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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!

1 comment:

  1. I really like the way you offer a personal anecdote and then segue into discussing a product that's related to the theme of your posts. I enjoy reading your blog every week! Happy Labor Day! :-)

    -- Susan
    The ESL Connection