Thursday, February 28, 2013

Hinduism: Some Concepts

It was another great day here in Social Studies Land.  We're continuing our discussions of Hinduism.  Some concepts we discussed:

Classes today were great, as long as students didn't get too side-tracked on the dress code issues.  (This is me getting side-tracked for a moment: remember this, students that are reading this - we're all on the same side.  Sometimes that's difficult to see, but we are.  Don't let your frustration or anger cloud that.)

If you want the extra credit, read and discuss the blog with an adult.  I would discuss the bullet points.  Adults, ask the students what they remember.  If they don't remember anything about them, click on them.  I've linked them to older posts which go into more detail.

When you're done, students, write two sentences about the discussion in today's class.  If you have any questions, write them down.  Then, have the adult you read the blog with sign the paper.

Wednesday, February 27, 2013

Is Racism Dead? When Will It Be?

Yesterday marked the one year anniversary of the Trayvon Martin tragedy

We discussed this briefly in most of my classes, although, we didn't get to it in all of them.

India's caste system allowed for no upward mobility.  You died in the caste you were born into.  Here in the United States, our society is loosely structured around wealth - but it's fairly easy to point out that it's more complicated than that.  I make the point that here people are not tied to their class.  If they want to make more money - they are allowed to try.  They can increase their human capital by getting a good education, going to college, getting a good job, etc...  Obviously, again - it's more complicated than this...

However, there are similarities between overcoming the caste system, and the civil rights movement.  The caste system was outlawed in 1947 - long before Dr. King's challenges.  Gandhi (who helped banish the caste system) was imitated and emulated by King.

Yet, many negative effects of the caste system linger today.  Just as we see many negative effects of discrimination and racism here in America today.

I'm not sure where you stand on the Trayvon Martin issue.  In my mind, the varying student opinions on the matter point out the various opinions brought in from their home.  Whether you believe it was racially motivated or not, it has allowed us to open up about issues in America which could stand to be addressed.

If you want the extra credit for reading and discussing the blog tonight, read it and discuss it with an adult.  Then, write a paragraph detailing that discussion.  Turn in the paragraph tomorrow.

Some topics to consider:
  • Are you accepting of other people's differences?  If so, why?  If not, why not?
  • How does discrimination affect us here in the United States, and specifically Indiana?
  • Have you ever been discriminated against?  (Whether it be due to race, gender, age, etc...)
  • Do we need to address it?
  • Will it ever go away?
For the record, we also discussed karma, darma, avatars, and some Indian history along with the caste system.

Hey, parents and adults - thanks for doing this.  It makes my day every time I read them. 

Tuesday, February 26, 2013

Another Favorite

This is one of my favorite lessons.  It's always interesting how much the discussions stay the same, and how much they change - both throughout the day, and from year to year.  I taught this almost exactly the same way I taught it last year - because I liked it so much.

As such, I'm linking to last years post.  We didn't finish it off - getting to the point of Samsara and Moksha, but we will tomorrow.  I guess, if you read the blog, you'll be ahead of everybody else.

Read THIS POST and do what it says in order to earn the extra credit.

Monday, February 25, 2013

The Old One Two Punch

We're going to be going back and forth here for a while - building off previous knowledge.  We were studying religions, but then started into studying imperialism and colonization.  But now we're moving into studying Hinduism and Buddhism - more religions.  And then we'll study the British colonization of India - more imperialism.

In some ways, social studies is a lot like math.  We don't have a "Please excuse my dear Aunt Sally," - which you should probably understand before attempting AP Calculus, but the concepts often do build off one another.

I collected the homework today, and we went over the symbolism from the simulation: the destroying of the flag represents the destroying of the culture, just because one culture is more advanced when it comes to weaponry does not necessarily mean that the culture is "better."  ... Or "worse."

Changing the dress symbolized... dress.  The chant/song symbolized the arts, customs, and language.

Some students had trouble with the flag.  Yes, for this activity it symbolized the arts, but more than that - as in our own society, it symbolizes our values and government.

I have a meeting right now, so I'll keep the post short.

As always, if you want the extra credit, discuss today's blog.  Adults, ask some good questions about colonization, globalization, and imperialism.  Students, if you want the extra credit, write the following quote on a piece of paper proving you were at the blog today: "What are we excusing Aunt Sally for this time?"  Then, have the adult sign it.  True, this may not prove that they discussed the blog with you, but hopefully they're aware something's going on.

Saturday, February 23, 2013

Colonization Simulation Breakdown

If you were absent Friday, instructions are at the bottom.

