Category Archives: History

Silly National Holidays {and how to use them in the classroom}

chocolate covered bacon!

Anyone want to celebrate Chocolate Covered Anything Day?

by Diane Burdick, Ed.S

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Thanksgiving and Christmas may be over, but that’s just fine by me because I recently discovered a new favorite holiday. And although I’ve been celebrating the spirit of this day for many (many) years, I didn’t know there was an “official” holiday for it until recently. It can be summed up in one glorious word: CHOCOLATE.

That’s right, December 16 is “National Chocolate Covered Anything Day.” So of course I celebrated it with gusto this past month. And it got me thinking: what other lesser-known holidays are out there languishing without celebration?

A little digging led me to discover the answer: quite a few! Many of these holidays are silly, most are funny, and almost all are downright perfect for a teachable moment. Here are a few lesson ideas, based on January’s wacky holidays:

January 10: “Peculiar People Day”

Look up the word “peculiar” in the dictionary. Have students copy the definition and then write their own definition in their own words below it. Younger students can then draw a peculiar person, and older students can create a description of a peculiar person.

Since peculiar people aren’t boring in the least, be sure to brainstorm a list of colorful synonyms and adjectives to describe peculiar people. For example, you could ask children to consider what would make a basketball player peculiar from his teammates (height, or lack thereof), or what might make a ballerina peculiar (clumsiness, huge feet, a mohawk, etc.). They can write a “peculiar person paragraph” and illustrate it. Or, better yet: have them trade paragraphs with a classmate and illustrate each other’s based on the descriptions! 

January 15: “Hat Day”

Provide magazines and have students search for hat pictures, cut them out, and make a “wacky hat” collage. Older students could research styles and fashions of different eras and see what types of hats were popular in each era. What was the purpose of each type of hat? For example, why are cowboy hats so different from baseball caps? Why did women used to wear hats to church? Why are Kentucky Derby attendees famous for wearing hats? Or add in a little math: What’s the average hat size in your classroom?

January 23: “National Handwriting Day”Girl writing with colored pencil

Practice using your best handwriting to write thank-you notes to people in the school. Brainstorm a list of seldom-thanked staff members (media specialist, janitor, cafeteria workers, front desk receptionist, etc.) who might appreciate a well-penned note.

January 25: “Opposite Day” 

Have fun with this one! Students can practice talking in opposites, or you can give instructions in opposites (“Stand up,” “Put your books away,” “Don’t write this down”). Give a sticker or small prize to the student who most successfully figures out and follows the correct instructions all day.

Here are some other wacky January holidays to get your creative juices flowing!

January 1: First Foot Day and Z Day

January 2: Run Up the Flagpole and See if Anybody Salutes It Day

January 3: Festival of Sleep Day

January 4: Trivia Day

January 5: Bird Day

January 6: Bean Day

January 7: Old Rock Day

January 8: National JoyGerm Day and Man Watcher’s Day

January 9: Play God Day

January 10: Peculiar People Day

January 11: National Step in a Puddle and Splash Your Friend Day

January 12: Feast of Fabulous Wild Men Day (couldn’t find a good explanation of this one…but it sounds fascinating)

January 13: Make Your Dream Come True Day (love this!)

January 14: National Dress Up Your Pet Day

January 15: Hat Day

January 16: Hot and Spicy Food International Day

January 17: Blessing of the Animals at the Cathedral Day

January 18: Winnie the Pooh Day

January 19: National Popcorn Day

January 20: National Buttercrunch Day

January 21: National Hugging Day (awww)

January 22: National Answer Your Cat’s Question Day (bizarre-o!) and National Blonde Brownie Day

January 23: National Handwriting Day, National Pie Day, and Measure Your Feet Day

January 24: Eskimo Pie Patent Day

January 25: Opposite Day

January 26: Australia Day

January 27: Punch the Clock Day

January 28: Rattle Snake Round-Up Day

January 29: National Cornchip Day

January 30: Escape Day

January 31: National Popcorn Day (just in case you missed it on the 19th! :)

Whichever holiday you choose to celebrate and integrate into the classroom, we’ll be excited to hear about it! Leave a comment about what you’ve already celebrated, or the holiday you plan on bringing into your classroom in the new year.

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Filed under Classroom Community, Classroom Decor, Crafts, History, Holidays, Multicultural Community, Uncategorized

Getting Out the Pre-Holiday Wiggles! {aka Keeping your Students’ Attention in December}

adapted from an article by Rachel Stepp, M. Ed. 

