Friday, December 20, 2013

Government Video Pop Quiz

I gave a pop quiz today.  It was pretty fetch.  I gave them a little time to complete their government pictures and then study for it.  Here's how it went - I showed them a short video clip, and they had to write down the name of the type of government I was showing.  I'll post them up here so you can see what I showed.  For the record, there was some feigned controversy over whether I was showing R-Rated movies in class.  I wasn't.  I did show previews for The Kings Speech as well as The Last King of Scotland, but the previews were NOT rated R.  (I haven't even seen The Last King of Scotland... but it looks good.)

When I post them here, I'll tell you the type of government.  Consider it my gift to you:

The King's Speech - Constitutional Monarchy:

Mean Girls - Oligarchy:

Napoleon Dynamite - Representative Democracy (Republic):

Alice in Wonderland - Absolute Monarchy:

Gilmore Girls - Direct Democracy:

The Last King of Scotland - Dictatorship:

The Prince of Egypt - Theocracy:

If you want some extra credit - yes, it will still go on the 2nd 9 weeks if I get it right after break...  Then, discuss these clips with an adult.  Tell them (and write down) why each one shows the type of government it does.  If you need a to use your government chart to help you, you may.  If you don't have one, don't forget you can find it on the blog.  Once you write them down, have your parent sign it.  Turn it in when you get back.

Have a great break.  Get some rest.  Read some books.  See you soon... but not too soon.

Thursday, December 19, 2013


I have a dentist appointment, so I have to duck out of here right away today.  (And I missed my last one because of school meetings, so I'm a little worried I'm going to have a cavity.)

The problem is, I know that TODAY OF ALL DAYS, you're checking the blog - as it's your last chance to get extra credit before the end of the semester.

So, here's what I'll do.  Go back and read a post from last year.  It can be about anything, but it has to be a legitimate post - not a post that says, "I have a dentist appointment, there's no extra credit today."

On a piece of paper, tell me what the post was about.  Tell me if we've covered it this year or not.  Discuss it with the adult you read it with.

Have them sign it.

Turn it in tomorrow.

SHAZAAM!  Extra credit.

Wednesday, December 18, 2013

Malala Part II

One of the things Ms. Yousafzai says in her interview with Jon Stewart is:

"We are human beings, and this is part of our human nature.  ...That we don't learn the importance of anything until it is snatched from our hands."

Yesterday, when we read the Junior Scholastic article, I noticed several ears perk up when we got to the part about education being made illegal.  "Whaaaa?..." I could hear my students say, "That doesn't sound like such a bad thing..."

Today we watched the first 6 minutes of the interview and talked about learning the importance of something after it's gone.  How many of us have felt that way about school?  I imagine most of my students have probably thought from time to time: "Man... I don't want to go in today!  The covers are so warm.  The floor is so cold.  Seriously, just a couple more hours of sleep..."

I imagine very few of them - no, very few of all of us - realize what a good thing (or good things) we have going for us.

There was a lot we discussed today.  Why she continued going to school - why she wasn't homeschooled by her father.  Women's rights here in America, and all over the world.  Education.  Human capital.  Human rights.

This all ties in with governments of course.  And I gave students a paper to draw pictures of each of the governments we're studying.  It's not homework, mind you.  Just remember to bring it back tomorrow with your colored pencils.

We'll have some map practice tomorrow on Malala's home country, and then we'll finish those pictures up.

I'm including The Daily Show interview, in case you're interested.  You don't have to watch it to get credit for reading and discussing the blog, but it is very good.  And we didn't watch the whole thing in class.

If you want extra credit for reading and discussing the blog, make sure you read it and discussed it with an adult.  Maybe thank them for reading and discussing this with you.  It's very nice of them.  You've got a good thing going - you wouldn't want to lose it.

To earn the extra credit, find a scrap of paper.  Write a short thank you note to the person who is reading and discussing the blog with you.  Let them know that you appreciate them taking the time to help you raise your grade.  It may be a good time to thank them for a couple other things as well...  Just a thought.  When you're done, have them sign it.

See you tomorrow.

Tuesday, December 17, 2013

Governments and Malala

Students reviewed the types of governments today, and we also read an article about Malala Yousafzai.  You may have heard of her - or her book: I Am Malala.  I asked for this book for Christmas.  I don't know if I'm going to get it or not though... And now I'm a little annoyed that I asked for it, because that means I can't start reading it RIGHT NOW, and I'm ready to start a new book.

...First world problem, right?

You may be able to view the article by clicking on this link.  I hope somebody tries it and tells me what happens, because I'm not sure what it will look like from your end - and I want to know.

I had a meeting during my prep - when I generally write the blog - so I'm going to cut this short.

If you're reading this with an adult, discuss the Malala article we read today.  Discuss what happened to her and why it happen.  When you're done, find a piece of paper and write a couple sentences about your discussion.  What do your parents think about it?  Compare that to what you think.  Would you have continued to go to school if you were in her shoes?

When you're done, have your parents sign the paper.

If you weren't in school today, google Malala and see what you can find.

Monday, December 16, 2013

Thoughts on the Test

Maybe you heard we took the test using google forms.  Overall, it went really well.  One of the best features of giving the test online is the amount of viable data I receive.  Not only that, but it's all created for me.  For someone who always seems to be pressed for time, this is a huge bonus.

Let me give you some examples:

-This chart shows us that the majority of students know their continents and oceans.  I say majority because this is only one continent from one class.  Most classes had 2 or 3 students who missed 2 or 3 continents and/or oceans.  But overall the students knew their stuff.  At any rate, all the kids from this class could tell me where Africa is.

Similarly, almost all my students aced that latitude and longitude portion of the test.  Again, there were about 3 or 4 students who still don't get it.  This data helps me see that clearly, and maybe I can work with them during lunch or after school to find out what the problem is.

