Monday, July 31, 2006

A Time to Reflect, Set New Goals, and Combat Time

passage of time

I sat in a faculty meeting from eight this morning until three-thirty this afternoon with a break for lunch. It was great to see everyone and catch up. Upon the adjournment of our meeting the school year clock began ticking. Precious time has already been wasted lolly-gagging around.

Tick, tick, tick! The parents will be milling about my room at four-thirty on Wednesday. How much homework do you give? Where can I find my son’s bus assignment? Are these the fourth grade textbooks? Where will my daughter sit? She needs to be in the front.

Tick, tick, tick! Busses will begin arriving at seven-twenty on Friday morning. Yes, FRIDAY! There is a simple mission for Friday. Get them off the bus, get them to the classroom, get them fed, get them back on the bus, and finally….get them home safely.

The beginning of the school year means many new things. Students have new teachers, new classrooms, and new clothes. Teachers experience an ever changing curriculum, new students, and new colleagues and sometimes new administrators as well.

A new school year is a chance for a new beginning, to change direction if necessary, and to set new goals.

Ever the history teacher I understand that I can’t know where I’m going if I don’t know where I have been, so I’m going to take the beginning of this school year as an opportunity to look back at some of my previous posts.

My personal top ten…so far….here at History is Elementary are listed below in no particular ranking order. Click on over and read at will....:)

1. Content Delivery: The Thirteen Colonies-a real conversation between myself and my students where I use a “questioning” technique to link an important vocabulary word from one unit to another.

2. George, We Hardly Knew Ye-my thoughts concerning de”myth”isizing history using George Washington as a focus.

3. Different Strokes for Different Folks-Differentiation, anyone?

4. Samuel Adams Isn't Just a Beer-My attempt to help students connect today’s world to an important citizen of the 18th century.

5. A Sticky Easter Memory-a personal memory involving a hot April day, a mixture of gum, chocolate, and Easter eggs, and a funeral. Yes, your eyes aren't failing you.....a funeral.

6. The Star Spangled Banner-Why It Should Be Our Anthem-My opinion and I’m sticking to it.

7. Saying Goodbye to Students-Three hundred and eight goodbyes so far...and going strong!

8. It's Important to Know Your Frontier-Just as it says….

10. Sex in the Classroom-NOT just as it says….

Michael, over at American Presidents invited me to post about presidents on his site last March. I’ve not managed to post there as much as I would like but here are my top five American Presidents posts listed below in no particular ranking order.

Can an Obscure President Become a Lesson in Character? I asked a family member to give me the name of the most obscure president he could think of. He came up with Chester A. Authur. I discovered ole' Chester was pretty interesting.

A Tale of Four Favorite Sons-I enjoyed writing this post. The Election of 1824 is a prime example to show students how the sectionalism began to to divide the nation.

Millard Fillmore Was a Know-Nothing-Vocabulary words can mean different things when used in different contexts

Exploring Campaign Slogans-My 11th grade American History teacher taught me about every U.S. election and the administrations of each President. He always included the campaign slogans, and I found them very entertaining.

So Who Was Our First President?-Some purists argue that George Washington was our 15th president!

So, one of the things that effective teachers and students do as they reflect on what they have accomplished is they set new goals to strive for, and I’m no different.

I hope to continue crafting posts that are entertaining, informative, and worth the time to read. I hope I begin to reach more of those elementary and middle school teachers who don’t blog but would enjoy reading posts about my adventures in the classroom. I hope to actually begin submitting various sections of my writing to other writing venues including magazines and professional journals.

I hope for now……but “time” will remain my enemy. Maybe over the next few months “time” and I can follow in the steps of history and make a compromise.

History is full of those, you know.

Sunday, July 30, 2006

Unanswered Questions Fuel the Love of Learning

My creation

I still strive to know as many answers as I can, however, I believe it is acceptable for teachers to be stumped sometimes, and more importantly, I think its permissable to allow students to know you’re stumped.

That’s hard for some students, some parents, and even educators themselves to deal with given that teachers should be the one with the answers. We all want highly qualified educators in our classrooms, but we also want educators who have a love of learning.

Many of my students, as young as they are, comment from time to time concerning the breadth of my knowledge regarding American History and my ability to tie in what they are studying in Language Arts to their Social Studies.

