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?
(An earlier version highlighted NARA in the title rather than iCivics. Not sure what I was thinking, I corrected it March 27. Sorry iCivics. You’re doing awesome stuff!)
The new normal is fast becoming the normal normal. But it’s always nice to hear what others are doing and using.
And I love Jenifer Hitchcock’s suggestions about structuring our normal normal distance learning instruction. It’s part of a handy toolkit that she and other folks over at iCivics have put together. I’ve summarized Jenifer’s list but you need to head over and check it out all of the details as well as their Toolkit.
Further down, I’ve also posted 11 resources that are perfect for your distance learning normal normal. So if you’re already in a normal normal teaching situation, all of this is super useful.
But if you’re still in some sort of traditional face to face setting, skip Jenifer’s tips and bounce down to the resources – still useful for you because, well . . . they’re awesome sauce for any sort of learning environment.
Here’s a quick list of some of Jenifer’s suggestions: Read more
We all love iCivics. And why not? Tons of useful tools. Simulations. Games. Lots of teaching materials. Oh, yeah. And it’s all free.
If you’re not super familiar with iCivics, it’s good to know why it exists.
“iCivics exists to engage students in meaningful civic learning. We provide teachers with well-written, inventive, and free resources that enhance their practice and inspire their classrooms.”
Simple. Accurate. But not very specific. So what does iCivics have that can help you this spring and next fall? Here are just a few of my favorite tools designed specifically to help with teaching the upcoming election.
In less than a year, all eyes will be on the Capitol steps for the next Presidential Inauguration. It’s going to be a busy year on the political front, and in your classroom. You can help your students become more knowledgeable about the U.S. election system with two of iCivics’ most popular games:
- Win the White House
- Cast Your Vote
I got the chance over the last few days to spend time with tons of social studies gurus and learn tons of new stuff at the National Council for History Education conference in Washington DC. Thanks to Dr. Richard Satchwell and Judy Bee at Illinois State University and all the folks at the Library of Congress Teaching with Primary Sources project for making the trip possible.
Part of our TPS time together was spent with developers of the five Library of Congress interactive civic education apps they’ve created. Very cool stuff that you can find at the LOC. All five are super handy for helping kids make sense of primary sources and for training students to engage as informed citizens. It was great sitting with the developers and learning more about how to use the apps with kids.
But I am just as excited about something , Chief Education Officer at iCivics, threw out at the end of her formal presentation about their DBQuest app:
We’re releasing a new iCivics game tomorrow called Race to Ratify.
She couldn’t really share a ton about it but we got the chance to get a quick taste of the game. And when she said “tomorrow,” she meant last Friday. So it’s been officially out in the wild for a few days. I’ve played with it a bit since then and it’s pretty much like all iCivics content.
Awesome. Read more
Bob Edens had been blind since birth. Fifty-one years of darkness, sounds, smells, and touch followed. But after a remarkable laser surgery, Bob can now see. For 51 years, Bob had imagined what things looked like based mainly on the descriptions of others and what he could feel.
I never would have dreamed that yellow is so . . . yellow. But red is my favorite color. I just can’t believe red.
He’s now seeing for himself what he had only imagined.
Grass is something I had to get used to. I always thought it was just fuzz. But to see each individual green stalk . . . it’s like starting a whole new life. It’s the most amazing thing in the world to see things you never thought you’d see.
Sometimes I think we do this with kids. We tell them about history and have them read about history but we never let them experience history. They never get to actually “see” the individual people and events and details – students rely on us to describe those things for them. We can forget that history is supposed to be a verb, not a noun – especially at this time of the school year when we’re trying to make sure to “cover” everything.
So . . . how can we help our kids see history? Read more
I like bacon.
Bacon cheeseburgers. Eggs and bacon. BLTs. Chocolate covered bacon. Maple and bacon doughnuts. Bacon and onion gravy. Bacon topped baked potatoes. Bacon wrapped Little Smokies. Bacon wrapped anything.
I’m probably not the only one. And I get it . . . some choose not to eat bacon for religious or health reasons. (And have much stronger will power than I do.)
My point? Pretty much everything is better with bacon.
So what’s the bacon of social studies? That one thing that goes better with everything and is so delicious that you really need to find a way to integrate it into your classroom? The answer is simple. Read more