More students missed these next questions about ancient civilizations.  But, that may have been because they needed to know multiple components to be able to answer each question - more like math than social studies.

When I saw this one, I had to look twice.  If you're saying 76% got it right... sorry... 76% of my students got this one wrong.  So today, we spent a lot of time on questions like this one.

And then, you get questions like this one...  This tells me at least 4 people had given up by this point.  Or they didn't read the questions, and were just clicking.  Or maybe both.  Maybe they saw the throw away answer and thought I'd think it was funny if they answered that way.  I don't know.  For the record, Mr. Krescmar is a teacher.  ...I knew that answer sounded familiar...

If you want the extra credit for reading and discussing the blog today, discuss the difference between cultural borrowing and cultural diffusion.  Discuss how you did on the test.  Discuss any of the other questions we went over in class - maybe the one about private business ownership.

When you're done discussing, find a scrap of paper and write the difference between cultural diffusion and cultural borrowing.  Then, have the adult you discussed it with sign it.  Turn it in tomorrow.  See you then.

(If you have facebook or twitter or whatever, and are friends with others who are also my students, you could remind them that this is an easy way to get some extra credit.  If any of them come up to me tomorrow and tell me they did the extra credit because you reminded them, I'll give you some sort of treat for helping them out.)

*Also, apologies for spelling Mr. Krecsmar's name wrong, not once - but twice.  Hopefully he doesn't grade on spelling.  Maybe I'm just ethnocentric against Hungarians.  Bonus bonus points if you write a p.s. at the bottom of your extra credit and give me a definition for "ethnocentric."*

Friday, December 13, 2013

And They're In!

We finished Part II of the test today.  And they're already all graded and in the gradebook.  ...Both parts!  Go ahead and check if you don't believe me.  Actually, you may want to check even if you do believe me.

I bet you already know this - but the semester ends at the end of next week.  (All y'all who read the blog are pretty up with what's going on...)  So, if you notice you didn't fair so well on the test, now would be a good time to do some extra credit.

I guess that's why you're here, right?  Well, I'm going to make it easy for you, because we all worked our tails off the past two days.

Just tell me something fun that happened - or is going to happen this weekend.  Write it down.  Then, have the adult you read the blog with sign the paper.  Turn it in on Monday.  (Also, it might be a good idea to check your grades.)

Wednesday, December 11, 2013

Study For the Test.

Study.  Study.  Study for the test.

Here's how I want you to do it: get your review guide - OR A NEW ONE, if you must.

At the top of this webpage, on the left-hand side - there's a search engine.  Use it to search for the topics you need to study about.  Try typing Ancient Civs, Ancient, Ancient Civilizations, Economy, Economics, etc...  Let your study guide guide you.

When you're done, write down 5 things you searched.  For each one, tell me one thing you found.  Have the adult you studied them with sign the paper.  Turn it in tomorrow.

Tuesday, December 10, 2013

Limited and Unlimited Governments

We finished filling out the chart today.  If you didn't get one, you should.  You can find them HERE.  Fill it out using the chart below:

You'll want to study it eventually, but since this stuff won't be on the test Thursday and Friday, I'd wait until that's out of the way.

Study for the test.  Study, study, study for the test.

So, hopefully you now the difference between limited and unlimited governments.  You need to know the difference between each one of these governmental systems.

I hope this one helps you remember absolute monarchy:

If you want credit for reading and discussing the blog tonight, write the following quote on a piece of paper: "I think the power went to her head...  Then, have the adult you read the blog with sign the paper.

Turn it in tomorrow.

Monday, December 9, 2013

Intro to Governments

I've got to get working on the test, so it'll be a super-short post today.

We started off class by doing a little more of an in-depth comparison of Yertle and The Hunger Games.  Similarities between Snow and Yertle, Katniss and Mack.  What the turtles represented, why they listened to Yertle... etc....  

We also compared Yertle to Saddam.  So many places in the book we hear Yertle saying, "Oh marvelous me," and by the end he's no longer "king of all he can see," but rather "king of the mud."

If you weren't here today, make sure you get a governments chart when you get back.  Also, make sure you define "rule of law" on the back.  The definition we gave was "rule of law = everybody must obey the law, no matter who you are."

If you read and discussed this blog post with an adult, you can get some extra credit.  If you want it, write the following quote on a scrap of paper, "It must be a very fragile system if a handful of berries can topple it."  Then, turn it in tomorrow.

Friday, December 6, 2013

Yertle and Nelson

SILENCE!  We're discussing governments.  I think we have the concept of power and absolute power down.  So, next week we'll get into limited and unlimited governments.

We read the story of Yertle the Turtle in class today.  If the adult you're reading the blog with hasn't yet read the book, explain it to them.

We discussed it as well, but we've barely scratched the surface.  Yertle will be the subject of Monday's bellwork.

I'm sure many of you heard of Nelson Mandela's death last night.  We usually don't study his life and influence and Apartheid South Africa until later in the year, but I didn't feel right about going through the day without mentioning him - so we put off going in depth about governments until later.

Here are the clips we watched today, if you're interested.  ...27 years...

If you want the credit for reading and discussing this blog with an adult... well... as always, you have to read it and discuss it with them.  When you're done, write the following quote on a scrap piece of paper: "I know, up on top you are seeing great sights, but down at the bottom we, too, should have rights.  We turtles can't stand it.  Our shells will all crack!  Besides, we need food.  We are starving!" groaned Mack."

Make sure your name's on it.  Put it in the extra credit tray on Monday.  Have a great weekend.  ...Two weeks?  For real?  That's nuts.