Students say, “Gee, elementaryhistoryteacher, how do you know all this stuff? How do you remember all of those dates? ”

Of course, my little dears have no inkling as to the amount of planning and research that go into a unit. They are clueless concerning the fact that I review a unit for several weeks before teaching it, and I constantly add and take away components of a unit depending on the needs of my learners.

One thing my little dears do have knowledge of is their teacher absolutely loves what she teaches. They understand that I have a rabid love of learning for any type of history and that I love a good question to research.

We would quickly loose our love of learning if we knew all the facts or had all the answers. The hunt for answers is my biggest attraction for what I do, and I want to translate that for my students. I want them to know how to search for answers themselves and string together facts to arrive at an answer.

Yesterday I came across a little factoid that caused me to travel down Internet sidestreets attempting to discover the answer to a question that involved a gold ring, strands of hair, the assassination of Abraham Lincoln, and the presidential inauguration of 1905.

Intrigued? I was. To see what I found out you will need to click on over to my newest post at the American Presidents Blog. You will need to scroll down past the mosaic of Roosevelt and Lincoln to read the second half of my post.

Wednesday, July 26, 2006

Welcome To My Mess

It’s that time of year…..put away the suntan lotion, the dog-earred novel, and all of the trip memorabilia. Accept the fact that blogging may have to decrease to two or three posts per week instead of the daily Summer post. Move all of the Summer things to-do to the upcoming Fall Break to-do list. Hang up the flip-flops and try to find more presentable teaching shoes. Try not to have any regrets about wasted time and all of the things you wanted to do over the break but didn’t get to.

It’s time to focus on the classroom to make it presentable for Open House and the first day of school. As you can see I have many, many things to do. Over the last two days I’ve opened every tub (I should have stock in Rubbermaid), and weeded out and thrown away things I haven’t touched in at least two years. I’ve dusted, cleaned out my fridge (there was a container of yogurt in there with a date of 2005), and reorganized my classroom library.

This picture (below) is taken standing in my classroom door looking towards the back of my room. I need to reorganize my word wall. I usually use words for writing on the wall and post social studies/history vocabulary on a chart. Since I am going to teach language arts to both classes of social studies I'm playing with the idea of posting all the words together since students will be writing reflections at least every other day to sort out and make connections with the content. What do you think?


This picture (below) is also taken standing in the doorway looking straight ahead. I love the fact that I have two whiteboards. They really come in handy for things I'm required to post all of the time as well as for things I need to write during a lesson. This is the side of the room where everything, yes everything was when I came to school last week. I've spread it all out so I can have space to work and I use the desktops to sort things.


This is the view (below) from the back of the room at my desk looking towards the doorway. Students will be sitting in groups of four. A set of textbooks is already waiting in each desk for students. I hold the book facing me and place a tiny number on the top close to the spine along with the first two letters of my last name. I begin with 1 and move on to 2, 3, 4, etc. I do this on each type of textbook-----math, science, grammar, reading, and social studies. One desk has all of the 1's, another the 2's, etc. This helps students keep up with their books so much better because they know all of their books should be the same number. I have forms with the school system number already written in along with the matching number of mine so on the first day of school all I have to say is "What number to do you have?" and enter the student's name. I keep a master copy of these forms with the school system number on it so I don't have to reinvent the wheel unless we have new books. A great veteran teacher friend of mine showed me this trick when I moved down to fourth grade. It also makes taking up books at the end of the year a snap.


Finally a shot of my desk. I laid everything flat and put small things in a basket back in May because I knew they would move everything to clean the carpets.


I'm worried I won't get things done before Open House. We have to be at school Monday, July 31st for an all day time to work in the rooms. I'll have all day Tuesday and Wednesday morning to work. However, Wednesday afternoon parents will be milling about my room. It's almost like having them searching through your underwear drawer. I know it a necessary evil, but I'm sure many judgements are made on that first visit. Yikes! I hate to spend my last two free days...tomorrow and Friday at school, but I may need to.

The Human Kind Revisited

Thank you to everyone who posted after my first acknowledgment found here. I really appreciate it.

NYC Educator at NYC Educator apologized for being late with his sentiments. Dear, we may be from opposite ends of the east coast, but showing concern for someone is what matters….not the timing. Thanks. Ditto to Janet at the The Art of Getting By. I agree, life is what happens when you are making other plans.

