Posted in general education, homeschool, literacy, mind, more seeds, social studies, special education

Ancient History Notebooking in the High School Years

What is Notebooking?

Notebooking is more than taking notes in a notebook.

Notebooking is the routine and practice of using a notebook, in an open-ended way, to chronicle a learning journey.

While traditional notebooks are “closed” activities, with a uniform finished product, notebooking allows students to interact with the content they are studying in a customized, individualized way. Because students are free to journal about the things that intrigue them most about a topic, they spend more time on the parts of the topic that matter to them, and less time on material they already know. Thus, there is more learning, and the learning “sticks.”

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Keeping a notebook of one’s learning is an excellent way to make new learning stick! {Image Credit: (c) 2017, Kim M. Bennett

Our Notebooking Story

I always used notebooking with my homeschooler when he was younger. The combination of drawing and writing – two of his favorite pasttimes – and the variety of page styles he could choose from made larning fun for him. We studied books, and pirates, and military helicopters, and the Ancient Egyptians, and chemistry – all through notebooking. The work he completed and the knowledge he gained as an elementary and middle school, has stuck with him all these years.

As he grew to be a junior high schooler, I doubted myself, and got trapped in the idea that the “textbook is the thing.” We fell away from notebooking for a couple of years. Maybe not as a result, but certainly at the same time, he became less enamored with his studies.

Halfway through his high school years, our teen has been revisiting his love for writing and drawing. We are going to run with that, and return to notebooking in his high school years!

Free Homeschool Resource Hub

Why Notebooking in High School?

I know that my son enjoys writing and enjoys drawing. He can do just about anything with any electronic device you hand him: make music, create amazing artwork, write a persuasive essay about why he should get his license… I want to combine all of these to allow him to learn his high school subjects in the manner that he learns best.

Debra Reed, of Productive Homeschooling, describes the benefits of notebooking at all ages, in her introductory post.

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Notebooks are more than just “flat” pages – you can use them to store vocabulary cards and other activities – here is a middle school example where a student created popsicle stick puppets of Roman gladiators, and used an envelope to hold the pieces. {Image Credit: (c) 2014, Kim M. Bennett}

Notebooking instead of a “Report!” ~ our “Ancients of the Americas” Study

I have used notebooking pages each year as a way to help my students and homeschoolers organize their reports. You can pre-enter headings onto the sheets before copying them, if your kids need help organizing information, or leave them open-ended for students to record the information that is most interesting to them. As part of our World History class this year, my homeschooler and my high school students will choose an independent research project on one of the ancient peoples of the Americas. There are many notebooking page sets available for use for this study – follow the links to download your own.

North America

The Mound People (Mississippians)

Other North American Ancients

Central America

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notebooking
Simple pockets to hold loose items can be created in binder-style notebooks, by folding a piece of construction paper and punching holes in the margin. {Image Credit: (c) 2013, Kim M. Bennett}

The Olmecs

The Aztecs (and pre-Aztec societies)

The Zapotecs

The Mayans

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notebooking
Switching to notebooking doesn’t mean you have to ditch your organizers! They can become pages in the notebook, or can be trimmed and glued onto pages as you wish. {Image Credit: (c) 2011, Kim M. Bennett}

South America

The Moche

Other South American Ancients

For More Notebooking Help…

For more examples of how you can use notebooking with all ages, see these studies at “A Child’s Garden.”



{This blog is featured in Top 100 Special Education Blogs}

Posted in general education, homeschool, literacy, math, mind, more seeds, science, social studies, special education

Tech Tools and Education Apps You Have to Try This Year!

Living in a Technological World

Kids these days are technology natives.

From the time they were born, they’ve held some kind of electronic device in their baby hands: a cell phone, a remote, a game console controller… Their classrooms, likewise, are full of technology that the rest of us never even dreamed of, including interactive white boards, document cameras, digital recorders and web cams, and 1:1 Chrome books and iPads.

Many of us charged with teaching said students with said devices are, unfortunately, technology immigrants. We may have assimilated well (or not) into the world of technology, but it doesn’t come second nature to us. Consequently, there are many of us who use our Promethean board as simply a tool to project videos while the kids eat snack.

And, of course, there is a growing anti-technology movement, based on the very clear evidence of some very real, and detrimental, effects of excessive screen time to the minds, bodies and spirits of kids and adults.

It is safe to say that the digital world is here to stay. There is no doubt that electronics, today, bring many benefits to our lives: the digital mammogram I just had is instantly readable by all of my doctors; my cell phone and a Roku app replace the TV remote that died because it sat in water on the coffee table; the music from my Pandora account streams live to two Onyx speakers in my house, so I can clean and listen to Bonnie Raitt at the same time; I can look on my laptop to see who came to my door at home, while sitting at my desk at work.

In what ways will I use technology to enhance my students’ lives and learning this year, while making sure that they live balanced lives, in the process?

Technology Tools in Today’s Classrooms

There is an amazing graphic that’s been around for a number of years, which shows about a zillion (okay, that’s an exaggeration) apps that correspond to Bloom’s Taxonomy. Perhaps you’ve seen it?

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iPad apps can be effective and modern ways to address all of the levels of Bloom’s Revised Taxonomy.

My students prefer to have real textbooks, but they are much more engaged when I incorporate interactive technological tools into my daily lessons. The “menu” above is a good start, but there are now so many more!

What’s on My Technology Menu for 2019-20?