Thursday, December 5, 2013


Bellwork question of the day:  "Should students have the same amount of authority as teachers?  Why or why not?  What would happen if students and teachers had the same amount of authority?  Answer in complete sentences."

So, we introduced the concept of government.  While they were working on the bellwork, I played a video from youtube:

The class was pretty well split, slightly favoring the teachers maintaining their authority.  (It's nice to know my job is safe.)  (...For now...)

The students don't know it yet, but I've introduced the political concept of rule of law, and limited and unlimited government.  We talked about the people who have the most power in our government - and whether or not that meant they got to do whatever they want...

But it was just an introduction.

We spent the rest of the time reviewing the ancient civilizations and filling in our Venn Diagrams.  (If you need one, click on the link - if you want to know what goes in them, check out yesterday's post.)

I also passed out the REVIEW GUIDE.  It'd probably be a good idea to study.  The test is a week away.

If you want extra credit for reading and discussing the blog with an adult, you've got to read and discuss it with them.  Tell them what you think about the student/teacher authority question.  Maybe study for the test for a couple minutes.

When you're done, find a scrap of paper and write the following quote:  "I!!!  HAVE!!!  THE POWER!!!"  Then, have the adult you read the blog with sign the paper.  Turn it in tomorrow.

Did we also watch this clip?  ...Yes... Yes we did.

Wednesday, December 4, 2013

Ancient Civilizations Venn Diagram... And Cuneiform

We're almost finished with ancient civilizations - and we're having a test over them next Thursday.  ...Not tomorrow, mind you, but Thursday the 12th - and we may extend it to the 13th.

So, we worked on a Venn Diagram today.  Students took it home, but they didn't actually have to do it for homework.  The diagram will be handy when it comes to studying for the test.  In fact, it's the first part of the review guide.  They'll receive the second one tomorrow or Friday.

I made some pictures to help you with the diagram.  And to help you study.

Ancient Egypt

Ancient Indus River Valley Civilization

Ancient Mesopotamia

Click on the pictures to enlarge them.  ...Yes, these are basically the answers.  Again, this would be one of the posts to come to if you want to study.  I'll tag it as "Study 2013" that way if you type that in to the search bar in the upper left of the webpage, it will bring you right to this post.  (Also, if I missed anything important for any of the civilizations, let me know either in class or in the comments.)

If you want the extra credit for reading and discussing this blog with an adult, have the adult quiz you over the various civilizations for about 3-5 minutes.  Have them ask you what each item on the list means.  Have them ask you which language goes with which civilization - NO PEEKING!  Etc...

When you're done, write down the word "architecture" and then write a quick definition for that word.  (If you don't know the definition, look it up.  If you don't have a dictionary, google it.  The adult can tell you, if that's easier - but you have to be the one to write it.)  Then, write down an example of architecture for each of the 3 ancient civilizations.  Have the adult you read the blog with sign the paper, and turn it in tomorrow.

We also wrote in cuneiform (SUMERIANS!) today.  So, if you want to check out some pictures (and maybe a video) from that, feel free to keep scrolling.  ...You might be in here.  


Tuesday, December 3, 2013

Graded Some Maps

I'll keep this blog post short today.  Yay!  Free time!

We graded maps, which is why the post will be short.  ...Your free time = my time entering those grades.  They should be up by 4:30.

We also messed around with Google Earth today.  Although we're studying ancient Egypt, and the 1860s hardly qualify as "ancient,"  the Suez Canal was on the map.  So we looked at its purpose.  Students were also having some trouble with scale, so most classes zoomed in on a baseball diamond.  And we looked at how different it looked the farther away we got from it.  ...How different everything looked.  How small we are from outer space.

I told you I'd keep the post short, so in keeping with promises... If you read and discussed today's post with an adult, go check your current grades in all your classes.  Write down your grades.  If you're missing any assignments, write them down.  If you're missing anything for me - get them and complete them.  (Other than bellwork, of course.)  Once you have the list, have the adult you read and discussed the blog with sign it.  Turn it in tomorrow.

(If you're doing all your assignments, this should be really easy.)

Monday, December 2, 2013

Ancient Egypt

The first half of class today, we worked on our Ancient Egypt maps.  You can download it HERE.  You can do most of it without the book.  In fact, to help you out I'll post a map here where you can get most of the information:

Now, that won't get you everything - but it will get you started.  If you don't know where to go from there, CLICK ON THIS LINK.

...Seriously, people...  ...Yes you'll have to do the work of clicking the "images" icon at the top...

We'll finish it up during the bellwork time tomorrow, and then we'll grade it.  It should be done by then.

We also watched the Egypt Crash Course - or most of it at least.  I should add that John Green pushes the envelope in these - so when he uses a substitute word for donkey to keep the attention of the students, I turn it down.  If the kids aren't allowed to say it, he shouldn't be either.

Of course, you won't be able to turn it down at home, so watch at your own risk.

If you want extra credit you're supposed to read and discuss the blog with an adult.  If you did this, find a scrap of paper and write down one similarity between Ancient Egypt and Ancient Mesopotamia.  Then, write down one difference.  When you're finished, have the adult you read with sign the paper.  Make sure your name is on it, and turn it in tomorrow.

Tuesday, November 26, 2013

Monday, November 25, 2013

Ancient Civs

The bellwork today was sort of a catch-all for ancient civilizations.  Where they are.  Where we are.  What they were.

We graded it, so it was worth a little more than the typical five points.  That also means students can make it up.  You can get it by going to the H-Block Assignments page and clicking on "27.2 ancient civs map bellwork," or just click on the link right there - and  it will take you straight to it.

We've got a couple more ancient civilizations to cover before we get into governments.  Rest assured there will be a test shortly after we get back from break.  I'll have a review guide for you all soon.  For now, just rest easy.

