Tech .5 + Creativity .5 = Colonial Fashion Lesson

Well, this year I have been trying to integrate more tech into my lessons, which has been a challenge to say the least.  After attending the Newseum and Annenberg Learner conference I was really inspired to try to get my students to use technology as much as possible.  That being said, I have been having trouble competing with my peers to get computers.  This time of year has been full of testing in all of our computer labs and the laptop carts have been highly coveted, between English working on essay/thesis writing and other teachers trying to get their projects in.  At this point there just isn’t enough computers, but there is some light at the end of the tunnel since MCPS has begun their Google experiment with Chromebooks and the Google suite.  I am a little frustrated by the slowness because I will be one of the last on the list to get a Chromebook set for my classes, but at least the devices are coming sooner rather than later.  I know I just need to be patient.  They are coming. 

So to make do with the technology that I have been able to use I created a lesson to start my students off for the school year that I thought might be kind of fun.  For years, I have been trying to figure out a way to introduce the topic of colonialism to my students.  The curriculum that I am supposed to use does not really make a reference to the people who were alive during the colonial era and I usually felt around week four that I was playing catch-up trying to explain what they looked like, why they wore the clothes they did, and why, oh, why men were walking around in powdered wigs.
This year I decided that I was going to circumvent the usual flood of questions by doing a lesson on colonial fashion.  I also found that online there are some cool resources that can be used to teach the topic without having to rely on books or paper information.  That isn’t to say that I didn’t print out some information for them as a backup, since you should always be prepared. (Glad I did!  I ended up having network issues that day for one period!)  The kids had a good time and most told me they liked using the interactive materials to learn how each person dressed. Below is the lesson plan and some pictures of their final products:

Class make Up:
In the classroom that I teach I have a diverse group of learners.  I have a wide variety of demographics in my classroom and many students with varying ability.  My On Level classes are inclusion with these average numbers being the norm: 

·         5-8 Special Education (One of my classes this year has 10!)
·         5 ESL
·         15 Gen Ed
·         3 Students who probably should belong in the Advanced Class, but were left out for one reason or another.

Warm Up:  (Usually, I get someone who talks about powdered wigs and dresses for this.  A few might tell me they went to Jamestown or Williamsburg)
Have you ever seen a person who has been wearing colonial clothing?  If so, what kinds of pieces might they have been wearing? 

1.        Explain to students the importance of using the computers, how to have a positive discussion with one another, and explain that each group will be getting only one computer to work.  Part of my goal is to build social skills that will help me throughout the year.  I also explain that each group is supposed to work together and share the computer.  This year I have gone total collaboration with the students in groups of four and in this exercise by only using one computer it forces them to talk with each other about what they see.  (I plan to write a post about how this is going.  So far, my student’s grades are higher than I have had in years past.  The real test will be the final exam from the county though.)  Once I have gone through the nitty-gritty stuff I let one person from each group grab a laptop and we begin the lesson.

2.         I created an organizer that had the entire body for notes. One that had the man on one side and the woman on the other.    They basically had to go from head to toe describing the type of clothing they would wear on each part.  For my Comprehensive students I told them they only had to put at least two thing for each part of the body.  This took basically the entire period for them to complete on day one.  I gave them time on day two and most finished about half-way through the period. 

3.       Here is a link to the blog post where I directed them to find the information.  Feel free to click around on these sites.  They were pretty cool. (I have admit…  I was being sneaky.  I was also making them practice coming to the blog for information they might need…):

4.       The students then began work as a group on designing a fashion design for a man and woman.  The groups labored over their creations and the groups that I had set from the beginning helped each person contribute in some way.  Some kids drew, some wrote the labels, and others designed the title.  I didn’t assign any group jobs and instead I let them hash out what they needed, with the expectation that if I came and asked what they did each could point to something.  The results were a finished product that was completed in every group and most ended up with a great grade. 

5.       I also talked about time management, especially for my advanced kids who need to make everything perfect.

6.       I now have posted in the hall some of my favorites and the kids have been talking about them while they wait to enter the room for English class!  I took some pictures for you all.

This assignment went very well.  Each student was engaged and contributing to the group in their own way.  I ended up with many questions about the clothes and exasperated students who could not believe that someone would wear all of those clothes every single day.  The question, “wouldn’t they be hot and uncomfortable?” helped me launch into the topic of the Mini Ice Age.  The amount of stuff I was able to cover and the amount of curiosity I was able to bring out in the students in week two was remarkable.  I plan on doing this one again from here on out.  

Feel free to steal and pass this around.  Just let your kids and colleagues know that some teacher in Maryland created this one. 

The 30 Day Blogging Challenge

I have been having trouble motivating myself to write in my blog lately.  Right now I am in the middle of coaching soccer and trying to make sure my classes are engaging and exciting for my students.  So needless to say I am tired, but I was thinking maybe I need some kind of motivator to make sure I keep writing in my blog.  I have some ideas that I can write about and plan to write down some of the lessons that I have done for the year so far, but right now I am just pretty wiped out.  So to keep myself motivated I plan to take the 30 day challenge.  I don’t plan on writing for 30 days every day, but I do plan on having 30 posts by the end of the year.  I think this is a modest and achievable goal.  