Here are the apps and websites I’m using with my students this year:

Language Arts

Old Standby: ReadWorks: I have used this free website to download leveled articles for all subjects for a number of years. Last year, I began using some of the other features as part of my explicit instruction in language arts.

  • articles have an option be projected onto my Promethean board for whole-group lessons
  • the Article-a-Day feature can be used to build background knowledge on a new topic with my students
  • I can rotate through a number of articles on the same topic, on different Lexile levels, through the course of the week, so students can apply learned skills to increasingly difficult texts
  • the comprehension questions can be sorted by question type, for monitoring IEP goals and objectives
  • there are question sets for specific skill areas (e.g., Author’s Purpose questions, vocabulary questions)

This summer, I used ReadWorks articles to assess Oral Reading Fluency as well as Silent Reading Fluency, once a week for all students on my caseload. One downside to ReadWorks is that there are fewer articles at the higher Lexile levels. Enter my new favorite literacy site…

ReadWorks offers many options for teaching reading instruction to students of all levels. {Image credit (c) 2019, Kim M. Bennett}

My New Favorite: Newsela: Like ReadWorks, Newsela offers leveled passages for students to read, and comprehension questions to answer. This summer, I set up a free version of the account, and invited my summer school students to participate. While we considered and declined to purchase a PRO account (it was pricey), the free version was well-liked by my students, and will become part of our regular instruction this coming year.

  • students can control the readability of the text in real-time, and see the changes when they adjust the Lexile level
  • they can monitor their own progress, and have learned how to choose a “just-right” level, or a challenge level, by viewing their “binder”
  • there are more selections at the higher reading levels than in ReadWorks
  • there are fewer questions at the end than with ReadWorks
  • by logging into the students’ accounts, I can see their overall progress, as well as sort their data by question type (NOTE: with the PRO version, there is a teacher dashboard, but not with the free version – so I make it part of my conference with the student to log into their account with them)
  • Newsela is a useful learning task for independent work during the literacy block
In Newsela, students can monitor their progress in their “binder.” Green dots represent articles read where the students scored at least 75% on the response quiz. {Image credit (c) 2019, Kim M. Bennett}

Have to Try: Last year, I struggled to teach literary themes to my students, until, out of desperation, I began playing popular music for them from YouTube videos. Students were quickly able to identify the theme when it was embedded in music.

A colleague introduced me to Teach Rock, which has over 150 lesson plans and 16 units of study for teaching literary ideas through the study of popular music through the ages. We dabbled with it this summer, and I’m working it into my Language Arts work for the school year. Stay tuned!

Tools to Use: I have a handful of students who struggle with writing, either because they have difficulty spelling the words they want to use, or their physical writing process is slow and laborious. I introduced them to Windows Speech Recognition, which comes free with your Windows OS. You simply go into your settings, under Accessibility features, and activate it, so it runs in the background. With a command, it turns on, enabling students to speak their written responses. Early results show that the students are interested. NOTE: as with the voice commands on your phone, it does take time to learn how to talk so that the computer understands you, and to train the computer to understand your voice. I advise assigning particular computers to particular students, to help with that.

Windows Speech Recognition runs in the background, and can be activated by voice, to enable speech-to-text accommodation for students. {Image credit: (c) 2019, Kim M. Bennett}

Mathematics

Old Standby: I have been using Khan Academy with students (including my own homeschoolers) for years now. Many of you probably have, too. Khan Academy is free, and is especially strong in the area of mathematics, although this summer I started using the computer courses for students who needed a technology class for graduation.

Khan Academy offers high-quality, customized learning paths for students of all grade levels.
  • students can be assigned individualized work to meet IEP goals and objectives
  • students can be assigned re-teaching work, based on their grade-level assignments
  • Khan Academy can be used as an anchor activity, while you work with a small group on other skills
  • I have had students use Khan Academy outside of school, toward credit recovery
  • users can log in anywhere – helpful when kids are homebound, hospitalized or absent for any reason
  • there are initial quizzes that help determine a starting place, then a course is charted for the student
  • I have also used Khan Academy as part of an enrichment group in an elementary setting

Some students find that there is too much reading involved – this can be a barrier for students with reading difficulties.

Tools to Use: One of my teens has difficulty subtracting with regrouping, and I didn’t have base 10 blocks in my summer school tools. I discovered virtual base 10 blocks that I can use on the Promethean board at CoolMath4Kids. The kids love using the virtual manipulatives on the board – check out their site for more manipulatives.

https://www.coolmath4kids.com/manipulatives/base-ten-blocks
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There are a number of places where you can access virtual manipulatives. This is CoolMath4Kids. {Image Credit (c) 2019. Kim M. Bennett}

Science & Social Studies

Old Standby: I have a free account to Kids Discover, which has thousands of online articles, units of study and infographics, on high-interest topics of current interest, with built-in interactive parts. You can use the articles on your interactive white board. Every week, you’ll get access to a selection of free topics – more than enough to use for your entire curriculum, if you’re a homeschooler. My teens in my CDT class like it for a change up. There is a paid version, but I have not used that one.

  • useful for current topics (to supplement your regular curriculum with timely articles)
  • could be used for independent reading assignments
  • texts are high-readability for most high school students
  • colorful, interesting layout
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Kids Discover
Kids Discover is a handy supplement to your science or social studies curriculum, offering high-interest articles on current topics. {Image Credit (c) 2019, Kim M. Bennett}

Have to Try: My assistant shared the website Recyclebank with me. All of the articles are geared toward green living, health, ecology and the environment. The articles include links to high-quality, non-fiction articles from good sources, such as the Department of Environmental Protection or the USDA. There are fun elements, such as the Question of the Day. Reading articles and taking quizzes earns points, which can be redeemed for magazines and other items.

