Tag Archives: lesson plan

Common Core Lessons & Material for English & Humanities

V. Donaghue, “September—Back to Work, Back to School, Back to Books” [1940]. WPA Poster Collection, Library of Congress Prints and Photographs Division, Washington, D.C.

V. Donaghue, “September—Back to Work, Back to School, Back to Books” [1940]. WPA Poster Collection, Library of Congress Prints and Photographs Division, Washington, D.C.

Edistement!, a division of the National Endowment for the Humanities, has released a series of Common Core Lesson plans for the 2014 school year.

The resources are organized into categories of Literature & Language Arts, History & Social Studies, and STEM/Humanities. They are common core aligned and include objectives and activities.

These are great resources for educators going back to school! You can check out the catalogue here.

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Have Students Make & Analyze Treaties via the National Archives

Docs Teach from the National Archives has a lot of great activities that incorporate primary sources and use great digital tools. A newly published activity helps students to analyze treaties through Treaty Making.

Students will read and analyze the text of six early treaties between the U.S. government and Great Britain, Russia, and several Native American tribes, and answer a few essential questions. Through close examination of the documents, students will expand their understanding of the original sovereign and separate nature of American Indian tribes, their legal status as independent governments, and the purposes of treaty-making between governments in general.

Students use the Mapping History tool to link primary sources spacialy on a map and incorporate existing treaties for analysis and discussion. Students then participate in a hands on activity that requires them to create a treaty of their own. The lesson plan is fully mapped out with Common Core alignment. Check out this great lesson here. You can explore additional lessons on Docs Teach website.

Kurz and Allison, Spanish-American Treaty of Peace, Paris 1898 Courtesy of WIkimedia Commons

Kurz and Allison, Spanish-American Treaty of Peace, Paris 1898
Courtesy of WIkimedia Commons

Smarthistory: Khan Academy for Social Studies

Great Mosque at Damascus by G. Lewis, courtesy of Smarthistory & Flickr

Great Mosque at Damascus by G. Lewis, courtesy of Smarthistory & Flickr

Khan Academy is popular in math for its brief lectures and interactive modules. However, you can also use it in the Social Studies. Check out Smarthistory, a free multimedia platform for student and teacher of history, archaeology, museum curation, and art history.

It includes an interactive timeline, in-depth yet easy to understand articles, vibrant images, and videos about topics throughout history and around the globe. Check out “Teach with Smarthistory” for ideas on how to incorporate it into your classroom. If you are a historian, archaeologist, museum curator, or otherwise involved in the social science consider contributing an article or multimedia content. Additionally, Smarthistory contributes videos to Google Art Project.

Google Drive & Research Essays: Monitoring the Writing Process

Even though I am “techy,” I always espouse that it’s never technology all the time. In fact, my classroom is always a hybrid environment. As such, my students write traditional research essays. As we recently implemented Google Apps for Education at Ransom Everglades School, I elected to do the entire writing and revision process within Google Drive. Here is how I chunked out the process and used Google Drive to better track my students’ writing process.

All Work Must be Written Within Google Drive

One of the benefits of drive is that it allows you to import documents from other platforms (such as Microsoft Word) either by converting them to a Google Doc or

Screen Capture of "Revision History"

Screen Capture of “Revision History”

using Drive as Cloud storage. However, this would defeat my intention of better watching how my students’ essays developed. As such, I required that all work be created within Google Drive itself. Students were not permitted to important or copy and paste.

I did this because I wanted to watch how my students’ writing evolved throughout the assignment using the “see revision history” feature. This feature allows you to see how the document progressed – when content was added, changed, or otherwise revised.

Chunk out the Assignment into Steps

I believe that larger projects should be “chunked out” so that students work on the  process – focusing on the necessary elements step by step rather than trying to throw everything together. As such, students had to submit to me: A thesis statement, Annotated Bibliography, Detailed Outline, Rough Draft, and Final Draft all through Google Drive. I explained to them my expectations on each of the assignments and showed them how I would view their process using the track changes feature. I believe in being transparent with my students – I let them know why this process was important.

Peer Review with Comments Rather than Changes

One of the biggest changes for students (and teachers) in revision is that you’re doing it on screen – this means you cannot circle and underline, rather you highlight and comment. Still, it lends to a different focus in the revision process. Some students like to correct spelling and grammar for their peers. However, I find that when developing writing skills, it is always better for the author to make the adjustments and changes themselves. A such, I instructed students that if they noticed a lot of typos, they should leave a comment directing their peer to proofread. If a phrase was awkward, they should leave a comment explaining why the phrase was problematic and suggest that the student rephrase it.

commenting-trim

Providing Feedback to Students

One of the best features of Google Drive is that it allows me to leave student comments in a variety of ways. I wrote an article a little while back entitled “Google Drive: A Better Method for Giving Student Feedback.” It highlights the fact that by working in the cloud, students and I can engage in a conversation as the comment process is no longer static. Additionally, it provides both me and the student greater flexibility in the process. Another cool feature is using Kaizena to provide voice comments within a student’s a paper.

