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Monday, November 9, 2015

Veterans Day, 2015:

On this Veterans Day we are reminded of, and honor, all of the brave men and women who have served among the ranks of our nation's military.  For many of the students we teach, Veterans Day is just another day that is celebrated in school with little meaning to them.  It's not their fault though.  Most of them are too young to understand the significance of the day or they haven't had anyone they've known serve in the military where they've had to worry about their well-being.  

Veterans Day is more than just honoring those who have served whether they are still alive or have passed on.  It is about what those men and women were willing to put on the line besides their own lives.  I'm talking about the lives of their families too.  Many families have had to deal with loss, living with PTSD of their family member who has returned from battle, or having to learn how to care for the person that ha
s normally cared for them due to injuries sustained on the field of battle.  

This Veterans Day on November 11th is just the day on the calendar that reminds us to pay our respects to those who have served.  The other 364 days we can do the same as well.  When you see a soldier in line at the gas station tell the clerk you're paying for the soldier's coffee too.  Pick up the tab of a soldier at a restaurant.  Or simply go up to a veteran and say, "Thank you." 


If you are looking for a way to celebrate Veterans Day with your students here's a neat activity to do in your class.  After your students create them have them write a little thank you note and send these off to your local American Legion, VFW, or military training station in your state.  A small gesture goes a long way.  

Happy Veterans Day!

Monday, November 2, 2015

Gentleman's Warfare vs. Guerrilla Warfare

Here's a fun idea when teaching about the Revolutionary War.  Students are always baffled when they learn that Gentleman's Warfare, which was the primary style of combat by the British, involved each side lining up across from each other and taking turns shooting. Unlike guerrilla warfare that is used nowadays that involves "hide-and-seek" tactics.  

I remind students that they see gentleman's warfare style of combat every Sunday when they watch football.  When the Green Bay Packers take the field, they line up in straight lines across from the opposing team, and only move on command.  It's fair, there are rules, and both sides abide by them and punish those who break the rules. Besides, how fair would it be if Aaron Rodgers was hiding in the crowd wearing a trench coat, a hat, fake glasses, and a fake mustache, and threw the ball to his receivers from the stands when they were open?

To simulate gentleman's warfare vs. guerrilla warfare I decided to buy 15 sets of checkers from the Dollar Tree (which is a store in Wisconsin where everything literally is one dollar).  
I have students pair up and set up the game letting them know that the classic game of checkers is set up like gentleman's style warfare - straight lines across from each other and taking turns.  I have the red team be the British (Redcoats) and the black team be the Patriots.  I have them flip a checker (heads/tails) to decide who goes first because no one really knows who fired the "shot heard 'round the world" at the Battles of Lexington and Concord to start the fighting.  

After a few minutes go by, I stop everyone and say, "The British were way better at gentleman's warfare than the Patriots because they had been fighting this way for many, many years.  The militia was made up of many first-time soldiers who were farmers, and carpenters, and masons, and cobblers, before the fighting started.  To win this war, the Americans had to find a different way to fight - so they went with guerrilla warfare.  Now, after three moves by the black team, who are the patriots, you can take any red checker off the board.  This was done by your snipers who are hiding in the bushes and can't be seen. The game ends when one side has taken all of the other team's checkers."

The red team is, of course, frustrated by this tactic and find it to be unfair.  Which is the point of the activity!  They especially don't like it when a sniper takes a king - which was totally against the rules in gentleman's warfare - killing the one's with more power (or in command) was frowned upon because if the commander is gone, no one can lead the men and it would be chaotic and very ungentleman-like.  

I'd love to hear how this activity went for you and your students!

Monday, October 26, 2015

If You Could Design a Class...
Middle school is meant to be about exploration, yet our students don't seem to get that many options in their day at our school.  Why can't a student who has a passion for music spend three hours of their day in music?  If they love art, what would be wrong with them being able to have more of their day spent in art?  Same for the subjects of English, History, Math, etc...

I know there are arguments to be made either way, but that's not the point of this post.  The point is...if you could design a class that would allow you to be with kids who truly want to learn more about a specific subject/topic that you could teach, what would your class focus on?

