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December 15, 2014

Thinking Teachers Teaching Thinkers®

The holidays come with traditions we repeat year after year, but also with the promise of change in the New Year. My professional career as a longtime teacher and as Director of K-12 Initiatives at The Source for Learning will also be changing with the New Year. I am both excited and a little nervous to announce that I will be retiring as of January 1 to pursue the many creative endeavors that have always been pushed to the bottom of my to-do list. I will miss hearing from all of you and imagining you scanning through the Update, exclaiming at the weekly Featured Sites, or applauding new teaching ideas from the Thinking Teachers. Thank you for making my nine and a half years as TeachersFirst’s lead Thinking Teacher a true joy. In the next couple of Updates before I go, I plan to share a few “gifts” to keep you thinking!


What's next...
The coming months will be a time of growth and transition for the TeachersFirst team of Thinking Teachers. My successor has been chosen and is fulfilling her contract in her current school district. I know her well from shared activities within ISTE, and I know TeachersFirst will be in very good hands. She will join SFL towards the end of the school year. Fear not. Our team is amazing, and will keep bringing you the things you need, just in time.


Give a teacher friend a (free) gift
Trying to find the perfect gift for a colleague? “Give” them TeachersFirst! Take 2 minutes to show them the home page and your favorite places within our site. Then share Tips for using TeachersFirst (located under the About menu). You might even learn something yourself!


Return the favor?
Please consider “giving back” to TeachersFirst. This takes NO TIME or MONEY. Your online shopping can make an automatic donation to TeachersFirst—at no cost to you! “Shop” a donation by doing your holiday shopping on Amazon. Just be sure to enter Amazon via the link at the bottom of our How TeachersFirst Stays Free page, and complete your purchase during that visit. TeachersFirst earns a percentage of the profits from your purchases completed via this entry point. Help us maintain our free, ad-free service to teachers. Our non-profit parent company, The Source for Learning, appreciates your help.


Your gift to yourself
What better gift to yourself than a chance to learn—once the holidays are past! Registration is open for OK2Ask® winter offerings (January and February sessions). Read our FAQ for general information about certificates, etc.  Then explore the catalog of winter offerings. Please be sure to read the detailed descriptions and suggested technology comfort levels BEFORE you register for the best match for your learning needs.  (MARK YOUR 2015 calendar so you do not forget.) For a full preview of offerings through spring, check out this pdf. All sessions meet from 7:00-8:30 pm EASTERN time.


Read-alouds for holiday perspective
During the holiday season, books can provide a springboard for discussions about the character traits we typically associate with this time of year and try to instill: generosity, benevolence, philanthropy, compassion, service, and kindness. Incorporate these read-alouds and accompanying before and after questions in your elementary classroom for some great discussions and reflections as the winter holidays approach.


Giving much more
Delve into the real meaning of giving with one of TeachersFirst’s most popular and “evergreen” offerings, our lesson based on Shel Silverstein’s The Giving Tree. This lesson can be adapted for use in language arts class with students of varying ability levels in grades 2 - 8. We know many high school teachers use it, too. An added bonus: you’ll learn about your students, their wishes, and their situations outside of school as they write about the gifts they would like to give. The plan includes technology options.


A little Christmas, wrapped up in some history and literature
If you study the Victorian era or Charles Dickens, you’ll love our collection of Victorian Christmas resources to make history come to life. Maybe you are looking for a way to bring a little Christmas into class with a curriculum connection. Plan a truly Victorian experience with ideas from these resources.


As if you need a reminder!
December is more than gift-giving season. This week is the anniversary of the Wright Brothers’ flight.  Coming soon are celebrations of Hanukkah, Christmas and Kwanzaa. Look for these and more calendar-related resources throughout the year.


Wild learning
Geo and Meri are loving the wildlife in Madagascar this week on Globetracker’s Mission. Invite your adventurers in grades 2-6 to learn map skills, geography, landmarks, landforms, and much more through the teens’ blogging adventure. (Yes, the mission will pause over winter break.) Check out complete teacher information, standards, and lesson ideas for using the mission. There are even Google Earth files for you to “watch” the Mission unfold. For extra fun, set your class Twitter account to follow the teens Twitter account, @geoandmeri.


Home or away?
Holidays and family are central to every culture. Share the XW1W question for the week of December 14 to learn about holidays in other families: How far do you travel to celebrate holidays? Make this the year you make a class Twitter account to learn from classes near and far? Your students can hear about life in other places and cultures through #XW1W. The Across the World Once a Week (#xw1w) project uses simple tweets (or links to blog posts) to share the responses to a weekly question. Help your class “see” what life is like in other places. It all works because of something called a hashtag. Learn how to get started with these simple directions and FAQ.


Holiday help
Schools do more than help their students learn. Many also support needy students during the holiday season. This week’s teacher poll asks you to complete this statement: During the holidays we help needy students by... Respond using the poll choices on the TeachersFirst home page.


Featured Sites
This week in our Featured Sites, find:

  • A duo of math sites
  • A service opportunity
  • US demographics
  • Portfolios
  • Thought-provoking science
  • The art of dance
  • Healthy food
  • Trading cards KIDS make
  • A marvelous map tool
  • Amazing multimedia
  • A tar sands simulation
  • And more

IMPORTANT NOTE: If you are reading this December 21 or later, the link above will take you to the Featured Sites for the current week. Find the archived December 14 Features here, and don’t miss our many other recent additions from the link at the bottom of the Featured Sites page.


Holiday “hiatus”
TeachersFirst knows how hard it is to keep track of Updates—or anything else—during the holidays. Our next weekly Update will be a come out December 21 and be repeated Dec 28 in hopes you may find a moment to read it sometime during that two week span. The weekly Brain Twisters that go online Friday, December 19 will remain online for two weeks until Friday, January 2.


May your week bring something surprising to “open,” like a young mind!

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