I like to have online current events sites that we can explore without a set assignment. I plan to use this site to teach kids how to efficiently explore and evaluate online sources, and to teach them how to build a reading log using online sources.

Earn points to use for rewards while you read articles on healthy lifestyles, green living and ecology, on Recyclebank. {Image Credit: (c) 2019, Kim M. Bennett}

One “old standby” which I’ve used as a homeschooler, but which I will start using this year, is Journey North, a nature-based, citizen-science website. In a survey of possible topics of study, my students selected “nature walks” and “nature study” as preferred topics. One of my students recalled using a bald eagle “nest cam” in his middle school class. Again, stay tuned!

Tools to Use: Over the summer, I’ve been experimenting with a number of digital tools and looking for ways to incorporate them into my instruction, in an authentic way.

I am fiddling around with creating infographics in Canva, using the free service. It is a powerful app, but with that power comes a lot of information. I created a circle map about the influence of the Norwich Millionaires, and I’m thinking that we might practice this one type of graphic, using Canva in our US History class to continue to emphasize similar relationships in history.

https://allkidscanlearn.school.blog/2019/07/30/using-circle-maps-in-history-class/
Canva
infographics
Canva is a powerful tool for creating infographics and many other graphics, like this one on the influence of the Norwich Millionaires. {Image Credit: (c) 2019, Kim M. Bennett}

One app that I’m planning to use to organize my classroom presentations is Sutori, another powerful digital tool, even when using the free version. I used the free version to create a timeline presentation of the early history of the city of Norwich, Connecticut. I feel it could be a great way to organize lesson materials, and will experiment with this in the coming year (see the linked blog post for a discussion on the use of Sutori to organize unit materials).

Teacher Tools

Old Standby: For the past several years, I have used a paid subscription to PlanBook Plus . It takes a little bit of time to enter plans if you use all the fields (I personally like to include the grade-level standards, and related standards from the students’ IEPs, in the plans), but I don’t mind that. One thing that is handy about this digital planbook is that I can pull it up from any device (including my phone), and that I can move lessons forward if something happens and I don’t get to something on a given day.

In the past, I included the instructional sequence for lessons in PlanBook Plus, but, this year, I think I’ll just put the “big” items (lesson title, textbook reference, standards), and leave the details for my written, daily planbook, since these might change.

Have to Try: As a special ed teacher in a self-contained classroom, in an alternative setting, I collect a lot of data, for a lot of classes, in addition to progress monitoring data. I have asked my principal to purchase a subscription to the Daily Cafe with CC Pensieve, which is a web-based data collection tool that can be used for conference notes, reading assessment data, science quizzes, and just about any information that I might collect. Because all the data is in one place, it is easy to print out a report in real-time for a PPT or a conference. It also helps me plan a workshop, or “cafe,” model for literacy and numeracy instruction, something which I experimented with at the end of last year and which the students liked, as they felt they were busier and got more individualized attention.

https://www.thedailycafe.com/
Daily Cafe
Daily 5
Daily 3
The Daily Cafe (for literacy and numeracy) was originally designed for use with elementary students, but is increasingly adaptable to struggling readers in the middle and secondary grades. {Image Credit: (c) 2019, Kim M. Bennett}

Technology Tools in Your Classroom

What are your go-to tech tools, apps and websites? Share the “best of the best” below, in the comments section!

Posted in general education, homeschool, literacy, mind, more seeds, special education

8 Steps to Better Written Responses

Writing Across the Curriculum

In schools across the country, come September, all students will be sitting down for a 45-minute writing prompt. It will be about something predictable: a fictional narrative for third graders; an informational piece for fifth graders; a persuasive essay for eighth graders..pe. Preparing students for these quarterly or monthly prompts is a major focus for most language arts teachers.

What is often missing in writing instruction is explicit instruction on how to compose high-quality written responses to questions across the curriculum. The work we do to help students write narratives with elaboration, or explanatory texts with excellent use of citations, or a well-developed argument, doesn’t seem to translate into well-written responses to questions in their biology textbooks, or even their responses to literature in English class.

This summer, I spent six weeks teaching my students how to analyze question types (recall, explanation, application, synthesis, analysis, evaluation) based on the book, Because of Winn-Dixie, and how to craft well-structured responses that show their understanding of what they read.

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These 8 steps to better written responses can be used with any age group, in any subject. {Image credit: (c) 2014, Kim M. Bennett}

The State of Written Response Work: Our Baseline

On the first day of school, I assigned an easy reading passage (so the students could focus on their comprehension questions, rather than decoding). Here is a typical response, which earned zero points using my 10-point writing rubric:


Atka and the other socialized wolves at the center are not afraid of people. Why are the other 19 wolves at the center afraid of people?

“So they can go back into the wild.”

{Student J, Grade 8}


I set out to develop an instructional sequence which would help students to analyze the question being asked, determine what was essential information to include in their response so that the reader could understand the answer and to show understanding of what they read, and teach them how to check their response to make sure it had everything it needed to be excellent.

Steps for Writing a Good Response

We used the four areas of the 10-point rubric as a guide for analyzing the question and constructing an answer.

Step 1: Listen to the question.

Students follow along as you read. Most writing prompts allow the teacher to read the prompt aloud, to ensure that students are clear about the task. Remember – you have already read the book. This task is to assess understanding of the text – not the words of the question.

Step 2: Determine how many parts your response should have.