Chance over at The Sapient Sutler left me some very appropriate lyrics from Bob Dylan. Thanks!

Dennis over at From the Trenches of Public Ed. gave me a link and expressed concern. He also confided he is facing his own parent’s journey with Alzheimers. My step-grandmother had it, and currently I have an uncle who is living with it. I’m sorry…..

Ms. Cornelius over at A Shrewdness of Apes must be an absolute God-send at her school if she exhibits one-eighth the amount of caring she shows any of us when we have an emotional upheaval. She has been more than supportive by posting about my situation and even calling me a Steel Magnolia. I don’t know about that, but I appreciate it.

Kontan from Kontan's Place, is someone I can always count on for support when I need it most. Thanks!

Bellezza from Never Cease to Learn, a new visitor, felt compelled to comment regarding my comments concerning Mom’s Bible. Welcome, Beleeza! I can’t wait to visit you, and thanks for your comments.

And finally… and apology of sorts. I want to say thank you to the person who nominated my post “July 4, 1776, An Imagi-Holiday” to the History Carnival sometime during the week of July 17th. I also want to apologize to the many, many folks who dropped by to read the post and instead were subjected to an arrogant attempt by a reader to put me in my place. My response to the person, someone who had never commented here before, explains the situation far better than I can here. You can see the post and comments here. I was unaware that the post was in the carnival and the tone of the comments just really set me off considering what I had gone through that day. In defense of the person who commented it is very possible that he linked to me through the carnival and would not have been aware of my situation. At any rate……I welcome comments, even comments that call me a terrible teacher and call me pathetic, but I do reserve the right to respond or not. :)

Tuesday, July 25, 2006

A Few Quiet Mornings Left

It’s a quiet morning here except for the sound of the washing machine and the steady stream of “fair and balanced news” coming from the Middle East emitting from my bedroom television.

Both kidlets plus one friend are still asleep, and hubby left for his business an hour ago. I have a few, very few, precious mornings like this left before I am required to report to my campus for preplanning.

Students report to school next Friday, August 4th, for their first day of school. Yikes! This means my preplanning begins next Monday. Double yikes!

My classroom is a wreck. Every cabinet, bookshelf, desk, table, chartstand, and chair will have to return to its appropriate spot as everything was shoved to one side back in June for carpet cleaning. This was a good thing since two of my precious ones took to throwing up on my carpet last year. I have avoided the spots ever since.

My school was the recipient of an e-rate grant this summer so our televisions have been upgraded, a telephone system has been installed, a new bell system, and we now have cameras in our hallways and out side our building. Fantastic! However, my television was moved from one corner to the opposite one. I’m hoping the wiring is still there to use the tv as a computer monitor when I need to do a power point or show some other kind of image.

I guess I need to corral my school’s computer guru and pinpoint him regarding some of my personal issues. I want to make sure that I can still show clips of videos from United Streaming so that the picture is the right size and the sound comes through. I want to use a classroom blog with my writing students so they can use the comment feature to peer analyze and critique. Our filters are so strong any type of web journal simply won’t come through without the guru approving the URL.

Our Leadership meeting was yesterday. It was nice to get back with everyone and I had much love and support from my colleagues due to my recent loss.

I still have scads of thank-yous to write. Mother would kill me if she knew I still had not gotten to this. She was always very prompt as a fine Southern lady should be. I still have a few to do from my world of blog, and I will.

Now that it is time to become a teacher again I will start my ever expanding “TO DO LIST” and all of those people who need to be thanked will be entered upon the list along with things like “finish regions power point”, “copy units for Connie”, “complete team agenda for meeting”, etc.

One of the best feelings in the world is to cross an item off your “TO DO LIST” and make it a “TA-DAH!”…..something finished….something accomplished…..something earned.

I want to get back to normal, but normal has changed. I’m still in the “TO DO” stage with all that has occurred, and that’s ok.

It’s going to take some time to get normal to feel right again and turn all of this around from a “TO DO” to a “TA-DAH”, but I will do it….in time.

