French Revolution Vocabulary Activity

Vocabulary is the foundation of understanding in all content area classes. If students are speaking the same language as the teacher and the textbook they are much more likely to be able to effectively comprehend (and make sense of) lesson content as it is presented. Students need to be able to understand the definitions and significance of key vocabulary terms as well as how the terms are related to one another. There are a variety of activities that you can implement in your classroom to teach vocabulary. Below I am sharing one of my go-to activities for introducing terms at the start of a unit/section. The example in this post is from our World History Unit on the French Revolution, but keep in mind that this worksheet can be adapted to any unit of study.

You can find a free printable pdf version of the French Revolution Vocabulary worksheet here.

Sometimes I print copies of the worksheet for each student. This happens most often at the beginning of the year when I am introducing the activity. The printable worksheet allows students to get a feel for how I want their paper set up. As time goes on and students become comfortable with this vocabulary assignment, I either post the printable on Edmodo  for them to print off themselves of allow students to set up the vocabulary chart on their own notebook paper as long as the follow the same format as the printable workseet.

What is your go-to assignment/activity for introducing new vocabulary terms?


The Role of Educators in the Context of Social Justice

You can’t turn on the news without hearing a report about a social justice issue. From racism and poverty to issues having to do with sexual orientation and white privilege the problems abound. These reports often leave me thinking about what I can do as an educator to help my students deal with, discuss, understand, and take action to address these real world problems. We have a HUGE responsibility here.

Bringing social justice issues and current events into the classroom affords us an opportunity to help our students enhance their critical thinking skills. They provide the perfect forum for teaching students to debate. Our students need to understand how to form an argument backed by research, historical context, and examples. Beyond that (and maybe even more importantly) they need to understand how to agree to disagree, listen to other perspectives, and respectfully respond with differing opinions. What better way to bring in current issues that students can relate to than hosting pop-up and extended debates in the classroom?

The classroom should be an open forum where students can practice critical thinking, argument, and debate skills and discuss social justice issues in a safe place. If students aren’t taught how to effectively share their ideas they will have a hard time getting their point across and effecting change.

How do you teach social justice issues in your classroom? Is there a particular method that you find to be most effective? Do you avoid teaching and discussing social justice issues altogether? If so, why?

Strategies for a Successful Week Back To School After Winter Break

Well, Winter Break sure flew by. Where did that time go? I thoroughly enjoy breaks from school, but by the end of week two I’m itching to get back. This anticipation sometimes comes with anxiety. Will I remember all of my students names? Will we pick up right where we left off? Will there be any new behavioral issues I have to deal with since the kids have been “free” for two weeks? How do I come up with creative ideas to keep my classes engaged?

The list can go on and on. I think back to school anxiety is something that many of us encounter from time to time. Over the years, I have developed a few strategies to cope with these feelings and have a successful first week back.

  1. Spend some time the weekend before school starts going over your lesson plans and reviewing your classroom rules and procedures. Chances are you haven’t forgotten these things, but it can be relaxing to take time to do a little”refresher.” It will help you to refocus yourself and get in to the back-to-school mindset.
  2. Take it slow the first day back. Your students may be having a hard time readjusting to routines after being on Winter Break. I know you have curriculum to cover and things that you need to get to, but your students aren’t robots. They need some time to reconnect and readjust.
  3. Do a mini-lesson on your classroom rules, procedures, and processes. This is extremely important because it reminds everyone of the classroom expectations.
  4. Most importantly, spend time conversing with your students. They may be very excited about an experience they had over break that they want to share. It is so important to allow time to hear them out and foster those relationships. Taking just a few minutes to listen to your students reminds them that you are there for them and that you care about them as individuals.


What do you do to get ready for a successful first week back to school?

Bullet Journal System: A Month End Review

I have been using the bullet journal system for about a month now. I was originally attracted to this system because of its flexibility.  A blank journal is full of endless possibilities; it can become absolutely anything that I want it do be! For now, however,  it is strictly a planner.

The past month in my bullet journal has been full of experimenting. I toyed around with the different types of spreads (monthly, daily, weekly) until I figured out what works best for me. It turns out to be the weekly spreads that best fit my needs. Here is what I came up with:

31764353122_bca2b27cb1_oI divide my weekly spread into five main sections: Appointments, Weekly Tasks, Gratitude, Meal Ideas, and To Do. These sections encompass everything that I have going on and help me to stay focused on my goals.

The “To Do” section is really the heart of my bullet journal. Writing out all of my to do’s for the week on Sunday nights is just too overwhelming, so I decided to fill in my to do list each morning as part of my morning routine. This helps me to flow through the week by doing what I feel inspired to do each day. The beauty of this system of planning is that if I find that writing out my to do’s each day no longer works for me, I can just change it up. There is no need to go out and spend money on a new planner, I can literally just flip the page and start fresh.

There are some really beautiful bullet journals out there and the temptation to decorate my journal was very strong when I first began using it. I did make some attempts at decorating my journal in my first few weekly spreads, but I found the whole decorating process to be stressful. It was hard to come up with ideas of what to do so I found myself spending hours watching “Plan With Me” videos on YouTube (Check out Boho Berry when you get a chance. I love her bullet journal). The videos were inspirational and gave me lots of ideas, but my execution was never quite as pretty as the bullet journalists I had watched on YouTube. So, I decided to just scrap the decorating and focus on productivity. Maybe one day I’ll revisit the idea of decorating my bullet journal, but for now I love my system just the way it is.

What is your favorite planning system? How do you make it work for you?