We spent 2/3 of the class working on and grading the paper.  After that, we watched the first part of the Indus River crash course.  I would put it up here, but I'm not going to because we're going to finish it tomorrow.  You can watch it then.  Of course, it's on youtube.  So if you want to check it out now, I can't stop you.

As always, thanks for reading and discussing the blog.

If you want the extra credit for reading and discussing it today, click on the link above.  Adults, quiz your kid over the bellwork we did today.  It should be pretty easy since it was already review, and we just did it in class.  If they struggle with it too much, glare at them a little bit for me, ok?  That's the type of stuff that will show up on the test.

Then, when you're done.  Write down which question was the easiest, and which one was the most difficult.  (You don't have to ask every question.  But ask at least five.)

Then, as always, have the adult sign the paper and turn it in tomorrow.

Thursday, November 21, 2013

Graded Mesopotamia Maps

We graded our Mesopotamia maps today.  They should be entered by 4:00 this afternoon.  If you notice that yours is missing in the grade book, THIS POST will be helpful.  Again, you'll need the book to answer a few questions, but you can use the map on the page to answer most of them...

I have the students grade their own maps for a couple reasons.

  • It provides instant feedback and reinforcement
  • They can correct their mistakes
  • It saves me time
...However, it doesn't save me a TON of time, because I go back through and grade them all myself as well, although, I don't pour over them as I would if I was grading them completely on my own.

Our bellwork today featured a map that included all 4 ancient civilizations we'll be studying this year.  I asked the students to tell me which continent each was on.  Most students were able to do this, no problem.  However, the number of students who couldn't was high enough (and surprising enough) that I adjusted my lesson accordingly.

We played the ONLINE WORLD GEOGRAPHY GAMES (continents and oceans) as a class.  I told my students that if they played the games at home, I'd give them double points if they beat the class high-score of 19 seconds.  This offer only lasts until Tuesday.  ...Seriously, you guys have to know the continents and oceans as a reference point...

Alright.  I don't have time to write more, as I must go look over all those maps, and enter the grades.

If you read and discussed this post with an adult, tell them how you did on your map.  Maybe even challenge them to a quick game of continents and oceans from the link above.  Then, once you've read and discussed write the following phrase on a scrap of paper: "HUNGER GAMES TOMORROW!!!  WOO HOO!!!"  Then, have the adult you read it with sign the paper.

Turn it in tomorrow.

Wednesday, November 20, 2013

Mesopotamia Map and Meetings

We're working on our Mesopotamia maps today.  If you need one, you can print it out by CLICKING THIS LINK.  You'll need a blue book to get a few of your answers.  However, you can answer the majority of them by looking at this map I'm providing you.  GO ME!  So, if you don't have a book at home, you don't have an excuse.

We'll be grading these tomorrow, so if you're not done - make sure you finish right away.  If you left the map at school, skip the bellwork and finish the map.

Yesterday I had another meeting, so I didn't get to post.  Sorry about that.  I did learn a bunch of technological stuff though.  And I saw some of your parents.

So, I didn't get to mention that we watched The Mesopotamians Video.  It's good.  Apparently, students still remember it when they get to high school.  ...Is it a bit annoying?  Well, maybe.  But definitely worth it:

If you want the extra credit for reading and discussing today's blog, tell the adult you read and discussed it with what you know about Mesopotamia.  You should know what their code of laws is called - who it's named after.  You should be able to tell what rivers it was settled by - and you should be able to tell them why it was settled by those rivers.  What system of writing do they use?  It was developed by the Sumerians.

When you're done, write the following sentence on a piece of scrap paper:  "Isn't there a movie about Utnapishtim coming out soon... featuring Russell Crowe, right?"

Monday, November 18, 2013


I was in a meeting today.  If you want the extra credit, click the link and read the post.  It's not too long, and it deals with what we studied today.

...I'm still day-dreaming about that Pedro the Lion concert, by the way...

Friday, November 15, 2013

Why We Punish

Hammurabi is most famous for his law code - appropriately called "Hammurabi's Code."

Today, we looked at several laws and tried to determine whether or not they were fair by our standards.  We ended up having a quite a little dialogue in several classes.  Apparently, many of my students have A LOT to say.

Of course, since the conversation revolved around justice and punishment students were quick to answer, as fairness is something near and dear to their hearts.

So, why do we punish?

I gave students 4 reasons:
  • Incapacitate: stop criminals from committing the crimes again
  • Deterrence:  makes others think twice before committing a crime
  • Rehabilitation:  helps criminals recover so they'll stop committing the crimes in the future
  • Revenge:  the innate sense of justice that says - you deserve what's coming to you

Looking at Hammurabi's Code, we can see all but one of these reasons play out.  It seems like rehabilitation wasn't his number one priority.  

Let's look at Law 25, since this is one we didn't look at in class.

"If fire break out in a house, and some one who comes to put it out cast his eye upon the property of the owner of the house, and take the property of the master of the house, he shall be thrown into that self-same fire."

So, you're neighbor's house catches fire.  You go to help put it out.  You rescue his X-Box, but then think... you know... my X-Box is broken.  So you decided to keep it.  Looks like you're getting thrown into the fire if you get caught.

Does that incapacitate you?  You bet.  You'll never be committing that crime again.  Does it deter others?  Well, I know if my friend got thrown into a fire for stealing, it'd make me think twice.  Did the owner get revenge?  I'd say that could be a fine working definition for revenge.  Have you been rehabilitated?  Well...  ... probably not. (Lets leave the after-life out of it for a moment.)

