Tuesday, December 13, 2016

On Censorship: China's Firewall

We here in These United States enjoy a great deal of freedom of press.  We're one of the freest countries in the world.  When it comes to freedom of press, Reporters Without Borders ranks us 41st - up from 49th a year ago.  (When you get towards the top of the list, the countries are so close together, it's difficult to jump.  ...That's not to say there isn't room for improvement.)

To see the full list and map, click here.

You'll notice that China ranks 176 out of 180 countries.  (If you're wondering what country comes in dead last, it's Eritrea.)

If you haven't yet clicked on the full list and map, click on them now.  Remember to TKWA the map - but do this on your own, in your head.  Explore it for yourself.  See what happens when you click on a country.  See what happens when you scroll through the list.  (Here's the link again.)

As you're looking through the list, remember that we've been studying governments.  Ask yourself this question as you're processing all this: do the countries with less press freedom probably have limited, or unlimited governments?

And then, here's another thing I want you to check out: The Great China Firewall.  (But let me talk about it for a minute, first.)

You guys know how  SOOOooooo much stuff at school is blocked, right?  And maybe you can find ways around it - but if you get caught, you'll get in trouble, so it's probably not worth it.  Did you know that the country of China does that for the ENTIRE country?  It's true.  (That's one of the reasons they're ranked 176 out of 180...)

Well, there is a website that's been tracking whether or not certain other websites have been blocked in China during that day.  And the website has been doing this every day since Nov. 21, 2015.

Go to that website, and just look around for a while.  Check it out HERE.

Then, answer a couple questions: 1. Why might the school block certain websites?  2. Why might China (or Eritrea) block certain websites?  The Reporters Without Borders Website says, "As well as building a Great Firewall to monitor and control blogs and social networks, the Communist Party exercises total control over China's many media outlets..."  The Communist Party is a group of unelected leaders that runs the country.  ...Meaning 3. China has what type of government?

If you show this blog post to your parents tonight, and discuss it with them, you can get 5 extra credit points if you write a paragraph about your discussion and have them sign it.  Make sure your name, date, and hour is on the paper, then turn it in tomorrow in the extra credit tray.

Tuesday, November 8, 2016

The Election is Here

Welcome back to the blog.  Thanks for checking it out.

Perhaps you've heard that it's a presidential election year.

We haven't discussed the topic much in class, as it's not exactly part of our standards.  We've been focusing on latitude and longitude, culture, globalization, industrialization, and most recently, the economy.

Still, as a social studies teacher, I couldn't let today pass without saying SOMETHING.

One of the things we discussed today were political ads.  I said that there are basically two types: "Vote for me, I'm good."  And, "My opposition is bad, so vote for me."

Most people who have studied above 7th grade know that it's more complex than that, but I didn't have time to get into appeals to authority, glittering generalities, etc...

But I did show students four political ads for presidential candidates, four for governor, and two for senate.  

For president, I tried to show an example of each kind for each candidate:  I'm good: vote for me.  They're bad: vote for me.

I'm posting them here, so you can see what we watched.  If students want extra credit, they're supposed to read and discuss the blog post with an adult.  If they did that, they should write at least 2 sentences from the discussion, and have the adult sign it.  Turn the paper in tomorrow.

Maybe talk about whether or not you voted, and why...

Clinton: Anti-Trump Ad

Trump:  Anti-Clinton Ad

Clinton:  Pro-Clinton Ad

Trump:  Pro-Trump Ad

Holcomb ad:

Gregg ad:

Holcomb ad:

Gregg ad:

Bayh ad:

Young ad:

Monday, October 24, 2016

No Post in 20 Days?!?!?!

I've become horrible at posting the extra credit blog.  I get that.  And I apologize.  There are a number of reasons for it, but I'm not going to go into it here.

Instead, I'm going to give you a bunch of opportunities to get extra credit.  The rules have changed a little bit with this post.

You still need to read and discuss these posts with an adult.  But you may only do one of these a day.  (And you may only do one for the entirety of Fall Break.)  Sure, you may read more, but you'll only get credit for one.

Some of the things will have changed, since the posts are from previous years, but overall the content is the same.

In order to get credit, you need to write the current date, the date of the post, do whatever the post tells you to do, and have the adult you read it with sign signifying that you read and discussed that post with them.

Here are the posts:  Dealing with Economics:

Dealing with Human Capital:

Tuesday, October 4, 2016

Globalization and Technology

This has been our progression:

The world (latitude, longitude, geography...) → cultures → cultural borrowing/cultural diffusion → globalization → technology's influence on globalization.

There have been other topics interspersed.  We've introduced industrialization (with Industralia) and some negative consequences of globalization (the loss of culture).

We learned about standard of living, and the September 11th attacks.  But in general, the progression holds.

The past couple days I've tried to hit home how much smaller the world is - or at least seems.  When we say that technology is shrinking the world, we mean that the world seems smaller.  Various classes have had google hangouts with people from all over the country and world.  In order to get the extra credit today, watch 5 minutes of one of the following videos.  When you're done, write at least 3 sentences about what you watched, and how it shows technology shrinking the world.

Technology has, and continues to shrink the world.  I think we should do some more of these.

Monday, September 26, 2016

The Debates (and Banananovia)

Class today was a little crazy.  There was a bus, a bus crash, people wearing banana peels as clothes...  Intense.  I'll let the students tell you about it, if they want to.  Hopefully in the next couple of days, I'll have the time to tell you what's going on, and why.  (You could always search the blog for posts related to "Banananovia," but that may spoil the ending for the students... if they care...)

Maybe you heard that the first presidential debate is on tonight.  This is true.  For bellwork today, I asked the students to name the two main parties, and who was running from each.  Then, I had them write down as many policy positions as they could for each candidate.

