December 2015 - History Gal

Surviving the Last Few Days Before Break

A Christmas Tree with text next to it that reads My Favorite Lessons to use Right Before Christmas Break

You can feel it in the air. Your students are vibrating with excitement. Christmas break is almost here. BUT, it's not here yet...

Here are a few lessons I've created to help me survive until Christmas break:

Middle Ages Game cards
In World History, we usually are learning about the Middle Ages around break time. This simulation is a student favorite! It takes students through a simulation where they make decisions about a fictional kingdom during the Middle Ages. Students begin by randomly picking a fictional kingdom profile and a treasury card. Their kingdom's profile will guide some of the students' answers as they face 18 scenarios with several options. Student answers determine whether they gain or lose gold coins for their treasury. While the simulation's kingdoms and scenarios are fictional, students will enjoy connecting the scenarios to what they've learned or will learn about the Middle Ages. Afterwards, students will write a creative story that incorporates what they've learned about the Middle Ages and two of scenarios in the simulation. It comes with both print and digital versions so your students can play they are in-person, remote, or hybrid!


If you are looking for a fun activity that incorporates technology, students really enjoy this Christmas Traditions Around the World Scavenger Hunt (it also includes a version without QR codes!). It also includes a digital version so remote students don't miss out on the fun!

My students always loved playing Bingo. This Christmas Traditions Around the World game makes learning about Christmas traditions lots of fun. And, it includes a digital version to play during a video meeting!





In Civics, I like to bring out Doodle Notes - if it's a Presidential election year, we'll go over the Electoral College and if it's not, we'll go over How a Bill Becomes a Law. These both include print and digital versions to make your life even easier!








My U.S. History classes work on map activities...

Students complete a map activity for the Civil War. It's perfect for helping students understand what the United States looked like at the start of the Civil War including its western territories, where significant battles occurred, and which states were Union, Confederate, or Borders states. It's also a great way to incorporate geography into your unit. Students will label, color, and draw on the map and then answer a few questions.






What are your favorite activities do to before Christmas break?

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The Importance of Critical Thinking in A Growth Mindset Class Culture

by History Gal

Welcome to Chapter 4 of Mindsets in the Classroom by Mary Cay Ricci: "Why is Critical Thinking Important in a Growth Mindset Class Culture?"

This post is part of a book study blog hop so to get caught up, you may want to check out these posts first:
Chapter 1: What are Mindsets, and How Do They Affect the Classroom? by Brigid from Math Giraffe
Chapter 2: What Are Some Ways to Begin Building a Growth Mindset School Culture by Ellie from Middle School Math Moments
Chapter 3: Why is a Differentiated, Responsive Classroom Important to a Growth Mindset Culture by Leah Cleary

Musings of a History Gal
Think back to when you were in school...
Can you name one of the "smart" kids from your class? How about one of the "not-so-bright" kids from your class? Were they always the "smart" or the "not-so-bright" kid? I can easily name classmates that fit into these categories and, as far as I can remember, they were always "that" kid. It's easy to fall into the fixed mindset culture where we think that people have fixed abilities and levels of intelligence.

A growth mindset culture challenges the fixed mindset perception by believing that a person's intelligence can grow and develop. Growth mindset is a very interesting concept. It means that, as teacher, we actually need to challenge our own personal mindsets about our students and what they are and are not capable of.

Musings of a History Gal

I think back to my teaching days. One of the major differences between my lower and upper level high school U.S. History classes was the amount of critical thinking opportunities I gave my upper level classes versus my lower level classes. My upper level students were expected almost daily to engage in critical thinking while my lower level students only had the opportunity once a week or so. In Chapter 4, Ricci explains a project where children in 53 classrooms were given the opportunity to engage in critical thinking by playing carefully chosen computer games. The results were really staggering! Low performing students showed huge growth in reasoning and the teachers perspectives of these students changed dramatically. And after her project, Ricci concluded that a growth mindset culture and increased opportunities for critical thinking can make a significant impact on students and their schools.

Musings of a History Gal
I would love to see a project like this take place at the high school level. What would be different? What would be the challenges?
I suspect that a major challenge is that by high school, students have bought into the fixed mindset culture:
They are the smart kid.
They just don't "get" math.
English is too hard for them.
Dates just don't stay in their brain.

Almost more challenging than the mindsets of high school students, is that of high school teachers. If we want the mindsets of our students to change, our mindset has to change, as well. One way to change is to incorporate more opportunities for our students of all levels to engage in critical thinking and actually believing that they will be successful. However, Ricci notes in Chapter 4 that she doubts that simply increasing the amount of critical thinking engagement will do anything unless it is accompanied by a growth mindset culture. So, the two must be incorporated together.

Intrigued by a growth mindset culture and want to learn more? Here are some great resources for middle and high school teachers:
How to Weave a Growth Mindset into School Culture by Katrina Schwartz
Even Geniuses Work Hard by Carol S. Dweck
6 Ways to Teach Growth Mindset from Day One by Angela Watson

Ready to learn about Chapter 5? Head over to Brittany's post at The Colorado Classroom.

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