Friday, May 31, 2013

Historical Fiction

Here's Indiana Social Studies Standard 7.1.23:


Chronological Thinking, Historical Comprehension, Analysis and Interpretation, Research: Compare perspectives of history in Africa, Asia and the Southwest Pacific using fictional and nonfictional accounts."

(If you're ever wondering what our standards are, you can look them up anytime HERE.)

We looked at some nonfictional accounts in order to complete our Qin Shi Huang Di presentations.  Today we watched the intro to The Mummy: Tomb of the Dragon Emperor.  Much of what we studied was in there - the emperor's brutal rise to power, the building of the great wall, his search for immortality.  But we also noticed the artistic license and fictionalization of the narrative as well.

I'm pretty sure the emperor couldn't manipulate fire with his hands...  Also, this account depicts a witch turning his real army into clay soldiers.

I love historical fictions, but it does make it difficult to distinguish what really happened from that which was contrived.  

We also took some notes.  But that's not as exciting to talk about.

If you want the extra credit, you have to read and discuss the blog with an adult.  Ask the adult if they've ever read, watched, or listened to any historical fiction.  Talk about it.  Ask if it was difficult to distinguish what was real from what was false.  Then, on a sheet of scrap paper, answer this question: Have they read/watched/listened to historical fiction?  What did they think about it?

Have them sign it.  Make sure your name is on it.  Turn it in on Monday.

Wednesday, May 29, 2013

Footbindings and Timelines

We spent some time looking at a timeline of the Chinese dynasties.  A colleague made it:

Not bad, huh?

We'll be looking at this again tomorrow. 

We also discussed the foot bindings a little bit more.

Sorry I didn't have all the maps entered yesterday.  I'll try to have them finished off this afternoon.

If you want the extra credit, discuss today's bellwork question:

If you could go back in time and arrest people for binding the feet of little girls, would you?

Write two thoughts about your discussion on a scrap of paper.  Have the adult you discussed with sign it.  Turn it in tomorrow.

Tuesday, May 28, 2013

Comfort, Fashion, and Our Cultural Customs

We graded the maps today.  I hope to have the grades entered by this afternoon.

After we finished that up, we read an article on the Chinese practice of foot-binding.  It's been estimated that over 1 billion Chinese women had their feet bound, and the practice lasted approximately 1000 years.

There is so much to teach - and foot binding is hardly representative of Chinese culture - but I can use it as an introduction to the dynasties.  Furthermore, I'll incorporate some of the issues and topics we've discussed in here throughout the year: customs, culture, time, ethnocentrism, values, etc...

In case you'd like to read the article, you can find it HERE.  Here's your warning though: I didn't show the most graphic pictures in class.  I don't think I would have been pushing any boundaries by showing them, but I know that some people are more squeamish than others, and I'd like to respect that.

If you want the extra credit for reading and discussing the blog with an adult, discuss foot binding.  What are your thoughts on the practice?  Is it fair to judge their historical culture based on the culture of today?  Be careful when you answer this...  There are some serious implications to whichever stance you take.

When you're done, draw a picture of a foot, and have the adult you discussed the blog with sign the picture.  Make sure your name is on it as well.  Turn it in tomorrow.

Friday, May 24, 2013

Finish Maps

Many, many, many of you are done with your China maps.  If you're not - go work on those instead of reading this post.  Seriously... that's more important.  What?  You're willing to get 5 extra credit points, but sacrifice a map that's worth 35 points?  That's not too bright.  Do that first.  If there's time, come back to this.

Speaking of the map, you should have picked up the question cards before you left school.  Maybe you did, maybe you didn't.  If you didn't - HERE YOU GO.  You have to get them from that link.  The H-Block Grade Level Resources site is down.  Don't worry - tech support has been notified.  (Because I'm sure you were heading to the phone to call them yourself...)

Today in class we worked on the China map.  A couple classes were able to grade it - however, most of them will be graded on Monday TUESDAY!   WOO-HOO!  Three-day-weekend!

