After the last few years, there’s not much that surprises me anymore. It’s been such a weird two and a half years of school. (And for classroom teachers, an incredibly challenging and difficult time.)
But I’m always just a little bit shocked when I hear about districts that crank up during the first week in August. As in . . . next week. Seriously? I’m just now starting to figure out the Delaware beach system and you’re going back to school?
But maybe you’re in that same boat, shoving off with kids already in seven days. If you are, this post may be a little too late. But I’m hoping that for most of you, you’ve got at least one or two more weekends before your first student contact day.
To help energize your first awesome week with kids, here are seven great ways to kick off the school year. Use what you can. Adapt what you can’t. Ignore the rest.
What not to do
But before we get too far along with what we know works, it’s probably a good idea to think about what doesn’t. I’ve mentioned Fourteen Things You Should Never Do on the First Day of School before but it’s still a great reminder of what it looks like when we’re doing it wrong. Mark Barnes suggest that your goal should be a very simple one during the first few days of school:
You have many days to assess students’ strengths and weaknesses. You have months to discuss high stakes testing and standards. You’ll spend weeks probing the textbook.
The first few days of school should be dedicated to rapport-building and to joy.
Your goal should be that students go home that night and tell their parents: “I’m going to love history class because my teacher is awesome!”
So what should we be doing the first week?
We all know that I spent a significant amount of my formative years digging through old National Geographic maps. You know the ones I’m talking about. They got slipped into the middle of the magazine and unfolded into poster size after you discovered them. I still have an old shoebox full of them. Cause they’re just so cool.
So it shouldn’t surprise any of you that an online article about maps, especially one from National Geographic, is going to catch my attention. But before we head over to take a look, a quick geography mental map quiz.
First step, create a mental map of the world. (If you’ve got a few extra minutes and some paper and pencil, feel free to draw it out.)
Mental map ready?
Okay . . . based on your mental (or actual) map of the world, answer a few simple questions:
- How much of South America is east of Miami, Florida?
- How much of Africa is north of the equator?
- Which city is located further north – Paris, France or Montreal, Canada?
- Venice, Italy is located at the same latitude of what major American city?
- Which is bigger? The lower 48 United States or Brazil?
Long time readers know how much I love maps. I don’t really know for sure when the infatuation started but Katy and the Big Snow by Virginia Lee Burton may have had something to do with it.
I ran across Katy recently for the first time in years as I was sorting through bookshelves containing some old books. For those of you too young to have read Katy and the Big Snow as a child, a quick recap.
Katy is “a brave and untiring tractor” who pushes a bulldozer in the summer and a snowplow in the winter, making it possible for the townspeople of Geoppolis to do their jobs. In this particular story, Katy drives around all over the town – north, south, east, and west – with her snow plow, opening up the town so that citizens could complete a variety of different public and private tasks such as delivery the mail, putting out a fire, and shopping at a grocery store.
It’s a great book for a lot of reasons but one big reason is there’s so much to look at, especially in the margins. I loved that book growing up.
The best part of the book, I’m sure we’ll all agree, Read more
It comes but once a year. The National Social Studies Supervisors Association and National Council for the Social Studies combined conference. For a history nerd, it’s the winter holiday break, the Final Four, and fresh out of the oven chocolate chip cookies all rolled into one event.
For three days, it’s all about conversations that focus on social studies, tools, resources, evidence, and best practices. So how did I get smarter today? Read more
Can you ever have too many maps?
The obvious answer is no. You can never have too many maps.
So when I ran across some very cool old maps last Saturday at the Wichita Flea Market, there really wasn’t any question about whether or not I would buy them. The question was how many will I buy.
I settled on two. Which means my wife helped me decide that I should settle on two. There are quite a few maps already in my house and I was gently made aware of that fact. Which means semi-gently.
Both of the maps I walked away with are almost 100 years old. One is a 1924 map of tourist Rome published in Italian, the other a map highlighting the 1924 British Empire Exhibition with suggested mass transit options from around the London metro area. So cool.
Perfect for displaying, reading, primary source analysis, (the Empire Exhibition and its various colonial pavilions is just asking for some in-depth conversation) or just wafting in the 100 year old smell.
But while we all can agree how cool old maps are, new maps are nothing to sneeze at. I love the ability of digitized maps to allow access to all sorts of data in all sorts of very visual ways. Take a look at these two Read more
Right after my two dream jobs of working at the Library of Congress and the Smithsonian Museum of American History, I’m planning to pop over to National Geographic for a few years. We’ve been connected at the hip since I was in 5th grade and first discovered their amazing graphics and maps.
So I’m sure they’d love to hire me to help out a bit around the office.
Until then, I’ll just be happy playing with some of their very cool toys. This includes, of course, their powerful MapMaker Interactive digital tool.
But it also includes their MapMaker Kits: Read more