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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

Monday, September 7, 2015

It’s Labor Day!
When you’re a teacher and it is Labor Day that means one of two possibilities:

1, You’re either relaxing with friends and family or doing some recreational activity with them
2. You’re at home or at school working on lesson plans

Teaching really is a “Hercules of labor,” meaning it is a task of grand proportions.  When I first started teaching U.S. History I remember thinking, “How am I going to remember all of the people in history and what they did and when they were around to teach my students?”  The truth is, I couldn’t remember every single person, what they did, exactly when it happened, and what it had to do with the next event.  I know these names were delivered to me in a lecture-style format in college, and that wasn’t my way of learning, but that’s the only way it ever was.  The mentality of “If I tell them about it then I’ve covered my responsibility of helping them learn.” 


Middle school students don’t want to be lectured!  Who does??  Then it dawned on me that I needed the students to be in charge of their learning.  History isn’t about being able to recite minuscule facts that really only come into play when you’re playing Trivial Pursuit or watching Jeopardy.  History is about discovery.  

I'll admit, relinquishing that “control” was uncomfortable at first because I felt that my students weren’t ready for it.  They’ve been trained to have information spoon-fed to them their whole lives so they can spit it up later and I was about to break that tradition.  

I decided to just go for it though!  If we’re learning about the American Revolution then let’s find out who was there and why their names are known by scholars of history.  I assign students to one person (so we don’t leave anyone out) and then I let them pick four others of their own choosing to research.  Could I have just told them about each of them via lecture?  Sure I could, but my voice would turn into the voice of Charlie Brown’s teacher quite rapidly to them. 

I, at first, shakily handed them the torch of learning.  Now, it is just the way things go in my class.  Are kids quietly working on their own?  Nope.  Am I still covering the curriculum?  Yes, but with them.  Do they sometimes get off task and need redirection?  Of course, they’re middle schoolers!  Am I enjoying my job more?  I am. 

If you’re not sure if letting your students “do” while they’re in class, just think about how you feel when you’re at a staff meeting.  That’s how they could feel 7 hours a day. 

I’ve got a new bundle uploaded if you teach U.S. History and are looking for a way to help students learn about the different figures in history from the Age of Exploration, to the American Revolution, to the Civil War, to the Industrial Revolution, and the Progressive Era. 

Let them be in charge of learning about some of these people.  I assign my students one person and then let them pick any other four that they're interested (from the 32 cards from that unit).  Use your library, computer labs, ipads, or whatever you can provide your students to let them labor for their education. 

It’ll be alright, I promise.

See you next Monday!