The link I plan to use as inspiration that will help me complete this goal:
Wish me Luck!

Teaching: Every Year Begins Anew

I am not entirely sure where some of this came from.  But I can tell you it was spurred by a song that brought me back to my time as a student sitting in my room on the floor in front of the stereo hoping and imagining...)

                What I think I find most intriguing about being a teacher is that we are always starting over.  I have had people tell me that I should find another job that would be more stable, probably pay better, and would allow me to not deal with everyone’s children.  I have also run into many people who marvel at the patience I must possess to work with children in the capacity that I do.  I don’t always feel like I am doing anything special.  In fact, most of the time I just feel like I am doing my job and trying to develop people who will impact the world in some way when they leave.

                I am not Superman and I really do not have an overabundance of patience, just a normal amount.  Over time I have learned how to hone my skills to be more effective and I finally feel like I might be reaching a point in my career that I know what I am talking about.  That is part of the reason I created my blog within the last year and started entering the conversations about the best methods to teach children.  But how I reached this point is rather interesting.  I have been constructed, destructed, and reconstructed so many times I have lost count.

                Every building that a teacher works in has intricacies that are unique.  I have worked in four since I started teaching fulltime in 2007.  The process was extremely hard.  Every time I made friends, I ended up moving on in pursuit of my ultimate goal:  To teach Social Studies fulltime in an environment that made me feel like I could grow.  On a personal level there are days I really miss some of the people I made friendships with, but can no longer see on a daily basis.

I traveled through so many locations it was crazy.  There was the charter school where I began and the crucible of the special education classroom where I discovered that I had a well of patience that I could tap into.  These environments taught me more about myself than any other experience in my life.  I think that while I was striving for my ultimate goal, focused and driven, I also lost parts of myself.  I became unhappy with some of the situations I was placed in.  Plus, when I finally reached my goal I was still profoundly unhappy.  What was I to do then?  Why wasn’t I happy?

For me I think teaching has been about the change and the journey.  I had thought that previously if I could only teach a different subject or teach in a different environment that I would be happy, but every time I moved into a new environment I was profoundly unhappy.  The relationships I forged throughout the time in my career were the thing that made the job worthwhile.  I have learned so much from so many different teachers it is unreal.  My time as a special educator showed me so many different pedagogical methods and teaching personalities.  In fact, the more I have worked the less I feel like I know.

In the teaching field today we live in interesting times.  There is all kinds of exciting new technology that can be utilized and bring learning into a new arena that was previously unattainable.  But at the same time we are all teaching in an environment that can be extremely hostile for a variety of reasons.  At this point, I don’t really care about the conversations that have been nothing but negative since I began working.  I only want children to see life as the journey it is and the linking of experiences that make up the story of us.

I think in the last ten to fifteen years we did well to bring about data into the classroom and the ideas of measurable goals.  But I think it is time for a change.  I think that teachers need to realize that we are dealing with people in our classrooms that have insecurities and needs that we all had at one time.  Sure maybe I didn’t have to worry about the food my family was going to eat every day for dinner, but thinking back there were things that I had in common with all of my students.  I spent time in my room wanting to be somewhere else for a variety of reasons.  I spent time alone listening to music marveling at the artists that made me feel in psychedelic colors.  I spent time trying to figure out what I wanted out of life.  I mourned friends I lost to suicide.  I felt pain and rejection.  Essentially, I lived a uniquely human existence.

In today’s world this is no different.  Students still need us to be there.  They still need us to listen to what they have to say and make them feel like they can keep striving for the life they want.  To guide them through the tough times.  I had teachers and coaches that reached out to me even when they didn’t realize it.  I can think of several teachers that influenced me in ways that made me keep going.  I think overall, developing children needs to be our top priority.  If we can teach kids how to have grit we can teach them how to continue to succeed even through the tough times.

This is why I teach.  I teach to develop the human mind and continue the striving to the next great adventure that might not even include me.  I really don’t teach for the money or for the validation of the test scores.  If I wanted validation or oodles of money I would go do something else.

I think of all the people I have met along the way on this journey and none of them have not worked hard.  We all have been fighting like scrappers in a system that has done nothing but tell us we are terrible or are wrong for about the last fifteen years.  I think that it is time we all realize we are all on this journey together.  No one is trying to hurt anyone.  We are just all doing the best we can with what we have. 

Perhaps this was not always the case, but it certainly is now.  I for one am proud to have been on this journey with lots of incredible people.  I also look forward to the changes that are obviously going to come.  I also look forward to reinventing myself.  For, it is the journey that has given me meaning, not the destination.      

      So as you start your new school year, try to think of how your journey has changed you and where you might like to go next.  I bet you will be surprised at how far you have come.  I know I certainly was…