So, here's an easy extra credit for you - tell your parent (or whichever adult you're reading the blog with) how you think you did on the map.  And then tell them what you're looking forward to most this weekend.  If you're reading this at the end of weekend, tell them what your favorite part was.

Write it down on a piece of scrap paper, have them sign it, and turn it in on Tuesday.

Thursday, May 23, 2013

Guns, Tut, and Tombs

I try to be up front with you all.  That's part of the reason I keep this blog - so you all know what's going on in my classroom.

So, the Emperor - Qin - unified China.  He conquered the the warring states, and brought them together.  He spied on those he conquered to ensure there would be no rebellions.  He also confiscated all the weapons, melted them down, and turned them into statues or bells.

Many of my more astute students picked up on the significance of this.  We didn't have time to get into a deep discussion about the 2nd amendment, but I broke down the argument as fairly as I could:

One side - The U.S. should put more restrictions on guns.  When it comes to gun-related deaths in the developed world, we are very near the top - if not at the the top.  Mass shootings appear to be increasing.  We want to protect people.  Something needs to be done.

One side - The 2nd amendment was put into place to protect Americans - and it does just that.  Every restriction put into place takes away from the freedom of the people.  Most importantly the right to bare arms is a "bulwark against tyranny."  Qin proves this - even though his "guns" were swords.

At any rate, I thought you should know that the topic came up.  I feel like any time potentially polarizing topics come up, it's good for you to be aware.  Obviously, this discussion begins at home.

Look... the bell just rang, and I need to get some other stuff done.  So if it seems like this transition is rather shoddy, it's probably because it is.

We discussed King Tut's tomb.  Part of the reason they haven't opened Qin's is because they don't want to risk losing what's inside.

We also started a map of China.

At any rate, 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 two thoughts from your conversation.  Have the adult you read with sign the paper.  Turn it in tomorrow.

Also, all the presentations are in the gradebook.  I'll try to get the notes entered today.

Wednesday, May 22, 2013

In the Books?

The idea is that all the grades from the presentations are in the grade book by now.  We'll see if I can get them all in.  Feel free to go to STI and check.  I don't have a car today, and my ride is leaving by 3:50 - maybe earlier - wish me luck.

That said - they're all finished.  Everyone should know a little bit about China's first "first" emperor.  They should have a handle on how he unified the country, what it means that he standardized the culture, why he had a problem with the teachings of Confucius, his role in the building of the Great Wall, and how he died.

If you want the extra credit, briefly discuss each one of those aspects of Qin's reign with an adult.  When you're done, write down which group (other than your own) you learned the most about.  Write a sentence telling me why you think this is.

Have the adult you discussed with sign the paper.  Turn it in tomorrow.

Does anybody else feel like it's Friday?

Tuesday, May 21, 2013


Not much has changed since yesterday.  We're still presenting, and we'll probably be presenting tomorrow as well.  If you want extra credit - read and discuss yesterday's blog post.

Monday, May 20, 2013

Qin Presentations - Continued

Most classes reviewed their presentation material, and we made it through one presentation.  Tomorrow we'll get through most of the rest of them.  We may have to spill over into Wednesday.  We'll see.

If you presented today, tell the adult you're reading the blog with how it went.  If you didn't present, tell the adult how you expect it will go tomorrow.  Also, tell them how you think the group presenting did.

When you're done, write down the name of your favorite food.  Have the adult you read and discussed the blog with sign the paper.

See you tomorrow.

Friday, May 17, 2013

The Tomb

Students are continuing to work on their presentations.  We should have them ready to go some time Monday.

The group that is presenting the death and burial of Qin Shi Huang Di asked me an interesting question today.  They said that if archeologists had found all the Terra-cotta warriors, had they found the body of Qin - if so, where is it now?

That was an interesting question.  You can find the answer by reading THIS ARTICLE if you'd like.  It's pretty interesting.