Then, when we were going over it, before we got to the policy position questions, I asked a question that I hadn't written down.  Do you have strong feelings -either for or against - either of the candidates.  I had the students hold up 1 finger if they didn't really care either way, or 5 fingers if they had REALLY strong feelings.

Perhaps unsurprisingly, many students held up 5 fingers.  But when asked about policy positions, they held up 1 - meaning they didn't know any.

Well, tonight students may earn extra credit by watching the first presidential debate.  It's late, so they can earn the extra credit if they only watch 30 minutes.  They have to tell me how long they watched, what was discussed during the time they watched, and what they think about it.

Parents are encouraged to write their thoughts as well, or at least discuss them, but this is not necessary in order to earn the extra credit.

Make sure your name is on it, and turn it in tomorrow.

...And be ready for Banananovia Part II.

Friday, September 23, 2016

The Hunger Games and Culture and Goat Cheese

On Monday, I had all the students in the computer lab.  They were looking for examples of culture in the book.  They had to list the ingredient of culture, page number, and give a quote.

First hour found more than any other class, so I thought I'd give them a little treat.

The book mentions goat cheese quite a few times.  (One of the characters, Prim, owns a goat.)

One of the ingredients of culture is food.  And, although I bought the goat cheese at Martins - which is part of our own culture - many of my students had never tried it before.  So, this morning I brought it in for my first hour class to try.

Here's one of the quotes from the book, "Gale spreads the bread slices with the soft goat cheese..."  So, I got them bread as well.  As expected, some students liked it, and some didn't.

True story:  before I left for a year on my own in Croatia, my father would sit me down and have me try random foods that I'd never tried before.  I was practicing being polite, and respectful of what the someone from an other culture had prepared for me.  Maybe it wasn't what I was accustomed to, but I knew to be appreciative of their generosity.  Hopefully I helped pass that mentality on to my students.

As we've been working with culture, I had students draw pictures of each ingredient.  Here are 10.  Each class is represented.  In order to get credit for reading and discussing this blog with an adult, look at the pictures and see if you can determine which ingredient of culture it's supposed to represent.  When you have them listed, have the adult you've read and discussed the blog with sign your paper.

Turn it in Monday in the extra credit spot.  (Also, don't forget the "Made in _______" tags that you may also bring in for extra credit.)  Here are the pictures:

Monday, September 19, 2016

Culture: Values

We have been discussing culture, and it's ingredients in here the past several days.  I give students 10 ingredients I want them to know.  They're on a bulletin board in the back of my room:

Pretty sweet, right?

Some of the ingredients are easy to understand: food, dress, language.  Others get more complicated: government, religion, ethnicity.

And certainly there are more than 10 ingredients of culture.  What about holidays?  Where do they fit?  Sports?  Should government be on there?  Or is that something that influences our culture - like geography?  I remember a time I boarded a plane at JFK International Airport in NYC.  It was snowing so hard.  I was all bundled up.  We were lucky to even make it to the airport.  And we got of the plane in Port-au-Prince, Haiti.  101°.  Maybe geography should be up there...

One that trips up students every year, though, is values.  The definition I give is, "something a culture esteems as good or worthy.  Ideals they try to live up to."  That's an admittedly weak definition.

Students continually confuse values and valuables.  I just had students draw pictures for each of the ingredients of culture.  Every year I have students draw diamonds, or gold earrings for values.  ...Not what we're looking for.

So, I told students values are what you want your kids to become when they grow up.  No parent tells their kid, "today at school, I want you to be as lazy as possible.  Try to sleep in every class if you can.  We want you to live with us until you're 40."  Or "Make sure to be a bully today, honey.  Pull a kid's hair, if you get a chance.  Hopefully you'll get suspended."

We want our kids to be hard workers, honest, helpful, brave.  Trustworthy, empathetic but not whiny, genuine.  Those are values.

Students may receive extra credit if they read and discuss this blog post with an adult.  To prove that they read and discussed it, please write 5 values that the adult wants to instill in the student.  Have the adult sign the paper - proving they read and discussed.  Then, make sure the student's name, date, and hour are on it.  Turn it in tomorrow in the extra credit tray.

Tuesday, August 30, 2016

Writing on Desks

One of the first things we work on in this class is learning/relearning the continents and oceans, and understanding how latitude and longitude lines work.

There's something that seems inherently fun about writing on desks.  I don't know if it's because it's generally forbidden, or because dry-erase markers are so much more fun to work with than pencils, but we wrote on the desks themselves today.

I projected this map onto the SmartBoard:

They had to draw it on their desks.

When they were done, they added the Equator and Prime Meridian.  Then they also added 180° E/W without looking it up.  ...Then they added 90°W and 90°E without looking.

We didn't spend a TON of time on it, but the students did a good job:

We took a test over the continents and oceans really early - before we'd studied them.  Students are required to retake that test until they get a 12/12.  If they haven't earned that score yet, they should make sure to see me about retaking the test.

I should add that we also read a little bit of The Hunger Games today.  I keep finding more and more that ties in with this class.

If students read and discussed the blog, they should have the adult they read and discussed it with draw a map of the world.  They aren't allowed to take more than 2 minutes.  If students can get the adult to do this, and they both sign the paper, students will earn 5 extra credit points.  Just make sure you turn in the paper tomorrow.  (Put it in the extra credit tray.  ...Make sure your name is on it.)

Wednesday, August 17, 2016

Contact Form and Extra Credit

Congratulations on making it to the classroom/extra credit blog.

Hopefully your child (or whoever you know that's in my class) filled out THIS FORM on their own this morning.  I'm asking that you fill it out too.

