Thursday, May 21, 2015

Virtual Tour of Mt. Vernon

Here is a brand new virtual tour of Mt. Vernon that I was just emailed about.  While my students are able to go to Washington's home (my school is named "Hayfield" as it was just that for Washington!) virtual tours are a super way to let your students see places they are studying.  It is one of the things that Richard Byrne and I will be teaching using virtual tours as one of the parts of our online class

Monday, May 18, 2015

Study for State Exams By Putting the Facts in Context

Now that many of you are beyond the AP US History exam, we are now turning our attention to the state finals (in VA they have the unfortunate acronym of SOL).  If you want a way for your students to study, I might suggest using ContextU which is a project that I have been working on for the last couple of years.  ContextU does what all great teachers do - namely puts the content in perspective.  It has a

  • 150 word description
  • puts the item on a timeline
  • shows it to you on a map
  • connects it to other items (we call them nodes) that it has caused and effected
  • shows you groups that it is part of
  • has tremendous graphics
For example, here is Shays' Rebellion and the Anti-Federalists.

If your students can see the context of a fact, they will be much better able to retain it and perform better on your state exam. 

Search for Ideas on my Blogs

I was on a Facebook page for teachers the other day and one of the educators mentioned using my site to search for lesson plans and ideas.  It made me smile as that is exactly one of the uses for this page.  Consider that between my four blogs (US history, World history, US and Comparative Government, Economics) I now have over 6000 posts since 2008.  Even the "baby" among my blogs, econ, has 250 posts in the last year!  So if you are looking for content, technology or pedagogy, hopefully I have it.  If not, write me and I'll look into it.   Otherwise look in the upper left side of this page and put what you are looking for in the search box.

Next up will be summer assignments (which you can already search for and see what I posted for last year).  

Friday, May 15, 2015

Join Me on EdChat on Tuesday at 3 PM EST

I am going to be presenting on EdChat on May 19th from 3 to 4 pm EST.  I will be focusing on individualizing instruction in the classroom using technology (yes, focusing on some key concepts from my book).   You can sign up for the class for free by going here.   You will then be sent a link for our online platform where we will meet.  At the appointed time, you'll just need to sign in and then I will make a short presentations, we'll break into groups and then I'll also take your questions.

All three of my preps this year are being flipped so I am really getting into it which is good after four years of practicing the "craft."  If you joined me for the #edchat, then the eight minute video above detailing all of the steps and what to do in the classroom after you have done your flipped lecture might be of help to you.

Here is an example of a flipped video, the actual Google form we used and the interactive assignment that followed in class.  Below is the PowerPoint I am using for my presentation. 

Wednesday, May 13, 2015

Ken Halla's Summer In-Services (so far)

If you want to take a summer in-service with me this summer, there are a number to choose from below.  Click on the links to sign up and email me at if you want me to help you with one.

Tuesday, May 12, 2015

America Goes to War

NEC Online Masters in Public Policy
I just received this from the New England College here and above.  For US students it shows all of the US wars and for government students differentiates between declarations of war and war resolutions, which is a huge difference.  It should help your students see the differences graphically,

Saturday, May 9, 2015

@TrevorPacker for AP Updates

Most people who teach and AP course know that Trevor Packer is the head honcho for all AP subjects.  If you follow him on Twitter he will Tweet when the College Board has released the FRQs for your subject.  Laster in the summer (late July) he will release the statistics on each exam such as passing percentage, percentage of 5s, 4s and more. 

Thursday, May 7, 2015

The Wright Brothers

I am knee deep in David McCulloch's new book, The Wright Brothers which, naturally, has gotten me looking for ways to show them to students.  Above is a fantastic video of one of their early flights along with audio explaining it.

Here is the Smithsonian's page on them which includes another of artifacts on them.  If you read the book, they go together well as it has some things like the brothers' magazine, pictures from the house where they spent part of their childhood, etc.  If you want or need more, here is the PBS site on them. 

Wednesday, May 6, 2015

Join Me on EdChat

I am going to be presenting on EdChat on May 19th from 3 to 4 pm EST.  I will be focusing on individualizing instruction in the classroom using technology (yes, focusing on some key concepts from my book).   You can sign up for the class for free by going here.   You will then be sent a link for our online platform where we will meet.  On the appointed time, you'll just need to sign in and we can chat.  

Sunday, May 3, 2015

Study Aide for US History

One of my side projects, if you follow this blog, is with ContextU.  ContextU is a great way for your students to prepare for their state exams in US history as we have pretty much every piece of essential knowledge your students need from Colonial US all the way up until imperialism (and will have the complete course done before you start summer school).