Sorry I didn't post this earlier, I know some of you like to check it right away - especially if you were absent and need to download the homework...  I had a meeting during prep, then I played a minor role in a movie (don't worry, you'll probably get to see it and make fun of me...)  Then, I went to the High School to get tickets for sectionals - the athletic office closed at 3:30, and Friday was the last day to order tickets.  I'm sure those of us who missed the game are all bummed we missed it last night.  Another reason I didn't post this until now was because I was watching and rewatching this clip from WNDU:

Yeah.  There you go.  Fantastic.

How can you go from that to social studies?  Good question.

We started to debrief the colonization simulation.  We'll finish up on Monday.  Because of the two hour delay, the we didn't have as much time in class, so the students all had homework.  To get the extra credit for reading the blog tonight, discuss that (completed) homework with whoever it is you read the blog with.

Have them sign the homework.  Turn it in on Monday, but make sure that the signature is prominent, so that I'll definitely see it when I'm grading those things.

Also, the key here is that you discuss it.  So, make sure that happens.  I trust you guys.

*But what about 6th hour, Mr. Habecker?  What about us?  We finished it in class...  (sad face)*

6th hour, you can discuss it, find a scrap piece of paper lying around the house, and have the adult you read the blog with sign it, stating you did discuss the homework that you turned in Friday.  If I find out Monday you conned your parents, and you didn't actually turn in the homework, you won't get credit for the extra credit either.

And if you were absent, you can download the homework here: BLOCK H RESOURCES and download the "colonization break down."

Thursday, February 21, 2013

To Have Lost More Than the Red Earth of Tara

My students lost a lot today when their land was colonized.  A lot.

We started the class by showing off the cultures that were developed yesterday.  Many students took pride in their work.  The flags they had created.  The chants and songs.  Many were proud of the fact that their continent had more natural resources (yes it was only Play-Doh™) but it apparently mattered quite a bit.

Then they found out another group was coming, and they were going to try to take over the land.  Each continent; each culture had to make a choice: do we do what they say?  Do we submit?  Or do we fight?  Most fought.  Especially at the beginning.

As a teacher, I have some fun with this.  I tell the students that we can't fight in school - obviously.  So one group will tickle the other group so no one gets hurt.  The small continent (who already knows the game is rigged) doesn't yet realize how it's going to play out.  I count down from 3, but then stop it before anybody has a chance to move.  And all who fought against the colonizers lose.  They don't really take this well.

There is a lot of symbolism in this simulation.  We'll talk about it tomorrow.  I'm posting some pictures.  The explanation for how to earn your extra credit will come after them.

To get the extra credit, you should have read and discussed this post with an adult.  I want you to tell them what happened in your class.  Which group were you in?  How did you feel about what happened?  Did you like the activity?  What do you think everything symbolized?

When you're done discussing this, find a piece of scrap paper, and write 3 good sentences about the discussion you just had.  Tell me what your parents (or whatever adult you discussed this with) thinks about the simulation.  Maybe you could ask them if they did this in their 7th grade social studies class.

Have them sign the paper.  Turn it in tomorrow for extra credit.

Wednesday, February 20, 2013


I don't want to give too much away, so this won't be a long post.  We just started a simulation today.  The students were blocked into continents, and they had to develop their own culture.  It was a nice review, because we haven't talked about cultures since the beginning of the year.  They made a flag, a chant, and altered their style of dress.  They also had Play-Doh™  which represented the natural resources of their continent.

To get the extra credit today, read and discuss the blog.  Tell your parent (or whatever adult you're reading this with) what you did today.  Tell them what your flag looks like.  Tell them about your chant.  Tell them whether or not your group will be ready to go right away tomorrow.  (You should be...)

Then when you've finished discussing the blog, write the following sentence on a piece of scrap paper:  "I was listening to Five Iron Frenzy while writing this blog.  On Distant Shores."  

Here are some pictures from first and second hour - if you're so inclined:


Tuesday, February 19, 2013

The Burmese Elephant

To those of you who didn't complete the homework, make sure you read the post from 2-14-13.  You can find it HERE.

Social studies often overlaps with language arts.  Spending 2 days on "Shooting an Elephant" is evidence of that.  And today's discussion really overlapped.

"Shooting an Elephant" is highly symbolic.  Orwell represents the British.  The elephant represents the Burmese culture.

When Orwell first went to Burma, he thought he was doing the right thing.  He was serving The Empire.  He didn't realize that the toll he was taking on the Burmese people is the same toll that was magnified all over the world as technology allowed globalization to expand at previously unseen rates.