I know that many of you filled out a form or two or five at orientation, or when you registered for the school.  Unfortunately, I can't separate that all out in a way that would make it readable.

When you fill out the Contact Information Form (yes, it's the same link... I thought that if I posted it twice, you'd be more likely to fill it out...) you will be asked if you want a daily homework reminder emailed to you.

I don't care if you check the yes or the no box.  I want you to do whatever is best for your family.  You may opt out or opt in at any time.

Today in class students worked on learning (or relearning) the continents and oceans.  They're retaking the test tomorrow.  I also showed them several more ways they may earn extra credit.   One of them is by reading and discussing this very blog with a parent.

If students read and discussed the blog with a parent, they can earn extra credit.  To prove that they were here, have the student write a sentence telling whether their parent (or guardian or other adult) read and filled out the Contact Information Form.  Then, have the adult sign it.  (Yes, my dad John Habecker read and completed the Contact Information Form.  Signature_______________________  ...Or No, my dad...)

Obviously, I don't need proof that you filled it out.  I can look it up.  I just need proof that you were here for the extra credit.  And I wanted one last reminder to fill out the form.

Make it a good one.

Friday, August 12, 2016

Learning Names

I have a goal of learning the names of all 170 students by the end of Wednesday of next week.  I don't know if I'm going to make it, but I'm really working on it.  REALLY working on it.

And I want my students to know each other as well.  I'm surprised that after spending the past 6 years together (in some cases... not all...) many students still don't know others in their class.

Today for bellwork, I handed them a seating chart, and gave them a quiz over the names of the other kids in class.  Very few were able to complete it.  Not that I'm judging them.  I didn't get a 100% on any of them either.

I wonder how many of them realized that this was also a social studies activity.  We're going to spend a lot of time this year looking at maps.  That's what a seating chart is: a map of the classroom.

We also tried an ice-breaker activity where students asked each other questions that I'd come up with over the summer.  They took a note card, introduced themselves to another student and read the question on the note card.  Then they took turns answering the questions, exchanged cards, and went to ask someone else.

I participated in this as well.  It was nice, because I got to know the students a little better.  The students may not have realized this, but they were also getting to know me a little bit better, too.  Even if they didn't come up and ask me one of the questions, they were still reading a question I'd asked.  For instance, here's a question "Why can't I win a fight in PokemonGo?

I mean...  I've sent ALL my Rattatas against... you know... their guys.

Have you played PokemonGO?  Why or why not?"

By crossing out a fake, question and leaving it their for the students to read - that says something about me.

You should know we also took a real quiz today over the continents and oceans.  If students didn't do well, they may retake the quiz.

Students can get extra credit by reading and discussing this blog with an adult.  If they've done that, they should write at least 3 sentences about the discussion, then have the adult they discussed it with sign the paper.  Students, make sure your name, date, and hour are on the paper and turn it in on Monday.  It goes in the extra credit tray.

Wednesday, August 10, 2016

And It's 2016

Welcome back, friends.

It's the 2016 school year!  Can you believe it?

I have to be honest with you: I don't know if I'll be able to keep on keeping on with the blog this year.

For those of you who don't know, this is how the blog developed:

I started it several years ago when I was getting my master's degree, but it quickly became my classroom blog.  I would post things from the day, and if students read and discussed the blog with a parent, they could earn extra credit.  It was a way to reinforce the lesson, and keep parents informed - if they wanted to stay up to date.

But we keep adding more and more, so something has to give.

I believe this to have been my most popular extra credit opportunity, and I hate to take it away.  So, maybe it will still be here in a few months.  ...I guess we'll see.

One of the things I'm adding is a google classroom class.  Although I don't give out many assignments, I'll post some extra credit on there, as well as what we're doing in class.  So, if you're absent, that might be the place to look.

Well, the first day is nearly done.  I have to tell you, I've been impressed with our students so far.  Here's hoping that trend continues, and that the students feel the same way about their teachers.

If students read and discuss this post with an adult, they can earn 5 extra credit points.

To prove they read it and discussed it, they have to write a paragraph explaining what they told the adult about their first day.  Have the adult sign the paragraph, and turn it in tomorrow in the extra credit tray.

Tuesday, May 24, 2016

Promises: 2016

We are running out of school year.  Like, really, really quickly.

And I haven't said anything on here about the Israeli/Palestinian Conflict.

Well, we've started the movie, Promises.  I've written extensively about this in the past.

If you want the extra credit tonight, look through previous blog posts dealing with Promises.  Write down the title of the post, the date of the post, and at least 3 sentences summarizing it, and what you and the adult you read it with discussed.

Click this link to see a list of Promises posts.

Friday, May 20, 2016

I did not call my students stupid.

Yesterday my students took their (short) Post-Test for the year.  It included some questions dealing with the big concepts we've studied throughout the year, although they weren't "higher level thinking questions" themselves.  Mostly just vocabulary/ factual recall...

Most students scored 100%.

Then, we looked back through at some of the answers they gave at the beginning of the year.  At that point, students did NOT earn a 100%.  Most didn't even earn a 10%.  And their answers were often hilarious.  Students were calling North America China, labeling the Pacific Ocean as the Red Sea.  (I should add, that this was a continents and oceans test... not a nations and seas test...)

One gave the date Columbus discovered America as 1997.

One said that to increase human capital, we needed to get more people pregnant.

Along those lines, "the increasing growth and spread of cities all over the planet" is called, "birth" according to one student - instead of urbanization...

The number of people living in the world ranged from a couple hundred to several...  I'm not even sure, because the student just kept adding zeros.

I passed back the papers, and students saw how much they improved - which is always fun for everyone.  And there were many shouts of, "I was so STUPID back then!!!"

We all had a good laugh.