Next, students analyze the task, to determine how many parts there should be to the response. Underline the parts that require a response.

  • Hint #1 for finding “parts:” Look for the question mark – read that sentence. What do you have to do to answer it?
  • Hint #2: Look for other “direction words” in questions without a question mark: describe, explain, list, explain…

Step 3: Identify 3-4 words to include in your response.

Students should then circle 3-4 words in the prompt that they want to use in their response. They might try to circle words like the or because, since they are common words. Ask them what are the MOST important words in the question.

  • Hint #1: Who or what is the question about? Circle those important words or names. Without this, it won’t be clear who you’re writing about. In my example, above, it isn’t clear if “they” refers to “Atka and other socialized wolves” or “the other 19 wolves.” So, students might circle the words “other 19 wolves.”
  • Hint #2: What is this question about? In the case above, the question is about why the non-socialized wolves are afraid. So students might circle the word afraid.

Don’t hurry this step. While we often tell kids, “Circle words you might use in the answer,” we don’t usually spend a lot of time helping students analyze what the prompt is really about, and what the essential words are to a good response.

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Help students analyze the question and plan their responses by selecting critical vocabulary and brainstorming ideas. {Image credit: (c) 2019, Kim M. Bennett}

Step 4: Plan at least 2 ideas to include in your response.

I don’t know about your kids, but mine don’t have the habit of thinking deeply about a question before they answer it. This step helps everyone review (and better understand) the text before writing a response, and helps them orally rehearse the words and phrases they might use.

  • Hint #1: I project or write the question on the board, and show students how to write marginal notes around the question. I draw lines to the parts of the question a word or phrase goes to. I stop when I have a handful of ideas.
  • Hint #2: Before I move on, I ask the kids each time, “Do you have to include ALL of these things in your answer?” And, of course, they say, “no.” Then I ask them, “How many ideas would be in a good response?” And they have learned to say “two,” unless the question states something different.

Some of my kids worry about finding THE correct answer, and struggle when the question just isn’t that kind of question. So this step helps them learn that there are multiple ways to correctly answer the question.

As my kids got better at this step, I added the part where I told them to make sure that their ideas went together well, and modeled that with them.

Step 5: Find at least one detail from the text to support your ideas.

While the ideas are still on the board, I change the color of my pen, and write down specific details from the text to support a few of them, as the kids generate them.

  • Hint: This is a good time to review the proper use of quotation marks for direct quotes from the text.

Step 6: Compose your response.

By this time, some kids will already have an idea how to respond, and will be starting to compose their answer. Give them five minutes or so to put their answer together.

  • Hint: Let kids orally rehearse their answers with you before they write them, if needed. One of my students leaves words out of his responses, so if he rehearses with me first, I can tell him, “I’ll say what you said – check your answer and see if that’s what you wrote.” Then I show him how to use a carat to insert words – don’t worry about re-writing.

Step 7: Review your rubric.

Before we share out, I direct students to review their rubric and check their answer:

  • Did you answer all parts of the question?
  • Is your information correct?
  • Did you include important words from the question in your answer?
  • Did you capitalize the first letter and use an end mark at the end of each sentence?

Usually, they realize they have to edit when they get to the last bullet point.

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Share adult models as well as student models of successful responses and discuss as a group. {Image credit: (c) 2019, Kim M. Bennett}

Step 8: Share your response.

To show students how there are multiple ways to answer the same question, I like to have two students come up and share their responses on the board.

  • Hint #1: Review the rubric quickly, as a group, so students can analyze the response.
  • Hint #2: Identify places where the student added something to their response to take it from “good” to “great.”
  • Hint #3: If the response needs work, invite students to suggest ways to take it from “good” to “great” – talk about sentence combining, word choice, style – whatever comes up.

Written Responses: Our Finished Work

By the end of the six-week period, the students’ response work was much more well-developed. Here is an example at the end of summer school, by the same student as the previous example {underlined words were words the student selected for his response}:



Opal describes her friend Gloria as the best adult she knows. In what ways does Gloria act like the mother that Opal doesn’t have? How do Gloria’s qualities bring Opal closer to her real mother?

“Gloria has mother-like qualities, and she gives them to Opal. Some of them are that she gives Opal hugs, and she gives her good advice. Opal and Gloria cook together, too. She also talks about her mistakes. For example, Gloria showed Opal a tree and that tree had beer bottles and whiskey bottles, and she told Opal she used to drink. Gloria has Opal thinking about her own mom.”


Who Benefits From This Explicit Instruction?

My group, as yours, is a group of students with diverse learning needs. Here are some of the specific learning needs that this step-wise instructional sequence addressed with my kids:

  • students who don’t know how to begin the response process
  • students with slow processing speed
  • students who don’t understand questions above recall and explanation level
  • students who answer questions impulsively and superficially
  • students who need more scaffolding with reading comprehension strategies
  • students who need to orally rehearse their writing ideas
  • students who struggle with questions that aren’t “right there” questions
  • students who are working on increasing their sentence complexity
  • students who are working on increasing their vocabulary

Posted in general education, homeschool, mind, more seeds, social studies, special education

Technology in the Classroom, 2: Using Sutori to Create Digital Timelines

Timelines in History Class

Timelines are a powerful way to teach historical information, in any content area. Experts on teaching history have identified five ways that the use of timelines helps students master important historical ideas:

  1. Information is presented in a historical context, instead of isolated facts;
  2. Ideas are connected to one another, enabling greater understanding of bigger historical themes and movements;
  3. Students develop the background knowledge necessary for engagement in deeper analysis and discussion;
  4. Students see the sequence and timing of events, understanding how one event contributed to the ones that follow;
  5. Timelines provide a structure for organizing information, making it easier to learn and remember.

