History Gal
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Before you decorate that teacher planner...

by History Gal

Have you seen all the amazing teacher planners out there? They are filled with beautiful writing, inspirational sayings, colorful stickers, and just looking at them makes you excited to teach. BUT, before you go overboard and spend hours decorating yours, you need to remember their purpose - planning. Your year will go a lot smoother if you spend some time looking at the scope and pacing of what you need to teach. Not sure how to even begin? Read on and I'll explain how I organized my planner.

My Favorite Low Prep Review Game

by History Gal
I love review games, but I HATE spending hours to create them. Out of necessity, I came up with a couple of review games that required very little prep time on my part and would work for all of the different subjects I was teaching. In fact, all you need for them is about 5 minutes to write down terms, vocab words, important people, important events from your current unit on some scrap paper, cut them out, and put them in a container so either you or student can draw from it.

Growing a Classroom Library? Add these books!

By History Gal

Lately, I've been daydreaming about creating a social studies classroom library. When I see the amazing collections amassed by my friends who teach ELA, I think back to the collection of thirty year old encyclopedias, old textbooks, and atlases that made up my classroom library when I was in the classroom. They definitely served a purpose, but students weren't exactly excited to use them.

What if teachers added books to their libraries that hooked students and made them want to learn more? What if the books made a foreign culture or time more relevant? What if the books were just fun to read? What if the classroom library became a spot that students liked to go to and were excited about?

While I was creating a wish list of books for my dream library, I realized I didn't have many recent books on my list. So, I asked my good friend and ELA teacher, Rachel of Writing by Rachel, to make me a list of recent books that should be added to a middle school social studies classroom collection. Here are her amazing suggestions.

Do This Before Your Students Open a Textbook!

by History Gal

Have you ever done things a certain way for years and then had a revelation that you've been doing it wrong? Well, this happened to me a few years ago.

I've always liked to assign reading homework to my high school students so they'd be prepared for the next day's lesson. And, every time, the results were dismal. I'd pretty much given up on having students read when a conversation I had with some other teachers helped me realize that I was going into the new school year with a huge assumption.

I assumed that somewhere along the line - in middle school or as freshmen - that my students had been taught HOW to read secondary sources. 

I was wrong.

Inexpensive Rewards Middle School Students Love

By History Gal
 Rewards for your students don't have to cost a lot. Here are ten your students are sure to love!
1. PENCILS - I'm always surprised at how popular pencils are (I even give pencils away at my house on Halloween and kids will pick them over my stash of good chocolate candy!).  If you are headed toward the dreaded fill-in-the-bubble sheets, make sure the pencils you are giving away are #2. I have a canister of plain to wildly decorated and holiday theme pencils for students to choose from.
2.  HIGHLIGHTERS - The various dollar stores have good prices on highlighters, but I also keep an eye out for great back-to-school sale prices. I buy the assorted color multi-packs and students get to choose one color.

4 Types of Questions You Should be Asking Your Students

by History Gal

I have always heard 'There are no stupid questions.' While this may be true, there definitely are ill-timed questions asked in your class. And, it's not what you are thinking. The ill-timed questions don't come from our students, but from us.

We all know the importance of 'wait time' before calling on a student and we usually remember to avoid leading a question with a student’s name so the other students don't zone out. But, beyond that, we should be purposeful in the questions we pose to our students.

There are four types of questions and the type of the answer you are hoping for is dictated by the type of question:

Do you want to spark student interest and curiosity? Then, you ask a hook or preview question.

Is there a definite correct answer to your question? Then, you ask a leading question that directs students to that answer.

Are there multiple possible answers? Then, you need to ask a guiding question.

Do you want to promote critical higher level thinking? Then, you need to ask an essential question (EQ).

Leave the Chaos Behind with Transitions

by History Gal

As a teacher, I take a lot of things into consideration when I plan out my lessons. I make sure the activity aligns to standards and will be engaging. I plan out the prep for the lesson and I have a back-up plan if the lesson is finished quicker than I anticipated or if it flops. But, for years, I left out an important piece of my daily lessons. It's something that signals a smoothly running classroom (and something administrators always look for it when they do their observations) and I didn't give it a single thought. What was it? Transitions - how to go from one activity to another without encountering all-out chaos in the classroom. 

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