The laws, of course, are harsh by today's standards.  (If you sass your parents, your hand is hewn off.  ...Hammurabi's words, not mine...)  But let's give Hammurabi some credit.  He made something from nothing.  Or at least he codified something out of the tons of unwritten laws from Uruk to Ur to Babylon.  Most any laws we create today are based off laws that have already been created.

*What did I want students to get out of this lesson?  Well, I'm not sure that lessons should always have a quantifiable, measurable objective.  I wanted my student to think through Hammurabi's reasoning.  Why might he have created the laws the way he did?  What about our society?  The laws in this Union - the United States - aren't perfect.  Can we make them perfect?  (Or perhaps, more perfect?) * 

...Of course, I also hope they remember that Hammurabi was a Mesopotamian king who wrote an early code of laws (called Hammurabi's code.)  And that all (or most all) ancient civilizations had a code of laws... and cities, specialized workers, and system of writing...

If you read this for extra credit, you were supposed to discuss it with an adult.  If you've done that, write down at least 3 sentences from your discussion.  Consider discussing the paragraph that begins and ends with the *.  Are there any laws in our country that you believe are unfair?  Need to be changed?  What can we do to make our country better?

Once you've written the three sentences on a piece of paper, have the adult you discussed it with sign it.  Then, turn it in on Monday.

Thursday, November 14, 2013

On Track

If I'm being honest on here (and I always try to be honest) today and the next couple of days will be especially rough.

Teaching The Hunger Games is a monumental task.  It ties in with social studies all over the place, but I hate that we don't have enough books for every kid.

I do think it's important to read out loud in the upper levels - it's something that we've been moving away from as a society - but perhaps we shouldn't be...

But because this book is so much longer than other pieces we read out loud in social studies - and because I generally only read once or twice a week for 10-15 minutes after we've finished the main part of the lesson, it's natural that one class is way ahead of another.  So, 6th and 7th hours have finished the book - whereas 4th and 5th hours have 30 more pages to go - which translates into at least 40 minutes of reading.

And teaching junior high can quickly get very complicated if one class is a week ahead of another.

So, we'll be easing our way into Mesopotamia, while we finish up The Hunger Games.

Today, the classes the finished The Hunger Games watched the crash course video on Mesopotamia.  The other classes will hopefully watch that tomorrow.

No matter what, if you're reading this blog and discussing it with an adult - tell them what you thought of the book.  If you haven't finished it yet, tell them how you think it's going to end.

If you've done that, write the following quote on a piece of paper, have the adult you discussed the blog with sign it, and turn it in tomorrow.

"Creativity, appreciation, inquisitiveness - these are impossible to scale.  But, they're the purpose of education - why our teachers teach; why I choose to learn...  We teach to free minds, we teach to inspire, we teach to equip - the careers will come naturally."

Wednesday, November 13, 2013


We spent the day going over some of the bigger topics/concepts from the year:

  • Human capital
  • Trade routes
  • Globalization
  • Economics (consumers)
  • International trade
  • Ancient civilizations - rivers/development
  • Standard of living
As is generally the case, the students who got it, got it.  The students who didn't, didn't.  And some students were strong in one area, and weak on another.

I was planning on going over the review, and then finishing The Hunger Games, but the review took most of the hour.  I tried to get into some of the aspects of each topic we may have overlooked.  For instance, when we did the gold/salt trade simulation we learned that Ghana made it's money by taxing the people who came through.  But we didn't really talk about the importance of the location of Ghana.  And really, isn't that what is't all about?  Location, location, location?

And earlier in the year, we studied globalization quite a bit - but I worded questions a bit differently.  I've been trying to get students to see how it applies to us.

If you want the extra credit today, you had to read and discuss the blog with an adult.  If you did that, explain to them why location was so important to Ghana.  Then tell them about the speech Mr. Zook gave at convo - and what it actually had to do with.  (I didn't share this with every class, so students, if you forget that one, don't worry about it...)

Write the answer to the location question down on a piece of scrap paper.  Have the adult you read it with sign it.  Then, turn it in tomorrow.

Tuesday, November 12, 2013

No E.C.

I promise I'll be back with a full post tomorrow.

There's no extra credit tonight.  Apologies.

Monday, November 11, 2013

Veterans Day

We started today by watching this video:


After watching the video, we discussed this history of Veterans Day a little bit more and then got into The Hunger Games.

I'd like to take the time to say thanks to all the Veterans that may be reading this.

That's all I'll post for today.  Thanks.

Friday, November 8, 2013

Finishing Up The Hunger Games

Hey everybody!  Can you believe it's the weekend already?  The days just fly by.

We read The Hunger Games in class today.  I'm planning on being finished by early next week.  Probably Tuesday.

I haven't been as good about blogging how The Hunger Games ties in with social studies as I have in previous years.  There are two main reasons for this.  First, this year more than others have students at different parts in the book.  I don't want to give anything away if students haven't arrived at that part yet.  And secondly, I'm reading it earlier in the year than I have in the past.  This means that the concepts are harder to connect.

For instance, the Arab Spring started with a fruit vendor, named Mohamed Bouazizi, who set himself on fire.  (I know it's far more complicated than that, but I try to keep these blog posts relatively short.)  Collins (who wrote The Hunger Games long before the Arab Spring) uses the imagery of fire starting a revolution throughout the series.  We will study India's path to independence.  We will look at human rights, and government systems, and societies and civilizations.  But we haven't yet.

We have discussed culture and cultural diffusion.  We've discussed economic systems and the importance of agriculture.  And all of these come up in the book.

I've written about all these topics in depth in the past, so if you want to get extra credit today, I'm going to keep the blog post short.  But you have to search "Hunger Games" in the blog search engine found in the upper left hand corner of your screen.  Click on one of those posts and do whatever it says.  (It can't be from this year.)

Have a great weekend.