Watching the Evolution of Writing

The best feature of Google Drive is that, using the track changes tool, I can view the evolution of a student’s work. Overall, the writing process is the most important element of the work. Even if a student’s final product is not up to par, I can look at how often they worked on it, what changes they made, how they addressed their peers’ and my critiques, and overall how their paper evolved over time. Additionally, it provides greater accountability for the students – they know that they cannot just throw the paper together at the last minute, as I can see when content is added.

Fringe Benefits

Some of the greatest advantages of using Google Drive is the fringe benefits: less paper (greener and fewer items to lose), less time comparing rough and final draft changes (I used to have to turn page by page), and saving student’s work! A student emailed me distraught because her computer had crashed halfway through her paper. She said she didn’t know what had been lost or how long it would take to repair and was hoping I had copies of the work she had done. I simply responded, “Did you write it in Google Drive?” She quickly responded, “Oh my gosh yes! It’s there!!” Crashed systems are no longer a risk!

Interactive Imagery: Blogging with Students & Thinglink

My school uses edubologs as our primary blogging platform. Just a month ago, they announced a massive upgrade that, much to my eagerness, included activation of the Thinglink widget. Thinglink is an online tool that allows you to create dynamic, embedded images out of your own images. As such, you can take a stagnant image and create a dynamic, multimodal project.

We are finishing up the American Civil War in my U.S. History Class. The Civil War was the first, broadly documented war in American History. There are repositories of tens of thousands of images through the Library of Congress, the Smithsonian Institution, and various other private and public institutions. Thus… my students had a project. They were assigned to find a meaningful image (not necessarily of a famous individual or event, but an image that had purpose) and to expand upon that image using multi-media. The image must be properly cited and and license-free (if you would like to learn more about finding license-free images for your classes, see my post: “Find Free and Legal Images for your Classroom“).

They then had to post this image on our class blog along with a brief paragraph highlighting why they chose this image as well as demonstrate critical assessment and thought in curating content to embed. In other words, don’t just throw together a bunch of links on an image. This allowed students to explore Digital Literacy in conjunction with performing individualized research on the Civil War. They then presented these projects to the class.

This was an excellent, creative project for students to stretch their intellectual muscle in conjunction with a creative element. Now, unfortunately, thinglink does not work on my own blogs. However, here are some great examples of their work along with links for you to check them out!:

Railroads & Steam Engines

Civil War Amputation

Map of Civil War Events

Student Documentaries in History Class

Every year, I have my students make documentaries (or digital stories) in class. If you would like to see my previous exploration into the realm of digital storytelling, you can check out those posts here.  I regularly revise the assignment and, coming to my new school Ransom Everglades, was excited to try it with a new crop of students in a fresh environment. As always, I was blown away by the work that my students produced!

Whenever I present this lesson for students, I do it in several phases. First, I always do a video that shows them my expectations in terms of presentation and research. This year, I decided it was time to upgrade my video and did a new one about the treacherous general, Benedict Arnold. You can see my sample video below:

While well produced videos are always nice to look at, I emphasize to my students that the primary objective of this project is research, synthesis, and developing a formal argument. The big change that I made this year (after receiving some meaningful input from a colleague) was that instead of allowing students to choose more “Biographic” or “Information Based” topics, I provided them prompts that required more analysis and research. For example, “How did George Washington receive his reputation for honesty?” or “What role did old world conflicts play in the Revolutionary War?” I was hoping that this would encourage students to do more in-depth, critical research.

Framing the Project

Like all projects I give to students, I break this assignment up into chunks. First, I establish the parameters of my project.

  • You must fully address the prompt.
  • Videos are a minimum of 2 minutes and a maximum of 4 minutes (excluding a “works cited” credits page).
  • All citation must be in Chicago Manual of Style (this is the Social Studies Department’s official citation format for research papers, I like consistency).
  • Due dates for each step are firm.

Picking a Topic:

I give my students a list of acceptable topics but I also encourage them to choose a subject on their own that interests them. We do our first day in the library so that students can do some preliminary research on the content before deciding what they want to do. I do not allow them to change topics once they have committed – so I advise them to choose carefully!

