Thursday, July 31, 2014

APUSH Group on Facebook

There are over 800 APUSH teachers on Facebook sharing ideas, test questions, lesson plans, etc.  What is even better is that that will verify that you are actually an AP US History teacher (by emailing your school) so you can be sure that this a collection of great motivated educators.  It is administrated by the teacher across the hall from me, Wendy Feilen. 

Sunday, July 27, 2014

Four Minute Video on Causes of American Revolution

This is an excellent four minute video on the causes of the American Revolution which intersperses images with historians.

Friday, July 25, 2014

Screencastomatic YouTube Channel

I am working on a new video on flipping and ran into a Screencastomatic YouTube channel.  For example, above is a video on how to write on a Screencastomatic video.  For those of you who make lots of flipped class videos, Sreencastomatic is the way to go.  Below is my video on how to make a simple screencast using it. 

The Electoral College

My 9th graders always seem to struggle with retaining exactly how the electoral college works, especially my lower level learners.  As a teacher, it's difficult often to determine where the line is between too much information and not enough (especially since I'm a self-proclaimed government geek). Last year I found this video about the electoral college, which seemed to work particularly well in class.  

Wednesday, July 23, 2014

Turbans & The Jim Crow South

Turbans helped some dark skinned Asians escape issues of color in the Jim Crow south, according to this interesting story from NPR's Code Switch.  It also helped some African Americans!

Vanderbilt historian, Paul Kramer, says some African Americans:
... sometimes added robes, accents and carefully cultivated personas to bypass segregation laws and other kinds of discrimination 

Interactive Constitution

Thanks to Amanda Lombardi for this tip on an interactive US Constitution from the Constitution Center which will replace your "hunt and destroy" US Constitution that you might use each year.  It lets you select articles, amendments and then gives you more details.  You can also select issues and it will show you where to find it in the Constitution.   

Historical Thinking Skills

This is a great page put out by the College Board describing historical thinking skills.  While it was designed for AP US history re-write, it really works for any history class and is a good way to review if you are hitting higher level thinking skills.  

Monday, July 21, 2014

Ellis Island

One of the things I teach is the contrast between old/new immigrants. Students come into 9th grade already knowing a bit about Ellis Island but I like to show them a virtual voyage as a reinforcement. We can then springboard into different activities (writing a letter home as someone on a ship coming to Ellis Island, for example).

My Book is Coming Out This Fall, But Let's Talk Now!

When I was asked by Corwin Press to write a book last April, I had no idea how long it would take.  But I can assure you that it will be well worth the wait as my editor, Desiree Bartlett and I have shaped it into quite a useful enterprise assuming you want to learn to differentiate using technology and allow your students to be more self paced.  The title is Learning and Leading in a Digital Classroom: A Teacher’s Guide to Pacing the 21st Century Learner and the manuscript is now done as are all the graphics and we are soon going to production. As you will see while I have a ton of research it is a hands on book meant to be used over and over again while you teach as, from the start, I wanted a practical book. But for now I have started a Twitter hashtag (and yes the book explains how to create and use one of your own with your students) at "#pacingdigitallearner" which is where I would like to create a depository of lesson plans and ideas to build on my book.  So for the moment, if you have any lesson plans or ideas on differentiating, working with peers, using instruction, just go to Twitter, and Tweet a comment or link and include the hashtag.  

Sunday, July 20, 2014

Apollo 11 Landing at 45 Years

Forty-five years and one day ago my brother ate my wind-up teddy bear key and had to go to the hospital! Since we had just moved to Iran, we had no television, so my father took my brother to the hospital and the next day they got to watch the lunar landing while I sat sadly with my non functioning bear!  All three of the Apollo 11 astronauts came later in the year to Tehran where my father got me an autographed photo of all three of them.

But enough of the background.  Above is a great video showing the Saturn V rocket taking off, the landing of the lunar module and the first step of Armstrong.  By the way there are only two pictures of him on the moon as Aldrin was so mad at not being selected to be first that he refused to take many shots of Armstrong.  Thus most of the photos we have on the moon are of Aldrin such the iconic one below.

Saturday, July 19, 2014

New Changes to Google Drive

One of the reasons I really like Google Drive is that I do not have to wait to purchase a new suite such as with Microsoft (although to be fair, Microsoft's OneDrive does automatically update as well).  At any rate, Google Drive has some new changes which are highlighted in the video above. 

AP Redesign, Part II

Thanks to John Struck, AP College Board consultant and fellow Fairfax County teacher for his summary of the changes coming this fall for AP US History.  The long version is on my earlier post and here is John's much shorter overview which is probably the best place to start. 

How to Set Up A Standards Based Learning Classroom

One of the people who has posted the most on my blogs is Frank Franz who teaches government and World History I.  In the last year he has posted less because he was focused on implementing a standards based teaching approach.

He has written a short tutorial on how he did it last year and how you can as well, complete with lots of links.  For example he discussed

  • setting objectives
  • proficiency scoring - which he based on formative tests.  
  • summative tests 
  • re-takes of summative tests which are only given on the portion of the objective that was not proficient and were not given unless students could show proficiency in a topic
  • what goes into the gradebook (hint - only summative which he explains)

Friday, July 18, 2014

Immigration Growth in the US

Wow this is a fantastic aid for the classroom as it shows growth in each state by decade.  Since it is hard to read go here and you can see an enhanced page.  If you to to the search engine on this blog page you can see other recent posts on immigration, which when combined, would make a nice addition to your late 1800s immigration unit. 