But then today, I thought I should probably correct them.  So I said, "A lot of you said you were so stupid at the beginning of the year."  *Students nod in agreement.*  "But I think the truth is, you are at approximately the same level of stupidity now as you were then."

This is the point where the students thought I was calling them stupid.  But I wasn't.

There's a difference between stupidity and ignorance.  Ignorance is when you don't know something because you haven't learned it yet.  Stupidity is not knowing something that you should know - and have been taught.

My students proved they weren't stupid by taking and acing those tests.

Sure, they were ignorant over those concepts at the beginning of the year.  But they learned them.  The scary thing is that there is so much that we are ignorant about.  So much.  All of us.  Me.  You.  All of us.  And it's important to try to overcome this ignorance with knowledge.

We listened to the second part of In Defense of Ignorance on This American Life, before we jumped into Promises.  (It's worth clicking on the link and listening to.)  I think, as we near the end of the year, it's probably a good thing to think about how far we've come - but also how far we have to go.

Students may earn extra credit in my class if they read and discuss the blog with an adult.  If they've done that, have them write down 3 things they've learned this year from a class other than social studies.

Have the adult sign the paper.

Put it in the extra credit tray on Monday.

Thursday, May 12, 2016


As I'm typing this, students are working on the final.

One good thing about it is they're allowed to talk about it - it's even encouraged.  And they can come back and finish it tomorrow.  So, if there's something they didn't understand, they should look through the review guide and figure out whatever it is they were struggling with.

Here's the link to the review guide, again.

I'm sorry I haven't kept up with the blog so well these past few weeks.  I want you to know that I appreciated all the responses I received for Pictionary.  I'm still hoping to post some of the funnier ones.

We did stations Monday and Tuesday of this week as well for a review.  I wanted to post about that, but the pictures don't look as good as I want them to.

If students study with an adult for at least 10 minutes with an adult, they can get extra credit.  Adults just have to sign a piece of paper saying they did this.

Of course, there's always the geography games as well.You should know that I ask students to locate Afghanistan on the map on the test.  That's not on the geography game... so I would double-check the location of that one.  And maybe Pakistan, too.  Even though I think most students can find India, and most students can remember that Pakistan broke away from India, I'm not sure they're finding Pakistan on its own.

Friday, May 6, 2016

The Presidential Campaigns

First off, we have a final coming up next Thursday.  If you haven't seen the review guide, you can get a copy HERE.

In class, we learned about Nelson Mandela today.  I still haven't seen the movie Mandela: Long Walk to Freedom, but I'm hoping to watch it soon.  ...Maybe this weekend.

We compared his life, and what he was fighting for to that of Gandhi.  There are many similarities.

The biggest thing I wanted to write about today, though, was the presidential campaigns.  We haven't discussed them that much, because even though they qualify as "social studies" they're not an integral part of the 7th grade curriculum.  There's so much we have to cover, and it would be easy to focus on them, and talk about them every day.

That said, I do offer unlimited extra credit in my class.  One of the ways students can get it is by watching or listening to relevant news.

I had a student turn in some extra credit on the presidential campaign, and I thought it was worth sharing.  She did a great job of writing clearly, and it is as unbiased as anything I've personally seen so far this election season.  Check it out:

I like that even though there are some minor grammatical mistakes, and a few cases where she's thinking of one thing and writing another, she's really trying to use a higher level vocabulary and in most cases, she's got it.

Here's what it says:

"Presidential Voting

There has been a lot of talk about the running for president.  Many people are either confused or argueing about who to vote for.  The 2 main representitives are Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump.

Hillary Clinton is a Democrat.  Her husband, Bill Clinton, was our president from 1993-2001.  Hillary, this means, was a first lady and has seen up close what it takes to run a country.  She is an intellegent and creative woman who could be our first female president.

Donald Trump is a Republican.  He is a politician, bussnessman and author.  Trump has never been up close on how to run the USA, but still knows what he is doing.  He believes that we need a wall between Mexico and the USA, which may help with immigrants but divides us from our southern neighbors.  

They are trying to win Indiana right now for the debate, which will give a boost in the election.  For once in such a long time our vote matters.  We need to make exceptionally intelligent votes to prove we have a say in the voting too.  Who will you vote for?"

In case you've forgotten, that's another way to get extra credit.  If I haven't written a blog post for whatever reason, you can watch, read, or listen to the news and get extra credit that way.  Just make sure you write me a couple paragraphs about it.

If you want extra credit for reading and discussing this blog post with an adult, take a couple seconds and talk about this post.  Then, write down some of the things you talked about.  Have the adult sign the paper.  Turn it in tomorrow in the extra credit tray.

Thursday, May 5, 2016

Final Exam Review Guide

We've got a final exam coming up in a week.  Rather than continually pushing it back, we'll take it a little earlier than usual this year.

Here's a review guide for the test.

If you want extra credit tonight, study it for at least 5 minutes with an adult.  Have the adult write a note saying that you studied.

Turn it in tomorrow in the extra credit tray.

Friday, April 29, 2016

More Pictionary

I received a lot of really interesting Pictionary responses from students and their parents.  I'm hoping to grade them all, and post pictures on Monday or Tuesday.

If you didn't get a chance to play, you still can.  Each post is worth 5 points.  Click here to get to yesterday's game.

If you already played yesterday's, you can click on one from a different year.

Have a great weekend.

Thursday, April 28, 2016

Pictionary: A Challenge

Last year, when we played Pictionary, I had students challenge their parents.  It went pretty well, so we're going to try it again.

These are student drawings from throughout the day.  Take turns guessing what the drawings are.  Parents have to write down their guesses first.  Obviously, they're at a disadvantage, since they're not in class.  ...As my parents always told me, "life's not fair."

