Savvy Strategy: Create a Museum Exhibit PROPOSAL

Please note:  capitalized PROPOSAL.  In a recent unit, my colleagues and I debated the pros and cons of a summative assessment based on the creation of a museum exhibit.  I challenged the idea because of the authenticity.  If someone creates a museum exhibit, certainly, the materials list extends beyond a trifold board.  After several nights of, what I call, “T-search” (t-(eacher re)search) [definition:  scouring every teacher website and resource link for anything resembling what I’m trying to create], I came to the realization that a proposal is a bit more authentic, manageable, and valuable.


Authenticity:  As I mentioned, limiting a museum exhibit to a trifold board, is a boxed up project that emphasizes the display, rather than the content.  A proposal is true to the professional field, leaving the creativity factor open-ended.

Manageable:  A proposal gave us greater leeway with completing the project in the confines of the computer lab, classroom, library, etc.  Students did not cart around their materials.  Students focused on the written paper.

Valuable:  I took this opportunity to emphasize the importance of presentation skills and making a pitch.  As a teacher, I don’t prepare proposals on a daily basis, but over half of my friends hone this skill in their marketing, consulting, or public relations field.  I want students to have this experience, because it focuses their presentation and provides them with an opportunity to hone their PITCH skills.

Students selected their topic; based on readiness, students researched their topics with varied amounts of scaffolding and support; students compiled seven sources they would include in their proposed museum exhibit; students wrote a paper explaining the background information, purpose for exhibit, explanation of each source, and finally, a description of the visitor experience at the exhibit; students created a simple PowerPoint featuring the sources; students presented their proposal to the “museum board”.

I would HANDS DOWN repeat this project and recommend it for any teacher {science, language arts, history, foreign language}.  Students amped up their Google Apps skills, expanded their knowledge on self-selected topics, and improved their presentation skills.  I will end with my favorite student quote…pulled from a student email the night before the assignment was due:

I’m so excited to present tomorrow…I wish I was actually proposing my exhibit to a real museum; I want to create this exhibit!

Teacher Dress Up: Winter Field Trip

Winter Field Trip
Surprisingly, field trips are not my favorite.  Although I enjoy the time with kids, I find it an awkward balance between interacting with the other teachers and the kids in my assigned group.  Your attire for the day can make or break the experience.  I try to limit my outerwear and keeps my hands free.  I prefer a cross body bag OR a backpack depending on my needs.  I stuff my attendance sheets, some mints, some money, and my phone.  Other than that, I don’t bring much.  A watch is MUST on these days, so you can avoid the cell phone time check.  A scarf is an added worry, as is a coat and excess baggage.  You never know if you’ll be able to leave your belongings on the bus or if the facilities will have an area for storage.  In any case, I paired comfortable shoes, a vest for layering, and a bag for purpose.  Leave the rest behind.

Savvy Strategy: DBQ Project

Why teach Document Based Questions?

I have had the privilege of attending some fantastic professional development sessions.  The DBQ project was by far the most relevant, practical, and advantageous series I have attended in seven years.  Relevant?  The topics are 100% aligned with my curriculum.   Practical?  The creators are teachers; they get it and have created templates that are teacher and user friendly and ready for implementation with zero turnaround time.  Advantageous?  My students are prepared to take on DBQs at the AP level when they reach high school, my credibility has increased when I share the series with colleagues, and administration/supervisors are pleased with the skill, rigor, and content alignment.

How they work:  Students are introduced to the topic through a “hook activity” which is a quick and effective.  Next, students read a background essay and answer questions that guarantee every student understands what the question is asking, and, shocker, build background knowledge.  Students then dissect the question and identify the key ideas.  Next, students take two paths.  Path 1:  analyze documents without prompting, or Path 2:  analyze documents with set questions.  I begin the year with the enhanced version, meaning students move through a series of questions to analyze each document.  Next, students “bucket” or organize their ideas to structure their essay.  This is when students take evidence from each document and sort them into categories or “paragraphs” to structure their essay.  We even go so far as writing the ideas on sticky notes or index cards and sticking the notes onto pictures of buckets on the whiteboard or placing the cards in an actual bucket.  Each DBQ comes with an essay skeleton.  I use various scaffolding depending on the class and students to reach the point where every student, then constructs an essay responding to the question.

