It's almost here! Summer vacation! A time for kids to relax, recharge, and probably forget all about social studies for a couple of months. All our hard and innovating work to get them excited about history and social studies fades with each trip to the beach or baseball field.
But you know what? Sometimes it rains in the summer. Sometimes it's too hot or too humid to go outside. Some days are great movie days! So, here is my social studies summer watch list. These are great movies or TV shows that are sure to keep your students interested in and excited about history throughout the long and glorious summer months!
If you can think of any more great ones that you recommend to your students, please add them in the comments section below!
J.K. Rowling said, "If you don't like to read, you haven't found the right book." I've always thought this was probably true, in fact, it was posted on my board for most of March (reading month). Unfortunately, a lot of the readings we, as history teachers, have been given to use in class are not "the right book" for most of our students. They are either too old, too boring, or not at our students' reading levels. So, how do you find the "right books" (or readings) for your classroom filled with diverse readers?
A first step might be to check out my differentiated readings. I selected a variety of interesting topics in each of the time periods we teach in world history and wrote short, high interest articles at two different reading levels for each of them. When you use them, all of your students can access the identical content, but at a reading level more closely tailored to their level. Links to them in my store are listed below including a free one about Early Humans. Check them out, and if you use them, let me know how it went in the comments section.
Middle Ages & The Renaissance
The Vernal Equinox has just passed, the baseball season is beginning, it's staying lighter later and starting (slowly) to get warmer! That can mean only one thing - it's time to turn our calendars to Testober. I have recently started calling April "Testober" because it seems like my students are taking one standardized test or another two or three times a week for the entire month! Talk about student burnout. So, how can we keep our students engaged and excited to learn throughout another wonderful testing season?
I like to integrate as many games or competitions into my lessons as possible throughout the month, especially when I sense that students are getting stressed out by testing. Here are three great games you can easily integrate into your lessons very little prep:
1) Variations of Silent Ball. We play games like "Review Ball" or "Vocab Ball" or "Map Ball" that use the same rules as silent ball (no talking, pass a ball around), except that every so often I say "Review!" or "Vocab!" or "Map!" and ask the ball holder a question. If they get it correct, they stay in. If they get it wrong, they sit down.
2) Map Races. I either have two students come to the board and race to find a map location first (winner stays in, loser gets replaced), or I point to a location and in groups, students write the name of the location or physical feature on small white boards.
3) Vocabo or other games using vocabulary cards (click here for free games that use vocabulary cards). I usually use these games as part of a scheduled "vocabulary day", but during the testing season, I have packets of our old cards ready to get out and play with. It re-enforces vocabulary in a fun way that gets the students more focused on the games than the fact that they are actually reviewing.
I try to infuse vocabulary into almost everything we do. When we take interactive notes, there are specific vocabulary words that are highlighted and discussed. I also ask vocab questions during transition times (see this blog post for more info) and while we are waiting for slower writers to finish writing.
But what I wanted to share with you today is what I do in the hallway. I have a deck of their vocab words that I add to each unit so that by the end of the year, I have a card with a definition on it for every vocabulary term we have for the entire year. During passing periods, I work my way through the deck asking random students for either the definition of a term or the term for a definition for any of the terms we have had throughout the year.
It is very effective. Sometimes students flock to me saying, "Give me a word!" or, "Watch this," to a friend before defining a tough one. I even have a group of students I had last year who come by almost every morning to do it - and they aren't even in my grade anymore!
Oh, and a quick organizing tip! I color the edge of the cards with a different color to keep track of which words go with which unit.
Are your students getting a bit antsy? Is their attention span seeming to shorten? Are you looking for something different to interest and excite them? Something out of the norm that still covers critical content, but in a fun and different way? If so, my leveled readers' theater plays might be perfect for you!
My leveled readers' theater plays are content-based historical plays with parts written at specific grade levels so even your most struggling readers can have success and learn about history while also working on their reading fluency.
When I use them in my classroom, I provide a reflective writing prompt between each play that gets them to make connections between the play and the content we are studying. They come in groups of three and can be found at both my and my wife, Jen Robinson's stores. If these sound like they may be for you, click the links below to check them out, and as always, if you think someone else may benefit from these, please pass this post on!