For me, I would want to teach a woodworking class using hand tools from different time periods in history.  I'd love to bring back teaching students to be craftsman by using their hands and their minds (I'm pretty sure the term "craftsman" is politically correct in regard to gender neutrality...just like "human").  Let's build a project that you'd like to make.  We'll use hand tools like dovetail saws, planers, scrapers, chisels, files, brace and bit, etc.  Nothing plugs in.  I think some kids would really enjoy a class like this.  I'd bring in some local carvers, sawyers, etc. to teach students their craft. 

I'm a huge fan of technology, but I'm also a huge fan of things being done the old-fashioned way.  I could see having students upload instructional videos to YouTube or showcasing what they've created via class web sites.  This has me excited!

So, what would you teach?

Monday, October 5, 2015

"Less Me.  More Them."

This is my motto for the year. 

I'm one of those people who don't like to sit around and do nothing.  Yes, I am sitting around right now typing this blog post.  Yes, I'll be sitting around uploading some TpT products later this evening.  Yes, I'll be sitting and reading with my youngest daughter in a couple of hours.  Those are just technicalities though in regard to sitting.  Every one of those activities allow me to be actively "DOING" while I am sitting.  

Most students are no different - they want to be doing something.  I teach middle school, and the beauty of that is I every day I have students who are full of energy that just needs to be channeled in the right direction.

Today I channeled that energy of theirs into exploring the Presidents of the United States.  Instead of me being the one who is occupying the majority of the class period by talking at them, I ended up talking with them instead.  What a difference in how the day felt!  I created an activity where students explore the presidents first by seeing them. 

Well, sort of. 

Students are given a packet that has the eyes of all 44 presidents (Grover Cleveland was the 22nd and 24th president so he’s in there twice.)  They then use the web site to look at the presidential portraits to try and discover which president those eyes belong to. 

Tomorrow we're going to go through the PowerPoint where the mystery presidents are revealed to see how they did.  Is it for a grade?  Nope.  It is so they begin to develop a background knowledge of the leaders who shaped our nation.

What ended up happening with this activity was that every student was engaged in their education.  They were saying presidents’ names.  They were able to talk to each other.  They were figuring out answers together.  It truly was less me, and more them, and it was wonderful.  

I’m looking forward to more days like this.

If you're interested in this product to use in your own classroom you can check it out by clicking here.

Until next Monday!


Monday, September 28, 2015

What Are We Complaining About?
I had a student say to me today, "Ugh...I hate Mondays!"  I responded with, "Well, I'm sorry to hear that.  You know, it does happen every seven days, which means, if you hate one out of every seven days then you're going to end up hating 1/7 of your life.  In 70 years time you'll have hated 10 of those years.  Are Mondays really that bad??"  This student had that puzzled look on their face like, "Why did he just tell me all of that?  All I said was that I hated Mondays."

I get that a lot.  

I spent this week trying to tune in to all levels of negativity to see what it is I hear people complaining about.  I knew what this week's post was going to be so I was planning ahead.  The things I heard people complain about were the following:

-No cell phone service
-Not having football practice cancelled because of the rain
-Slow Internet connection at work
-A deep sigh when the stoplight turned yellow (that one was mine)
-Having to wait in line at the ATM
-Being out of coffee creamer (also mine)
-Getting tasks to do in school
-Being too full
-Having to take the stairs
-Filling out a form
-Replacing the batteries on the garage door opener (...again...mine)
-Having to fill out a bathroom pass
-Not being able to decide what to eat
-Having too many choices at the bakery

I once had someone tell me that if you look for the negative in life, you'll find it.  As I kept adding to the list throughout the week it dawned on me that there really isn't that much to complain about if you've got access to fresh water, air conditioning, a steady source of food, and a safe, stable environment to live in.  

Let's face it, if you're reading this, you've got some access to an electronic device with internet capabilities and you're probably not too far from a source of fresh water.  That right there puts you at a HUGE advantage over most people in the world to live a healthy life.  

Do kids in America know what it is like in other parts of the world?  Do they know what the Infant Mortality Rate (IMR) lets them know about the overall health of a country?  Do they know what the literacy rate means in regard to the quality of education in a country?  Do they know how much the average person makes in a year in the USA versus in a third world country?  Maybe if they did, the little things they complain about during the day might not seem so drastic.  