Wednesday, November 6, 2013

Population Density

We're breaking all kinds of records today.

Again, we looked at the reason population density is higher around rivers.  Here are the reasons I give, and the ones I want the students to know:

  • Drinking water
  • Agriculture (water for crops and animals)
  • Transportation and trade
  • Silt
Many students were still struggling to understand the difference between population and population density, so I did an activity I do every year.  I boxed off two sections of my room, and made them the same size.  I asked for a volunteer that was wearing blue.   This person became our river, flowing through one of the boxes.  They had to make a delta with their arms and hands - and the delta was formed around the mouth of the river.

I then placed several students in the box with the river, and a single student in the other box.

We found the total population - of both boxes together.  And then I asked students to point to the area that had the highest population density in the country.  Of course, it was by the river.

Last year, 6th hour set a record by having 31 students plus the river in the box.  This year, a new 6th hour broke the record by having 32 students plus the river in the box.  There were lots of cheers.

If you want extra credit for reading and discussing the blog today, explain what population density is.  Tell what you thought about the boxes.  And (without looking back up at the top of the blog) give the reasons population density is higher around rivers.

Then, draw a quick picture of your class in the boxes and have the parent or adult you discussed the blog with sign it.  Seriously, a quick picture.  Don't you have language arts homework tonight?

I would like to add that the DeBrieon River is actually in all three of these pictures, but you can only see him in the last one.

Tuesday, November 5, 2013

Population Density

We're getting into ancient civilizations, and learning that most all of them were found near rivers.  Population density is higher around rivers.

For bellwork, we worked on a map that depicted this.  I don't think 100% of the students got it though...

Check out this map:

It doesn't show the Nile river at all.  It only shows you where people live.  And since there are so many people living around the Nile, we can see where it is.

If you want extra credit today, look at the map below.  Imagine you're a social studies teacher.  Write 3 questions that could go along with the map.  One of them must deal with population density.  You must answer them as well.

When you're done, have the adult you read and discussed the blog with sign the paper.  Turn it in tomorrow.

Monday, November 4, 2013

And the winner is?....


Agriculture wins as humanity's most important discovery/invention.  Congratulations, agriculture.

Today I asked students to give me most important discoveries or inventions of all time.  Agriculture makes the cake.

This concept comes up several times in The Hunger Games.  Take for instance, page 65:

     "I try to imagine assembling this meal myself back home.  Chickens are too expensive, but I could make do with a wild turkey.  I'd need to shoot a second turkey to trade for an orange.  Goat's milk would have to substitute for cream.  We can grow peas in the garden.  I'd have to get wild onions from the woods.  I don't recognize the grain, our own tessera ration cooks down to an unattractive brown mush.  Fancy rolls would mean another trade with the baker, perhaps for two or three squirrels.  As for the pudding, I can't even guess what's in it.  Days of hunting and gathering for this one meal and even then it would be a poor substitution for the Capital version.

     What must it be like, I wonder to live in a world where food appears at the press of a button?  How would I spend the hours I now commit to combing the woods for sustenance if it were so easy to come by?  What do they do all day, these people in the Capital, besides decorating their bodies and waiting for a new shipment of tributes to roll in and die for their entertainment?"

Agriculture gives us time.  No longer do we have to hunt for our food.  No longer do we have to gather and store.  No longer do we have to move from place to place.  We can settle, and learn, and develop what we have.

But more on that tomorrow.

Today, I also mentioned that civilizations generally developed around rivers.  (If you're going to grow crops, you'd better be close to water.)  And so, we went over some terms: source, mouth, banks, delta.

Students continually get source and mouth mixed up.  So, a few years ago I drew this picture to help them.  I mentioned that the source is called the source - because it's the beginning - like the source of a problem.  And the mouth is called a mouth, because it looks like a mouth:

This year though, I also showed a video.  I told students after a flood in Bangladesh, the world’s largest snake washed up next to a man’s house.  The snake is dead, but it’s huge.  I may not have been completely truthful with the students - but hopefully they'll remember that the mouth comes at the end.

If you want extra credit for reading and discussing the blog, tell me the three parts of a river.  Then have the adult you read and discussed the blog with sign the paper.  Turn it in tomorrow.

Friday, November 1, 2013

Mansa Musa and Timeline Practice

Today we spent a lot of time working on timelines.  We focused on one in our book that dealt with Ghana, Mali, and Songhai.  I didn't think we'd spend much time on it... but...  well... it took a long time.  Students were just not. getting. it.

More on that later.

We also watched our first crash course video.  John Green is one fast talking dude.  And I wish he wouldn't allude to the swears so much, but he's good.

The video's 10 minutes if you want to watch it.  It takes us about 20 because I pause it to explain and discuss:

It's good.  And it would be good to watch and discuss, but I won't force that upon you because you may not have time.

But if you want the extra credit, you'll have to figure these problems out.  Discuss them with an adult.  Explain to them how you got the answers you did.

How much time is between

  • 2013 c.e. and 2000 c.e.?
  • 2013 c.e. and 1776 c.e.?
  • 1215 c.e. and 1997 c.e.?
  • 853 b.c.e. and 2013 c.e.?
  • 1990 c.e. and 1700 b.c.e.?
  • 1329 b.c.e. and 1499 b.c.e.?
  • 729 c.e. and 1789 b.c.e.?
Write the answers down on a sheet of paper and have the adult you read and discussed with sign it.  Then, have a great weekend.  Seriously, make it really, really great.  

Thursday, October 31, 2013


I view all classes as an extension of language arts.  If my students can't read, and express their ideas clearly, they will not be successful in social studies.  (Or science, or math, it will also make life in general much more difficult...)

Today, the bellwork question asked whether they would have cut open the camel's stomach and drank the water if they were in Ibn Battuta's predicament.  I also asked them to write about a time they did something they didn't really want to do.

