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November 4, 2013

Thinking Teachers Teaching Thinkers®

The Monday after daylight saving ends foreshadows the depths of winter. Although it is a bit brighter on the way to school Monday morning, many of us end up going home in the dark, a precursor to the darkest winter days. Comfort your soul with “cozy” new ways to learn and good books to share. TeachersFirst has both.


A memorable month
It’s Native American Heritage Month. Elementary teachers will want to include some Native American Crafts as you lead up to Thanksgiving. Have you planned for Veterans' Day observances? November 19 is the 150th anniversary of Lincoln’s Gettysburg Address, the perfect time to explore Gettysburg by the Numbers. Turn to the TeachersFirst Classroom Planning Calendar for date-related learning, handy any time.


Fifty years
Yet another major observance this month is the fiftieth anniversary of the JFK assassination on November 22. Only older Americans remember the day, but our students deserve to know about this dark day in our history and the memorable days that preceded it. TeachersFirst has been collecting the best resources on Kennedy so your American History or social studies class can experience and learn about Camelot, the Bay of Pigs, and, of course, the assassination.


Food, glorious food!
Focus on Common Core with this new read-aloud collection for elementary grades. Find resources and suggestions for books and activities on the theme of Foods and Nutrition. With the current focus on childhood obesity, the popularity of school gardens and farm-to-school initiatives, and the campaign to “eat local,” the connection to food-related books is compelling. As you teach science, social studies, or health content, you can pair fictional books along with informational texts to maximize the potential of every unit of study and incorporate Common Core. What a perfect way to integrate healthy eating during the lead-in to the holiday season!


Read to connect
Speaking of curriculum connections and reading, have you discovered CurriConnects? These leveled booklists include offerings for all levels, related to the topics YOU teach. We all know students learn better with some personal, prior knowledge. Help them build connections by encouraging them to choose a book from the list before you teach the unit. Topics include math, American Colonial times, light and color, careers, bridges and structures, and many other science and social studies connections. The reading levels go from picture books through high school so every student can be successful. Promote informational, independent reading with CurriConnects. Share the lists with parents and librarians, as well.


Geo and Meri, adventurous duo
The intrepid teens have already crossed the country on Globetracker's Mission. Geo and Meri have been discovered by their pesky little sister, Pandora, so she is peppering them with annoying questions already. You can follow @geoandmeri on Twitter or simply check their blog as it changes every Sunday until April. Weekly episodes appear teach geography, landforms, and major U.S. landmarks throughout this year’s North American mission. Your students in grades 2-6 can vote each week, telling the teens what to do next. Trace their path using the downloadable Google Earth files at the top of each blog post. Miss an episode? Fear not! You can always “rewind” to see previous posts using the <<episode link at the top. Don’t miss Teacher suggestions, lesson ideas, and more to help your students enjoy and learn.


On the Edge: tools to convert and map
The TeachersFirst Edge reviews a wide variety of free, online tools (many with free app versions). Edge tools help you and your students create your own presentations and online content, and some simply make your digital life little easier. Click on Geo/mapping to locate reviewed tools that create and combine maps and geographic information. Save your sanity with file converters to take you from file A to file B. The Edge is a must to find the best options in classes with BYOD or 1:1 programs.


Escape to literacy
November’s TogetheRead theme from our other sibling site, TeachersAndFamilies, is Great Escapes. Climb into family literacy with this free feature that incorporates books on a common theme for readers of all ages, activity ideas to go along with the theme, and prompts to build effective reading strategies as families share reading. Families will appreciate something they can do for FREE. Share TogetheRead via a link on your class web page or online school newsletter, then give the book list to your local/school library for help finding the books for free.


Stuff in the learning before Turkey Day
OK2Ask® offerings for 2013 will end before Thanksgiving because we know you will be “wrapped up” in other things during the holiday season. These FREE, LIVE online “snack sessions” for teacher self-directed professional development are practical and friendly opportunities for YOU to learn. Register NOW for the November sessions. Registration will open soon for our winter sessions. Read more about OK2Ask and plan to attend these upcoming sessions (all 7:00-8:15 pm Eastern Standard time):

  • Intro to the NEW Wikispaces Classroom; Monday, Nov 11
  • Google 6-Part Series (Part 2): Google Search Secrets; Tuesday, Nov 19


Work or play?
When leaves fall, some of us see them as play and others as work. The XW1W question for the week of November 3: What do you do with autumn leaves? Help your students experience everyday life in far off places through #XW1W. Share with classrooms around the world. The Across the World Once a Week (#xw1w) project uses simple tweets or blog posts to share the responses to a weekly question and help you “see” what life is like in other places. It all works because of something called a hashtag. Get started now with these simple directions and FAQ.


Report Card Reactions
What changes are most common after the first report card goes home? Share your onservations in the teacher poll on the TeachersFirst home page.


Featured Sites
This week in our Featured Sites, find tools to create, resource to inspire, and some unusual twists:

  • Create map treasure hunts
  • Explore the orchestra
  • Factoring
  • Innovation videos
  • ESL/ELL videos
  • Cloud files conversions
  • Songs and positive lessons for the very young
  • Cuban Missile Crisis
  • Sustainable, healthy eating
  • And more

IMPORTANT NOTE: If you are reading this November 10 or later, the link above will take you to the Featured Sites for the current week. Find the archived November 3 Features here, and don’t miss our many additional recent additions from the link at the bottom of the Featured sites page.


May new ideas dawn and never set in your class this week.

Your “teacher to go,”
Candace Hackett Shively
Director of K-12 Initiatives