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It’s the most wonderful time of the year…and also the most distracted! Enter any classroom between now and the holiday break, and you’ll find students who are a little more fidgety and a little less interested in long division and the exploits of European explorers. But, have no fear, all you brave and determined educators out there. Here are a few easy activities you can incorporate into your December lesson plans to help channel (and burn) your students’ extra energy.

Get Crafty

Okay, this is an obvious one that you’re probably already doing, so we’ll just mention it quickly. Plan festive crafts that allow your students to engage their holiday excitement in a productive way. Here’s a site to check out if you’re searching for original ideas: crafts.kaboose.com. 

Curriculum Tie-In: Crafts build hand-eye-coordination, encourage creativity, and promote fine motor skills. Not to mention that they’re just plain fun.

Do a “Walk and Talk”

This activity allows your students to talk (probably one of their favorite activities), walk, and be outdoors. So, during regular school-day transitions (like between subjects or after lunch), bundle up and go get some fresh air. During a walk and talk, students go outside to a track or playground where they can walk while talking with their classmates or grade level. This allows them to socialize and get a little low-key exercise.

Writing Tie-In: This activity can easily be turned “academic” by calling it a “Winter Nature Walk.” Instruct students to notice their five senses during the walk: certain sounds? sights? smells? feelings? Then, come back inside and do a little creative sensory writing using their observations. The paragraphs can be posted on cut-out snowflakes and hung around the room.

Get Techy

Head to the computer lab! Something as simple as having “history” class in the lab and exploring relevant websites together will have your students saying, “Santa who?”–at least for the next 40 minutes.

Curriculum Tie-In: Come up with a list of websites for students to explore that relate to a topic at-hand (like those European explorers), or ask your school’s computer teacher to help you select games that align with your current curriculum. You may want to create an Internet scavenger hunt, where you give students a list of fill-in-the-blank sentences or questions that they complete by finding the answers on various websites you provide.

Or, if you have a little extra time on your hands (stop laughing), you could just give your students 20 minutes of free time in the lab. School computer programs offer many possibilities, but due to time restraints, students don’t always get to use their favorite programs. They’ll enjoy exploring their favorites during a little pre-holiday free time.

Read Around the Room

Allow your students to bring one thing to school that will make reading more enjoyable for them. These things could include a beach towel, a stuffed animal, or slippers. Allow your students to have time during one day to read around the classroom with their favorite thing. You can up the anticipation-ante by bringing in a special snack like popcorn to munch while reading.

Language Arts Tie-In: Use this idea during regular reading class, when students are reading novels or nonfiction. Or, go to the library as a class first, and allow students to check out any book that interests them. Pleasure reading is still educational, you know!

Create an Obstacle Course

If your class needs to get out some energy, ask your physical education teachers to set up an obstacle course on the playground or in the gym (or get their feedback on how to do it, and have your students help you set it up themselves). Allow your students to complete the course in teams. Running, jumping and competing will help them use energy that they have (hopefully) been controlling.

Curriculum Tie-In: Obstacle courses help promote social skills, build physical abilities, develop coordination, and enhance motor skills. All good things!

Schedule Some “Me Time”

Finally, let’s just be real for a minute. Students aren’t the only ones who have trouble focusing before the holidays. Don’t forget to treat yourself to some free time after a long day of herding cats…er, I mean educating precious angels.

Tips to Try: Don’t grade papers at your desk after school. Take the stack home, put a log on the fire and slippers on your feet, and curl up on the couch to do your grading. And indulge in little pick-me-ups, like bringing your favorite warm beverage into school with you in the morning. Or plan an after-school outing or shopping trip with some of your favorite teaching peers for a Friday afternoon. Recharging your batteries will ensure that you can go the extra mile with your students before the break.

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Filed under Academic Success, Cooperative Learning, creative writing, History, Holidays, Reading, reluctant readers, Snack Time, Writing

Live History: A Creative Project

by S. Parbhoo

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Teachers, you all know that teaching history can be a challenge. After all, with Facebook and reality TV in kids’ lives, history just seems so…yesterday! Nothing can bore a kid faster than the idea of textbooks, note-taking and unit tests. But, there is a better way!

Here is a research project that will not only foster kids’ creativity, but will also put them into the driver’s seat of their own learning about the past. It’s called the Multigenre Research Project, and while I designed it for Middle School, it could easily be adapted for upper elementary or high school, as well. Here are the steps to complete the project:

Read a Historical Novel or Biography

Students should choose a book that is set in the historical period that the project should cover (as decided by you, the teacher). Both historical fiction and biographies cover “real life” historical issues that people lived through. It’s important that kids begin their historical journey by walking in someone else’s shoes; they’ll need that perspective later in the project.