Why they work:  The directions are clear for both the teacher and the student.  They are user-friendly.  This is the only curriculum I implement as is, no changes necessary.

When to use them:  I begin with a class example, modeling along the way.  As the year progresses, I use them as in class essays (which the students prepare for as a class, in pairs, or independently – depends on their readiness), as summative assessments for units  in which the students have a week to complete them.  The modeling varies based on the topic and use.  I am up to five per year (one in the beginning of the year as a model, and one per quarter).

How students respond:  This is by far one of the most effective and valuable experiences for my students.  The topics are challenging, yet accessible; engaging, yet content and skill-driven.  What more can you ask for?

mini-qbinderHow they are packaged:  The DBQ project consists of Mini DBQ binders (appropriate for middle school) and the DBQ binders (appropriate for high school).  The topics range from civics to US history to world history.   They are between $225-325 for a teacher resource kit.  Any department chair, supervisor, or administrator would be sold if you show them the video and the sample materials.

Share the Wealth: January Dollar Tree Finds

The kids call me out on it, I have a Dollar Tree obsession.  I try to limit my visits to one per month, but sometimes I can’t help it.

dollar Tree Finds

1.  $1 Clipboards – I bought these for a walk-around-the-school activity.  This was a good $25 investment that I will have for at least another five years before they need replacing.  The kids loved writing on them and it made their walking/writing experience that much more meaningful.

2.  $1 Neon ribbon & neon duct tape (not pictured) – I usually begin my search at the Dollar Tree.  If I’m unsuccessful I move onto another option.  I was on the hunt for something NEON for no name-calling day.  The ribbon and tape were perfect.  My homeroom students created duct tape bracelets and the girls tied ribbon bows in their hair.

3.  $1 Die cut letters – these are essential.  These are commonplace at the Dollar Tree, which they weren’t before.  So, I always find the need to stock up, when in reality, they aren’t going anywhere.  I have an assortment of colors and patterns.  My rule is…buy two packages of each set because you don’t get too many duplicate letters.  These last for one  bulletin board and are well-worth it even though they don’t break easily along the perforation.

4.  $1 floral bouquets and glitter – don’t judge me yet.  As with many schools, we were charged with creating Valentine’s Day cards for the local nursing home.  I tried to come up with an economical and fun way to get kids engaged with the process.  The flowers were deconstructed, and petals were reassembled on the cards.  The glitter glue was PERFECT!  The glitter dried flat, was clean, and the fine tip offered enough control for small lines, letters, and shapes.

Teacher Dress Up: Working under the Weather

Sick Day at Work

We’ve all been there. You feel like garbage, sick as can be, but you go to work anyways. So, what to wear when all you can think about is your bed? On days like these, my must-have is a warm scarf and a cup of tea. I reserve my skinny black pants for days when I don’t feel like being fussy. The boots are comfortable and low key, probably not something I would during the week. The key to the shirt is something loose fitting, a boyfriend fit is essential on sick days, so you don’t feel constrained. Hesitantly, I bought a $15 blue boyfriend-fit oxford from the Gap about two years ago. Why I hesitated? Well, I wondered how much use I would get out of a shirt I already own, but this version a slightly looser cut. I have easily worn the thing forty five times. I chose the belt based on the leather strap of the bootie. Adjust belt and shoes as your closet permits.

I Need A…Pair of Dress Work Boots

I’m still filling gaps in my winter wardrobe.  On the rare occasion I develop the will to purge my closet, I rarely regret any of the losers.  However, this past year, I definitely felt a void after tossing a pair of mustard(?) kitten heel, mid-calf leather boots that I picked up at Ross about six years ago.  I haven’t found a replacement and after hours of virtual searching, I came up with nothing similar.  While I picked up a junkie pair of cognac boots from H&M, the heel broke in the middle of my first wear, and I’m still searching.  In any case, I put together a collection of ankle boots to alternate with bare-footed ballet flats, pumps, or the full length boot.

I Need A Pair of Dress Work Boots

The filter here went as follows… a round, but not too round, toe. Or, a pointy, but not too pointy, toe; a decent leather or suede that will complement many color combinations; heel needs to be short and thin, or if a bit taller, thickness (not clunkiness) is essential.