The Coloring Revolution and Why Your Students Should Be Doing It

Musings of a History Gal
It seems like every store I've gone into recently has a display of adult coloring books. Some stores are even hosting wine and coloring nights! What is this trend all about? Well, it turns out coloring helps adults unwind and relieves stress. By focusing on coloring, adults set aside their worries and their stressful schedules and are transported back to a simpler time. I admit, that I was a skeptic. But, I tried it and it worked!

As I colored, I thought of my high school students. Particularly, it made me think of my honors and AP kids whose loaded schedules and crazy after school activities have them running on fumes most of the year. And, when it's time for mid-terms and finals, I can almost feel the stress radiating from them. So I decided to revamp my exam prep days to include opportunities for coloring (and doodling).
Now, I'm not saying I gave my students coloring books and had them color away, but I incorporated coloring into my actual exam review. I did this for all levels of students, not just my AP and honors students, and the change in my classes was amazing! My students were less stressed and they enjoyed studying for their exam!

Still skeptical? Try these free downloads in your class:
By History Gal

By History Gal

By History Gal

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Confessions of a Teacher Who Lets Her Students Play with Food

I like to keep my students guessing about they'll be doing in class each day. And, one of my favorite
Musings of a History Galtwists is to let my students use food as a manipulative. In particular, I like to have my students use gummy bears to create scenes that represent various topics. It may seem a little odd, but my students (even my too cool for just about anything Seniors) love this change of pace. Here are some different ways I've used gummy bears in my classes.

1. Civics - As a introduction to different types of political systems, my Seniors used the gummy bears to illustrate a type of government.

2. World History - My freshman used the gummy bears to review the different types of government systems in Ancient Rome (Republic, Dictator, Triumvirate, Emperor)

3. U.S. History - My 10th graders in American 1 filmed their gummy bears acting out either Shay's Rebellion or the Whiskey Rebellion.

To do these activities you'll need to buy or have parents donate gummy bears, plastic bags, and paper plates.

Musings of a History Gal
These activities do take some prep work:
- Figure out how many gummy bears each student or group will need and buy the necessary number of bags.
- Put the appropriate number of gummy bears in each bag.
- Give each student or group a plastic bag and a paper plate.

Lastly, you'll need to decide if you will let the students each their gummy bears once the activity is completed. I give my students the option to eat them when they are done and most of them do!

Want to let your students play with gummy bears? Click for a free download of my Types of Government Gummy Bear Activity that I used with my Seniors.

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How I Cut My Grading Time by at Least Half

Musings of a History GalI teach high school on the alternating block schedule - meaning I teach 6 class in total, but I only see 3 classes a day. I have a total of 173 students (!!!). So on days with quizzes or tests, I end up with 173 quizzes or tests to grade.

Here's some scary math:
If it takes me just 15 seconds to grade each student's 25 multiple choice question quiz, it'll take me about 45 minutes to grade them all. If it takes me 1 minute to grade 100 matching/multiple choice questions on a test, I'll spend almost 3 hours grading those tests (not even including any written parts!). I don't know about you, but there's a lot I'd rather be doing than all this grading!
Musings of a History Gal
This year I discovered an app called ZipGrade that has helped me cut my grading time for quizzes into minutes and my grading time for tests by more than half. The app lets me INSTANTLY grade my students' quizzes and tests using my phone. I'm a bit of a skeptic by nature so I checked out their free version first and loved it so much, I bought the full version for $6.99. If you grade a lot of tests, this will be, hands down, the best money you have ever spent for your classroom.

Musings of a History GalWith ZipGrade, I can create quizzes and tests that range from 5 questions to 100 questions. I simply follow the easy steps on the app to create a new quiz (or test) and then I create the answer key by touching on the correct answer - SUPER EASY! There's even an option to create multiple keys if you are giving different versions of the test!

 Students use ZipGrade's bubble sheets that you can download for free from their site. You can adapt them as needed for your class. I added letters inside the bubbles on my forms because several of my students said they had a hard time figuring out what circle was for what letter. If you want to save yourself some time, you can download my versions HERE.
Musings of a History GalStudents LOVE the instant grade - they don't have to wait for me to grade them by hand any more!
And I LOVE that I am able to get 173 quizzes and tests graded quickly! I also really like the Item Analysis feature. I can quickly glance at it to see how many students got each question correct and it helps me identify poorly worded questions that confused students or topics I need to go over again with my class.

I could go on and on about this great app, but instead of reading about me singing its praises, you should go and check it out. You can thank me later :)

(** I am not affiliated with ZipGrade at all, I just love how much time I am saving by using it!)

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5 YouTube Channels That Rock!

Musings of a History Gal
I am slightly obsessed with finding quality YouTube videos for Middle and High School Social Studies classes. Let's face it, there are A LOT of bad YouTube videos out there and it can be painful to find a video that is entertaining, yet educational.

So here's my list of 5 YouTube Channels you should check out, bookmark, and maybe even subscribe.

1. Crash Course - There's a video for just about every topic in US History, World History, Economics, Government, and even Psychology. They are entertaining and stuffed full with information about each topic. The videos are usually between 10-15 minutes long.

2. Mr. Betts Class - He has music videos for US and World History that are completely goofy, but with great content and students LOVE them!

3. Laughing Historically - Because who wouldn't want Third Parties explained by Star Wars?! Only venture here if you have some time on you hands because there are so many awesome videos here, you'll find yourself binge-watching them all!

4. Disney The American Presidents - So far, they have videos for George Washington, John Adams, James Monroe, John Quincy Adams, Andrew Jackson, Abraham Lincoln, Ulysses S. Grant, Franklin D. Roosevelt, Lyndon B. Johnson, and Richard Nixon. Each run a little over 3 minutes long and your students will much rather watch these than that *cough* other president video you were going to show.

