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.

Friday, October 11, 2013

End of Q1

As the first quarter has ended, I'm not posting extra credit tonight.  Instead, I'll finish grading the tests.

Thursday, October 10, 2013

Rome and H.G.

The students finished taking their test today.  I'm hoping to have the grades in by Monday - sooner if I can.

The marking period ends tomorrow, so this will be the last chance to get extra credit this 9 weeks.  If you missed it, that's ok.  But I hope you did well on the test.

After they finished the test, we read The Hunger Games.

There's a lot in the book that ties into aspects of history that I don't teach.  Much of it is characteristic of ancient Rome.  The arena and the premise of the games seem to have come straight from the Roman Colosseum.

It becomes even more evident in the subsequent books when the excesses of Capital life are the same excesses that led to the moral deterioration of Rome - possibly causing its ultimate collapse.

And of course, one wonders if this was the intent of Ms. Collins when she wrote the book.  ...To point out the similarities between our society and that of Ancient Rome...

I was please to see that a number of students had studied this before.  We didn't go into much detail, since Rome is not officially part of our curriculum - but it's nice to see how it all fits together.

I found this interesting as well.

If you read the blog for extra credit, discuss The Hunger Games.  Tell the adult you read what's going on in the book currently.  Then, find a piece of scrap paper and write down the phrase: "The arenas are historic sites, preserved after the Games... visit the sites where the deaths took place...  They say the food is excellent."

Put it in the extra credit tray tomorrow.

Tuesday, October 8, 2013

Human Capital

We've finished up talking about human capital.  But even though we're done, I'm not going to include it on the test since it wasn't in the review guide.

I've posted a lot about human capital in previous years.  So, try this: in the upper left-hand corner of the blog, there's a spot you can search this blog only.  Type in "human capital" in that search engine.  Choose one of the blog posts from a previous year and read it.

It was a lot of fun going back and looking at some of the things I taught in the past.  When you're done, write the date of that post on a piece of paper, and do whatever that post tells you to do.

If I were you, I'd also study for the test - especially the economy and economic systems.  If you're wondering what you should study, you could always type "economy" in that search engine as well.

Monday, October 7, 2013


Don't forget we have a test on Wednesday.  Please be ready for it.  I put the review guide on the blog on Thursday.

Today we practiced latitude and longitude - as they will be on the test.

We also started going over human capital.

If you want credit for reading and discussing the blog, explain to the adult you read it with what human capital is.  If you weren't here, or you forget - figure it out somehow.  This is the internet after all.

Then, write down the definition on a sheet of paper, and have the adult you read it with sign the paper.

Turn it in tomorrow.

Thursday, October 3, 2013

Review for the Test

We're having a test in here on Wednesday.  It's probably a good idea to review for the test.  So, here's what's going to on it:

Latitude & Longitude:
     • Know the difference
     • Plot on a map
     •  Locate places using
     • Ingredients
     • Definitions of ingredients
     • Examples of ingredients
     • Standard of living
             o Infant mortality rate
             o Literacy rate
     • Ethnocentrism
     • Cultural borrowing
     • Cultural diffusion
     • Technology speeds globalization
     • Positives of globalization:
             o i.e. gain knowledge
             o improve standard of living
             o etc…
     • Negatives of globalization:
             o i.e. loss of culture
             o outsourcing
             o spread disease
             o etc…
     • Definition
     •  4 types
             o Traditional
             o Market
             o Command
             o Mixed
Anything I forgot… continents and oceans or 9/11.

If you want the extra credit for reading and discussing the blog today, read and discuss it with an adult.

Adult, ask them about 5 topics from this list.  Hopefully they're able to answer.  If not... looks like it's time to break out the notes.

If you discussed at least 5 topics, find a sheet of scrap paper, and write: "No need to break out the notes here..."  Then have the adult sign it.

FYI, there will be no blog post tomorrow.

Wednesday, October 2, 2013

Economic Systems

Today we talked about economic systems: traditional, market, command, and mixed.

Traditional economies are based on (wait for it...) traditions that are handed down, and often based on availability and necessity.  (Katniss can only trade what she can find.  If she shots a couple squirrels, she trades a couple squirrels.  If she gets a rabbit and some strawberries, she trades those.  She learned how to hunt and trade from her father, and we can infer that he learned from his father...)

Market economies are based on supply and demand.  Production levels are set.  Stores and markets are created, and prices are determined by supply and demand and competition.  Peeta's dad owns a bakery.  He determine how much to charge for his bread.  If people aren't buying it, the price is probably too high.  If another bakery opens up and starts under-cutting him, he may have to charge less as well.

In a command economy, the government determines what gets produced.  The Capital tells District 12 they must produce coal.  District 11 is agriculture.  District 4, fish.  They don't have a choice.  

And of course a mixed economy is a mix of the different types.  The USA uses a market system, but the government doesn't allow us to make whatever we want.  ...Even if I could make a lot of money selling illegal drugs, they're... you know... illegal.  The government won't let me produce them.  They *ahem* command *ahem* me not to produce them.  That doesn't make the US a command economy.

Most classes talked about the Marche de Fer a little bit.  Here's a picture of it.  I didn't realize it was rebuilt.  I've lost touch with my Haitian roots.

If you want the credit for reading and discussing today's blog post with an adult, without looking back up at the top, tell them the 4 types of economic systems and how they each work.

Then, write down the names of the four systems on a piece of scrap paper.  Have the adult sign it, and turn it in tomorrow.  Make sure your name, date, and hour are written on it.

Tuesday, October 1, 2013


Yet another day with a short blog post.  It's been a crazy couple days for me personally, as my youngest daughter was rushed to the hospital yesterday.  So, don't be too hard on me for missing the post.

If you're reading this, ask the kid you're reading it with why infant mortality rate and literacy rate are good indicators of standard of living.  If they were here, they'll be able to get it.  If they weren't here - have them get the notes from someone at school.

Also, look at the two pictures below:

Explain the economy to the person you're reading with.  And tell them the difference between a healthy economy and an unhealthy one.

If you've read and discussed the blog with an adult, have the student write two sentences about the discussion, and have the adult sign the paper.  Turn it in tomorrow.

See you then.