Here are some topics we discussed in class, with a few others thrown in to boot:
  • How is imperialism a form of globalization?
  • What are some examples of ethnocentrism found in the essay?
  • What is symbolism?  What was symbolic in the story?
  • Did Orwell REALLY have to shoot the elephant?  What makes you come to that conclusion?
  • How do you think the elephant's owner felt?  Why couldn't he do anything about the situation?  What does that say about the rights of certain groups of people in the empire?
  • Have you ever been faced with a situation where you've been pressured into doing something you knew was wrong?  How did that make you feel?
  • Compare what happened to the Burmese in the essay to the Banananovians.
Students, to get the extra credit tonight, or this morning - if that's how you roll,  read and discuss the blog with an adult.  In the discussion, answer at least 3 of the bullet points.  Finally, find a scrap of paper, and write the response to one of the questions.  Please write at least 3 sentences.  Have the adult you read the blog with sign the paper, and turn it in tomorrow.

Thursday, February 14, 2013

Shooting An Elephant

To those of you reading this blog for the first time: welcome.  I don't often force this blog upon unsuspecting parents and adults, but today, I thought it'd be worth it.

I post (almost) every school day.  My students can get extra credit by reading and discussing the blog with an adult.  It's quick.  It's easy.  It lets parents know what we're doing in class.  It reinforces what we've learned.

Today, however it's not for extra credit - it's homework.  I assigned it because I wanted to make sure you knew we offered it, and that you could always find out what we're studying.  (And your kid could be getting a 124% in my class...)

We're studying colonization, and imperialism.  Today we read George Orwell's "Shooting an Elephant."  You can read it for free HERE if you want.

Even if you don't read it, discuss it with whoever was in my class today.  Ask them what the story was about.  Why was Orwell conflicted about his job?  What happened to the elephant?  What is imperialism?  What does this have to do with bullies?  Did Orwell have any other options at the end?  Or did he do what he had to do?

When you're done discussing it, have the student find a scrap piece of paper.  Write the following quote on the paper: "When a person becomes a bully, they take away their own freedom."

Students: once you wrote that on a piece of paper, have the adult you read and discussed the blog with sign it.

Have a great weekend.

Wednesday, February 13, 2013

The Sun Never Sets

We completed a map of the British Empire today.  If you weren't here, make sure you get a copy when you return.

You can probably figure out most of it by looking at this map:

The map is anachronistic.  England didn't control this land all at once.  But it does show how far-reaching its influence was.

If you want the extra credit for reading and discussing today's post - find an adult and discuss why England would have wanted to have that much land.  (Think back to the "why explorers explored" paper.)  After you're done reading and discussing, write the following quote on a scrap piece of paper and have the adult you discussed the blog with sign the paper.  "The sun never sets on the British Empire."

Tuesday, February 12, 2013

Silk Road

As I said in the last post, we're moving from exploration to colonization to imperialism. Today we took Acuity. So, I'm going to post the video we watched in class yesterday. If you watch it again, and discuss it with an adult, you'll get extra credit: To get the extra credit, watch and discuss the video with an adult. Then, find a scrap piece of paper and write the following quote: "Can we just pause for a moment to consider the astonishing fact that most t-shirts see more of the world than most of us do?" Then, have the parent or adult you watched the video with sign the paper.

Friday, February 8, 2013

Fifty Nifty

We started talking about colonization.  Every year, every year this happens: I ask students if they've heard the word "colonization" before.

"What about 'colony?'" I ask.  I point to the flag: "The stripes.  The stripes stand for the 13 original-" and before I can finish saying it, one, several, or all students burst into song.

"13 ORIGINAL COLONIES 50 NIFTY STARS ON THE FLAG..."  (Yes, that's in all caps because they shout out the lyrics full force.)

So, I'd like to take a moment to thank Mrs. Gillam over at Concord Intermediate School for teaching it to my students: Thank you, Mrs. Gillam.  :)

(To all the parents/adults who are reading this, at this point you should ask your kid how much of the song they remember.)

It's nice that they have some background with the idea of colonization.  This year we delve into it a little bit farther.

We'll start with why explorers explore the world, and then move from there into colonizing for natural resources, and into imperialism.

Students, make sure you bring the "Why Explorers Explored" paper when you come to class on Monday.  Please.  Please, don't forget it.

You're probably reading this because you want extra credit in my class.  If that's the case, make sure you read and discussed it with an adult.  To get the extra credit, find a scrap piece of paper and tell me whether you remember the song - and tell me if you sang it for the person you read the blog with.  Then, have that person (preferably an adult) sign the paper.

See you Monday.

And here you go, this is the closest I've been to hearing it the whole way through:

Thursday, February 7, 2013

Back by Popular Demand

First, here's the pop quiz I gave today - in case you're interested:

I had a number of students tell me they enjoyed challenging their parents last night, so the geography challenge is extended for one more night.