When you're done, make sure the student's name, date, and hour are on the paper.

Wednesday, April 27, 2016

Weird Weeks

We are well into the second round of ISTEP, and it's a little bit difficult to teach new content during this time because so many students are in and out of the classroom.

In class, we finished teaching about World War II, and I went back yesterday to touch on some of the aspects of Buddhism I hadn't covered well enough.

For the next two days, though, we're going to review.  After all, the most important ISTEP test is coming up soon: social studies.  Don't let the media fool you.  The social studies ISTEP is where it's at.

In the mean-time, I wanted to post a couple examples of student work.  In dealing with World War II, we discussed Japan's Invasion of Manchuria (and later, China.)  

Japan invaded these lands for the same reason England colonized India.  Japan wanted land, and natural resources.  Maybe you're saying that the way Japan took Manchuria, China, and all else they took in South East Asia isn't the same as the way England took India.  ...England took it through trade, and worked with the Indians.  ...Maybe.  But British policy is responsible for the death of 17 million Indians.  (Would you please take a moment to reread that last sentence?)

And really, during World War II, Germany was saying it was just doing the same thing England had been doing to other parts of the world for centuries.  Germany was just colonizing Europe, rather than some other continent.

So, I gave the students this progression:  Demand for natural resources - Exploration - Colonization - Human Exploitation.  I asked them to draw the progression as pictures.  Here are a couple examples:

Friday, April 22, 2016

WWII: The Toll, The Hope

The three big ideas I wanted students to get today:

1: Demand for natural resources - human exploitation

  • Demand for natural resources led to 
    • Exploration which led to
      • Colonization which led to 
        • Human exploitation

2:  Japan was with us in WWI... what changed before WWII?

  • Economic depression - Japan needed natural resources
    • Japan invaded Manchuria (for land and natural resources)
      • Russia (China's neighbor) sided with China
        • Russia was allied with England (and probably eventually the U.S.)
          • Japan bombed Pearl Harbor

3:  The toll WWII took on the world was not insignificant.

For that last one, we watched a video.  It's a bit long, but I recommend it.  If you even just watch the first 7 minutes, it's worth it.  If you're class didn't get to see the end, watch that for extra credit.

If students watch it and discuss it with an adult, they may earn extra credit.  To get the credit, they should write a paragraph telling about the discussion.  Have the adult they discussed with sign the paper, and turn it in on Monday.

Here's the video:

Tuesday, April 19, 2016


Yesterday I asked my students if they had heard of World War I before.  Almost universally, students told me that they had.

I asked them to tell me about it.  Anything.  Who was it fought between, why it was fought, when, major battles, sides, places... anything.

I think 2 students out of 150 or so could list a single accurate aspect of this, The "Great" War.

So, here's what happened:

I asked students if they knew the term, "I got your back" means.  Yes, of course they did.  They even taught me some new, hip ways of saying it.  I won't repeat them here, because I prefer to use terms like, "hip."

They went around the classroom building alliances:

Then I offered something small: a candy bar.  I offered it to a petite lady in the class.  It was hers, but if somebody could beat her in arm-wrestling, they could have it.

I then chose the strongest looking guy with his hand up.

Obviously, that wasn't fair - so she called up member of her alliance.  Maybe all of them.

Then, the guy didn't think that was fair, so he called up all the members of HIS alliance.

Then alliance members called other people they were allied with, until the whole classroom was up at the front fighting over something very few actually cared about, or were invested in.

We discussed how the catalyst for WWI was something relatively small - Gavrilo Princip assassinating Franz Ferdinand.  (Of course, assassinations are a big deal, but ultimately millions and millions of people ended up dying in WWI.)  Then, the system of alliances took off - and that's where we got the war.

Today, we've already moved into WWII.  You can check out things I've posted about it HERE, or HERE.

If you want extra credit for reading and discussing the blog, write two paragraphs about the discussion you had.  Have the adult you read with sign the paper.  Turn it in tomorrow.  (Make sure your name is on it.)

Tuesday, April 12, 2016

Troublesome: Globalization

Yesterday, upon arriving back to class after spring break, I decided to give my students a little review sheet for bellwork.  When they had finished, and graded the sheet, I tallied up how many students missed each question in each class.

Most students did well - even thought they hadn't thought of school in over a week.  For instance, here are the numbers of students who missed a question about the British Empire in each class: 4, 1, 4, 5, 5, 3.

One question question (on human capital) came out like this: 3, 6, 3, 6, 14, 5.  So, I know I need to review with the class that had 14 students miss that one.

But two questions really stood out to me: one was on globalization, and one was on urbanization.

Here are the numbers: globalization:  17, 14, 20, 13, 19, 8.  Urbanization: 18, 21, 24, 15, 25, 19.

A SIGNIFICANT number of students missed those questions.  The globalization question is especially troubling, because we spent quite a bit of time covering it.  (...Although I didn't always tie the topics - such as cultural borrowing, cultural diffusion, etc... back to the term globalization.)

The two parts to globalization that students really need to know are world culture and international trade.  And even though they didn't get the answer on the test, my gut is they understand the concept.

The urbanization question had even worse results, but the students explained why they got it wrong.  I gave them a definition: "the increasing growth and spread of cities all all over the planet."  They had to come up with the term urbanization.

Several students pointed out that the definition I'd given them before was, "people moving to the city - usually for better paying jobs."

It didn't take long to point out that these definitions were essentially the same thing: if people move to the city for better paying jobs, what is going to happen to that city?  It's going to grow.

It's a continual struggle for teachers to get students to understand ideas and concepts rather than just memorize facts and definitions.

We've been studying Hinduism.  But, with ISTEP coming up, and the results of the globalization question on that review, I'm going to continue to review globalization while teaching Hinduism.