I love teaching about the difference between first and third world countries.  The ease of the CIA World Factbook is so useful for students to find out information about countries.  Just imagine how much more they would be aware of if they knew what the terminology on this site means.  They'll also have a better idea what the statistics next to the terminology means too, and be even more knowledgeable when learning about the world. 

I've used the product below for years and years in my social studies classroom when learning about the geography of the world.  Give it a try and see what your students think - I'd love to hear how it went!

Will this stop students from complaining about the little things in life?  Probably not, but maybe this activity will help make 10 of the next 70 years of their lives not seem as bad on Mondays.  It has helped how I fell about my Mondays immensely.  

Especially when I have creamer for my coffee.

Until next Monday!

Monday, September 21, 2015

A week ago Sunday I had a super awesome surprise - I had my Articles of Confederation product featured in the Teachers Pay Teacher Newsletter!!  See it in the Newsletter HERE!

That was really cool to see!  So what made my product stand out to be selected??  Honestly, I have no idea.  However, I did enter products quite often to be featured, and I guess its like the lottery...somebody's gotta win!  

How do you enter?  Excellent question.  Let me show you:

1.  Start by clicking on My Tpt and then selecting "See it in our Newsletter" at the bottom:

2. Next, enter your information in the boxes and submit.  You can enter as many products as you'd like each day, so give it a try!  

I know, I know, what are the odds of getting picked?  Well, that's tough to answer.  I do know that if you don't try your chances are 0%.  If you try, at least you're in the game!  

Here are my stats for the week after having my Articles of Confederation product featured in the newsletter:

Followers: Before-302 / After-310
Product Views: Before-2,252 / After-3,742
Product Previews: Before-222 / After-292
Wish Listed: Before-42 / After-67
Products Sold: Before-105 / After-125

I did end up having my highest sales week since starting on TpT, and I know a lot of that came from the sales of the products linked in the description of my featured product.  I'm so thankful for that spot in the newsletter, and because of it, I'm on track to have my highest month ever.  So thankw, TpT!

I had a seller at the conference tell me, "Wait for the'll happen!" 

Sounds good to me!


Have a great week!  Now go submit a product for the newsletter!

Until next Monday...

Matt @ Surviving Social Studies

P.S. - Click my logo below to go to my TpT Store

Monday, September 14, 2015

Celebrate Constitution Day on September 17th!
A very small portion of the internet world might read this post about celebrating Constitution Day.  Tomorrow, it will vanish into the bottomless pit of internet blog posts only to be revived momentarily when it is tapped to be displayed somewhere in the 29,400,000 links in a Google search on “Constitution Day.”  Yes!  Made the top 30,000,000!!! 

Organizing my words for this little blog post puts me in awe at how challenging it must have been for Gouverneur Morris, the penman of the Constitution, to find just the right wording to stand the test of time.

His famous 52 words are the words in the Preamble to the United States Constitution and read as follows:

“WE the People of the United States, in order to form a more perfect union, establish justice, insure domestic tranquility, provide for the common defence, promote the general welfare, and secure the blessings of liberty to ourselves and our posterity, do ordain and establish this Constitution for the United States of America.”

What Governeur Morris wrote, with the approval of the Continental Congress, has guided our nation through good times and bad for 228 years now.  Many people are at least familiar with the names George Washington, John Adams, Thomas Jefferson, James Madison, Patrick Henry, and Samuel Adams.  Ask 10 people who Governeur Morris was and you’ll most likely get a guess that he was a governor of some state at some time in history.  Governeur was actually his first name, which might have helped steer him toward politics.  Who knows?

52 words.

Ask kids to memorize it, and they will.  Ask kids to explain who their “posterity” is, or what “general welfare” means, or what Morris meant by “secure the blessings of liberty?”  Chances are your students won’t have a clue. 


After Thursday, they should have a pretty good idea.  I use this Preamble Activity every year with my students on Constitution Day.  It gives them a clear and concise way to  break down the Preamble into understandable language.  They then explain it in a way that people today would go, “Ohhh…so that’s what that means?!”

It’s only 52 words, but I love these 52 words that Governeur Morris wrote.  

228 years later we might not have all the wrinkles of our country ironed out yet, but we can look back at those 52 words Governeur Morris wrote like a geographer looks at a compass…for guidance.

Happy Constitution Day! 

See you next Monday!

Surviving Social Studies