Choose a Topic

After reading, kids should choose an important topic or social issue covered in their book: What important facts jumped out? What struggles did the main character go through? For example, was the book about children during the Civil War? Was the book about soldiers who fought during the Revolutionary war? Keep the topic narrow.

Explore the Past

Now is the time to find out all there is to know about the topic. Use the Internet to find articles, videos and pictures about the topic. The more knowledge kids have about their chosen idea, the better they will do in the next step.

Become a Historical Character

Here comes the really fun part! Let kids jump into the time machine of their own minds and create four to five creative original pieces. Kids should write (or draw or sing or act) from the point of view of someone in their historical era. Some ideas for them to think about:

• Write a poem or short story as an historical character

• Create a timeline of the era

• Record a video or original song as a character from the era

• Create an original magazine from the era

• Write a letter to a prominent figure of the era

• Draw a picture of a historical person from the era

Package It Up

Finally, kids will package up their work in a super creative way that fits the topic. For example, if the project was on American Soldiers during World War II, creatively package the pieces in a knapsack or backpack. If the topic was on families during the Great Depression, kids can frame drawings, poems and letters like family portraits on a display board. And Marie Antoinette findings, for example, could be fittingly collected in a jewelry box (or cake box!). The ideas are as endless as a student’s imagination!

 

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Filed under Academic Success, Activities, creative writing, History, Reading, Teacher Inspiration, technology, Writing

Empire: a Great Game for the Last Week of School!

by Kelli Lewis

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Here’s a game your class will enjoy during the last week of school! It’s a great way to celebrate the community you’ve built throughout the year and get to know. The whole class can play: the more people you have, the better. And it will work well in many grades: upper elementary, middle and high.

Game Name: Empire

Roles: Guessers (unlimited number!) and Reader (1 person, preferably the teacher)

Materials: You don’t need much! You only need one slip of paper and any type of writing utensil per Guesser.

How to get started: Guessers will write a name on a piece of paper. The name should be of a person that everyone would/could know–such as the name of a well-known famous person, a person from history (this could be a requirement if you’re playing this during history class), cartoon characters, movie characters, etc. Students should keep their name slip a secret and not tell or show anyone.

Goal of the Game: Guessers will try to match the famous names with the correct classmate who wrote each name. This will show how well they know each other!

What to do next: The “reader” will then collect all of the names and read each name aloud. Read all the names aloud a total of three times through. Everyone else should listen and try their best to remember as many names as possible.

Let the guessing begin! Decide who should go first; the student with the birthday closest to today’s date is always a good way to decide. One student will go first and try to guess who wrote a particular name. Each student’s turn after the first will be determined by the game’s outcomes. The first student’s turn will consist of them guessing who wrote a particular name. For instance, Guesser #1 may ask, “Sally, did you write Johnny Appleseed?” Sally will then have to answer to that Guesser whether or not she wrote “Johnny Appleseed” on her slip.

Guessing RIGHT: If Sally did write “Johnny Appleseed,” Sally then becomes a part of Guesser One’s empire/team. Guesser One then gets another guess, in which Sally can assist, since they have now become a team. Each time a student guesses correctly, the student they guessed (as well as anyone else in their empire with them) becomes a part of the correct guesser’s empire/team.

Guessing WRONG: If Sally did not write “Johnny Appleseed,” then it becomes Sally’s turn to guess and ask who wrote a particular name. Each time a student guesses incorrectly, the student they guessed incorrectly then gets a turn to guess someone.

This continues throughout the entire game until one person has every single player on their team (a winning empire). That student is the Emperor!!

Remembering the Names: If students have trouble remembering the list of names you read at the beginning, you can have them write down as many as they remember on a piece of paper, which they can refer to as they play. To further simplify the game for younger players, the Reader could also write all of the names on the whiteboard after collecting the slips of paper.

Happy End of the School Year, Everyone!

For more games, check out these awesome (educational) options from The School Box.

Kelli Lewis is a graduate student at The University of Georgia and a frequent contributor to A Learning Experience.

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Filed under Classroom Community, Games, History

Educator’s Day!!

by Elizabeth Cossick, M. Ed.

Okay, so you just have to know about this event: This Saturday, January 29, is the biggest sale at The School Box all year. Did you hear that? ALL YEAR, ladies and gents. I am more than a little excited.

But, wait, don’t tune out if you’re not a teacher. The School Box is also the PERFECT place to get craft supplies, kiddie room decor and furniture, the best book titles for all ages, tutoring & extra practice materials for home…and (my personal fave) birthday and baby shower gifts. Have you seen their awesome toy and game aisles? Quality stuff sans the lead paint (like Melissa & Doug). And now it’ll all be ON SALE!!! “Stock up” is the golden rule for a balanced birthday budget.