Digital Timelines

Many teachers create timelines from strips of paper or sentence strips, adding events to the timelines as they come up during instruction. In this post, we will review how digital timelines can be created and used by teachers and students to teach, learn and respond to historical ideas, by students of all abilities.

There are many free digital timeline apps available. This timeline was created using the free version of Sutori, which creates a number of types of presentations, called “stories.”

Digital timelines have advantages over the paper wall version most of us are familiar with. Most importantly, they invite direct use by students. A wall timeline can be referred to by the teacher, or used as a resource by the students. A digital timeline, however, can be directly manipulated by the learner, via any electronic device. Secondly, because they are digital, a variety of media can be embedded or linked to the timeline, including teacher notes, PowerPoints, images, videos and web pages. This makes the timeline adaptable to the 21st Century tools our students already have access to. Additionally, more literacy-based activities can be connected to their use, as the space used by text is flexible (not fixed, as with a paper timeline). Another advantage of the digital timeline format is the ability to share electronically with other collaborators, with the teacher, and anyone else with a link. This allows multiple contributors, a cycle of review and revision, and other high-quality publishing activities to take place.

Most timeline apps have a wide variety of ready-made templates to choose from. I found the template I used in Sutori to be very helpful in designing a high-quality, rich timeline with a variety of interactive elements — ones I might not have considered, had it not been for the template’s suggestion.

A Walk-through of a Sutori Timeline: The Early History of Norwich, Connecticut

Working with digital timelines gives students excellent opportunities to practice important literacy skills:

  1. Selection of a feature image: Students practice how to choose a cover image that adds to the story of their timeline.
  2. Creation of a title: Students practice creating a title that captures the main idea of their story.
  3. Development of an introductory paragraph: Students practice important summary skills.
  4. Use of embedded tools: Students use embedded presentation and collaboration tools.
5
  • 5. Image selection: Students must research to find time-appropriate images that add value to the text, for timeline events.
  • 6. Labeling of timeline entries: Students practice writing timeline labels that capture important historical events.
  • 7. Evaluation and selection of appropriate sources, with proper links to all resources: link to high-quality source is provided, for further information.
  • 8. Giving and receiving appropriate feedback, through comments link.
  • 9. Writing informational text: Students create concise explanatory text to accompany images and explain relevance of timeline events.
  • 10. Creation of Subheadings: Brief subtitles (with dates) that help the viewer navigate the presentation, and that are appropriate for the timeline section.
  • 11. Use of sidebars: Use of embedded “Did You Know?” module allows student to include fun facts, explanations of terms and other interesting information.
  • 12. Connection to known landmarks: Use of images and information about commonly known, local landmarks helps viewer connect with the presentation, and helps establish connection between big historical events and local history.
  • 13. Identification of necessary background knowledge: The embedded Video module allows the student to include videos of any length, to help the viewer understand the content better.
  • 14, 15. Use of interactive elements: The students can engage the viewers by including interactive elements, such as the Quiz module, which can provides feedback to the responder.
  • 16. Connection to famous locals: Including famous people from the area helps viewers see connection between “big” history and their own region.
  • 17. Use of embedded digital media: Students can embed Google Docs, Canva infographics (such as the one shown), Flickr albums and a wide variety of other media, using the embedded tools. This allows showcasing of other student work in the timeline, allows students to customize their timeline and adds viewer interest.
  • 18. Development of discussion questions: By using the Forum module, students can identify and include compelling questions that lead to classroom discussions.
  • 19. Selection of graphic aids: Students can include a variety of graphic aids, including paintings, portraits, photographs, drawings, maps, and charts, as the content dictates. Here, the map of the trolley line includes local street names, so students can see where trolleys once ran in their hometown.
  • 20. Making connections across time periods: By including connections to today in their concluding paragraphs, they show the relationship between past events and the way history unfolded up to the present day.
  • 21. Proper citation of digital sources: The bibliography modules in the template allow for students to include properly cited digital resources used in their stories.
  • 22. Use of hyperlinks: Students practice correctly hyperlinking their sources to the correct webpage.
  • 23. Sharing of tools and techniques: As a consultant, I was always taught to debrief not only the content I presented, but the strategies and tools I used, as well. Giving students the opportunity to share the tools they used with others fosters a spirit of collaboration.

If you’d like to see the whole presentation, feel free to click over to The Early History of Norwich, Connecticut , on Sutori.

Options for Using Digital Timelines

By Students…

Student products. We have gone over in detail how digital timelines are an excellent way for students to “show what they know.” Consider using them as a replacement for essays, reports and other research projects.

By Teachers…

Stand-alone presentations: Teachers can develop stand-alone lessons using the timeline (don’t forget – Sutori has other “story” options, as well!). In presentation mode, each element is displayed, one at a time, making the timeline more like a PowerPoint presentation.

Organization of units of study: The timeline can be used as an outline for a unit of study, with each element representing a lesson within the study. Lesson material (Google Docs, videos, PowerPoints, etc.) can be linked via the embedded linking tools. The subheadings are available on the sidebar to the left, for easy navigation between components.

Try Making a Timeline!

I have always used PowerPoint to organize my lessons in science and social studies. After playing around with Sutori, I can’t wait to start using it for my lessons, instead! I’d love to hear how you have used digital timelines with students. Share!