Thursday, July 20, 2006

Bibles...Recorded History

Bibles are wonderful things, of course. They guide some of us in our religious lives. They provide a history for the Hebrew people, the beginnings of the Christian church, as well as document other groups of people thriving in ancient times. The Bible is one of the world’s best works of literature. Bibles also become very personal to the owner as they usually contain information regarding the history of the owner, or series of owners, in some cases. By examining someone’s Bible you can determine past addresses, important dates within a family, and particular passages that guided the owner. Tucked between the pages you can discover items that the owner held dear and precious.

Most people cannot bring themselves to throw or give a Bible away. They are valuable objects, and the fact that some distant relative took the time to record family births, deaths, and marriages within the front and back pages make the book even more dear. I have several that belonged to my grandfather and now two more have been added to my collection.

In short…Bibles give us a compass for our future while cementing our feet in our past. There is no way to forget your family’s past if you have a family Bible.

During the course of the weekend my sister and I hurriedly ransacked our Rubbermaid containers labeled ‘mother’ that we had packed up, divided among us, and stored at our respective homes almost four years ago as mother left her apartment for the nursing home. We refused to get rid of anything in case she asked for it. I just couldn’t stand the thought of her sweet face looking up from her bed and asking, “Hon, where’s that pansy writing paper you gave me three years ago for Mother’s Day? I want to write a letter.” Or, even worse, “Sweetie, I’m tired of looking at that crystal candy dish. I want the one Sara and Fauscett gave me….you know, the one that used to sit on the coffee table at Red Oak.” I simply didn’t want to have to say she no longer owned something so between my sister and I everything was stored.

Mother’s casket was closed for the majority of the visitation period at her request. Therefore, sister and I wanted to have as many pictures of mother as possible set out around the two rooms we were given. We wanted to put out pictures of her with us, with my dad (even though they were divorced), with her family, as a child, and with her friends. Between the two of us we did really well. There were pictures everywhere and many of mother’s highschool friends had a great time trying to figure out who was who in some of them. After many years of sickness it was great therapy for all of us to be surrounded by images of the Geri we all all remember whether we remembered her as sister, wife, mother, aunt, cousin, or friend.

One of the things I came across as I hurriedly grabbed pictures was Mother’s Bible. She had used two for several years. After her father’s death in 1984 she had begun using The Living Bible that my sister and I had given our grandfather as a gift in 1977. His writing is all over the inside covers, passages are underlined, and an occaisional slip of paper with his handwriting can be found between the pages. Mother’s Bible is, of course, a King James version, published by The World Publishing Company. I couldn’t locate a date of publishing. The address she wrote in the front was the first house my mother and father bought together in Atlanta close to my Aunt Boofie ( I wrote about her here). Mother’s neat handwriting abounds in this Bible. The dates and details of my sister’s baptism and wedding, my baptism and wedding, the date Mother moved her letter of membership to another church, certain passages that meant something to her: what to read during times of death, passages concerning types of dress for men and women, a reminder of where the “seasons” passage can be found (Ecclesiastes 3:1); and passages every Baptist is concerned about at one time or another regarding tithing. Romans, her favorite chapter is underlined heavily. The pages are yellow, the cover is brittle, the picture in the front is a rendering of the prodigal son’s return to his father’s arms. I remember sitting next to her in church on Sunday mornings thumbing through her Bible and always stopping at the picture and gazing at it since I couldn’t yet read. I always thought the white bearded man was God welcoming people to Heaven.

The real treasure mine of Mother’s Bible was the “stuff” she had placed within the pages. Various bookmarks folks had given her with their names inscribed on the back with a laundry marker on the back so she wouldn’t forget who gave it to her. Several cards from my sister and I for birthdays and Mother’s Day. A scrap of paper that my cousin Nathan wrote on when he was a much younger child. He was writing a letter to my mom alongside his grandmother. When his grandmother put her letter in the evelope she included Nathan’s letter to Geri, too. I couldn’t help smile as I looked at it. Mother had written on it exactly who had scribbled on the paper, why, and when. Nathan is now a very handsome young man and I’m going to make a copy of the paper to keep and send his mother the original for her to place between the pages of her Bible. A memory passed along…..a story for a future father to tell when he goes through his mother’s Bible… does have a way of carrying on, doesn’t it?

