Tuesday, August 1, 2017

The end of one dream, the start of another.

My dream has always been to help children enjoy history - and for the past 7 years, that is precisely what I have done. Students entered my classroom sharing that history/social studies was their least favorite subject, and left my classroom with it as reigning subject champion. To say that I am incredibly grateful of the Three Rivers district, my incredible colleages, my parents, MY KIDDOS, would be an understatement. I have loved and cherished each and every moment in room 220.
But dreams are funny.
They have a strange way of morphing into different dreams, not new dreams, just evolved dreams. Like when your dreaming at night and you 're at the circus with your husband, but he then morphs into your best friend ... and yet, your dream self is super chill and doesn't even notice. 
My passion continues to be history. The joy of bringing it to life will forever remain the be all end all of the dream. However, the dream morphed a little.
An opportunity to work at the school I student taught at opened up...ANNNND  it was for 7th and 8th grade ELA and history. I had been mentally wrestling with moving up in grades and when this door opened, I knew the Lord was morphing my dream.
I am very excited to be starting in August as a humanities teacher for 7th and 8th grade (I will be teaching 6th grade social studies once a week as well). I have no plans of shutting down my blog, as I hope the ideas I have shared will continue to inspire teachers. But I am planning on adding to this blog the adventures and activities of social studies in the Junior High era of my life.
Thank you to all that encourage me and for all the ideas you share that inspire and make me a better teacher.
annnnd if you are a middle school teacher - the stalking of your blog has already begun ;)

Wednesday, June 14, 2017

"If we are to have a war, let it begin here!"

The first "battle" of the Revolution occurs on a small green in the town of Lexington. In true hands-on style, we took to the "field" and had a mock paper wad battle. 

After taking a close look at the beginning skirmishes at Lexington and Concord, I had the students research the top ten most noted/important battles of the Revolution. 

Students worked with their partners to collect data on who were the leaders involved for both the British and American forces, where and when the battle occurred, the force number/casualties/captured, and the outcome of the battle.

Then students worked together to write a five sentence summary that should include who, did what, where, when, why and then 4 sentences of HOW (First, Next, Then, Finally). 

After their research and summary, the students worked in pairs to create a battle plan of their specific battle. They could make up their own or research online and find the actual battle map layout of what happened. The final battle plan needed to include their summary, the casualties/generals/prisoners for each side, and the title. 

Summary Reflection Shelves

Summarizing seems to be one the hardest skills for 5th graders to grasp or is it just my kiddos!? so I incorporate it often into social studies. In this lesson, the students work as a group or in partners to CLOSE read one of the major events that led to the Revolution (Boston Tea Party, Boston Massacre, Stamp Act, Quartering Act, Proclamation of 1763) then pull out key vocabulary words and use those words to create a summary of the event. 
Once they have established a written summary, students than create their own, independent "shelf" out of paper. 
I have them add 5 vocabulary words to one triangle (I tell them to think of words that a 3rd or 4th grader might not know because you always have those couple kiddos who "know all of these words, they aren't even hard." grrrr....ha!) 

In the second box, they illustrate the event or create a symbol to represent what they summarized. Finally, the third triangle should include their final summary. 

I really like how these turn out, and I like the independent reflection the students have to put into of the historical event. I find that it helps them remember it better. They could be used for anything - reflecting on a reading story, historical event, scientific discovery/method, etc.

Thursday, May 25, 2017

We are NEVER, EVER, EVER getting back together!

