Saturday, September 14, 2013

Constitution Day is September 17!

This year, my husband, Chris, is teaching AP Government.  He was a Political Science major (and is a giant nerd when it comes to politics), so this is right up his alley.

Needless to say, our house has been filled with C-Span, news outlets of every kind, and tons of primary source documents relating to government.  I have now been schooled in The Federalist Papers, Class Theory, and our founding fathers' ideals.  All of this is great because I am also interested in government and politics.

This morning, Chris' challenge to me was to see if I could list the amendments to the Constitution in order.  I did pretty well with the first 10, but I fell apart after that.

What does this have to do with anything?  Well, Constitution Day is this week!  It's a great time to familiarize students with the US Constitution, and I have a product to share with you that will do just that!

This is a 50 question Constitution Scavenger Hunt created by Chris and me that will walk secondary students through the basic tenants of the US Constitution, including the roles and responsibilities of each branch of government, the Bill of Rights, and  all the amendments.  Some of the questions are true/false, some are fill-in-the-blank, and some are free response.  The Constitution is pretty dense reading, so the scavenger hunt is organized to mirror the Constitution itself for maximum accessibility.  All you need to do is provide each student a copy of the scavenger hunt and a copy of the Constitution!  (Chris will also be providing students with patriotic cake on Tuesday... lucky AP Gov kids!)

Here's a sneak peak of the scavenger hunt, which is available at my Teachers Pay Teachers store:


 It's also a great way to get students reading Primary Source Documents -- a critical aspect of The Common Core State Standards.

Cheers to the red, white, and blue!


Monday, September 9, 2013

POW: Product of the Week

My featured Product of the Week this week is my Detailed Participation Rubric.  I developed this handy tool several years ago after having students ask "Why did you give me that participation grade?"   I think if the phrasing of that question doesn't irk you a bit, you probably haven't been asked it yet! 

After I bit back the urge to say, "I didn't give you any grade; you earned it,"  I realized that I was being pretty ambiguous about students' participation and should probably provide students with the criteria by which I was judging their participation!

So... I made this: 

The thing I like about this rubric is that it stays away as much as possible from simply being "citizenship" points for good behavior.  Instead, it demands that students engage, listen, speak, and use time wisely -- all critical points for academic success.  By using this rubric, students are held to a higher standard than simply "being good."  They have to engage in class.

In my class, I have normally had students self-assess their participation twice a quarter.  I have found that by self-assessing, students are typically very honest and usually tougher on themselves than I would be.  If your students are struggling with participation, it can be useful to have them self-assess more often to raise their awareness of the importance of participating and how it affects their grades. 

Right now, my Detailed Participation Rubric is available on Teachers Pay Teachers for only $1. What a bargain!

I hope that it makes your life easier!  I know it was a huge help to me!

Happy Monday,

Katrina, The Teacher Lady

PS The amazing chevron design on my Participation Rubric cover is by Blair Turner.  Definitely check out her Teachers Pay Teachers store as well!  She's got lots of great stuff!

Monday, September 2, 2013

Four Must-Read Young Adult Books for Boys

As a secondary teacher, I have found that it can be tough to get boys to read, especially fiction.  I wish I could say that I've unearthed the perfect formula for what makes a book appealing to teen boys.  I haven't.  However, here are a few that I've found almost always engage my male students, especially those who are a little skeptical about reading.

Peak by Roland Smith

This easy-to-read book is perfectly appropriate for middle
school and early high school students.  It follows the story of Peak, a teenaged climbing enthusiast who gets into legal trouble after scaling a high rise building.  Peak is sent to live with his father, a world-class mountain climber.  Prior to his stay with his father, Peak's teacher encourages him to keep a diary in a Moleskine notebook, and the book is comprised of Peak's journal.  Unbeknownst to Peak, his father is hatching a plan to climb Mt. Everest, taking Peak along for the ride.  If Peak succeeds in summitting Everest, he will be the youngest person to achieve this goal; however, a young Sherpa begins to make him see his goal -- and his father -- differently.  Boys will learn the value of friendship, trustworthiness, and honor in this fast-paced page-turner.

The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian by Sherman Alexie

This book affords readers an up-close and personal look at the life of Junior, a mentally handicapped Native American boy who decides to go to school "off the rez" in order to find a more hopeful future.  In the process, Junior experiences a lot of loss, including losing his best friend, his sister, and grandmother.  However, he also finds new talent as he becomes an excellent student and the star of the high school basketball team.  Junior's musings on race, equality, alcoholism, and hope are interspersed with immensely engaging cartoons depicting his view of himself and his world.  I taught this book last year with a developmental reading class of college freshman, and they couldn't get enough of it.  One student told me, "I haven't finished a book since, like, second grade, and I liked this one so much I read it twice!" With that said, this is the "absolutely true diary" of a teenaged boy, and Junior doesn't hold anything back.  We hear about alcohol abuse and masturbation (can't believe I just typed that, but it's true!).  This is definitely not a book for 6th graders, but older high school students will love it.  I also have a Common Core aligned unit  available for this book on Teachers pay Teachers!

Monster by Walter Dean Myers

Ever since I read Slam in junior high, I have been a huge
Walter Dean Myers fan, and this -- in my humble opinion -- is his magnum opus.  In this book, Steve is an aspiring screenplay writer who is on trial for murder because he was the lookout in a robbery gone terribly wrong. Steve tells his story in the form of journal entries and a screenplay he's developing about his trial and his time in jail.  The novel's innovative structural style makes it a fairly quick read; however, some students may have difficulty switching back and forth between journal entries and screenplay. Steve perceives that the rest of the world sees him as a monster, and he thinks they might be right.  Through his diary and screenplay, he tries to rediscover his personal standards and sense of worth.  This is the most stolen (and most frequently given away) book in my classroom library, which I think says a lot about how much it means to the students who have read it. 

The Dead and the Gone by Susan Beth Pfeffer

This book is the second in a trilogy entitled The Last Survivors.  However, it's not the type of trilogy in which you must read the books in order; they're more "companion" books rather than "series" books, if that makes sense.  At any rate, the story is about Alex Morales, a teenage boy who has an incredibly bright future ahead of him, and his younger sisters.  When an asteroid knocks the moon out of orbit, chaos ensues on earth. Tsunamis wipe out the coast.  Earthquakes ravage the landscape.  Volcanoes erupt, spewing clouds of ash thick enough to blot out the sun.  In all of this, Alex's parents go missing, leaving him to be the caretaker of his sisters in an increasingly desperate New York City.  Alex must learn to negotiate on the black market, deal with the loss of his parents, and try to make the best decisions to benefit himself and his sisters.  Kids love this book, partially -- I believe -- because they like to imagine themselves as survivors in a world without adults. 

I'm teaching an Independent Reading class this semester, and I will be recommending these books to the guys in that class.  I'm sure they will have some suggestions for me, too!  I'll make sure to pass those suggestions along to you as well!

Have a marvelous week!

Katrina, The Teacher Lady