The responses were fantastic.  My goal has been to focus on literacy throughout the year, promoting reading and writing, and developing a common language with Mr. Ogle, the language arts teacher.

Today, we also read a little more about the gold/salt trade.  The West Africans kept the secrets of their gold well hidden.  Sometimes northern traders would kidnap them, and threaten them with death - but they didn't cave.

So, I asked my students a second question: if you were a Wangaran being threatened with death, would you give the location of the gold mines?  We discussed how this question was very similar to the bellwork question.  In both cases, you're choosing to do something you don't want to do in order to live.

We also looked at the differences.  In this case, sure you're giving up money - but it's not the same as someone threatening to kill you if you don't hand over your wallet.  What would have happened to the Wangarans if they gave up the gold mines?

If you want extra credit, here are some things you can discuss:

  • What would have happened if the Wangarans gave up the gold mine?
  • What would you have done?
  • Would you drink water from a camel's stomach?
  • What about your parents?
  • Would they drink water?
  • Give up the gold mine?
  • Would you give up your wallet if someone was mugging you?
  • Would you give up state secrets that could destroy the United States?

...Lets hope we're never in any of those situations.  

If you want the extra credit, pick two questions from above, and write the answers your parents gave.  Have them sign it, and turn it in tomorrow.

If you're looking for a copy of the classwork: Reading Notes 13.4-5 you can find it by clicking on the link, or going to the "H Block Assignments" on our school webpage.  It's under "student resources."  You'll need to borrow a book.

Wednesday, October 30, 2013

Africa is a Really Really Big Country, Right? ...And Camels

Yesterday we looked a couple maps - including this one:

We were grading our maps, and discussing trans-Saharan trade and I used this to show

  • the enormity of Africa
  • the enormity of the Sahara Desert
I pointed out that the countries of the United States, China, India, Japan... etc... all fit in Africa - so couldn't we all agree that Africa is a really big country.  Maybe even the biggest country in the world.

Surprisingly 4 of my 6 classes caught it.  Or at least several students caught it and shouted out, "WAIT!  AFRICA'S NOT A COUNTRY!  AFRICA'S A CONTINENT!!!"

I was relieved because I'd given them the continents and oceans test at the beginning of the year.  And it was also on the test we just took.  I did try to word the question in a way that would fool them - but these kids are sharp.

At any rate.  Africa is huge.  HUGE.  And so is the Sahara.  FYI: THE SAHARA would cover the Contiguous United States if you could transport it over here and dump it on us.  ...Although, I'm not sure why you would want to.  Seriously, it'd be a huge financial burden, and I want my tax dollars going toward public education *ahem* no conflict of interest *ahem*  ...At any rate, check the links if you don't believe me.

Today we read about Ibn Battuta - one of my favorite explorers.  If you're reading this for extra credit, tell the adult you're reading with a little about Battuta.  Remember the camel...  The poor, poor, camel.

I had a lot of camel questions from the reading today.  They were questions like:

  • How do you ride a camel?
  • Do camels store water in their hump?
  • Are camels the same as llamas?
  • Can you cut a camel open and live inside of it?
  • One time I saw a movie where...
Sometimes redirecting a class can be difficult - especially when the more interesting aspects of trans-Saharan trade involve getting lost and drinking water from a camel's stomach...

Three classes asked about riding camels though, so here you go:

I think that one's the best, and it's definitely worth the 1:55, but here are a couple other ones as well:

A little shaky, but it's only 16 seconds and you get to see a full caravan and the shadows on the sand of the Sahara - and I LOVE that.  Also, you get a feel for how difficult it would be to navigate through a desert.  Turn left at the big dune...

It's crazy how much good stuff there is on the internet...  And I spend so much of my time refreshing my facebook feed.

If you want credit for reading and discussing today's blog write two sentences from the discussion.  Maybe write something about Ibn Battuta.  Or camels.  Or whether it would be worth it to cross the Sahara to trade.  You could make a lot of money...  but you might also die.  High risk, high reward, as they say.

Then, have the adult you read it with sign the paper.

Turn it in tomorrow.

Have a great day.

Tuesday, October 29, 2013

Graded Maps

Today we graded our maps, so in lieu of posting extra credit, I'm putting them in the grade book.

Thanks for checking in though.  Maybe you can spend some time discussing what you did the rest of the day.  Seriously...  What DID you do today?  How'd you do on that math quarterly assessment?  Or what about Language Arts?  You did some vocabulary stuff in there, right?  (Stuff... how's that for some higher level vocab?...)  Did you also read "Thanksgiving With the Conners?"  What's going on in that?

Well, I'm not giving extra credit today.  But I'm going to try to have your grades entered.  But even that is going to be a stretch since I have a doctor's appointment.  Wish me luck.

If you need to complete an AFRICAN MAP, you can get a copy by clicking on the link, or going to the school webpage and clicking on "For Students" and then "H Block Assignments."  You will need to borrow a book.

Monday, October 28, 2013

The Map

We worked on our Africa maps today.  Most students finished them.  If you are one of the rare students that didn't finish it - guess what: you have more time.  Finish it tonight for homework.

If you weren't here today, make sure you let me know tomorrow before we start grading the map.  I'll get you one and let you work on it.  But you need to tell me before we start grading them.  I would have one for you to download, but the website's not quite ready for it yet.  Also, you'd need a book - and you don't have one yet.

Mr. Krecsmar sent me an interesting article today.  You can check it out if you want to be ahead of the game tomorrow:

If you want credit for reading and discussing the blog, please write the following sentence on a piece of paper: "Natural barriers were difficult to cross 1000 years ago, and they're difficult to cross today."