The Declaration of Independence is a break up letter from the American colonists to King George. In it, the colonists list their grievances, the rights they believe they are entitled to, and declare themselves separate from England. 
If you teach the declaration, this is a GREAT activity to do with students 5th grade and older. The activity was originally posted HERE by an 8th grade teacher in Missouri. The video quickly took the teaching world by storm and today you can find many lessons/videos/blogs about it. There is a great lesson video for middle school or high school kids on the Teaching Channel. 
I begin class by going over the vocabulary like I usually start my lessons. We teach each other the definitions for "Declaration," "Independence," and "Continental". Then I share that before I go into the lesson on the Declaration of Independence, the janitor brought me a note she found on the floor while cleaning. I pull out the note and share that I don't know who it is written too, but that it is pretty entertaining, and since, they left it out for everyone to see, I'll read it! 
Here is an example of the letter that I read to them:
"I’m not sure how to start this letter, but I feel we need to talk. I’ve been thinking about us a lot lately. Things used to be so great. It was like we were M.F.E.O (made for each other - I let the students figure that out so I look like I don't have anything to do with the letter). I mean, everyone said we were perfect. I really thought we’d be together forever, but then things changed. I feel like you started taking me for granted. You just started to do whatever you wanted and never asked me about anything or how I felt. I’ve been thinking about this for a while, and I don’t want to hurt your feelings, but I think it’s time we broke up. I mean, it’s just not going to work. I need some time by myself to see what it is like on my own. I’m sorry things didn’t work out, but I do think YOU are the one to blame. Sorry but “us” is over.”
By the time I get done reading this, the students are hysterical with glee that you just read this. I play it up too. I read it slowly and pause several times as if I really don’t think it is right to continue.
After reading the note, they obviously will want to know who wrote it. I act like I probably shouldn't, that it might be someone from this room and we would embarrass them, etc. Finally, I allow them to convince me to read and I proudly read:
….the 13 American colonies. 
Wait. What? The kids are SOOOOOOOOOOOO annoyed!!! HAHA! But they are usually still smiling ;0) 
Then I immediately go into my lesson about the Declaration of Independence being the world’s most famous break up letter.
I also show them the video "It's too late to apologize - declaration style" on Youtube (except, I show them the one I linked to, NOT the original. I don't like the rock ending, feel that it takes away from the value of the video). 

I finish off by having them do a writing assignment and "breaking up" with either a boss, a parent (moving out), a teacher (leaving their class), or a fake boyfriend/girlfriend. They must follow certain expectations in their letter, however.

Must share why they are breaking up and list their complaints. 
Must share their "rights" 
Must include the phrases "Breaking up is hard to do" and "Life, Liberty, and the pursuit of happiness" 
Must be firm but respectful (no attacking, unkind words, rude letters) 

The kids get really creative with these - which makes them SO fun to read! I always enjoy the ones that are written to me :)

My personal favorite!! (didn't get a picture)
My Declaration Of Independence

Dear, Mrs Bermingham,

I know breaking up is hard but I think it’s time. I have the right of getting you out in four square, being fair, and not having to deal with cheap shots from you. Also, by the way, you brag and laugh at me every time you get me out. This is not kind and I am sick of it! I think that I should be free and happy while playing at recess. I deserve the rights of life, liberty and happiness on the playground. So, I’m sorry, but it is official, I am going to play at the other square.    

P.S. Can you please still help me with my homework?                

                               Sincerely, Your Student

I also really like showing them "King George's response" to their break up letter and talked about how he "didn't take the break up well". Then, because you can always squeeze a Hamilton video in, we watch THIS video of that fantastic group"Hamilton Broadway in Real Life" acting out "You'll Be Back". 

Thursday, February 9, 2017

Having a Growth Mindset in the New Year

This year, I put a large emphasis on having a Growth Mindset. Like many teachers across the country, I have been utilizing this to help students focus on fulfilling their fullest positional in learning ...at least that is the goal ;) 
I started the year off with some fabulous resources from TPT teachers that really got the kids thinking of what a Growth Mindset and how to achieve it. After coming back from Winter Break, I wanted to give the kids a chance to revisit this, to look at old goals, and set new ones for the New Year. 
First, we reviewed our classroom and school expectations. I gave students a power point page with questions that reviewed expectations for a specific setting (example: the hallway, the carpet, the library, etc.). They then worked with their partner to create one of the following to help us review: 

  • Create a skit or play 
  • Sing a song 
  • Create and perform a rap
  • Make a poster and explain it
  • Pose a question and choose answers from audience members

These were my two rappers - did you notice the one on the right's shirt? Yes, it does say "AND PEGGY" which translates as "She is a Hamilton Fan" which means, she is obviously cool ;0)
It was fun to see the different presentation styles the students chose. 
Question and Answer style 
Skit in action! 
Once we did that, I borrowed a fantastic idea from Create.Dream.Explore. I wrote growth mindset vocabulary on large chart papers - as a class, we discussed the meaning behind these words and thought about why they connect to having a growth mindset. Using that knowledge, we then went around with our pencils and jotted down, around the words, what those words meant to us and how we felt they could help us be successful. 
I just loved all the thinking they shared and encouraged them to start using these words throughout our learning time. 

