2016 - History Gal

The Coloring Revolution and Why Your Students Should Be Doing It

By 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!


Confessions of a Teacher Who Lets Her Students Play with Food

By History Gal
I like to keep my students guessing about they'll be doing in class each day. And, one of my favorite
twists 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.


How I Cut My Grading Time by at Least Half

By History Gal
I 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!

10 YouTube Channels That Rock!

By 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 10 YouTube Channels you should check out, bookmark, and maybe even subscribe.


Survival Tips for Teaching a Subject You Hate

by History Gal
Want 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.


What is Google Drive?

By 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.


Teaching the Space Race


A Fun Idea for End of Year Tests

By History Gal

My daughter and her friends will take two End of Grade (EOG) tests this week. Last week, her teacher sent all the parents an email asking us to send in envelopes for the students to open on the mornings of their tests. Inside the envelope, we could place quotes, motivational messages, pictures, etc. to help motivate our kids and to ease some of their test anxiety. What a great idea!

Until...I started thinking. What if I write something that makes her erupt into tears? What if I include something that inadvertently adds to her fear of the test? That would just be a disaster!

All of a sudden, this simple request from her teacher began stressing ME out! I thought about not doing it. But, quickly tossed that idea aside when I realized it would even be worse if she was the only one in her class without an envelope to open.

free downloadSo, I went back to brainstorming and I came up with the idea of creating some jokes to make my daughter smile and hopefully laugh before she has to get serious and take her tests.

Now, joke creation is definitely not my forte! I got some help from Leah Cleary who is a master of words and my joke idol to create six joke puzzle cards. I divided them up into two sets and put each set into an envelope.

Musings of a History Gal

Musing of a History Gal

Hopefully, these joke puzzle cards will not make my daughter erupt into tears or add to her test anxiety, but instead give her a good laugh before she has to sit and take, in my daughter's words, a "long and boring test."

If you think your own child or class would like these joke puzzle cards, click below!
Musings of a History Gal

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Stopping the Parent Freak-Out Over End of Year Testing

By History Gal

It's that time of year. Almost every email, phone call, and correspondence from my daughter's school reminds us that End of Grade testing is almost here. Her teacher talks about it. Her friends talk about  and even parents are talking about it.

I get it, but I don't like it. It's the season of high stakes testing. Jobs and even funding rests on the performance of the students on these tests. And, as the tests get closer, I see my daughter and her friends become more and more stressed about taking these tests.

*NEWSFLASH* Stressed kids don't perform well on tests!

Here are 3 things that we are doing at our house to help our daughter:

1. We are making a conscious effort to downplay these End of Grade (EOG) tests. Our daughter is a high achiever. She wants to do everything well. And, she has it in her head that these tests carry so much weight that she will fail 4th grade if she bombs them. Talk about some self-imposed pressure! When she brings up her EOG tests, we tell her they are no big deal; that they are just a way for her to show off what she already knows; and that no matter what she scores on the test there is no way she will fail 4th grade.

Musings of a History Gal
2. We are making our actions match our words. We can't tell her the tests are no big deal and then contradict it with our actions. The other day, my daughter asked if she could skip her 6:00-6:45 ballet class next week since the next day she was taking an EOG. My answer? No. If I let her skip ballet class just because she has a test the next day, I'm subconsciously telling her that this test is so important she needs to skip her extra-curricular activities. It would give extra validation to her stress.

Musings of a History Gal3. We are making our actions match our words. I repeated this on purpose because it is hard to stop the parent freak-out. I mean well when I talk to her each day about how she is feeling about the test, if she is studying for the test at school, if she thinks she is ready for the test, etc. I mean well when I put her to bed extra early the night before the test and have a breakfast of champions the morning of the test. I mean well when I remind her to wear comfortable clothes and to wear her hair back so it won't be in her eyes on the day of the test. I do all of these things because I want my daughter to perform well on the test. However, am I helping or hindering her? If I really believe and want my daughter to believe that the EOGs are no big deal, why am I doing these things? Making my actions match my words is harder than it seems. I definitely haven't perfected things. But, my hope is that through my words and actions, my daughter will come to the realization that EOG tests, while long and boring, are nothing to stress and worry about.

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Thriving on a Teacher's Salary: Let's Talk Credit Cards

by History Gal

You know the slogans.  You hear them on the radio and see the commercials on television and online. You get mailings from credit card companies enticing you with fantastic rewards and bonus points.

So, how many cards are in your wallet? I intentionally have just 1.

Reality Check #1: Credit card companies don't offer us credit cards out of the goodness of their hearts. Credit cards companies run a business. If they weren't making a profit, they wouldn't be enticing us to sign up.

Credit card companies make their money by charging businesses fees when a customer uses a credit card and by charging us interest on any unpaid bill balances we carry.  Do you know what the interest rates are on your credit cards?  Did you know that if you make a late payment, credit card companies can increase that interest rate? For example, if I were to miss a payment, my credit interest rate jumps from 18% to almost 30%! 

Credit card companies are now required to show you how long it would take you to pay off your credit card bill if you just made the minimum payment and what the total cost would be.

Imagine you had a balance of $3000 on your credit card and you pay the minimum balance of  $30 a month. If you did not charge another penny to this credit card, it would take you 15 years and over $6000 to pay off your credit card bill!

