I love note taking days in class - I get to tell stories, make jokes, and get kids engaged and laughing while - "Wait. Mr. Robinson, can you back up? I'm not done copying yet." Right before the punch line. Every time. Or, "What do we copy?" or "Do we have to write all that?" etc, etc, etc.
Mrs. Dickenson taught my class how to take notes in 6th grade ELA. Her method was tedious, but, after lots (and lots...) of practice, it was neat and effective. Neat rows of capital letters, Roman numerals, lower case letters and lower case Roman numerals (who knew that was a thing?). Each represented topics, sub-topics and sub-sub-topics. By the time I got to college, my note taking had evolved into a system of dashes and dots. Then, as a teacher, I expected my students to be able to do the same. They couldn't. Either they were listening to me and not writing, or writing and not listening to my lecture.
So, I adapted. I developed my concept of Interactive Notes. The purpose is to present a lot of information with lots of student-to-student discussion, then once they have thoroughly engaged with the content, write down the critical content on a pre-printed student note taking sheet. The result is that all students can listen, interact and write instead of some write and some interact and some write. With my interactive notes, students can do all three, and wind up with neat, easy to read and study notes with only critical content recorded!
I have created several sets of interactive notes so far, and plan on making more (including a set of self-guided interactive notes using Google Slides that are perfect for distance learning) that are available at my TpT store. The first link below the following picture is for a free sample called "Introduction to Maps". If you like it, please check out my other ones by clicking the second link for my other interactive notes. If you like them, remember to follow my store and this blog for more great Social Studies resources!
5 Things We Think Middle School Students Should Know But Don't #2: How to Use Latitude and Longitude
Using latitude and longitude is a 5th or 6th grade standard here in Michigan where I teach, and I imagine it's around that age in most other places too, yet, every single year this winds up being a major road block. There are usually 5 to 10 students in each class who can do it quickly and correctly every time from day one, and maybe 6 to 8 who just need a quick reminder. This leaves about half of my class each year that I have to start from scratch with.
It's actually the same problem that exists with finding reading materials that challenge everyone. There's that small chunk of students way ahead - the reading/history dorks who probably already know all of the core content, the large chunk in the middle who are ready to go, and that far behind chunk that really needs intensive instruction.
So, what do we do? I devote an entire day to basic map skills using a Google Slide presentation that I am offering here and at my TpT store for FREE that both serves as a quick reminder to that middle group while introducing longitude, latitude and other map-related concepts to those who are far behind. Then, and more importantly, throughout the year, I intentionally begin or end most classes with map activities that use latitude and longitude as well as other map reading skills. I also occasionally use topical stand alone activities like my Hurricane Tracker resource for enrichment and additional practice.
Oh, one last thing before I share my resources. My wife is an elementary teacher, so I feel I have to add this. I also teach all my students, "Latitude is fatitude" and make them stick out their bellies while doing the "discount double check" motion. It's hilarious.
So, click the links below to check out the resources I mentioned in this post, and don't forget to visit and follow my TpT store for lots of other great social studies resources!
5 Things We Think Our Students Know But They Don't #1: The Difference Between Continents, Countries & States
The first of the top 5 things middle schooler's don't know for Social Studies that I wish they did is the difference between a continent, a country and a state. Every year, when we do our review of basic geography, someone invariably says, "Wait, Australia is a continent? I thought it was a country."
"Oh, so then North America's a country?"
"But we're called Americans."
Every. Single. Year.
It's almost like it's a rite of passage one year of students passes down to the next every August or something.
So, how can this gap be quickly filled? The first link below is for a FREE presentation using Google Slides that will teach your students the difference between continents, countries and states in a quick and fun way that even includes a game! The second link is for a set of three posters you can print and display in your classroom as visual reminders for your students throughout the year. These two FREE resources are only available here, so if you know any other teachers who would benefit from them, please encourage them to visit and follow my blog, and don't forget to visit and follow my TpT store for lots of great Social Studies products!
5 Things We Think Middle School Social Studies Students Know That They Actually Don't & What To Do About It
It happens every year. You know it's coming, but it still manages to catch you off guard every time. Your students (and not just one or two) don't know or don't know how to do something so basic it stops you in your tracks, and you probably utter those familiar words, "You should have learned that last year," or, in the case of working a pencil sharpener in a reasonable amount of time, in kindergarten. Seriously, Ethan, how many cranks until it's sharp enough?
It's probably not their fault, and it isn't productive to blame elementary teachers anyway. To borrow a phrase from Truman, "The buck stops here." So, what do we do? Do we scrap our scope and sequence and just teach elementary content?
No. Although, when I taught 8th grade American History, my students loved watching PBS' Liberty's Kids. The answer is to fill the gaps while moving forward with new content. I know it sounds like I'm suggesting learning to walk while we're running, but it's actually easier than that. Over the next month or so, I will be blogging about each of the 5 things and giving you some FREE resources to get started!
So, make sure you continue (or start) to follow this blog to learn more about my Top 5 Things I Think Middle Students Should Know But Don't & What to Do About It.
In Goldilocks and the Three Bears, the main character breaks into a house and rummages around the owners' stuff only taking what's just right for her and leaving the rest. Our students can be like that sometimes. Often times, when they read they will skip words they don't know which leads to misunderstanding. If something is below their level, they might just skim it and also lose meaning. The trick is to find readings that are at their level, or, as Goldilocks would say, "just right."
My differentiated readings address this issue. The same content is provided at two different reading levels - Upper Elementary and Middle School. These passages allow your at grade level students and below grade level students to all have access to the same content without the frustration of work that is too easy or too hard.
All of my World History Differentiated Readings are bundled together, but are also available by individual culture/era. Each set covers 3 topics at 2 grade levels for 6 articles per set (36 articles total!). Below are the cultures/eras covered:
So, click the link below for my World History Differentiated Reading Bundle and don't forget to visit and follow my store for more great World History resources!
I'm a 14 year veteran teacher that loves teaching, coaching, writing, and my family.