5. Vlog Brothers - Another great channel by John and Hank Green (yes, the Crash Course guys and how did I not connect that the Crash Course John Green is the same Fault in Our Stars John Green?! Anyway, I digress...). I am loving their current How to Vote in Every State series and their videos that explain complicated current events.

*Hopefully, you won't mind, but I've found more YouTube Channels that rock!*

6. Shmoop - Despite the weird name, Shmoop has lots of really fun and entertaining videos that you will LOVE to use in your class. In fact, I just had my students watch Shay's Rebellion by Shmoop :) Check out their playlists to see what you can use in your class!

7.  John D. Ruddy - Lots of great videos like World War II in 7 Minutes and French Revolution in 9 Minutes that have fun illustrations and good content.

8. WWI Uncut on BBC -  My inner history nerd is already trying to figure out how many of these videos I can fit into my World War I unit. Here are just a few of my favorites (and there are so many more that you should check out!): Why Trenches?, Surviving the U-Boats, Infections, and Dogfights.

9. Epic History TV -  Lots of videos for World History like the Battle of Waterloo and The Russian Revolution and U.S. History teachers will love their 44 Presidents in 150 Minutes video!

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Survival Tips for Teaching a Subject You Hate

Musings of a History GalWant to know a secret?

Just because I'm a Social Studies teacher doesn't mean I love every subject that falls under the category of Social Studies. In fact, when I began teaching, I had an intense dislike of World History!

My first job was my dream job - teaching all U.S. History classes. Then, my husband and I moved to a different state. I found myself teaching, of all subjects, WORLD HISTORY! I had to figure out how to teach a subject I hated without making my students hate it, too.

1. Figure out why you don't like it. In my case, it all went back to a horrible teacher. In fact, the word HATE doesn't even adequately describe the feeling I had towards the subject after I completed the required 10th grade course. So it wasn't the actual material covered in World History, but its presentation that led to my dislike of the subject.

2. Get creative and think outside of the box. What will get you excited about teaching the material? If you are excited, your excitement will transfer to your students.

3. Accept help. It's extremely time consuming to create a brand new curriculum from scratch. Don't try to do it totally on your own. Accept lessons, ideas, and suggestions from veteran teachers. Go online and search for lesson ideas. Check out sites like Teachers Pay Teachers for quality freebies and paid products.

4. Start small. It's simply not practical to make every single lesson creative and fun. If you try, you'll burn out. Realize that your curriculum is a work in progress. It won't be perfect year one (or year 15 for that matter!) and that is OK!

5. Give yourself a break. To maintain your sanity, you need to take a break every once in a while.  Let the students watch a movie and compare/contrast it to what really happened or let your students teach each other. After a short break, you'll be ready to go again!

Want to know what happened after my first few months of teaching World History?
I realized it was a ton of fun to teach and it became my favorite subject to teach!

Whether it's World or U.S. History that is currently the bane of your existence, I have lots of freebies that will help as you head back to school or even if you are already knee-deep in the school year. Here are a few of my favorites:

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Want more great tips for secondary teachers? Check out these posts!


What is Google Drive?

Musings of a History Gal

I am not tech savvy and am usually the last to jump on board the latest technology craze. I learned about Google Drive two years ago when my 8 year old daughter came home needing to access her Google Drive account so she could complete her homework. Not to be rendered technologically obsolete by an 8 year old, I opened a gmail account and began to delve into Google Drive. Now, I use it all the time! Now, my goal is to help my husband, who is a Luddite at heart, start using Google Drive to reduce massive amount of paperwork that swamps him as a high school history teacher.


What exactly is Google Drive?

It is a file storage system that lets you share files and documents that will change the way you teach!


Watch the video below to learn some basics about Google Drive:

Once you know how to upload and share files on Google Drive, you can start creating completely digital activities for your students to complete, eliminating the piles and piles of paper to grade! Don't know where to begin or have the time to make these digital activities? I can help! I am continually adding Google Drive resources to my TeachersPayTeachers store. Here's an interactive Greek Goddess flap book that is part of my Greek Gods Scavenger Hunt.

You can see all of my Google Drive resources here.

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Space Race Timeline

Musings of a History Gal
Click on the links to learn about each event.



Soviets launch Sputnik I.

January 1958

Explorer, the 1st U.S. satellite is launched.

October 1958

NASA is established.



January 1961

NASA engineers test space capsule using chimpanzees.

April 1961

Soviet cosmonaut Yuri Gagarin becomes the first person to orbit Earth. 

May 5, 1961

Alan Shepard, Jr. becomes the first American to fly into space. 

May 25, 1961

President Kennedy commits to the goal of landing a man on the moon.


John Glenn becomes the first American to orbit Earth.


Soviet Cosmonaut Valentina Tereshkova becomes the first women to fly in space. 


Fire in Apollo 1 capsule kills astronauts Roger Chaffee, Gus Grisson, and Edward White.


Apollo 8 orbits the moon.


Apollo 11 lands Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin on the moon.


A successful failure: Apollo 13


Soviet and American space crafts successfully dock in space during the Apollo-Soyuz mission.


First U.S. mission using the space shuttle. 


Sally Ride becomes the first American woman to fly in space. 


Challenger explodes.


U.S. launches the Hubble Space Telescope.


Columbia disintegrates upon re-entry.


Beyond the Moon and Mars

Musings of a History Gal
*These links are specifically for my Space Race Task Cards, but feel free to check out the awesome sites above if you just want to learn more about the Space Race and the history of the U.S. in space! If you want your own print-and-go Race to Space task cards for 5th - 8th graders, click on the image below to be taken to my Teachers Pay Teachers store.