Notes from friends, old church bulletins, copies of letters she wrote to her old church and pictures. There is a five by seven picture of my sister and her husband on their wedding day. There is another picture showing the first house my mom and dad built together. It’s down the road from where my dad lives now. It’s a huge home. We never lived there……..I wonder why mom kept a picture in her Bible of that house. Maybe she liked to remember the good times we had there while it was under construction before she and my father divorced.

Several obituaries were found within the pages as well----my grandfather, my grandmother, my mother’s half-brother, many other family members as well. I carefully replaced them. I believe they should stay where she had them. Afterall, these things are treasures and someone else in the future will enjoy their find.

I looked up some information about Bibles. You can see several images of English and American Bibles here and here.

Sometimes we don’t need a history textbook or some heavy tome to discover where we’ve been. Sometimes, all we need to do is grab our family Bible.

Your past is waiting for you within its pages.

The Human Kind

I’m tired, sad, joyful, and hopeful all at the same time with a whole lot of weird thrown in. That really sounds like I’m a child of the seventies, but I am, and I can’t help it. I don’t know any other way to explain my thoughts and feelings over the last few days. However, groovy and neat-o certainly don’t fit the bill.

Thank you to each one of you who left a comment concerning my mother’s death. I appreciate the effort on your part. There is no way for me to express what your concern means to me, so in my meager efforts to express my feelings I will do the only the thing I can in the blogging world…..I’ll give you a link back.

Many thanks to Dan over at A History Teacher, the Rain over at I Thought a Think, Ms-Teacher at Ms. Teacher, and Lady S at Lady Strathconn's Journal for their kind words.

Spangles and Anonymous need a big thank-you as well, but I don’t have a place to link for you.

Ms. Cornelius at Shrewdness of Apes, Mike at Education in Texas, and 40 over at Fordee Blog have been through this before and I appreciate the support. We have been appointed membership in a club we don’t want to belong to. Maybe you, dear reader, are also a member of that club.

Polski3, I appreciate your optimism. We tend to think alike on many things. Thanks!

Mr. Lawrence over at Get Lost Mr. Chips had kind words and so did Q's Personal Legend. Q, I agree with you about Mom’s picture. So far it is the best one we have of her in her prime.

Californiateacherguy over at California Teacher Guy sent kind words as well as linked to me from his group blog LiveWire: Teaching in the Golden State to let others know. CTG, are you sure you’re not from the South? What hospitality!

Dekerivers at Caffeinated Politics sent some lovely, appropriate lyrics. Thanks!

Butterfly Angel at Butterfly Angel was so right with her kind words….”God will be our strength and we fly like the eagle…”

and last but not least…..Sumir at Sumir-History your email meant so much to me. My mother would be most impressed that through this “blogging hobby” of mine, as she referred to it, someone an entire world away would hear of her death and think of her and me. Thank you Sumir for showing what a small world we really live on.

We are one “kind” when you consider all things….humankind.

Thank you, my friends, for reconfirming that for me. :)

Sunday, July 16, 2006

This Isn't the Post I Had Planned......

I had planned to post all of the links and images everyone sent me for my previous post. I really appreciate the way each of you played along with me as I had a little fun with the 100th school day theme. I needed a little fun last week as it has been a difficult few days.

My beloved mother went to Heaven at 1:45 in the morning on Saturday, July 15, 2006. She had been very ill for many years, and had lived in a nursing home for four years. The past month has been difficult for her as she entered her last days. She no longer hurts, she no longer fights for her next breath, and she no longer has to suffer the indignities her illness had brought her.

My sister and I have been going through pictures getting ready for Mother’s memorial service. After witnesses her slow decline and the ravages her illness had taken on her body I was simply aghast when this image came in an email from my sister. My mother was absolutely gorgeous. We are hoping one of our relatives can tell us where and when it was made. I had never seen this picture before which is surprising because I always ransacked the house looking through picture boxes.

This is THE way I want to remember her----young and beautiful.

I am going to take a few days off from my blog to take care of my family and myself.

I’ll be back soon. :(

Tuesday, July 11, 2006


Welcome to my 100th post!

After 100 posts I'm a bit delirious so forgive me as we depart from the norm here at History Is Elementary.

Some teachers across this great land of ours plan wonderful, elaborate celebrations for students to take part in on the 100th day of school. I have planned some opportunties for you to participate in on this most momentous occaision since you probably never experienced a 100th day recognition from the student's point of view.