Today, we started in on a series by NPR.  It's worth checking out.  Here's what we watched today:

If you want extra credit for reading and discussing the blog with an adult, write a paragraph about your discussion.  Explain the two parts of globalization (world culture and international trade).  Have the adult you read the blog with sign the paper.  Turn it in tomorrow in the extra credit tray.

Thursday, March 31, 2016

Moksha: Equating versus Relating

I had multiple students point out that I haven't posted anything in 10 days.

I make no apologies.  Teaching takes a lot of time.  :)

We're moving from Gandhi and the Indian independence movement into the study of Hinduism.  (This seems like a natural progression since Gandhi was Hindu.)

One of the (minor) struggles I've had in teaching is getting students to relate, but not equate.  And sometimes, I don't even want them to relate two things - but they do.

Many of my students are Christians.  Many of those who aren't Christian are at least familiar with Christianity because they live in Northern Indiana.

So, when they hear about avatars: Hindu gods that come to earth in the form of humans - many draw comparisons to the Christian belief in the incarnation of Jesus Christ.  But Christians wouldn't say Christ was an avatar - they would say he is God (or the Son of God.)  Maybe students could relate the two, but definitely don't equate the two.

In Hinduism, Shiva is the destroyer.  In Christianity, Satan is the destroyer.  But Shiva is not Satan.  In Hinduism, Shiva is not even evil.  Here, I'd like students to neither relate, nor equate.

Christians believe in heaven.  Hindus believe in Moksha.  Moksha is not heaven.  Again, noting the similarities is fine.  Equating them is not.

When I hear students equate, it usually sounds something like this, "Oh... so Moksha is the Hindu heaven?"  Or "Oh... so Shiva is the Hindu version of Satan."


Moksha is the Hindu afterlife, but it's not the "Hindu heaven."

Maybe, if I have time tomorrow I'll give you a better description of Moksha.

If you want extra credit for reading and discussing the blog, write a couple sentences telling the difference between relating and equating.

Have the adult you read the blog with sign the paper.

Turn it in tomorrow.

Monday, March 21, 2016

Control: Elephants, Indians, and Gandhi

Today we watched a scene in Gandhi where he begins his famous "Salt March."  In the scene, Gandhi is talking to the reporter Vince Walker, and says, "They're not in control.  We are."

*Side Note*:  The character Vince Walker is a composite character.  He's apparently a mixture of Webb Miller, William Shirer, and perhaps several others.  Feel free to research this and leave comments on the blog with what you find.  *End Side Note.*

Here's the scene, with the line starting around the 50 second mark:

Several students asked me about this scene on their daily participation papers.  (They have to write at least one question, and one comment - but most students end up writing quite a bit more.)

Here are some examples:

When they asked that question, it again reminded me of "Shooting an Elephant" by George Orwell.  Here are a couple lines from the essay:

...They were watching me as they would watch a conjurer about to perform a trick.  They did not like me, but with the magical rifle in my hands I was momentarily worth watching.  And suddenly I realized that I should have to shoot the elephant after all.  The people expected it of me and I had got to do it; I could feel their two thousand wills pressing me forward, irresistibly.  And it was at this moment, as I stood there with the rifle in my hands, that I first grasped the hollowness, the futility of the white man's dominion in the East.  Here was I, the white man with his gun, standing in front of the unarmed native crowd - seemingly the leading actor of the piece; but in reality I was only an absurd puppet pushed to and fro by the will of those yellow faces behind.  I perceived in this moment that when the white man turns tyrant it is his own freedom that he destroys.  ...A sahib has got to act like a sahib; he has got to appear resolute, to know his own mind and do definite things...

Orwell knew.  He knew the British only had a false control.  He knew the British weren't really in charge, they only acted the part they were forced to play.  (Or maybe, more appropriately, the part they forced themselves into playing.)

Gandhi also realized this.  He knew the British only maintained a false control - and this only while the Indians were willing to play the part.  This was a part Gandhi was no longer willing to play.

As is usually the case, students may earn some extra credit for my class by reading and discussing the blog with an adult.  If they've done this, write some thoughts from your discussion on a scrap of paper.  Write down whether you agree or disagree.  Was Gandhi in control or not?  What about Orwell?  Perhaps the British were in control?  Were they, and what does that mean?  And what does it mean for us today?

Write a couple sentences about what you think, and what you've discussed.  Then, have the adult you discussed this with sign the paper.  Turn the paper in tomorrow.  Make sure your name, date, and hour are on it.

Wednesday, March 16, 2016

Gandhi: Day 2

We wrapped up our second full day of Gandhi today.

I should probably apologize for not posting as much as I thought I would:

I'm sorry.  I know it's getting close to the end of the marking period.  If you want to do extra credit, now is the time to get it in.

As I am entering grades, if you want extra credit for reading and discussing the blog tonight, you have to go to THIS POST and read it.  (And, of course, discuss it.)

Friday, March 11, 2016

Shooting an Elephant: 2016

On Wednesday we read George Orwell's classic essay, "Shooting an Elephant."  Adults, if you've never read it, I encourage you to go read it now.  It will only take about 10 minutes, and your lives will be enriched because of it.

Our class discussed the essay yesterday and today.  There's a lot in there.

I've posted about it numerous times, so instead of posting something new I'm sending you HERE to get the extra credit today.

Also, this week students had to complete a little vocabulary about the essay for homework.

If they didn't do that, they may print it out HERE.

It's Friday.  Enjoy the weekend.

Monday, March 7, 2016

Empire (British and Others)

Last week and this week, we've been studying exploration and colonization.  Today, the students completed a map of the British Empire.  Check it out:

...It was pretty vast.

