Tuesday, November 26, 2013

Take a Break

Take a break, people.

You've earned it.

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.