Okay readers, sit up straight and sing along with me (to the tune of “Ta-ra-ra boom de ay”)

It’s the 100th word play
So shout hip-hip hooray!
We’ll count and eat and play,
It’s the 100th word play
See all we’ve collected.
100’s on display.
Join in the fun and say,
Hooray for the 100th word play!

Great job! I knew you could do it. Now, we are going to have a little history lesson. You didn’t think you were going to get by without one, did you?

Wikipedia advises that by the year 100 the Roman army had reached 30,000 soldiers. Lions had become extinct in Europe by that time, and the Jewish historian, Josephus, passed away. The year 100 saw the first use of the wheelbarrow in China, and the Hopewell culture began to make itself known in what would one day become Ohio. In India, you might have found the beginnings of the compilation of the Kama Sutra while a traveler in the Christian world would have seen the early dogma and formulas regarding Christian morality.

Alternative resources are always real important in the classroom so here are a few to entertain you:

100 things to do before you die can be found here

100 things we didn’t know last year from the BBC can be found here

100 things to do with books (great for language arts teachers) can be found here

It's refreshment time. Our song promised something to eat and here it is. Wait until you are called before coming up to fix your plate, and remember.....Mrs. Elementaryhistoryteacher does not allow you to leave your seat while we are eating. Please raise your hand if you need something.

party food

Now, our song mentions things that we have collected so here is the interactive portion of this 100th post. Make this the best 100th post ever by choosing to complete one of the assignments. I’ve given you three choices in order to differentiate between your various learning styles. Choose at least one assignment and follow the directions so that we can all celebrate this momentous 100. ( I am actually hoping the response rate is better here than the rate of homework completion in my actual classroom) :).

Choice 1: A few years ago there was a launch from Cape Kennedy that included a grouping of 100 things that represented life here on earth. The purpose of doing this was to create a hypothetical situation where contact with other life might occurr. The objects would be helpful in explaining what life is like here. What types of things do you think should have been on the manifest? Consider this a meme if you wish and post on your own blog linking back to mine, or give me a list of 20 or so as a comment.

Choice 2: Find or create a grouping of 100 things or other representation of the number 100. Post your links here or email your images to me at and I will post them as I receive them. If you know how to post an image within a comment feel free to do so.

Choice 3: Create a post or comment that includes something about 100 miles, 100 dollars, 100 years, and 100 pounds. You can write about each in a separate paragraph or combine all four things together, but all four categories need to be in the same post.

Now, go have fun! I can’t wait to see what you come up with.

A Very Important Day

Happy birthday to my most wonderful friend in life, my husband.

Words are not enough to appropriately compliment this man in order to explain what he means to me. I’m grateful he continues to put up with me because I am very difficult to live with….he has learned to cope very well with the drama that our life can be sometimes.

In an episode of Friends, the cast is discussing soul mates or that one perfect person that is meant for you. Phoebe begins to tell her friends about lobsters. It seems that lobsters find their perfect mate and stay with them for life. Well, quite simply, Mr. Elementaryhistoryteacher is my lobster, claws and all.

My lobster shares many things with me including a love of history, and he likes to remember two significant historical events that took place on his important day.

Today is the anniversary of the Hamilton-Burr duel which resulted in Hamiltons’ physical death and Burr’s political death. The election of 1800 was significant in the deteriorating relationship between Hamilton and Burr. Due to the large amount of political commericals on my television these days…..Georgia is having their primary soon….I was inspired to write about the presidential election of 1800 over at American Presidents Blog. You can read my post here.

Today is also the birthday of John Quincy Adams. I’ve posted about him before as well, here.

Friday, July 07, 2006

This Is the Song, Elmo's Song

Research proves visual learning has many benefits. It can improve attention, it appeals to students with different learning styles, and visuals help to get the point across quickly and effectively. Rapid advancements in technology are providing educators with more and more methods to incorporate digital images into their instruction.

Recently every team in my school used several of their planning periods to meet with a math professor from a local college to go over various math teaching strategies. All teachers were required to be at the meeting even those of us who haven’t taught math in a very long time. Needless to say a few of us weren’t very “into” the topic of conversation until the presenter flipped the switch on her ELMO. I’ve never seen so many lumps turn into wide-eyed motivated sponges soaking in every word that was said including my lumpy self.