The 7th grade social studies department teaches several reasons for European exploration and colonization during the so-called "Age of Exploration" or "Age of Discovery."

What I teach as the biggest and most important reasons are LAND, and NATURAL RESOURCES.

It's true, there were many other reasons - noble reasons - for exploring the world.  (Gaining knowledge, for one...)  But the main reasons Europe explored (and colonized) was for land and natural resources.

I'm not really in to casting stones, but let me point out one other thing: The British Empire helped pave the way for others with Imperialistic aims.

England lost moral credibility against Germany in World War II because of its history of imperialism.  I believe it's becoming clearer and clearer that they were both evil.

If you want extra credit for reading and discussing the blog, you are supposed to read and discuss it with an adult.  Discuss the British Empire: how much land they had, whether you believe it was okay for them to colonize the world - why or why not, etc... To prove that you were here, click on the link above, "Age of Discovery" and TKWA any map from that page.  Have the adult you read and discussed the blog with sign the paper when you are done.

Make sure your name, date, and hour are on it, and turn it in tomorrow.

EXTRA:  Here's a video many classes watched today:

Tuesday, March 1, 2016

Black History Month: The List

What with snow, standardized testing, and life, I've been pretty bad lately about keeping up with the blog.  So, my apologies.

Before I get into the actual post, a couple things: the 7th grade social studies ISTEP will be on Friday.  The IDOE has given us four topics that will likely be covered on Friday's test.  PLEASE CHECK THIS OUT RIGHT NOW.  Go to the last page, and read the middle column.  (It's really, really short.)  Consider giving a quick quiz to your kid over that stuff.

Second: yesterday we did our colonization simulation.  I'm always excited to post about it, but my phone didn't have any storage left, so I couldn't take any pictures.  If you were absent yesterday and want to make up the points, read at least two posts from this list, and do what they say at the bottom of the post.

As for Black History Month, every day we had school I added another name to the list of prominent people of African ancestry.  Students could get extra credit by researching that person and writing a paragraph about them.  I'm extending this through the end of the week.  Here's the list:

  • Fannie Lou Hamer
  • Mansa Musa
  • Nelson Mandela
  • James Baldwin
  • Scott Joplin
  • Nat Turner
  • Sojourner Truth
  • Toni Morrison
  • Benjamin Banneker
  • Malcolm X
  • Crispus Attucks
  • Colin Powell
  • Richard Wright
  • Desmond Tutu
  • Claudette Colvin
  • Thurgood Marshall
  • Leo Africanus
  • Muhammad Ali
  • Mathias de Sousa
  • Hank Aaron

The list is admittedly flawed.  It focuses too much on the 20th century.  Men heavily outnumber women.  I intentionally left off the names that students hear year after year - I wanted to expand their horizons, rather than keep them narrow.  That said, maybe I was wrong to keep them off.

Please help me out by telling me other names I should have included.  You can put them in the comments, or if you have me in class, bring in a list.

Students in my class can earn extra credit by reading and discussing this blog with an adult.  If they've done that, have them define the following 4 terms on a piece of paper.  (The terms come from the IDOE link above.)

Natural resources:

Have the adult you read and discussed with sign the paper.  Turn it in tomorrow for extra credit.  (Make sure your name, date, and hour are on it as well.)

Wednesday, February 17, 2016

Justice Scalia

With the passing of Justice Scalia, we've taken some time to go back and review governments - and particularly what makes the United States government a limited government.

Yesterday, we spent the entire time discussing the significance of Justice Scalia's passing; why it's a big deal.  We talked about how Supreme Court Justices are nominated and confirmed.  We talked about the split in the court, why democrats want President Obama to nominate, and why republicans want him to wait.

In this discussion, we framed it from the perspective of limited power.  We've got 3 branches of government.  Each of those branches limits the power of the other two.  If the chief executive (President Obama) had total power, he wouldn't be a president any more.  He would be a dictator.  If the members of the Supreme Court had total power, we would not be a democracy any more.  We would be an oligarchy.

Yesterday we watched 3 video clips.  Today we watched one more.  Here they are in their entirety.

In the CNN student news, we watched the portion dealing with the death of Justice Scalia.

Next, we watched President Obama's remarks on the passing of Scalia:

Finally, we watched a montage of some of the responses from others in leadership roles - and those hoping to attain those roles in the near future (we ended right before the former Speaker's response.)

As with everything in social studies, there's a lot to talk about here.  It was certainly worth taking a break in order to discuss it, and no doubt, we'll follow the story.  One of the main reasons we're talking about it in my class though, is to reinforce the idea of separation of power, and limited government.

Neither the President, nor the Supreme Court, nor Congress rule this country.  Law rules this country.  

Students may receive extra credit if they read and discuss this post with an adult.  If they've done that, they need to write 3 complete sentences about their discussion.  Have the adult they read the post with sign the paper.  Turn it in tomorrow in the extra credit tray. 

Thursday, February 11, 2016

Religious Diversity Within the Monotheistic Religions:Part I

First of all, we managed to stave off any snow days and keep our 4-day weekend. ENJOY IT!

We've been studying 3 monotheistic religions: Judaism, Christianity, and Islam.  Quick - students, if you're reading this with an adult, turn to that adult and tell them what monotheistic means.

TADA!  Look!  They've learned something!  (Seriously, if they didn't get that right...  I just...  Look it up on google...)

Today students finished copying down a cladogram on the 3 monotheistic religions.  Here's what they copied.

I also made a version using Prezi, and I've got to say: it's pretty good.  Check it out if you have time.  (It's easier and makes more sense if you view it on a desktop.  Just click the first arrow once you're in.)