We also wrote our current classroom growth mindset goal on a banner to hang with our vocabulary. If you are interested in this packet, you can purchase it from Christina Winter here

Wednesday, February 1, 2017

Valentine's Craft Idea

In our school, teachers sign up for evenings to help watch the kiddos during PTO meetings. Recently, it was my week and I decided to go crafty with the little gals that I had. I was inspired by THIS pinterest craft from Crafty Morning's Blog. This is a simple and totally adorable Valentines Craft for just about any age. The little ladies I did it with were 5 and loved it! 
Materials Needed: 
Googly eyes 
Black Sharpie marker
Red solo cup 
Red, Pink, and White construction paper 
Small, medium, large heart templates for kiddos to trace (if you are doing it with little ones) 
 How stinkin adorable are these little guys ???
We used our scraps to create Valentine's Princess Crowns as well as heart garlands with glitter :) 
From now on, I am always picking the PTO meeting near Valentine's Day for babysitting *grin*

Monday, January 23, 2017

Christmas Economy

Economics is rarely something eleven year olds think about - however, our state testing system believes strongly  in their young abilities  har har and has made it clear that they are to know quite a LOT about it. However, it is not a fifth grade social studies skill...

Solution: Create a mini-economics unit during the largest money making time of the year - CHRISTMAS. 
Have you ever heard of the Christmas Price Index Express? Well, it is just about the cutest, greatest thing for teaching economics during the Christmas season. This cute little train travels through a train set sharing the prices of the 12 days of Christmas items - what they cost and how much they went up or down from the previous year. 
Disclaimer: The site, unfortunately, has prices from 2011, however, it allows for a fun estimation activity at the end to figure out what it would be total today.
Using this site, I turned my classroom into the "Economy Express" and had each stop along the site around my room. I love how it utilizes the different terms and vocabulary! 
Each day before Christmas break, we made a stop at each junction - learning something new about economy. I made THIS booklet to go along with our travels. 
Stop #1: Inflation Station 
Stop #2: Percentage Peak 
Stop #3: Inflation Station 
Stop #4: Fluctuation Farm
At Fluctuation Farms, we worked as analysts to determine price data increases and decreases. I actually paid them a Santa Buck or two this day since they were "hired" by the tree farm to determine sales information for the following year. 
In reading, we are always learning about story elements around this time, so I incorporate that by having the students read a Christmas Tree story with a partner and determining the different plot elements. 
Previous story mountain work with our basel story. 
Partner work plotting the Christmas Tree Story. 
Final assessment later in the week with an additional story. 

In addition to the mini-unit, I also set up a 2 week classroom economy. Now, I choose not to utilize a classroom economy for a number of reasons, however, I do like to use it during this mini unit to help kids review key concepts of economy. Students earn "Santa Bucks" for various actions such as turning in homework, arriving on time, doing their jobs, etc. They have to pay tax out of each morning paycheck - I start with Sales tax, then income tax, then social security tax, etc. Students honestly don't believe me when I keep adding these so I show them one of my pay sheets with each tax taken out! ha. This usually begins a brief discussion on what happens if you don't pay taxes and what tax returns are...
Students can purchase items every day from the classroom store. They can purchase either goods (small toys and candy) or services (cards with things such as "sit with a friend" "eat lunch in the classroom" "Teacher's Chair" etc.). 
Of course, if you utilize classroom economy you know, this helps students understand prioritizing, saving, and price fluctuation based on supply and demand. 
The ever changing Santa Buck price board. 
As you can see, sitting in the teacher's chair was a hot service commodity and since there was such a demand, with limited supply, it went up in price! 

Additional Christmas Economy Resources:
  • I purchased my Santa Bucks on TPT HERE
  • Purchased this Awesome Supply and Demand Unit from the Reflective Educator that I was able to integrate. Comes with a fabulous supply and demand market power point that I printed and put around the room for students to utilize like task cards. 
Over all, this is a fun review unit that I believe helps my students revisit an important 4th grade standard in a quick, but fun and educational way! 
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