I'm fighting the feeling that we're winding down.  There's still a lot to accomplish this year - this includes the final, which is quickly approaching - but more on that next week.

If you want the extra credit, you should have read and discussed the blog with an adult.  If you did that, tell them the progress you made on your presentation.  Then, write down how you think it's going on a piece of scrap paper.  Have the adult sign the paper.

Thanks for reading.

Thursday, May 16, 2013

Student Presentations

Hello Extra-Credit Seekers Everywhere,

I can't believe it's Thursday.  I feel like the week has been dragging - but at the same time, I can't believe we're this far into it.  It's paradoxical, I know - but it's how I feel.

Students have started their Qin Shi Huang Di presentations today.  They're in their groups, and they've begun creating spiral questions and interactive notes.  They haven't really practiced their act-it-outs yet.

If you're looking for extra credit, here's what you can discuss.  First off, you should be reading the blog with an adult.  Tell them your group's topic.  Tell them what you remember about the topic.  Explain how the spiral questions work.

If you've discussed this, find a scrap of paper and write the following quote: "I've got troubles - but not today - cause they're gonna wash away.  They're gonna wash away."

Turn it in tomorrow in the extra credit tray.

Wednesday, May 15, 2013


We're into Ancient China - and looking at their first Emperor, Qin Shi Huang Di.  (Normally, I just call him Qin.)

Qin was a beast.  Seriously, he led a pretty grandiose life.  (As far as being a beast, he is referred to as "The Tiger of Qin.)  We started studying that life today, and we'll go a little more in depth the rest of the week.

Students will be making presentations based on Qin's unification of China, his standardization of the culture, his burning of Confuscian books, his building of the pretty good Great Wall, and his death and burial.  I'm expecting some great presentations.

It's worth mentioning that I'm calling him China's first Emperor - as many people do.  But someone out there may be reading this and saying, "but he WASN'T China's first Emperor."  True, true.  Kind of true.  We addressed that today as well.

John Hanson agrees with you.  Qin wasn't China's first Emperor.  Yu was.  (Well, Paoxi may take issue with that...)

If you want the extra credit, read and discuss the blog with an adult.  Tell the adult what we did in class today.  Then, click on the three links at the end.  On a scrap of paper, write a sentence explaining why you think I included them in the blog.  Have the adult sign the paper.  Turn it in tomorrow.

Tuesday, May 14, 2013


I had a meeting today, so I'm sorry for the late post.  And it's going to be short.

We truly introduced Ancient China today.

Here are some things to discuss:

  • What are "dynasties?"
  • If the Qin dynasty lasted from 221-206 and the Han lasted from 206-220, why is the Han dynasty longer?

We'll get into the Qin dynasty tomorrow.  If you want credit for reading and discussing the blog, write me a note telling me you completed it.  Have the adult you read and discussed with sign the note.

Monday, May 13, 2013

Crazy Day

It's interesting that I taught my students about karma before...

We were supposed to take the ISTEP tomorrow, so I'd set aside today to review a little bit.  Then, at the last minute it was switched to today, so I didn't get to review at all.  (I was okay with this because we've been going through some form of ISTEP testing for weeks now - and I just wanted to get it done.)

But then, testing today was a colossal mess - so we're testing tomorrow after all.  So many of my classes got to review a little bit after all.  I'll be thrilled when ISTEP is over.  It is unfortunate that we've had to waste spend so much time on it this year.  (These views are my own of course, and do not necessarily reflect those of the school or corporation.  You'd have to ask others how they feel about the test.)

So, if you want the extra credit for reading and discussing the blog tonight - review for the ISTEP.  You can use the review guide that you used for my test several weeks ago.  You can download it HERE if you didn't bring it home.

To get the extra credit, review for at least 5 minutes.  Then, find a scrap of paper and write a note telling how you think you did today, and how you expect to do tomorrow.  Have the adult you read and discussed the blog with sign the note.