A couple of the main things I wanted students to get out of this presentation were that the 3 monotheistic religions trace their roots back to Abraham, but also that there's great diversity within Christianity - and even great diversity within the denominations of Christianity.

I understand that one of the failings of this presentation is that it doesn't show the diverse thought within the other religions.  And it should.  For instance, check out this picture on the denominations within the Sunni and Shia branches of Islam:

(The image was created by Angelpeream.)

Well, it's a work in progress.  I'm hoping to continue improving it every year I teach.

While I have a lot more I want to say on the topic, I'll say that's all for now.

If students want extra credit, they may read and discuss this blog with an adult.  Once they've finished, the student should write down 3 thoughts about the Prezi.  Then, have the adult sign the paper.

Turn it in Tuesday.

Enjoy the 4-day weekend.

Tuesday, February 9, 2016

Abraham, Moses, King

We are continuing on with our study of the monotheistic religions.  While we finished up Judaism yesterday, we'll be bouncing around a little bit throughout the whole unit.

If you recall, I've taught that all the monotheistic religions trace their roots back to Abraham.  He's also the founder of Judaism.

Yesterday we watched a clip of Martin Luther King Jr.'s last speech.  He gave it the day before he was killed.  Many people see the speech as prophetic, as he talks about wanting to live a long life - but not worrying about what will happen; not fearing any man.

Here's the clip:

The clip ties in with a couple things we've talked about.  First, he mentions totalitarian (i.e. unlimited) governments.  I used this to remind the students that they know what totalitarian governments are.

The second is the reference to the Promised Land.  We just finished reading Genesis 12:1-10, where God promises land to Abraham.  King is drawing a comparison to an America that was promised, but had not yet been delivered.  And he seemed to realize that he would not live to see those promises fulfilled, but he believed they would be.

Today we started discussing Christianity - and the different beliefs within the faith.  Tomorrow, we'll continue and start to introduce Islam in earnest.

If you want extra credit for reading and discussing the blog with an adult, you should watch the MLK clip with them, and discuss the clip as well.  Write down at least 3 sentences based on your discussion.  Turn in the paper tomorrow.

The February extra credit name of the day is Sojourner Truth.

Friday, February 5, 2016

Abraham, Genesis, Previous Post

If students want extra credit for reading and discussing the blog today, they should go read THIS POST.  It's very similar to what we did today.

So far, the list of February names is:

Fannie Lou Hamer
Mansa Musa
Nelson Mandela
James Baldwin
Scott Joplin

If you think of someone who should be on the list, but is not currently on the list, let me know.  Perhaps I'll add them.

Wednesday, February 3, 2016

February: Another Extra Credit Opportunity

In class, we've started studying religions - specifically monotheistic religions for now.  We're starting with Judaism, as it's the oldest.  After that, we'll move to Christianity, and then on to Islam.

Normally, I'd write a post about that - about what we're doing in class.  (It looks like I'm a day ahead according to this Feb. 4th, 2014 post... we were also talking about delays...)

Today, though, I wanted to talk about a new extra credit opportunity.  February is black history month.  Throughout the month, I'll be putting names on my "thought bubble" board in the back of the room.  If students go home, and research the name, they can earn extra credit.  They need to write me a paragraph about what they've learned.  They may not just plagiarize a paragraph from the internet.  They need to put it into their own words.

I would suggest not just looking up text.  Look up some videos, as well.

The first name was Fannie Lou Hamer.  Here's a video that would have worked.  I love it.

If you want extra credit for reading today's blog post, write a short paragraph about the video on Fannie Lou Hamer.  Have the adult you read and discussed the blog with sign the paper.

Turn it in tomorrow in the extra credit tray.  Make sure your name, date, and hour are on it.

Monday, February 1, 2016

Intro to Religions

Once again, I don't have a lot of time to post a full length blog.

Today's subject is a little bit touchy, though: religion.

As such, I thought it was worth linking to posts from previous years I've taught this material.

So, if you want to know what went on today, or if you want some extra credit: CHECK OUT THIS POST FROM 2011, or THIS POST FROM 2014.

Thursday, January 28, 2016

The Connection between Literacy Rate and GDP

We spent today looking at a lot of data - and trying to make sense of it.  It was very similar to what the students did at Station 5 on Tuesday - but much more in depth.

We started off by looking at 4 countries in Africa that had low literacy rates: <70%.  Most students noticed that the GDP was also low.

Then, we looked at 4 countries in Africa that had high literacy rates: >90%.  Students could also pick up on the GDP being fairly high in those countries.

So then I asked the question, why?  Why do countries with low literacy rates have a low GDP, and why do countries with high literacy rates have a high GDP?

Some possible answers we came up with were:  People who can read and write have more human capital, and will be able to secure better jobs - raising the GDP of the country.  People who cannot read and write will have a much more difficult time finding a job and raising the country's GDP.

Also, if a country doesn't have enough money - they won't be able to pay for teachers. If they can't pay for teachers, it will lower the literacy rate of the country.

The next obvious question is - which is causing which? Is a low literacy rate causing low GDP? Or is low GDP causing low literacy rate? Or both?

Well, we skipped the obvious question, for now - and looked for outliers. Were there any countries that had a high GDP and low literacy rate, or vice versa?

We didn't find any countries with a high GDP and low literacy rate. But we DID find a couple countries with a high literacy rate, and low GDP.




I know that being a teacher, I should write a solid concluding paragraph. But looking up at the clock, I noticed that as a teacher I'm also pressed for time. And there's no way I'll get the whole lesson written down into a blog post.

Still, if any of my students want extra credit, they may read and discuss this blog with an adult. To prove that you were here today, write down definitions for literacy rate and GDP.

Then, have the adult sign the paper. Make sure your name, date, and hour are on it, and turn it in tomorrow.