Posted in general education, homeschool, mind, social studies, special education

Technology in the History Class: Creating a Facebook Travelogue

The Language Demands of Social Studies Learning

Social studies classes can be challenging for many students. Often, the content is text-based, which is daunting for students who struggle with grade-level reading. Response work is usually written, and, quite frequently, takes the form of research projects or essays – an added hurdle for many students. In addition, the topics are often from the distant past, and students have difficulty connecting them to their present life.

Students who are challenged by literacy-based learning tasks can still be actively engaged in high-quality, grade-level learning tasks, if we do two things:

  1. Make the task more accessible (by controlling the language demands); and
  2. Increase the interest level (by making the content and format more relevant to the students).
social media in history class
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Facebook photo albums can be a way for students to share their history learning with others.

Facebook Photo Albums as Response Work

In a world where kids have more technology in their pockets than most teachers do in their classroom, it seems silly to ignore how adept today’s kids are in the electronic world. While many of their teachers are “digital immigrants,” they are, indeed, “digital natives,” many learning to “swipe left” before they even reach school age.

While we want to encourage kids to be well-balanced in their use of their electronic devices, it pays to think about the world they live in when we design response projects. True example: I have three boys, ages 32, 29, and 15. That’s right – there are 14 years between the last two boys, who both had the same 3rd grade teacher. I was disappointed to see that, 14 years after my middle child was in 3rd grade, the teachers were still using the same projects, the same books and the same strategies as they had with #2 son.

Enter social media. Now, I know that 1) my kids use social media platforms that I know little about and 2) they insist that Facebook is for “old people” now. But they all are familiar with Facebook, and it’s been around long enough to have a well-developed suite of tools that can be used in many ways in the classroom.

I do a lot of family history and geneology work. Whenever I can, I find authentic photos of people, places and events to add to my Ancestry.com work, and share them with my family by creating photo albums on Facebook. It occurred to me that Facebook photo albums would make a great vehicle for students to share their learning:

  • capturing part of the message in an illustration provides scaffolding for students who struggle with print media;
  • creating a caption allows for students to practice summarizing;
  • use of Internet content gives students an opportunity to learn how to give credit to other people’s work;
  • albums can be shared among different people as a group project.
social media in the history class
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Instruct students to find photos of historical individuals, places and events, to tell important social studies information.

The Millionaires’ Triangle, Norwich, Connecticut

Recently, I created a walking tour of Norwich, Connecticut, that circles the Chelsea Parade Park and passes by Norwich Free Academy. Using online photos and content, I created a Facebook photo album that can serve as a virtual travelogue for the Millionaires’ Triangle Trail.

Each photo album entry contains the following:

  1. The stop number, with an image of a stop along the trail (I used Internet photos, but you could take your own photos, if you wish);
  2. A description of the photo, which includes the stop number, the name of the famous person who lived there, the year the house was built and the architectural style, and the address of the site or home (since it’s a walking tour);
  3. A brief summary of the life of the family who lived there, including the source of their fortune;
  4. A tag identifying the location;
  5. When needed, an image credit (many of the photos are part of the historical record of the town).

The stops are in order, so that the album can actually be used to conduct a walking tour.

social media in the history class
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Historical maps and other figures, properly cited, can be helpful additions to a Facebook photo album in the history class.

Tips for Integrating Social Media in the Classroom

Using Facebook in school isn’t like using it at home:

  • consult with your administrator first, before setting up a page;
  • create a class or school Facebook page – don’t use your own account or a student account;
  • use photos of historical people, places and things, only – don’t include photos of the children;
  • consider setting your account so that comments are not allowed;
  • make your page by invite only, and set the privacy so that only current families (not the students) have access — remove access once families are no longer part of your classroom.

When you set students out to find images for the photo album, provide guidelines to help them choose well:

  1. What important information does this image tell the reader about ______?
  2. Is this the BEST image to give that message?
  3. What information do I have to include in the caption, so my image stands alone?
  4. What order do we have to put the images in, to tell the story properly?
social media in the history class
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Give students guidelines and practice Internet safety when using social media in the classsroom.

Social Media in YOUR Classroom…

How have you used social media in the classroom? Share the best of the best with us, in the comments below – add a link so we can visit and comment!


{ This blog is featured in Top 100 Special Education Blogs}

Posted in general education, homeschool, more seeds, reflection, special education

35 Things I Learned in 35 Years of Teaching

A Little About Me…

Yes, that’s right.

I’ve been an educator for 35 years. Over the course of my career I’ve had the following teaching assignments (in order):

reflection
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Working in the school garden as a STEM Coach. {Image Credit: (c) 2014, Kim M. Bennett}

Agricultural Educator

  • Intern at the Northeast Career Center and the Ohio School for the Deaf, and area elementary schools in Columbus, Ohio, as an agricultural educator;
  • Graduate Teaching Assistant, teaching non-majors introductory horticulture and plant identification classes at The Ohio State University;
  • Adjunct Instructor, teaching vocational agriculture to non-degree students at the Ratcliffe School of Agriculture at the University of Connecticut;
  • Trainer and Instructor, teaching Home Depot garden center employees introductory horticulture in the Northeastern United States.
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My first Clinical Day Treatment School classroom. {Image Credit: (c) 2018, Kim M. Bennett}

Early Childhood Educator

  • Preschool teacher, working with 3- and 4-year-olds at the Willington Nursery Cooperative in Willington, Connecticut;
  • 1:1 Educational Assistant, working with a student with multiple disabilities at Center Elementary School in Willington, Connecticut;
  • Special Education Paraprofessional, working with 1st through 3rd grade students with mild to moderate disabilities at Center Elementary School;
  • Kindergarten Paraprofessional, Center Elementary School;
  • Dual Language Teacher, working with 3rd grade students in the Companeros Program at North Windham Elementary School in Willimantic, Connecticut.