To get the extra credit points today, play the ONLINE GEOGRAPHY GAMES.  You have to play Middle East, and you have to play the countries.

You each have to play at least twice.  If it's a tie, there must be a tie-break.  Feel free to play some  more, remember, you can always get extra credit for playing these games.

Bring in a piece of paper telling me who won, and how close it was.  Have the adult sign the paper.

If you're attempting this on an iPhone, or SmartPhone, or Droid, or whatever else they have out now, let me know how it goes.  (If you genuinely attempt it, and it doesn't work, I'll still give you the credit.)

And, because I can, here's a song I really like.

Wednesday, February 6, 2013

Middle East

It's another short post day.  We went over some of the OPEC webquest material.  We'll finish it tomorrow for sure.

We played the Middle East geography games today.  Here's the link:  MIDDLE EAST GAMES.

You can play them for extra credit.  You have to play 3 times.  The adult you're discussing this with has to play too.  Student plays first.  Then adult.  Then student.  Play countries, level one.

To get the extra credit, tell me who had the best time.  (Write it on a scrap of paper, and have the adult sign it.)

Tuesday, February 5, 2013

In Your Own Words

I'm in class right now. RIGHT... NOW...

The students are all working, and since I'm in the computer lab, I thought a good use of my time would be typing this up while I monitor them.  (This computer is in the back of the room, which allows me to see all of their screens while I work - lest you think I was shirking my responsibilities...)

Not much has changed since yesterday.  It's a fairly difficult assignment, but they can get it.  One of the tricky parts includes looking at this chart:

It comes from the U.S. Energy Information Administration.  You can click to enlarge it.

If you're casually looking at it, it looks like the U.S. imports most of its oil from Nigeria - but that is not how the chart is set up.  One hint is the "other" countries are importing so much oil.  If that were the case, they should probably have their own line.  Another give-away is that the chart is explained on the website...

If you want the credit for reading and discussing the blog with an adult, read it - and discuss it.  To prove you did this, find a scrap piece of paper and write the following: "Box tops will be collected really soon.  I'm bringing in a bunch to give to Mr. Habecker."  Then, have the adult sign the paper.

Monday, February 4, 2013

OPEC and Scooby

We worked on the  OPEC webquest again today.  We'll finish it up tomorrow.  If you haven't checked it out yet, please do.

One of the things it has kids do is go directly to OPEC's website.  As you can imagine, the reading level is quite high on that site, so we went over a lot of it together.

For instance, one of the first questions asked is: Why was OPEC created, and what are the objectives of the organization?

OPEC's website answered that question.  But the reading level was through the roof, so I tried to break down that response.

Take the objectives of OPEC for instance (as found on OPEC's website, linked above):

1. To co-ordinate and unify the petroleum policies of the Member Countries and to determine the best means for safeguarding their individual and collective interests;
2. To seek ways and means of ensuring the stabilization of prices in international oil markets, with a view to eliminating harmful and unnecessary fluctuations; and
3. To provide an efficient economic and regular supply of petroleum to consuming nations and a fair return on capital to those investing in the petroleum industry.

I've found that even though students know a lot of those words individually (they can probably tell you want petroleum, unify, countries, individual interests, eliminating, etc... mean), they lose track of what they mean when they're surrounded with other high level words.  (At least, that's how my brain tends to work.)

So, here are some things we looked at:
  • "safeguarding their individual and collective interests" - I related it as a gang, a Scooby-Doo-esque gang.  They each look out for themselves as individuals, but they also look out for the rest of the group.  They help one another out.
  • "ensuring the stabilization" - We looked at what would happen if Saudi Arabia and Venezuela were always undercutting the price of the other country.  What would happen once one country could no longer compete?
If you want the extra credit for reading and discussing this blog with an adult, find a scrap piece of paper and write 3 things you talked about. Then, have the adult sign the paper.

Image credit:

Friday, February 1, 2013

Go Team

Being a member of an organization is very similar to being on a sports team.  The team or organization can choose to work together - as a team, or they can choose to work as individuals who happen to be in the same relative area.

We discussed the benefits of teamwork, working toward an understanding of international organizations.

All of my classes were introduced to my OPEC Webquest - even though we had a two hour delay.

Feel free to check it out.

It's a short post today - the delay cut into my writing time.

As always, if you want the extra credit, read and discuss the post with an adult.  You can ask questions about teamwork and its benefits.

After you're done discussing, find a piece of scrap paper and write the following quote on it: "Last night I dreamt I went to Manderley again."  Then, have the adult you discussed the blog with sign the paper.  Turn it in on Monday.