Research, Research, Research!

The most important aspect of this project is the research. I do require my students to use a minimum of two books (or sections of books) as well as

Courtesy of Wikimedia Commons

Courtesy of Wikimedia Commons

one academic journal. I also allow and even encourage them to use online resources, however I require that if they do they must apply the CRAAP Test. Not only is it a catchy name (my students never forget it), but it is also a sophisticated tool developed by California State University at Chico to help researchers (students, teachers, professors, lay-individuals) to assess content (with an eye to online material).

Another component in this is finding appropriate images, videos, or music for you overall product. As such, Digital Literacy (how to appropriately incorporate, cite, and use online content – this includes addressing issues of copyright), is a primary component in this assignment. I address this in my article, “How to Find License Free Content for School Projects.”

Outlining the Project

Example of a Storyboard

Example of a Storyboard

Just as you don’t sit right down and write a research paper without first drafting an outline, you should not craft a video without outlining it. As this has an image component, I require students to do a Storyboard. This is simply an image based outline. You can use any tool that you would like to do this. I personally just use PowerPoint.

This step helps them to organize how they will relate their information as well as arrange their images in the overall project. Just as the final research paper should not be identical to the first outline, it’s acceptable (even expected) that students move around, add, or remove images as the product evolves. I require that students turn this in early on, before they start actually building their project.

Writing it Out!

There is an important writing component to this project. Students must write out a “script” of what the narrator or actors will say in their project. This is the second required assignment in the process (after their storyboard has been approved).

I simply have students do this in essay form, but I do know that other educators want them to write it out as a formal script. This is where I emphasize that spelling, grammar, and punctuation do in fact count towards their final grade!

Assembling the Video

Courtesy of Wikimedia Commons

Courtesy of Wikimedia Commons

This is a time intensive component of the project and I strongly encourage students to not wait until the night before to do this. Some of them listen, but a few have learned some hard lessons about waiting until the last minute. Remind them that unexpected issues can and do arise, they need time to address them! I’m very available after school the day before the project is due (if they have a problem). I am less available at 3:00 am the morning of…

In terms of video making software, I am very flexible. They can use any platform that they would like, the most popular are: iMovie (for Mac and iOS), MovieMaker, Adobe Premiere, and the YouTube Video Editor. My colleagues often ask if I teach the students how to use the software. The answer is – no. They learn as they use. Video editor software today is highly intuitive and easy to learn. I do offer help if they run into an issue, but I give them a check list to try before they come to see me:

  • Google your problem
  • Search “How To’s” on YouTube
  • Read the instructions of the software that you’re using – they all have a “Help” section or a “How To”
  • Ask a classmate or a parent for help

Creative problem solving is an important skill for students to learn and this project provides numerous opportunities for them to do just that!

Publication and Presentation

The last component of this project is that the students publish their work in order for us to view it as a class. Your publication methods will vary based on age group, school policies, and student access to material. At my school, students cannot access YouTube. However, we do have Google Apps for Education. I have my students upload their final videos to Google Drive and then embed the link on our class blog. However, you may have students play it from their own device or share on a class youtube channel. This is an important step as peer review is key in academic inquiry.

My students’ final projects were amazing. Here is a very small selection:

As you can see, they did some excellent work here! If you would like, you can download my Documentary Instructions and my Documentary Rubric. Just please provide proper citation if you use it!

Potential Pitfalls

While this is an excellent projects, there are a few potential pitfalls to keep in mind.

  • Students do not have equal access to resources and equipment. To compensate for this, I like to provide ample in class time to build the project.
  • Do not grade the bells and whistles, focus on content. It’s easy to be blown away by a flashy project even if the content is mediocre. This is where I find a rubric handy.
  • You may want to reach out to parents to avoid concern about a “tech” project (especially in a Social Studies or English Class). I wrote an article, “How to Gain Parent Buy-In for Classroom Technology Integration.”

Overall, have fun and learn as you go!

Edutopia’s Big List of Digital Citizenship Resources

Courtesy of superkimbo and Flickr

Courtesy of superkimbo and Flickr

This is the end of Digital Citizenship Week. Edutopia, one of the best resources for educational technology, has gathered an excellent repository of resources, stories, and lesson plans to help you and your students become positive digital citizens. The topics they cover include: internet safety, cyberbullying, digital responsibility, media & digital literacy, and more! Check out their full list here.

You should also check out some of the relevent videos they post in their Big Thinker Series. Check out this one from Mimi Ito on Social Media as Spaces of Learning.