Educational Consultant

  • Education Consultant and Team Coordinator, Early Intervention and Teaching and Learning Projects, State Education Resource Center, Middletown, Connecticut;
  • Independent Education Consultant, working with educators nationwide, at Northside Consulting.
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A presentation on vocabulary centers for 6th grade teachers. {Image Credit: (c) 2012, Kim M. Bennett (A Child’s Garden)}

Homeschooler

  • Homeschool teacher/assistant principal/chief cook and bottle washer, Grades 1-10… on to 11th grade next year…

STEM Coach and Consultant

  • STEM Consultant, New London Public Schools, working with grades K-12;
  • STEM Coach, Winthrop STEM Elementary Magnet School, New London, Connecticut, working with educators and students in grades K-5.
reflection
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My current Clinical Day Treatment School classroom. {Image Credit: (c) 2018, Kim M. Bennett}

Special Educator

  • Special Ed intern at York Correctional Institution and Carl Robinson Correctional Institution, working with adults with disabilities in all content areas;
  • Literacy tutor at CRCI, working with adults with reading disabilities;
  • Special Educator, working at Natchaug Hospital, with students grades 6-12 in an alternative, clinical day treatment setting for students with emotional, mental health and addiction issues.

It’s taken me a long time, but I know the place where I currently roost is where I’m supposed to be. It’s my favorite position of all my time as an educator.

Saturday homeschool… because the teacher was out sick without a sub for three days. {Image Credit: (c) 2014, Kim M. Bennett}

What I’ve Learned About Teaching

Here are 35 things I learned over 35 years of being an educator – in no particular order.

  1. If you want the pruners put back in the right place, trace their outline onto the pegboard with a Sharpie. Label the outline, “pruners.”
  2. Parents do the best they can with what they have.
  3. Some teachers get a “loaded” classroom, because those kids deserve the best instruction.
  4. It’s really okay to say that you don’t want to teach anymore.
  5. Teachers don’t like having new curriculum materials every two years. It makes them feel like new teachers all over again.
  6. All of us (kids and adults) learn new ideas better when we start with concrete objects.
  7. Incarcerated adults love succeeding at school.
  8. Some kids swear and act out because that’s the only power they feel like they have.
  9. Loving your students is a bittersweet part of the job.
  10. Being a second-language learner means you know one more language than most Americans – and that’s a strength.
  11. Rubrics are great for teaching, learning and assessment.
  12. Kids with behavior problems aren’t used to hearing about their strengths.
  13. People who are white can never really understand what it’s like to be a student of color in America.
  14. Teaching teachers is harder than teaching students of any age.
  15. When looking at data, there’s always a story behind the numbers.
  16. “Homeschool” isn’t “school at home.”
  17. Many kids learn just fine when they’re “unschooled.”
  18. Kids become attached to their teacher.
  19. New teachers sometimes need a shoulder to cry on, a reminder to eat, and chocolate.
  20. Teacher’s guides are not meant to be followed cover to cover.
  21. Little kids can understand big numbers – and we should let littles work with them.
  22. Elementary and Special Ed teachers need more confidence in science and math.
  23. Social studies = the forgotten subject in elementary schools.
  24. Finding a restaurant in the phone book is not an easy task for many students with disabilities.
  25. Teens find it more fun to swear in English than in their first language (whether Spanish, Creole or American Sign Language).
  26. It’s easier to remember scientific names if you set them to music.
  27. Preschoolers and college students both need to be reminded to eat right and go to bed on time.
  28. Stations and centers are fun for littles, teens and even adult learners (even though no one likes to call them “centers” with big kids).
  29. All kids can learn to love going to the library.
  30. Play is work for little kids.
  31. A good record-keeping system makes a SpEd teacher’s life much happier.
  32. For most kids, reading and writing happens spontaneously, when provided the right environment.
  33. Teachers are historically underpaid for what they do in the United States.
  34.  Gifted and talented kids need specialized instruction, too.
  35. Children will rise to meet the bar, however high (or low) you set it.

How About You?

What are some take-aways you’ve had, as an educator? Please share.

Posted in general education, homeschool, mind, more seeds, social studies, special education

#RealAmericans: A Photo Journal

“Real Americans” in the News

There has been a lot of talk in the news, on social media, and on the radio, about some of the comments made by prominent citizens in our country, on the subject of what it looks like to be a “real American.”

As most of us did, regardless of our own political and religious views, I reacted strongly to some of the messaging that I heard and saw.

A very wise friend of mine once told me, “If something upsets you, don’t do anything. Sleep on it. If you are still upset the next day, THEN do something about it.”

The next day, I was still aching, deep in my heart. But, being a teacher, I have learned that there is ALWAYS something to be learned, no matter how tragic, painful or even benign, the situation. So I set about trying to figure out what it was that I (ME!) needed to learn about what it was to be a REAL American.

The #RealAmericans Project

I created my own challenge, entitled #RealAmericans, and created a Facebook album to share as I learned (a Pinterest page will follow… stay tuned). I didn’t want it to be politically or religiously biased in any way, so I had to think hard about what messages I wanted it so give. Here are the messages I hope people hear/see from this project.