By using the ELMO you can project the text on a normal piece of paper onto a screen or monitor. You can also add text as you need to. What will they think of next? It’s an overhead without the cart and bulky apparatus.

Follow this link to the Eschool News site here which has information regarding an ELMO. This resource is now permanently on my wish list of things I would love to have in my classroom.

There are also links here for resources like Cmap Software that rivals Inspiration, especially in cost, as well as information regarding the use of videos and United Streaming which is a video service I use all the time.

United Streaming allows me to upload a video from the Internet and show it on my classroom television, on my computer monitors, or even slide it into a power point presentation. The best thing I like about United Streaming is the large number of topics found and the fact that I can isolate a section of a video and show my students specific things that fit what we are currently discussing.

So, go forth and sing the Elmo song and become more adept at using techno-visuals in your classroom.

This is the song,
La la la la,
Elmo’s song…….

Arrrrh! Need a Hook?

Cinderella, over at World of Royalty reports here that Blackbeard’s flagship, Queen Anne’s Revenge, has been found off the coast of North Carolina. There is a link to a clip from the BBC.

Arrrrh! Just in time for the release of the movie Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Man’s Chest which opens today. See the movie trailer here.

As I checked out some of the available resources, I began to think that this information on Blackbeard and the efforts to research the ship might be a great vehicle to introduce the preservation side of history as well as the difference between primary and secondary documents. Pirate tales might be the thing to hook em’ the first week of school.

Hmmmm…..I may just need to work on a power point for that.

You can find lots of Blackbeard resources here , here, here, and finally here. So, go find out everything you can about Blackbeard, or you might just have to suffer the consequence.

What would that be? Why walking the plank, my friend!

Thursday, July 06, 2006

Utilize Those Resources

Any social studies teacher understands the importance of teaching about resources. I discuss resources----human, capital, and physical/natural----everyday in my room. The quest for resources and how we use them are at the heart of any historical event we study.

One of the reasons why Japan attacked the United States in 1941 boiled down to their need for oil. They felt our presence in the Pacific hindered them from getting what they needed. When the Spanish began their conquest of Mexico and South America they understood the need for a large labor force to man their gold and silver mines so they used the labor resource that was available, the indigenous population. Criminals and terrorists the world over have become very savvy in their need to legitimize their financial transactions and use our own laws to maintain bona fide companies that are mere fronts for nefarious activities. I guess you could say our quest for resources is what generates historical events.

One of the things I am often amazed at as an educator is the amount of resources that go untapped and unused in our own buildings. Children with enormous potential choose to do enough simply to get by and fail to use the talents that we all strive for but was theirs at birth. Teachers resist new programs and strategies simply because they are removed from their comfort zone. The software, the books, the seminar manuals all sit unused in the classroom until they are eventually placed on some dusty shelf in a closet or book room. The saying is true---out of sight, out of mind. Administrators often overlook tremendous human potential they have in their buildings as they recommend the same few people for committees and conferences or to develop solutions to real problems. There is a myriad list of reasons why this is done but it is never good for the performance of the school.

An Atlanta area high school went from last to third place in the state’s standardized writing test district scores all because a principal asked someone in the building for help, and that person analyzed the resources available to her. She discovered a writing program that had simply sat unused. By simply going out of the box and utilizing a forgotten resource her school ended up with motivated students and teachers, a beaming administrator, and scores to be proud of.

My happy dance of summer is almost up as I have to return to school for pre-planning on July 24th. As I begin to attempt to ramp up my mindset to “teacher” mode again, I am making a call for all educators to check out your resources. Take stock of your classroom and that dark hole of a book room down the hall. What is lying around that could be utilized to challenge you and your students for the coming year?

Are you already in possession of the one thing that could turn your program around and you don’t even realize it?

You can access Eschool News here for the article about Therrell High in Atlanta.

Wednesday, July 05, 2006

Reading, Reading, and More Reading

I’m here….I’m just busy reading all of the fine submissions from the 34th History Carnival found here and the 74th Carnival of Education hosted by NYC Educator here.

Go feed your mind!