Thursday, July 17, 2014

New AP US Standards

If you teach AP US History, you know there are new standards starting this fall.  If you are struggling with them, you should start with the lengthy "acorn" book put out by the College Board and then look at some of the examples of content.  There is much more emphasis on looking at different periods of time compared to other ones as well as using documents to teach the standards.  Here is one example of how one teacher will educate his students this fall.  Others are on this page. 

Monday, July 14, 2014

Setting up your Social Studies course using the Standards Based Learning model. Here's how I did it last year.

Classroom Management for Dummies

I just saw this on FreeTech4Teachers from Keith Hughes' growing library of mostly content videos.  I wish I had had it my first couple of years of teaching when I played the "who wants to go to the office game!"  Now I can proudly say it has been something like two decades since I sent a student to the office.  But that fact has been because of three of the key items in the list above of ten rules - namely 1) keep engaging the kids in work that is meaningful and connected 2) don't make bad behavior a big deal (I have lightly tapped numerous kids over the years as I have walked around or worked their names into my talking) 3) be fun.  I like to tell young teachers that if you are bored in the classroom then imagine how awful it is for the kids.  If you aren't checking the clock then they probably aren't either.  But Keith has other great tips so enjoy. 

Friday, July 11, 2014

CONFIDENCE : 1933 Cartoon

Although I enjoy teaching all time periods of history, I particularly enjoy the 1st half of the 1900's because you can use cartoons, movies, etc. to bring it to life for students.

One cartoon that was popular during the Great Depression was called "Confidence", starring a popular figure from the time period named Oswald the Rabbit.  Students are always interested in what life was like during particular time periods and are intrigued by just how different the "going to the movies" experience was.

ContextU Looking for Teacher Writers

Recently I have posted about a start-up that I have been working with called ContextU.  We have our beta site up and our first area of concentration - the US Civil War.  Basically we are trying to contextualize learning as we believe that we learn best when connecting items to other, what we call, "nodes."  So we need people to write 1) 150 word descriptions 2) find cause/effect (and it is mostly from a list we already have 3) relations to other groups.  Right now we are looking for people to write on the American Revolution.  If you are interested, please email me at 

Wednesday, July 9, 2014

Back Stories to White House Images

This is an interesting blog that I was just emailed about.  I was intrigued as the first post talked about a stroll made by Obama recently and since I had blogged on the same thing (albeit, a different walk), I was immediately drawn in.  But there is another recent one on Reagan's famous "Mr. Gorbachev, tear down this wall" speech and many other behind the scenes stories of historical events related to the White House. 

Monday, July 7, 2014

US Navy & the American Revolution

Here is a nice, short, piece on American merchant ships in the American Revolution pointing out, in part, that they, like the soldiers, saw action long before the approval of independence on July 2, 1776. 

Sunday, July 6, 2014

Google Classroom

While Microsoft's OneLive is improving, when you look at the video above, you realize how quickly Microsoft is losing the future.  Assuming more and more kids are learning with Google Drive, then, one might assume they will continue with it in their own post school lives.

The short film above shows teachers how they can easily assign assignments to their classes, or individualize them for certain students, as well as quickly see who has turned in assignments, set an assignment date and all of this is coming to anyone who has Google Apps for Education very soon. 

Saturday, July 5, 2014

US Territorial Changes

The Washington post has published a time-elapse map shows US expansion over a 200 year period. This tool is an excellent visual to use in the classroom to show border changes and also European control of territories in the US.

Contextualize Your Learning

If you, like I am, are teaching this summer, you might want to consider using a site I have been helping to develop.  About a year ago I jumped at the chance to work with a Palo Alto based group that wanted to contextualize learning.  The thought behind our work is that we learn most items in a vacuum and do not make connections between items.  So we decided that to learn better we need to have four relations 1) a timeline 2) a mapped location 3) cause and effect 4) relationship (connection) to other like groups/people.  Each of our "nodes" (people/place/things, etc.) also comes with a 150 word description.

So if you go to ContextU, you can see our 60 nodes that cover everything you need to know for the Civil War.  Later we will have all of US and then world history.

Our model has four levels; middle school, high school, college and "scholar" that allow you to see more or less of the mater.  You can also set it up for your class or just yourself.   You can also bypass the teacher/student role and just hit the "enter" button.

If you have feedback, there is a button for that or feel free to e-mail me.  Likewise if you want to send it to friends there is a way you can do it on via e-mail, Facebook or Twitter. 

Thursday, July 3, 2014

Tips to Parents from a Teacher

Recently I finished Think Like a Freak which tries to get people to think differently.  It briefly discusses education and says that if we are ever going to narrow the achievement gap and/or improve individual student performance we cannot do it all in school.  So one think I do a lot of is schedule individual parent-student-teacher conferences (15 out of 60 standard kids had one last year) where, in part, I go over the tips in this video.  Usually kids who are not achieving their realistic success level are ones not following the guidelines in the video.

What I have above is nothing earth shattering, but I think it helps to remind parents, nicely, that even if they are tired in the evening, so are there kids and the parents' job (yes I am bolder as I get older) is to keep their kids on their homework.  So this year I will be sending this video out early and then again to the students whom (no matter the grade) I believe are not up to their ability level.  I'd love to hear your thoughts on it.

Fun Facts Behind the 4th of July

I love telling people my mom was born on our independence day - July 2nd - as this video details.  If you have summer school kids it would be a nice way to end the week, but playing it for them.  We voted for independence on the 2nd, but then approved the wording on the 4th.