  1. Diversity is a strength. I want the project to include Americans of all kinds, of all races, of all walks of life.
  2. Love wins. No matter what the image, I wanted it to project a message of love. People might not agree with a political viewpoint, but they can’t disagree with love.
  3. Real Americans spend their lives doing wonderful, ordinary, ground-breaking things. Diapering a toddler is as important as owning a company; tending an orphaned duck is as important as leading a protest. Running a classroom is as important as running a bank or running a marathon.
  4. Everyone is my neighbor. Yes, even the ones I disagree with. Maybe even don’t like that well.
  5. There is always a story behind the image. Images we see in the news are real people. With real, American stories.
  6. Americans share common values. I want to include at least three photos from each of the 50 states and the protectorates of our country. At least one photo should show racial diversity. One photo shares a love theme.
#RealAmericans
#DiversityisStrength
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The #RealAmericans Project ~ where #DiversityisStrength.

Your Own #RealAmericans Project

If controversy arises in your classroom over what kids see in the news, instead of persuading them, challenge them to do their own #RealAmericans Project. Make sure that they include the story of the individual in the caption.

  • the person’s name
  • a brief description of the person’s role(s)
  • a statement about the person’s life.
  • the location of the photo
  • proper image credit

If you choose to do your own #RealAmericans Project, please link up the post or album in the comments section, below. Feel free to use the hashtags #RealAmericans and #DiversityisStrength. I would ask that you keep to the messages that I listed above, and keep the message positive and loving.

Namaste.

Posted in body, general education, health, homeschool, special education

Drinking Water is Good for You!

It’s So Hot… But the Water’s Not…

Here, in Connecticut, it seems like we went from winter to 90’s and haven’t looked back since June.

Since our house is a rambling old Tudor, the upstairs gets… well… rather “toasty” in the summer. Those big windows that let all the delicious light in during the winter create a mini-greenhouse in the summer. We broke down and put in the air conditioners this past weekend.

At school, I find myself reminding my teens about proper hydration, especially since there are a few of them that need motor breaks and outdoor time to refocus partway through the day.

Because we have a looser schedule in the summer (reading, writing and math, a social-emotional learning lesson and an extra period for reinforcing behavioral skills), I was looking for some lessons on self-care, and thought about teaching my students about how to keep hydrated when the weather is so hot.

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health and hydration
drinking water
Use the summer months to teach students about the importance of proper hydration.

The Importance of Drinking Enough Water

Here are some important facts about water and the human body:

  1. Your body is 50-65% water. Men are more “watery” than women, on average.
  2. The water in your bloodstream is like an HVAC system. It distributes heat evenly, keeping your temperature constant.
  3. Water is part of every chemical reaction in your body. All the enzymes that make you “go” need water in order to work.
  4. You need water for proper sanitation. Without water, well… you just can’t pee and poop properly. And sweat contains salt wastes, as well as helping to cool you when you’re hot.
  5. Water is the most important “nutrient” in you diet. A person can live without food for a long time, but only for 3 days without water.

The rule of thumb is you should drink half of your body weight (lbs) in ounces of water. For example, a 160-lb teen should drink 160/2, or 80 oz of water. That’s a little more than a half gallon of water a day! Fear not, however: eating fresh fruits and vegetables can give you a lot of that water.

If it’s hot outside, if you have a fever, if you don’t feel well, if you’re exercising … then you will need more water. In general, if you aren’t feeling your best, if you’re tired or cranky, start out with a glass of water — it might do the trick!

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health and hydration
drinking water
A Drop of Water, by Walter Wick – click for details.

Lessons on Health and Hydration, by Grade Level

I did a quick search of lesson plans on water and nutrition. Here are a few lesson plans that I though looked especially good. Let me know in the comments if you try them or if you find other ones to add to the list:

Early Childhood / Preschool and Kindergarten

Water is Your Best Friend” ~ Dublin San Ramon Services District (Dublin, California)

Let’s Drink Water!” ~ Cavity-Free Kids

Primary Grades / First and Second Grade

Teaching Kids the Importance of Drinking Water” ~ SF Gate

Hydration” ~ Fizzy’s Lunch Lab

Elementary Grades / Third and Fourth Grade

Water and You” ~ Health Teacher

Aqua Bodies: Healthy Hydration” ~ Project WET Foundation

Upper Elementary Grades / Fifth and Sixth Grade

You Are What You Drink!” ~ Teach Engineering

Drinking Water Worksheet Questions” {for research] ~ The Center for Global Studies (Penn State University)

Junior High / Seventh and Eighth Grade

Quench Your Thirst: The Importance of Water” ~ Health Powered Kids

Are You Dehydrated?” ~ The Water Project

High School / Ninth through Twelfth Grade

Drinking Water and Your Health” ~ Maryland Department of Health and Mental Hygiene

Choosing Healthy Beverages” ~ Eat. Right. Now. (Drexel University)

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drinking water
health and hydration
Living things are 50-65% water. {Image credit: (c) 2019, Kim M. Bennett}

Choosing a Hydration Lesson Plan

Pick the lesson plan you use based on the comprehension level of your students, then choose the reading materials based on their reading level. For example, my summer school students are teens, so I would deliver the content using one of the junior high or high school plans. However, since they don’t read at that level right now, I would give them student materials at the elementary or upper elementary levels. (NOTE: you can use ReadWorks to find reading materials if the ones in the lessons are not the right level for your kids).

Do you have favorite lessons or activities that you use to teach your students the importance of drinking enough water? Link them up, below!