According to a 2013 Survey of Consumer Finances by the U.S. Federal Reserves, 38% of Americans carry credit card debt. If you have credit card debt and are wondering where to even start in paying down your debt, check out Credit Card Insider's article How to Pay Off Debt.

Reality Check #2: When you make a credit card purchase, you are getting a 30 day or so no-interest loan from your credit card provider.

Thriving on a Teacher's Salary
It's not free money. It's a loan with terms and conditions. Yes, I love the ease of making purchases with my credit card, but it is really easy to overspend since I don't have to actually pay for my purchases until later.

My mom gave me very important piece of advice when I got my first credit card as a freshman in college. She said to treat every credit card purchase like a debit and deduct it from the balance in my checkbook. That way, when the credit card bill arrived, I would have already deducted the money from my account and all I would have to do was write the check. It's a strategy I use to this day. There is no stress when the credit card bill arrives because I know the money is there in my checking account. At any given time, I know exactly how much I have left in my account to spend because I have counted that credit card purchase, not as a loan, but as if I had actually used my own money for the purchase.

Reality Check #3: You may not need all those credit cards in your wallet.

When my husband and I made the decision to live on just his teaching salary so I could stay home with our kids, we took a long, hard look at the credit cards we were carrying and made the decision to cancel all but two (one for him and one for me).

 I probably had half a dozen retail credit cards from some of my favorite stores. I realized that these cards encouraged me to spend more than I really should. It was too easy to buy $300 worth of clothes and just swipe the credit card. I canceled the cards and cut them up. Now, I always say no when the sales clerk asks if I would like to save an additional 20%. Of course, I'd love to save that extra 20% - I am a bargain hunter at heart - but, I have committed to staying within our budget and not overspend. Maybe, you don't have the same problem I had. But, if you are carrying debt on multiple cards - especially retail cards - it may be time to take your own long, hard look at what you are carrying in your wallet.

Credit cards definitely have their uses and I use mine almost daily. It is just important to use credit cards as part of a budget and not as a way to buy more than you can afford.

What are some ways you keep your credit card spending in check?


Looking for some other ways to Thrive on a Teacher's Salary? Check out these posts! 

Musings of a History Gal
Musings of a History Gal

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4 Ways to Incorporate the Men's College Basketball Tournament into Your Social Studies Class

by History Gal

I live in the middle of a college basketball mecca. People around here go crazy for their favorite college team and students are no exception. The men's college basketball tournament kicks off today at noon. Students will sneak out their cell phones and even teachers will have the games streaming on their computers to see if UNC Wilmington knocks off the either loved or hated Duke University. Instead of ignoring the elephant in the room, I decided to embrace the tournament.

Here are some things that you might like to try:

#1 - Make copies of a printable bracket and let students fill out their brackets with a pen or something not erasable. I do not allow cross-outs. If they mess up, they have to re-do the bracket. As the tournament progresses, take a few minutes at the beginning of class to update and tally student brackets.

How to Score:
1st Round: 1 point for each correct pick
2nd Round: 2 points for each correct pick
3rd Round: 4 points for each correct pick
4th Round: 8 points for each correct pick
5th Round: 16 points for each correct pick
Final Game: 32 points for correct pick

#2 - Graph Making -  Use the student choices to create graphs showing how many students picked each school in each round. Place the number tallies on the board.  Each round students are challenged to create different types of graphs to show the data.

#3 - Use the tournament as an excuse to squeeze in a geography lesson. Have students label a map of the United States with the states, important bodies of water, and the sites of the tournament games.

 #4 - Use the tournament to reinforce cardinal and ordinal directions by having students write sentences about the locations of the schools in the tournament and where the students live.

I hope you enjoy these activities and enjoy the craziness of the men's college basketball tournament!

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5 Things I Bet You Didn't Know About Women's History Month

By History Gal

1. It was a celebration started in 1978 by a school district in California.

On March 8, 1978, the Sonoma school district created a week-long celebration to honor women's contributions to our history, culture, and society.

2. In 1980, President Jimmy Carter issued a presidential proclamation declaring the week of March 8 as National Women's History Week.

In 1981, Congress made the week official and in 1987, the National Women's History Project successfully petitioned Congress to change it to a month-long celebration.

3. March 8th is a significant date.

These days, women's contributions to history are celebrated all month long in March. But, March 8 is a particularly important day. It is International Women's Day. The first International Women's Day events were held in 1911 and, in 1975, the day became even more widely known when the United Nations began sponsoring it.

4. Every year either Congress or the president must proclaim March Women's History Month. 

While it is pretty much a symbolic gesture, March is not officially Women's History Month until the ceremonial proclamation to honor women's contributions is issued by the current president or Congress.

5. Since 1987, each Women's History Month has had a theme sponsored by the National Women's History Project. 

Previous themes include "Celebrating Women of Character, Courage, and Commitment" and "Women: Builders of Communities and Dreams." This year's theme is "Honoring Trailblazing Women in Labor and Business."

What do you do in your classes for Women's History Month? 

Teaching our students about the contributions that women have made to our world is very important. Check out these resources that could work in any classroom:

Celebrate Women's History Month in the ELEMENTARY CLASSROOM

Study Significant Women in History with these 


More MIDDLE SCHOOL RESOURCES for Women's History Month

Check out these Women's History Month resources for HIGH SCHOOL!

When we teach our students about significant women, we shed light on some of the greatest humans in history, dismantle stereotypes, and inspire our students. Thank goodness we have an entire month to celebrate!

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