The Details:

Date: January 29, 2011

Where: At *every* School Box location. To find one near you, check out www.schoolbox.com.

Discounts: Available for parents, teachers, home-schoolers, aunts, uncles, grandparents, third cousins twice removed…everyone! Draw an apple at checkout, and the apple will determine the discount on your total purchase (10%, 20%, 30%, 40%).

Oh Goody Goody: The first 40 customers will receive special goody bags.  Drawings will also be done for $50 prizes, and one lucky duck will win a $250 Gift Certificate!!!

This is one of the best (and most fun!) sales for quality children’s games, supplies and the like. Just thought you should know about it!

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Filed under Activities, Classroom Community, Classroom Decor, Critical Thinking, Free Stuff!, Games, Geography, History, Holidays, Parenting, Phonics, Reading, Science, Study Skills, Teacher Inspiration

A Skit! (bring the Revolutionary War to life in your class!)

by Kelli Lewis

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Skits, anyone? I always strive my hardest to make lessons and activities hands-on, engaging, interactive, and interesting because I feel that is how students learn better and learn more. I taught a week-long unit on Paul Revere and wanted to find a way to incorporate some acting for the students to perform. I searched online but found nothing. I ended up writing my own script. My class did the skit several times, to ensure that all students received a part. The students broke into groups and practiced their parts with other students who had that same part.

The skit is primarily a conversation between two modern-day peers who are discussing the Boston Tea Party. As they are discussing the events that occurred, the setting flashes back to pre-Revolutionary War Boston, and other students then act out the events.

Here’s the script:

Narrator 1: Hey, what are you doing?

Narrator 2: Oh, I’m just learning about The Boston Tea Party.

Narrator 1: A tea party? In Boston? When?

Narrator 2: No, silly. The Boston Tea Party happened a long time ago during the American Revolution.

Narrator 1: Oh, what happened?

Narrator 2: Well, the colonists were tired of King George III.

Narrator 1: What was so bad about King George III?

Narrator 2: Well, for one thing, he lived in England over 3 thousand miles away from the colonies. He was making laws and trying to rule the colonists.

Narrator 1: Were the laws fair?

Narrator 2: No, so the colonists protested.

Sons of Liberty 1: Listen here, King George III! We have our own laws!

Sons of Liberty 2: And we don’t want yours.

Sons of Liberty 3: We already pay a lot of taxes!

Sons of Liberty 1: Yeah, leave us alone!

Sons of Liberty 2: We should not have to pay a tax on tea.

Sons of Liberty 3: Let’s go talk to Paul Revere.

Narrator 1: Then what happened?

Narrator 2: Well, a man by the name of Paul Revere led a group of colonists. They called themselves the Sons of Liberty.

Narrator 1: What did they do about the taxes?

Paul Revere: Listen, men, why should we pay taxes when the king does not listen to our opinion?

Sons of Liberty 1: Yeah, no taxation without representation!

Sons of Liberty 2: Let’s do something about it!

Paul Revere: How about we form a secret club, dress up like Indians, march on board the ships, and….

Sons of Liberty 3: DUMP THE TEA!!

[Sons of Liberty 1,2,3 and Paul Revere dress as Indians.]

Narrator 1: Wait, you mean they wanted to dump the tea from all of the ships?

Narrator 2: Yes, every last bit.

Narrator 1: How would that end the tax on tea?

Narrator 2: Well, if all the tea was destroyed, then no one could pay taxes on the tea.

Narrator 1: That would get the king’s attention!

Narrator 2: Right. So on December 16, 1773….

Paul Revere: Ready men? Tonight we take over the ships.

Sons of Liberty 1: Let’s go!

Sons of Liberty 2: I’m ready!

Sons of Liberty 3: Me too!

[Sons of Liberty 1,2,3 and Paul Revere enter the ship.]

Paul Revere: Grab every pound of tea and throw it in the ocean!

[Sons of Liberty 1,2,3 and Paul Revere grab all of the tea bags and throw it overboard.]

Narrator 1: It sounds like Boston was a real hot spot in the American Revolution.

Narrator 2: Yeah, the scene of a very famous party!

Narrator 1: Not just any party…the Boston Tea Party!

Kelli Lewis is an Early Childhood Education graduate student at the University of Georgia whose great ideas we are honored to share on A Learning Experience!

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Filed under Academic Success, Assessments, Classroom Community, Cooperative Learning, History