Tuesday, July 04, 2006

July 4, 1776, An Imagi-Holiday

As the Fourth of July approached I began to think again about myth versus fiction and how we, as educators, perpetuate the myths. Don’t get me wrong….I don’t think we intentionally do this. One reason the dividing line between myth and fiction becomes muddled is new primary sources are constantly being found which counter what we previously taught. Another reason is the structure and content of classroom resources over the last two hundred years didn’t always set things straight.

The other night as we were preparing for bed I shared some ideas I had about my writing with Hubby. As we were talking I told him that I don’t think most Americans really know what they celebrate on July 4th. He off-handedly said, “What do you mean?” This launched me into a mini-history lesson which thrilled Hubby to no end….at least he’s used to it. When I was done with my recitation of trivia and facts Hubby said, “So, is July 4th just an imagi-holiday?” I liked his term so much I got up, turned the light back on, and wrote the word down so I wouldn’t forget it.

Hubby and I discussed how many of our American holidays are actually imagi-holidays or celebrations centered on what we perceive to be fact, but are really an amalgamation of myth and/or convenience. President’s Day comes to mind. Originally we celebrated Lincoln’s Birthday as well as Washington’s Birthday separately during February. Today we have combined the two dates into one as President’s Day so that we can arrange to have it on a Monday thereby giving us a three day weekend and extra time to visit all those sales at the mall. Valentine’s Day is an imagi-holiday since there are several origin stories concerning it that are trotted out every year. Halloween also has many origin stories which have resulted in folks picking and choosing which reason why they celebrate the holiday or reasons why they don’t participate. Biblical scholars agree that December 25 is an arbitrary date set for celebrating the birth of Jesus Christ which results in a mixture of fact and lore with huge amounts of faith thrown in. Due to all the non-religious aspects of the holiday it could be classified as an imagi-holiday as well.

Do we really know what we are celebrating during our independence imagi-holiday?

The records of the Continental Congress for July 4, 1776, indicate that the Committee of Five including Thomas Jefferson, John Adams, Benjamin Franklin, Roger Sherman, and Robert Livingstone presented a report to the delegates. Their report was the written document we now refer to as the Declaration of Independence. The delegates approved of the document and referred it to the printer. That’s it. That’s what happened on July 4th. We celebrate that the document was approved and sent to the printer.

The myth that has risen up over decade after decade is that the document was presented, approved, and signed by every member of the Continental Congress on July 4th. Details have been added over the years concerning the fact that by signing the document the delegates were committing treason against the king and if caught could have died a horrible tortured death. That is fact. The myth is that all of the delegates signed the document on July 4th. The document was simply sent to the printer and signed later.

John Adams and many of the delegates felt that July 2nd would be the holiday that Americans would celebrate forever more. Why? July 2nd is the day that delegates approved the resolution for independence uttered in session by Richard Henry Lee who said:

That these united colonies are, and of right ought to be free and independent states, that they are absolved from all allegiance to the British crown, and that all political connections between them and the state of Great Britain is, and ought to be, totally dissolved.

Here’s the crux of the whole matter. Richard Henry Lee’s resolution was entered in the minutes of the Continental Congress on June 7, 1776. This resolution prompted the Congress to form the Committee of Five on June 11th and have them write the Declaration of Independence which was presented on July 4th. Poor Mr. Lee! Does the average American think of him when they are setting of fireworks, eating their hot dog, or making their homemade ice cream?

In a letter to his wife, Abigal, John Adams tells her that July 2nd would be remembered as the most memorable “epoch” in the history of America.So, where did things get murky? How did Mr. Lee move to the shadows while Thomas Jefferson got all the credit with average citizens for writing the Declaration of Independence? Sounds like a very interesting journey for students to take, doesn’t it?

Is elementaryhistoryteacher calling for a change in the date for our independence celebrations? No, I’m not. What I am calling for is greater effort on the part of those who teach social studies to know their content concerning myth versus fact and share that information with students. Throw out some teasers to students, provide them with the materials, and let them discover how we decided the 4th instead of the 2nd would be our “Epoch” or Independence Day.

I think Americans can reconcile our historical facts with our historical myths and appreciate both. I believe these two forms of history are necessary for groups of people who form a nation, but if educators simply teach the front story and don’t teach the back story then we are doing a disservice to our students and to our nation.

The staff at History News Network has put together a great set of essays that provide a wealth of information about Independence Day----there are thirteen essays, one for each original colony. I wonder if that was planned. You can see their efforts here.