Encourage full class participation with “chalk talk”

Last week I was introduced to the idea of “chalk talk” from a fabulous co-worker of mine.  What is chalk talk? Chalk talk is a silent way to generate ideas, solve a problem, or reflect on your learning. Student’s remain silent and they can comment on other student’s writing  generate their own ideas, or contribute to the class with a marker or a piece of chalk. You can even make it digital with a wallwisher.


My First Chalk Talk

After my class had a successful socratic seminar, I decided to put a prompt on the board (see image below) and I gave white board markers to my students. They had to go up to the board and write a statement, a reflection, a comment,  or a question. When a student was done writing they gave their marker to another student who did not reflect on the board. By the end of class we had a semi-organized interesting collection related to essencial question about political culture and politicians  My students liked the quiet generated by the class and they liked that they could to reflect on what other students were writing. I was especially moved by their ability to make connections to concepts learned from previous units or current events.  I have to say I was impressed chalk talk and my students said they liked how it made everyone participate silently!

How can you use Chalk Talk in a Lesson about Hurricane Sandy?

I am going to do another Chalk Talk on Monday, our first day back after the Hurricane to reflect about the government’s relief effort.  I think it will be an interesting way to connect the government’s response to my government course. I think I am going to make my question: “Does the government have a responsibility to get involved after a natural disaster such as a hurricane?”


For more information about Chalk Talk visit the Education Alliance from Brown University.

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Flocabulary: Much More than Just a Song!

I am always amazed when I talk with social studies teachers who have never heard of Flocabulary. Flocabulary creates hip-hop music and materials to supplement your curriculum. The first time I ever played a US history Flocabulary song my college roommate came in dancing…. little did she know it was about “who discovered it” related to Christopher Columbus. I use everyone of the US history songs as a unit preview. I actually made a powerpoint of images and typed the lyrics to go along with the Flocabulary songs. Through the rap songs we discuss key vocabulary and concepts we will learn with the upcoming unit. Even though Flocabulary is no longer free, it is well worth the money to subscribe to its wonderful features!


Another reason I love to use Flocabulary in the classroom is the Week in Rap. Every week on Friday mornings, Flocabulary puts together the week’s biggest or most interesting current event stories into a rap music video. The week in rap discusses the hottest topics of the week, such as the Travon Martin case, the oil spill, crisis in Syria to name a few. My 8th grade students in White Plains, NY loved the Week in Rap. They actually asked to watch it every week. I was even surprised that after spring break, they asked if they could watch it from the week before!


The best part about the week in rap is not just the music, even though it is good, they love discussing the current events. Yes, you read that right! They love discussing the current events. After I play the week in rap, I ask them if there is anything they want to discuss. Around 18  hands in my classroom instantaneously shoot up. I am often not leading the discussion, but facilitating it. Students respond by saying “oh I heard that on the news,” “my mom was talking about that” “I heard….” The discussions that come from the 3 minute Week in Rap is one of the reasons I became a teacher.


Another awesome feature of the Week in Rap, is that they make the past 18 years in rap for recent high school grads. I always show it at the end of the year, but I also show it at the beginning of the year and introduce the concept: what is history? My students are always impressed with how much history they lived through after watching the past 18 years in rap. It is a great beginning of the school year activity to start the discussion what is history and how we are apart of it.

The Last 18 Years In Rap from Flocabulary on Vimeo.



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Gilder Lehrman and 9/11 Memorial Resources

I attended the Gilder Lehrman Institute of American History on 9/11 and American Memory.  The seminar was absolutely amazing! We learned from experts  about how the United States and the world have dealt with tragedy and loss with events such as the Civil War, Pearl Harbor, the Holocaust, Vietnam, and 9/11. We worked with the amazing team of 9/11 memorial experts who are involved in the planning of the 9/11 Memorial Museum, Fire Chief and 9/11 survivor Jay Jonas, and experts in the field of memory such as  the seminar leader David Blight.


Our seminar took a personal tour of the 9/11 museum that is NOT open to the public. Even though it is still under construction, we could instantly observe the beauty, sacredness, and careful planning involved in creating the museum.  I am so impressed with the planning and extensive collection the 9/11 historic site, website, and museum will offer to visitors and generations to honor the victims of September 11th, 2001.


9/11/01 Online Resources 

The 9/11 memorial has a wonderful collection of online resources for teachers to educate our students about September 11th, 2001. The website has an extensive collection of multimedia orientated resources such as an interactive timeline, audio, webcasts, video, images, primary documents, and essential artifacts and collections.  Each lesson is tied to the Common Core Standards and based on the 9/11 collections that can be used throughout the school year and across all subjects and divided into different themes. 