Friday, May 10, 2013


We continued discussing Apartheid today.  I know I had mentioned moving on to Ancient China, but I felt like I was short-changing Mandela...  and given the fact that he's one of the greatest heroes of our time, I felt bad about doing that.  I mean, for real... imprisoned unjustly for 27 years?  And a day and a half of 45 minute classes is hardly giving the South African Independence Movement - and Mandela their due anyway.

Mandela was elected president in 1994 - truly ending Apartheid.

Apartheid: the government sanctioned racist/discriminatory government of South Africa.

Lets see... in 1994 I was in 7th grade.  I had learned about Jim Crow.  I'd learned about Dr. King, and Rosa Parks, the bus boycott and the civil rights movement here in the United States.  As a child, I felt as if it had happened so long ago.

It still seems crazy to me that Apartheid existed during my lifetime at all - even if it wasn't in the United States.

True, even here there are still lingering problems of racism.  Maybe you also came across THIS story.

What I take from this is: this was happening during my life-time.  And I was ignorant of it.  (Granted, I was a 7th grader.)  This was a gross injustice.  What injustices am I ignorant of today?  And how can I open my eyes?

The other thing I take from this is that Mandela was imprisoned 27 years, and he came out and forgave and united his country.  I felt like I've been unjustly punished before.  Forgiveness has not always been at the front of my mind.

If my students read and discuss this post with an adult, they can get extra credit.  To prove that you read and discussed it, ask the adult you read and discussed it with what they were doing in 1994, and if they learned about Apartheid in school.  Write their answer on a piece of paper, and have them sign it.  Turn it in on Monday.

Don't forget, ISTEP Monday.

Thursday, May 9, 2013

Continuing On

This is another day where I have very little time to post.

First: thanks for the Dr. Seuss book.  :)

Second: We finished up our discussion on Bangladesh.

Third: We moved to review Apartheid.  We'll spend a little time on that tomorrow and then move on to China.  That's the goal, at least.  It was a weird day.

If you want the extra credit points for discussing this, tell who Nelson Mandela is.  How long was he in prison?  How did his life correspond to the life of Gandhi?

Obviously if you missed class today because of ISTEP you won't be able to answer those questions.  Maybe you could look them up?

You could watch this short video:

When you're done, find a scrap of paper and write the following quote:  "Just sail belly-up to the clouds, the rocks scraping your back. - Saves the Day."  Then have the adult you read and discussed the blog with sign the paper.  See you tomorrow.

Wednesday, May 8, 2013


I'm really planning on covering China over the next couple of days.  But today we finished up the United Nations and briefly talked about industrialization and urbanization.

We'll spend a little more time on those topics tomorrow.  I showed the students and original piece of art done by a Goshen College student.  We discussed it, and will probably continue the discussion tomorrow.

Most classes also talked about the factory collapse in Bangladesh.  We'll discuss that a little more in depth tomorrow as well.  We looked at this graphic:

We'll discuss this in a little more detail tomorrow as well.

If you want the extra credit for reading and discussing the blog this evening, describe the picture I showed you to the adult you read the blog with.  Describe what it looked like, and tell them what you think it meant.  Then, find a scrap of paper, and have the adult you discussed the blog with write two sentences describing the piece of art.  (I know, right?  The adult has to write this time... Sorry about that, adult...)  Have them sign it as well.

Also, to the student that has the Dr. Seuss book with the intro - if you're reading this again tonight, I hope you're allowed to bring it in and show it to me.  (I didn't post your name because I didn't want to add to your digital footprint...)

Tuesday, May 7, 2013

United Nations

I want to put some more grades in the book, so I'm keeping this shorter still.

We discussed the symbolism from yesterday's story, and then I introduced the United Nations.  If you want the extra credit  today, discuss with an adult how the class went.  Tell them about the symbolism in the story.  See if you can list the 5 permanent members of the U.N. Security Council.

When you're done.  Write a sentence or two telling me you discussed it, and how it went.  Then have the adult you discussed with sign the paper.