Then, have the adult you read it with sign the paper.  Turn it in tomorrow.

Saturday, October 26, 2013

I've Got Tracker-Jackers Outside My House

I hope you're all having a fantastic fall break.  Mine's been pretty relaxing.  I've read a couple books, and I look forward to some football this afternoon - and especially this evening when Penn State takes on Ohio State.  You know, I'm going for PSU, but you've got to give OSU some props for THIS...  I'm not sure which is better - the OSU version, or THE ORIGINAL...

Well, you're probably not checking out the blog for all that.  You're just in it for the money.  Or the extra credit points at any rate.

Here's what we're doing on Monday: you're going to come in, and finish off the map.  Then, we'll probably continue discussing Ghana, Mali, and Songhai.  (Remember, we were learning about Ghana with the gold/salt trade game.)  Tuesday we'll grade the maps and see how one kingdom grew from another.  If there's time, we'll read The Hunger Games.  Wednesday and Thursday we'll finish up our studies on West Africa.

That's the plan at least.

You know, most of my classes have reached the tracker-jacker section.  On the off chance you're not there yet, I won't spoil anything.  But I had to post this, because Rue's tiny hand pointing to the nest above Katniss was fresh in my mind when I saw this in my yard yesterday:

I can just imagine Katniss up there, furtively sawing close to the trunk as the anthem played.  ...Yeah... I should probably take care of that.

I know today's post doesn't have a lot to do with class.  But somehow prove you were here.  I don't care how today.  It's fall break for crying out loud.  Have an adult sign it.  Then go relax while you still can.

Monday, October 21, 2013

Worth Your Salt

We finished up our gold/salt trade game today.  Most of the students were worth their salt, when it came to getting deals, but of course some were better than others.

We're studying Africa right now - specifically Ghana, Mali, and Songhai.  We'll continue to look at them after fall break.  The game featured the gold/salt trade that led to the rise of Ghana.  Some of the concepts of the game include the benefits of voluntary trade, natural barriers, traditional economies, and several others.

If you want to get extra credit for reading and discussing the blog today, tell the adult you're reading and discussing with how the game went.  Explain the different roles people played.  Tell what you were.  Tell how you did.

After that, write two sentences about the discussion.  Have the adult sign the paper, and turn it in tomorrow.

Here are some pictures of the simulation.  I hope you can find yourself.

Thursday, October 17, 2013


Sorry there was nothing up last night.  I actually posted, but when I just got to the blog, it wasn't there...  Apparently, I had only saved it as a draft.

Of course, when we're this early in the marking period, not very many people are checking anyway.  So, to the 5 of you who are - my apologies.

(Thanks to the World Bank for this image)

Africa often gets overlooked here in the U.S.  Or at least, it seemed to when I was taking social studies.  Of course, maybe I've just forgotten the bulk of what I learned in 7th and 8th grade.  It wasn't that long ago, was it?

At any rate, Concord's 7th grade social studies department has been trying to rectify this.  Before fall break, I'll be teaching about 3 ancient African kingdoms.  We worked on a map today, and we'll do a little activity tomorrow.

Wish us luck, it's a little chaotic.

To get the extra credit points, you have to read and discuss this blog with a parent or other adult.  You have to tell them how class went today.  And then write down the following phrase: "I read and discussed the blog with________________________ on _____________________."  Then, have the adult you read and discussed it with sign and date it.  

Turn it in tomorrow.

Tuesday, October 15, 2013

Thinking About Flowers

Katniss is dying of dehydration:

"This is all right, I think.  This is not so bad here.  The air is less hot, signifying evening's approach.  There's a slight, sweet scent that reminds me of lilies.  My fingers stroke the smooth ground, sliding easily across the top.  This is an okay place to die, I think.

     "...It is mud!  My nose lifts in the air.  And those are lilies!  Pond lilies!"

(The Hunger Games,  pg. 170)

Compare this to earlier in the book:

"Let them call the Peacekeepers and take us to the community home, I thought.  Or better yet, let me die right here in the rain."  (pg. 30)

"...I dropped my gaze, embarrassed, and that's when I saw it.  The first dandelion of the year.  And a bell went off in my head.  I thought of the hours I spent in the woods with my father and I knew how we were going to survive."  (pg. 32)

And consider the fact that the only person Katniss loves is Prim.  Primrose Everdeen.  If it wasn't for Prim, Katniss would have given up several times.  The flower, primrose.

When books are written well, everything has a purpose.  And flowers appear throughout these pages.  I asked my students to think about symbolism, and what flowers represent.  I asked them to consider why it was a flower that has saved Katniss three times now.

I understand that many 7th graders do not yet grasp symbolism, and maybe I'm reading too much into a book of young adult fiction, but I think the question is worth pondering: in literature, in art, what do flowers represent.  And why did Suzanne Collins write the book this way?

Maybe some of you saw the Banksy Article that just broke, and maybe the two are only connected in my mind, but it reminded me of this image:

I think too, that The Hunger Games and Banksy go hand-in-hand.  Maybe it's just the imagery from the movie that makes me think this, though:

They're both about rebellion.  About hope.  And I feel convicted by both, because they are both an indictment against our society and human nature.

And of course, this section of The Hunger Games ties in with a lot of the rest of the social studies content as well - for instance - we'll soon learn that almost all ancient civilizations were found near ______________.  I'll give you a hint.  It's the thing Katniss needed most.

If you read this, and want to earn some extra credit for having read it, discuss the following questions with an adult: what do you think of Banksy's piece "love is in the air?"  And why do you think Suzanne Collins used a flower to save Katniss?  ...Three times...

If you read and discussed it, write down two sentences from your discussion, and have the adult you discussed it with sign the paper.

Turn it in tomorrow.