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Teacher Resolutions: 2014

So first, welcome back to school and 2014. I posted the graphic above hoping it's true and we see just enough snow to give us snow days, but not enough to lengthen the school year. Also, you may have noticed that I changed the name of the newsletter.

Every year at this time, people pick a New Years Resolution, which I think is a good habit even if you break it. 2 weeks of exercise is better than none, right? This year, I asked my two daughters what my resolutions should be: Emma said I'm not allowed to scream during football or baseball games and Elizabeth said I need to stop chewing my fingernails. I have an exemption should the Broncos make it to the Super Bowl (which won't happen).

I saw this article about teachers and resolutions, listing 12 things (1 per month?) teachers should resolve:

  1. Stay Positive
  2. Spice of your CLASSROOM routine
  3. Build fitness into your curriculum
  4. Get your work/life balance in order
  5. Give individual time and attention to students
  6. Get organized: work smarter, not harder
  7. Don't let Admin and School policies get you down
  8. Plan your move up the pay scale
  9. Set goals and avoid autopilot mode
  10. Get students involved/empowered
  11. Make better use of planning
  12. Dress to impress yourself

The article explains each, but I thought it was a good list.

Season of Non-Violence

During the 2013 General Assembly, Senate Joint Resolution 294 (SJR 294) was introduced to encourage public schools of Virginia to promote the ideals, heroes, and successes of nonviolence. This runs from Jan. 30 to April 4, to mark the memorial anniversaries of nonviolence advocates Mahatma Gandhi and Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.

The resolution specifically recognized the Season for Nonviolence as an opportunity to educate students about promoting positive relationships with others through showing respect and forgiveness, being courteous, and building understanding. In lieu of adoption of the resolution, the subject matter of SJR 294 was referred to the Virginia Department of Education for study, to result in a written report to the Office of the Clerk of the Senate and notification to school divisions. The report, which provides a detailed listing of the Standards of Learning (SOL) for Virginia public schools referencing content associated with the ideals, heroes, and successes of nonviolence, is attached.

During the time period of the Season for Nonviolence, development and practice of skills in nonviolent approaches can be promoted through incorporation in classroom lessons, student activities, and communications to staff, students and parents. Suggestions for activities can be found at the following Web site: In addition, a video prepared by the Hampton Roads Network for Nonviolence to provide information about the Season for Nonviolence can be found at the following Web site:

Economics Lesson: The Newest Test for Marxism

Lesson idea from the recent Rolling Stone article, "Five Economic Reforms Millennials Should Be Fighting For."

Project Based Learning

Last week, I observed student-led lessons in Drew Baker's Instructional Design course at Glen Allen High School. Here's how Drew explains the lesson:

"The student-led Staff Development lesson was through the Instructional Design class at Glen Allen High School in the Center for Education. Students were ability grouped into teams of 7 and collected student and teacher data to determine what would help teachers in the classroom in their everyday instruction. Each group created a lesson based on the data and researched theories and best practices to share with the teachers who volunteered during their lunch blocks.

Topics were:

Walking the fine technology line: using high and low tech strategies to engage students SCORE Engagement Points: Using the humanistic SCORE theory to explain student motivation ABCs of Engagement: Using full engagement theory to understand different types of students

We took video and on Monday we will meet in a "Boardroom" style lesson (after the Apprentice) and will watch film and reflect on our teaching.

In my group, student Rachel Lantz led us in a discussion about SCORE Theory which would be pretty interesting to use in the classroom. You should check it out.

The purpose of this post, though, is thinking about ways students to teach the class. One way is through the Socratic Method in class. There are other ways, also, keeping in mind that while the teacher doesn't have "much work" to do while the students teach, there is a lot of work involved setting it up.

Project Based Learning Guide

Content Group Example

Student Led Discussion Groups

Benchmark News

Just a reminder, Research and Planning is breaking down students by the three categories we use: intensive, strategic, and benchmark. This data will be ready soon. In general these are the categories for each SOL Class (Intensive, Strategic, Benchmark):

  • 6th grade: below 43%, 44 - 59%, 60% +
  • 7th grade: below 47%, 48 - 63%, 64% +
  • Civics: below 39%, 40 - 63%, 64% +
  • World History 1: below 39%, 40 - 59%, 60%+
  • World History 2: below 42%, 43 - 62%, 63% +
  • *World Geography: below 55%, 55 - 89%, 90% +
  • US History: below 39%, 40 to 64%, 65% +

*The Geography scores are so high b/c we don't have SOL data to correlate it with. Next year, it will be similar to the others.