Monday, May 6, 2013


I spent the hour driving home the point that social studies encompasses all areas. Last week during a brief aside we discussed the overlap between 7th grade social studies and The Outsiders.

The social structure is much like the ancient Indian caste system.  And each level has its own culture.  They have their own style of dress, their own customs, their own slang, etc...

Today (among other things) we read and discussed Yertle the Turtle. 

The story hits on several topics we've discussed this year, and it drives home the fact that social studies is all around us.  Often we're like young children who have the book read to them - we're unaware of the inspiration and deeper meanings.

To get the extra credit, you had to have read and discussed the blog with an adult.  (Discussion questions might include "how does Yertle the Turtle tie in with 7th grade social studies?)  If you did that, find a scrap of paper and write your favorite part of the story.  Then have the adult you read and discussed the blog with sign the paper.

See you tomorrow.

Friday, May 3, 2013


This will be the shortest post ever, I promise. Today, in most classes, we read an article about Malala Yousafzai. If you want the extra credit for reading and discussing the blog tonight, find an adult to read the blog with and discuss who Malala is. What did she do? Why? What happened to her? What are your thoughts and feelings about this? Was there anything else in the article that related to other topics we've discussed throughout the year? If so, what are they? Find a scrap piece of paper and write down some of your thoughts about the discussion. Have the adult sign the paper. Have a nice weekend.

Thursday, May 2, 2013

What a Strange Ride It's Been

I can't believe tomorrow is Friday.

Today seemed very disjointed.  ISTEP has completely switched around our schedule here at CJHS, but we've been trained to prepare for every possible contingency.  We're flexible.  We go with the flow.

But that's going to make for a disjointed blog as well.  I can't just say: "we did this today," because "we" didn't.

I had to push 1st hour forward because I won't see them in class tomorrow.  I only had 4 of my students from 2nd hour.  Fourth hour was pretty typical but I'd already been thrown off my pace a little bit, so "typical" is hardly an appropriate term.

You get the idea.  And I'm sorry to have taken so much time talking about issues that aren't content-related.

Today in most classes I introduced the Israeli/Palestinian Conflict.  We reviewed WWII, Abraham - and the promises he received.  We compared what happened to kids with toys and the Native Americans.

Some other things we discussed today?  Synonyms - specifically autocracy for unlimited government.  Make sure you remember that one.

We discussed banks and in some classes Pakistan's hero.

It was a good day, but again... it felt disjointed.

I played some music while students were working on bellwork.  In 7th hour I played this song.  A student asked if I'd post it to my blog, so here it is:

If you want extra credit for reading and discussing the blog with an adult - you have to read it and discuss it.  Maybe you could discuss the Israeli/Palestinian Conflict.  Or banks.

Then find a scrap piece of paper, and write down a sentence about a time you had to share something with someone.  Have the adult you read the blog with sign the paper.  Turn it in tomorrow.

Wednesday, May 1, 2013


I realized that even with all the maps we've done, we haven't really done anything dealing with scale.  So today, that's what we focused on.

We also read an article about Xi Jinping - the new president (and party leader) of China.

Although the article was about Jinping, it was read more as a review.  Any time we read through a topic we had discussed earlier in the year, students could buzz in and make the connection.  For instance, the article opened with "As Americans went to the polls in November..."  Already students were buzzing in and explaining representative democracy.  Sometimes it was a stretch - "But they are also rivals for military influence in Asia..."  MR. HABECKER!  It's like Gandhi!  The British wanted to have all the military influence in Asia, and the Indians wanted them out!

...I'll give it to you.

I was most pleased when the students could make connections to the economy, standard of living, or human capital.  Those were a little more difficult to pick up on, rather than China itself - which was a pretty obvious connection, since yesterday's bellwork was a map of China's natural barriers.

Students, read and discuss the blog with an adult if you want extra credit.  If you do that, write down the name of your favorite musician or song.  Have the adult you read it with sign the paper.