How to Manage Paperwork So It Doesn’t Take Over Your Life

Teaching brings on endless amounts of paperwork. It is easy to be drowning in papers by the end of the workday if you don’t have a system in place to manage everything that is being thrown at you.

During my first year teaching, I remember feeling so overwhelmed by everything coming my way- from collecting regular student assignments, to make up work, to tests, to resources other teachers were giving me, and administrative paperwork that needed to be collected, filled out, and turned into the office- it just seemed endless and the papers kept piling up on my desk. I put the papers in neat stacks, you know, to help keep my anxious feelings about getting everything done at bay. Ha! Can you relate?

Over the years, I developed a system for managing paperwork that works well for me. Hopefully it will help you too!

Tips for Managing Paperwork

1. Have a place for everything.

2. Find a system that you think will work and stick to it! Sometimes it takes a while to adjust to using a system. You have to make a conscious effort to use the system until it becomes a habit. During this process you may or may not feel a little frustrated. Remember, you are breaking your old habits and patterns. That takes time. I like to give new systems a full three months of use before making any changes to them. That way I have time to use the system and really identify what parts of it work well and what I need to adjust to my needs.

3.Keep your desk paper free! A clear desk equals a clear mind.  I know that it is not possible to do this during the course of the school day. However, one of the best management strategies I implemented for myself was taking time to clear my desk and put everything away before leaving work each day. This was particularly helpful in the mornings because I felt like I was getting a fresh start every day when I entered the room and sat down at my clean desk.

So, I bet you are wondering how I have have place for everything. Well, my solution has been to use milk crates for filing all paperwork that comes through my hands.There three different ways I use milk crates in my classroom.

  1. Milk crates to manage papers that need to be graded, filed, or taken to the office. 

I have one milk crate that lives by my desk. It has seven hanging file folders in it. There is one folder for each of my six class periods and an extra file folder to house papers that need to be turned into guidance or the office. I use the file folders by my desk to house student work that needs to be graded (organized by class period). When I collect an assignment it immediately goes in the appropriate folder.

2. Milk crates to organize work that needs to be returned to students.

There is a second milk crate that lives on my student workstation table. This milk crate has six folders (labeled by class period). Every time an assignment is graded it goes into the appropriate folder. Whenever I have a chance during class (like while students are working independently) I grab graded work out of the folders and pass it back to students.

3. Milk crates to store student portfolios and work samples. 

There is a third milk crate that lives on a table in the back of my classroom that is used to store student work samples. At the beginning of the year, students make a folder with their name and a few fun facts about themselves (we use these as an ice breaker activity the first week of school). Throughout the year there are certain assignments that I want to keep as work samples, so I just store them in these folders. Sometimes, I will pass portfolio assignments back to students so they can see their grade and any feedback. If I do that, I have students take a few minutes at the end of class to put their assignment in their portfolio. This saves me the time of recollecting the assignment and filing it myself.  You can find a more detailed post about my student portfolios here.


Here is an example of the milk crates I use to store student portfolios.

Lastly, I use a student make up work folder to manage make up assignments. All student make up work should be placed in this folder. This is a procedure that is taught to students within the first couple weeks of school. I do not physically take make up work from students because, lets be honest, the likelihood that I will lose a random paper placed in my hand between third and fourth period is pretty high. I can hardly find my keys if I take my lanyard off!! Any time students try to hand me make up work I tell them to put it in the folder. Part of my afternoon routine is to check the make up work folder and grade anything that was placed in it throughout the day.

There it is. This is the system that I have developed to manage all of my paperwork and, for me, it works like a charm.

How do you manage all of the paperwork that comes your way?

Lesson Plan Template: Daily Plans

Throughout my teaching career I have tried various methods of lesson planning. At first, I started out with weekly plans. This was overwhelming and I often felt “stumped” when it came to coming up with ideas and creative ways to present history content because I was looking at so much at one time. For me, it just didn’t work.

More recently I have been using daily plans. I took the common board configuration that my county wants all teachers use and turned that into my daily lesson plan template. You can see the template below and download a copy for yourself here.


This daily lesson plan template has worked out great so far. I love the fact that it helps me to focus on one lesson at a time. It also helps me do a better job of chunking history content for my students. I pair my daily plans with a monthly outline of the units/lessons we will be covering as well as test and quiz dates. This has worked wonders for me and has reignited my passion for lesson planning.

If you prefer an online lesson plan book, check out my blog post about here.

What is your preferred method of lesson planning?

Five Minute Fillers: Pinch Card Review

Pinch cards were first introduced to me during an in-service training.  If you are not familiar with pinch cards they look like this:

Basically, you print off a class set of pinch cards and you can use them to have students answer questions. Each student should have their own card. You pose a question and students literally pinch underneath their answer while holding up their card so you can see their response.

Pinch cards can be used at the drop of a hat. You can prepare questions in advance, or you can ask questions off the top of your head. I like to use double sided pinch cards. One side will have letters A, B, C, D, and E and the other side will say True / False. This allow you to ask a variety of questions. Plus, I find that true or false questions are easier to make up off the top of my head. If I am asking true or false question, I always make sure to have a student explain how they know something is true or why a statement is false. Simply asking true or false and leaving it at that does not, in my opinion, do much good in the way of reviewing. Students need to know and be able to explain their thinking.

Most days I pass out the pinch cards during first period and don’t collect them again until the end of 7th period. This way I am not constantly passing the pinch cards out and collecting them again during every class. The cards live on students desks and they know that when it is time to pack up they should leave the cards for the next class.

If you haven’t already, I encourage you to give pinch cards a try.

Happy Teaching!