Wednesday, March 26, 2008

Pre-Spring Break Blues

On the Civil War unit. Its going pretty well. My students worked for two days researching a civil war and putting a video together on the war. It really wasn't supposed to be that hard or indepth...however few of them got the work done. So, yesterday they were to present and the students who did present had awful presentations. On top of that....I was being observed.
If I were on American Teaching Idol....Simon would have done me in!

Today they are presenting whether or not they have their videos done.

This week I have discovered Google Sites. Its a ton like wetpaint. I need to figure out the protections on it though, because it looks like anyone in the district can edit a student's page. I'm treating them as their unit portfolios, to keep track of thoughts and assignments. They will put their video(if they have one ) on their site and they will put their final toondoon on their site.

Despite my awful observation, I feel like I am moving forward with the unit and that at the end the students will know what they are supposed to know.

Monday, March 17, 2008

Civil War Unit

I've put together my lesson plans addressing the Essential Questions:
What effect does civil war have on people? What is the definition for civil war?

The first task is for students to research a current day civil war and describe it to the class. Then they will create a voicethread or a video to describe what a civil war is. Finally, they will use toondoo to compare and contrast these current day civil wars to the American Civil War.
--All over the course of a week and a half! --

I'm very excited about this unit and believe that it is something that my students can get into.
Please browse the plans and let me know if you have any feedback!

Friday, March 14, 2008

Blogging Research Tag Cloud

Essential Questions

I've been thinking about how to use Essential Questions to make American History more appealing to students who are not from the United States. I'm planning a unit on the Civil War. I'm bored by the Civil War. I became a Social Studies teacher because I enjoy looking at people....not dates or battle fields. This unit in our curriculum is all about the Civil War and wants the emancipation proclamation and a battlefield described. I've put off creating this lesson because I'm bored by just thinking about it.

I began thinking about the bigger issue.....what is the thing that is timeless about the Civil War? ...not the causes....the actual war itself.

I did what I do best, I had a conversation....several conversations about what this essential question(s) could be. I sat down with one of my assistant principals, Kevin Greeley, asking if I could have a conversation with him about "instruction." We discussed that dates may not be that important for my students....but the ability to connect the material to their lives is important. I have students from Egypt, China, Somalia, and Mexico. All of these countries are closer to Civil War than I have ever been.

I took the things we talked about and talked with Joe Miller. For spending the first part of his career outside of education, he has amazing insights. He is our director of Assessment and the Global Learner Guru of Technology.

Through these conversations, I've finally narrowed the questions down:

What effect does civil war have on people?
What is the definition of civil war?

image from:

Tuesday, March 11, 2008

Essential Questions

I am wrapping up my unit on the causes of the civil war and wondering how I make it more broad and meaningful for my ELA students. How do I pose a question that we would like answered to day, and answer it by looking at the Civil War. I know its doable and I feel like I can do it and I'm touching on it....but what does it look like? How different would the class look? How would I still cover those (few) things that the curriculum is asking me to cover?

After CSAP Regina and I are going to plan our our "tearing down the walls" unit. It will be within our school. It will involve 10th grade IB Alegbra students and 11th grade ELA Social Studies. I think that if we get that Essential question down and figure out how to hold conversations and virtual projects between theses classes I will be half way to figuring out how answer these questions.

Also, looking at framing the umbrella Essential Questions that will frame the lens for the Science/Technology academy!

I'm beginning to see the importance and usefulness of Essential Questions. The Edge textbook by Hampton Brown/National Geographic does an amazing job of Essential Questions! I'm going to study it and find ways to do it on my own and make it feel organic!

Friday, March 7, 2008

Thursday, March 6, 2008

Live Blogging

Below is my first at liveblog with my students I'm following a lesson plan that I posted in my

I began class showing the students my blog and having them ask and answer questions. They were really engaged, looking over their resources to find the information. All of them!

Then I asked them to form groups to lead their own conversation tomorrow...they fell apart. I asked them to think of 3 points they wanted to make and what questions they want answered. Their goal was to "develop deeper understanding of what would cause a country to go to war against itself."

I need to think of another scaffold I should that tomorrow's presentations don't go wacko!

Live Blog --- American History

Sunday, March 2, 2008


What a weekend! I didn't do much work, I just prepared a few clicker questions to go along with a CSAP training presentation. However, today we managed to put in a new sink, garbage disposal and dishwasher. Really just wanted the dishwasher, but I guess it doesn't work like that!

I will admit that it feels a little weird to be so excited about kitchen appliances at 24, but hey whatever makes me happy ... right?

This week I plan to get alot of my data from my blog research analyzed. I think the biggest thing I'll find is that I needed more time to actually show any change in student performance. I will be able to say that blogs, just like any new tool has learning curve and must be taught to be effective. I teach textbook reading strategies, so why not teach blogging?

CSAP training tomorrow, hopefully the teachers won't be too mean to me! It is annoying to sit through the same presentation every year...hopefully free markers will make them a little nicer... and heck the clickers will make it interesting!