Discussions on these will begin in 2014.


Thank you to all the teachers who helped make the 1st-whenever Dropbox Drop-a-Thon. I started with a few files and only about 50 megs of space used. Right now, we have 100s of files (Dropbox doesn't give you a count for some reason) and 2.5 gigs of space used up. After viewing the folders, it seems like a lot of First Semester folders have filled up, but not second semester folders.

In Semester Two, we'll have a second Drop-a-Thon, but if you want to see what's there and drop something now, the link is Email me for a username and password.

But, right now, there is a lot of material that you can use. Here is some info I sent on the Nov. 26 email announcing the Drop-a-Thon:

What to share:
· Power Points
· Flip Charts
· Worksheets
· Notes
· Exam View files
· Project ideas

General Rules:
· If you use anything from the dropbox, please give back to the dropbox
· If you already see 3 Power Points for SOL VUS.4a, you don’t need to add a 4th VUS.4a power point
· If you’re putting something in the dropbox, you know people may alter it to fit their own needs
· Always give credit for someone else’s work when possible
· If you borrowed from someone, and you know who’s it is (maybe their name is on the Power Point), email them a Thank You!

Instructional Ideas

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Using Current events

Current Events is a staple in many Social Studies classrooms, but, you don't just have to rely on CNN. Here are other sites you may like better:

Newsela: Newsela helps students develop close reading and critical thinking skills by offering current event articles with varying levels of text complexity. Lexile levels of an article range from 2nd grade up to 12th grade which allows for differentiation within the same classroom. The articles are categorized by war/peace, science, kids, money, law, health and arts. Many of the articles are accompanied by quizzes that provide quick feedback. Newsela is currently in beta and is free for all teachers.

Dogo News: This is a current events website designed for kids and teachers. For kids, the stories are interesting and written at appropriate level. For teachers, each article is identified for grade level and is accompanied by key vocabulary. An added feature is that each story is tagged for its geographical location which can be located on the site's "map" tab.

Tween Tribune: Tween Tribune posts age appropriate news stories found on the internet for students grades K-12. The stories are sorted by age group and there is spanish section as well. At the end of each story, students can respond by leaving comments or take a quiz.

Teaching Kids News: TKN looks like a real newspaper and it read like one as well. The website shares stories from the areas of news, entertainment, sports, science, arts, and politics. Their content contains media literacy activities and is targeted to learners grades 2 - 8.

Found at: Learning Never Stops

Flipped Classrooms

More and more, teachers are trying the "Flipped Classroom." There can be many forms of this, but one absolute need, are resources for students to learn from, ideally, without having to spend hours yourself creating these resources, such as videos.

Well.... here you go: Clintondale High School has it all!

It has:

  • Economics
  • Psychology/Sociology
  • Government
  • US History
  • World History

Sadly, it looks like they're still building Semester 2, but check it out, and keep checking.


I'm developing websites for each SOL content course to help teachers with resources. Each site will have the framework, blueprint, released test and other state information. Plus, it contains for each grade, the content students have already learned so you know what your students have already been exposed to.

Furthermore, I link to online textbooks and other web resources at your disposal. There are also links to the Dropbox for activities and lessons.

Soon, there will be links to in-depth content via Diigo starting with US History.

I'm keeping the links in School Space right now, because I don't know how open I want these to parents and such.

If you have any questions about these things, let me know.

Trivia and Other Balderdash

Trivia: Teachers- 7 and Mike- 4

Two weeks in a row! Before the break, the question was: In the 20th Century, who is the only person to have become President while never running to become President.

The answer is Dick Cheney. Twice, we has "acting" President.

This week:

  • In 2014, I'll be 81 years old, maybe 77, but as strong as ever.
  • I was really named after a body of water, but most people think I'm named after my most prominent feature.
  • I've been on the cover of Rolling Stone Magazine and tons of movies, though I'm not a musician or actor.
  • I've also been responsible for 1000s of deaths, though I'm beloved.

Relaxing with History

Before the break, I asked how you all like to relax with history, choices being: movies, books, museums, podcasts, lectures, research or discussion. Here are the results: Movies won with 50%, Reading at 36%, and Museums with 14%.

Emma Update

Nothing new this week, yet, but, her team did win the mock election with her "moderate" political party.
The Roman Empire. Or Republic. Or...Which Was It?: Crash Course World History #10