ContextU is a superior methodology for your students as it

  • has every item (we call them nodes) on your essential knowledge in 150 words 
  • shows each node on a timeline so students can see what else was going on at the same time
  • what the item's location on a map
  • shows the node's relation to other like groups
  • shows the both the influence and the impact of each node.
Here is an example for George Washington.  

Sunday, April 26, 2015

Snow Day Reprise

In ten years of being a chair, tomorrow will be the second day I have missed a county wide meeting (so I can work with my AP Comp kids to better prepare for the AP exam).  I was going to present on how to teach students on a snow day.  But using my favorite technique, I can flip the presentation using the video above.  The video explains how you can use Blackboard Collaborate which is something we have in Fairfax County.  But there are other alternatives as you can see below.
  1. You could Google Plus Hangout live stream where you could send a link to your students and they could watch a live lecture (here's how).    You could then use Today's Meet to send a link to students and you could see their live questions.   You would be able to do this by splitting your screen
  2. If the day is cancelled tomorrow we will spend much of the period answering questions on review problem sets and then I will assign a few more so that we can have our quiz on Wed and our test on Friday without missing a beat.  
  3. But you don't always have to meet your students.  For example last year  I decided not to have an online session and instead made the video above as both an introduction and a continuation of our material.  Then my government kids watched this video to look up these court cases.  
  4. I communicate with the kids by using Remind, Blackboard and even using my grade book which has all of the kids' emails.  For the Remind message I used a shortened tinyurl ( which linked to my normal homework e-sheet. so I didn't have to text the kids multiple times with the assignments.  
  5. So if you have a motivated bunch and you can't afford to miss a day of school you might want to try some of the techniques. 
The bottom line is that we had 12 snow days in my county and a number more late starts and my kids still got in all their work and are where we should have been should we not have missed school.

I should point out that this is one of the many techniques I go over in my book Deeper Learning Through Technology: Using the Cloud To Individualize Instruction.

Wednesday, April 22, 2015

Women's Suffrage Movement & Lady Gaga

Studying the women's suffrage? Here's Lady Gaga's take on the movement?
Thanks to Kerry Gallagher for tweeting the link.

Monday, April 20, 2015

Take My Online Class w Richard Byrne

Richard Byrne (FreeTech4Teachers) and I are teaching a virtual class this summer on July 16, 23 and 30 from 5:30 to 6:30 EST.  We will have you work to
  • have an interactive lesson for your students - no matter what social studies subject you teach
  • learn about a number of virtual field trips
  • learn about the National Archives' Digital Vault
  • how to flip your classroom
  • how to connect to people on Twitter, find people to follow and how to 
  • meet with others through Google+ Hangouts 
To sign up go here

Thursday, April 16, 2015

Glitzy New Presidential Site

This is a fun video from a fairly new site called  The video above is a "live recreation" of the electoral results from the 1916 presidential election pointing out, in a fun way, how we forget the losers, even the close ones (Hughes vs. Wilson) when they lose.

Otherwise the site has lots of really interesting bullet type facts about presidents so of which will be useful to you and some of which are just good for the teacher.

There is also a nice page on links.  

Tuesday, April 14, 2015

How to Study for a Test

When I was growing up I was expected to "always do my best."  I translated this to studying for my midterm exams several weeks in advance over the winter break, always doing it two or three times prior to a normal exam and even arguing post test for every single point.  Thus when I started teaching I assumed my students would make their own study guides, and truly study.  But alas I have learned over the years that studying, for more than not means,

  • doing nothing at all and hoping for the best
  • reading one's notes and
  • for only a precious few, actually doing what my daughters are doing right now by quizzing each and helping each other make sure they have actually learned the material.
Two days ago I met a student in an AP US class who said she suffered from test anxiety.  She admitted that she never did more than review her notes to which I asked if she wasn't fulfilling her prophesy in that she was taking the easy way out by reading, but not studying and then blaming her low scores on the imagined anxiety.  I asked her if she had every varied her approach to prepare and the answer was, "Well sometimes I don't study."

This year I have made a conscious effort to discuss what is meant by studying - even modeling it repeatedly with my non AP classes.  But here is a list of 22 different ideas to think and perhaps even share some of them with your students such as
  • quizzing one's self (I love Quizlet)
  • studying for multiple days
  • studying in different parts of the house
  • using different memory devices such as songs and story telling
  • writing it out
  • taking breaks and more
The video above echoes many of the points above, but also how to reduce anxiety in a test.