Gilder Lehrman K–12 EDUCATOR PROGRAMS 


For more information visit: Gilder Lehrman Institute  and 9/11 Memorial 



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Millennials “NOT” Civically Engaged!

I just read a interesting article entitled “Millennials just might not be such a special bunch after all,” written by Michelle Healy in the USA Today. The Journal of Personality and Social Psychology found that Millennials (born 1982-2000) are “more civically and politically disengaged” as compared to Generation X (1962-1981) and Baby Boomers ((1946-1961). As a member of the millennial generation, I find myself very critical of this study. I think students and young adults are way more engaged and civically engaged today due to the power of social media and the Internet. 

I think of the most recent example of Kony 2012 about the invisible children located in Uganda, the Sudan, and the Congo. As a teacher my kids came into school and wanted to talk about it and GET INVOLVED. Some of my students made posters to make more people aware of it, shared it with social media sites like Facebook, Twitter, or Tumbler, and were discussing their outrage by the topic.

The article goes on to say that students born 1982-2000 are more likely to volunteer. The study also notes a decline in racism and prejudice based on sex, gender, and race. Our generation is showing signs of our changing culture and society. The power of social media has made more people aware of injustices in the world and it has helped to bridge the gap between the home and school environment.


Article Citation: Healy, Michelle. “Millennials Just Might Not Be Such a Special Bunch after All.” USA Today. Gannett, 16 Mar. 2012. Web. 25 Mar. 2012. <http://www.usatoday.com/NEWS/usaedition/2012-03-16-Millennials-altruism-vs-boomers_ST_U.htm>.

Image Citation


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Increase Student Engagement with Deliberation

I learned about Deliberation Lessons at the NCSS Conference Presentation in Washington D.C. on December 2nd, 2011.  The workshop was really interesting and provided me with a plethora of new resources to engage students in the 21st century classroom. The website contains primary documents about controversial issues in our society, which can engage students in the content and create meaningful classroom discussions. Regardless of what you teach these materials and the style of instruction is powerful.  For more information visit: Deliberation in a Democracy in the Americas

Deliberation is the focused exchange of ideas and the analysis of multiple views with the aim of making a personal decision and finding areas of agreement within a group.

Why Are We Deliberating?
People must be able and willing to express and exchange ideas among themselves, with community leaders, and with their representatives in government. People and public officials in a democracy need skills and opportunities to engage in civil public discussion of controversial issues in order to make informed policy decisions. Deliberation requires keeping an open mind, as this skill enables people to reconsider a decision based on new information or changing circumstances.

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Read it Anywhere

Read It Later lets you save what you find on the web to watch and read on any device, at any time.
It’s been called “a DVR for the web” by the New York Times, Business Week, Time, TechCrunch and more. This App is so useful when you want to read something but don’t have the time. You can: save pages from your phone or computer, read it on or offline (even no internet), and access it anywhere. This is a great new application that you should check out today!

Read Anytime, Online or Off

Easily access any page saved in your reading list, even when you are not connected to the internet!

Read It Later can download offline copies of each page in your list. You can pick whether you want to download the entire page complete with images or an optimized text-only view.

Once Read It Later has downloaded your content, you can read your list at 30,000 ft while in airplane mode, or stories below the ground in the subway on the way to work.

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Google Fast Flip- Makes Reading the Newspaper a Flip

Teaching AP Government, I try my best to stay up to date on the lastest current events. I find it very challneging looking at a number of websites, google reader, blogs, and favorite links. I just discovered Google Fast Flip, which solves all of my problems. Google Fast Flip is a web application that lets users discover and share news articles. It combines qualities of print and the Web, with the ability to “flip” through pages online as quickly as flipping through a magazine. It also enables users to follow friends and topics, discover new content and create their own custom magazines around searches 

How does it work?
We capture images of the articles on our partners’ websites and then display them in an easy-to-read way. The stories are grouped by categories, such as Entertainment, Business, Opinion, Politics and Most Viewed. Readers can flip through stories quickly by simply pressing the left- and right-arrow keys until they find one that catches their interest. Clicking on the story takes them directly to the publisher’s website.

How are the Topics selected? Can I choose my own?
The Topics are generated automatically by rising stories in the news. Users can also search for any subjects they want and basically create their own topics, almost like a custom magazine, on the fly.

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