerator

Four Movies I Can Watch Over and Over

(In no particular order, Outlaw Josie Wales, In Harms Way, Dirty Rotten Scoundrel's, any of the Bond movies

Four Places I’ve Lived

Arizona, Oklahoma, and California. I don't like to move.

Four Books I Love

No individual books in particular; Good historical novels, various genres of historical non-fiction....some authors include: Ellis Peters (Brother Cadfael series), Louis L"Amour, Tony Hillerman, WEB Griffin, Andrew Greeley ( Nulla Ann...the Fey Irish woman series ), Dewey Lambdin, the ancient Rhodian Merchant novels of H.N. Turteltaub, Wilbur Smith, Laura Joh Rowland ( medieval Japanese Ichiro mysteries), Michael Connelly's Harry Bosch series, Tom Clancy.....SO MANY BOOKS, SO little time to read them all !

Four Places I’ve Vacationed:

Chicago, Arizona, the Pacific Northwest west of the Cascades, California

Four of My Favorite Dishes:

Linda Ronstadt from the late 1970's, Mariska Haggarty....the one who plays Olivia on Law&Order, SVU, .....or does this refer to food? For food, well, with my "new diet" due to my desire to keep my Type Two Diabetes from turning into Type I Diabetes, I guess so far it would be fresh peaches, ANY meat I am allowed to eat, and tortillas I am allowed to eat, and yogurt. My past list would have included Carne Asada Burritos ( Carne Asada, here locally, is this GOOD marinated flank steak....with guacamole and salsa fresca), Pizza, Cheese Burgers, and a nice steak with fries......Oh well. aND one reason for my current health issue......

Four Sites I Visit Daily:

Pogo Chess, Kiseido.com ( on-line GO ), Consimworld.com and the local newspaper's website

Four Places I Would Rather Be Right Now:

Watching the Cubs in Wrigley Field, Australia, traveling to see the US of A without worrying about how expensive everything seems to have gotten, any beach, anywhere with my beautiful wife.

I tag anyone who is reading this and hasn't yet done this meme. This includes Coach Brown, Darren @ Right on the Left Coast and Chanman.

Thanks for reading my blog. Comments are of great interest.

Wednesday, July 11, 2007

Not posting....things about me 'cause I got tagged

I haven't felt like posting on this blog or reading blogs lately. It is not because I have been too busy. Reason will be noted below.

I got tagged, I think it was by MsCornelius, with meme about "Eight Things About Me" I am not going to follow the rules per se, but here are "Eight Things About Polski3," in no particular order:

1. Polski3 is proud of his sons. In last Sunday's local newspaper, both were in a photo from their school for being in their school's top five Accelerated Readers. Both earned over 500 AR points. Also in the same newspaper, they were noted as being on honor roll for their school. And, I have a lovely, beautiful, multi-talented, supportive wife who is a super Mother for our two boys. Life would not be without her.

2. I have too many books. Yes, I know this is blasphemy to many of you, but I am starting to wonder when I will be able to read all these books I have piled up in my study/office/computer room. Or if I will be able to read them.

3. I teach because it allows me to have time to do other things (at least more than for a two-week vacation), it allows me to be involved in subject matter that I enjoy and I can earn a wage that allows me to support my family. And, yes, I do like it when the students cooperate and show some enthusiasm for what they are learning and for what they have achieved.

4. I enjoy genealogy, watching baseball and football on TV (can't play anymore), playing chess and go, playing family games with my family (and I have learned not to be so competitive about it), travel, the outdoors, reading, and learning new stuff about things that I am interested in.

5. I wonder why the face and body I see in the mirror is NOT what I see in my mind.

6. I am frustrated with the ever rising cost of life and the fact that my salary does not seem to keep up......But I am glad that I have health insurance that helps my family with our many medical needs.

7. I procrastinate too much about certain things....it won't hurt the lawn to go another couple of days without cutting it, piles and boxes of teaching stuff in the office/study/computer room and out in the garage (and in my classroom) that need to be tossed or recycled. Some of this is, in part because I am lazy about work that I don't really want to do or doesn't need to be immediately taken care of. And I have been procrastinating too long on something else....which leads us to number 8.

8. Polski3 has not been too happy the past week. Depressed would also be an accurate word. Polski3 usually does not like change, and was avoiding some changes that I knew needed to be made. Well, now all of a sudden, changes are being made weather I want them to or weather I like them. Polski3 recently went for a medical check up (and would strongly encourage you all to do so too, if you haven't had at least a medical check up in the past year or more). And, the results of my blood test told that my blood is "too sweet," as in has way too much glucose floating around in it. This is also called Diabetes. My physician said I have Type II Diabetes. Tomorrow finally caught up with Polski3. Polski3 KNEW that I needed to eat better, eat less, exercise more and that genetics were not on my side. But I procrastinated. I have faith in medical science that they will be able to fix just about anything with my body that needs fixing. Well, this is not something they can fix, it requires major changes and effort on my part. Now, Polski3 has to eat a whole lot less of a whole lot different foods. And try to exercise more. I do walk at least three to four times a week. And I have to check my glucose level every morning and take a pill. And eat a lot less of a whole lot of different foods. Again, I encourage you to get yourselves checked.

There are eight things about Polski3