The Week That Was in 505

This week I wanted to finish up unit 1 on the colonization and the 13 colonies. However, shortened schedules due to testing get in the way. Plus, testing days are the worst – students come in either tired and zombies or wound up and crazy.

Monday – 30 minute classes – Triple Threat Throwdown

Tuesday – 30 minute classes – Triple Threat Throwdown

Wednesday – 40 minute classes – Text Quest

Thursday – 50 minute classes – Text Quest

Friday – 50 minute classes Text Quest

Monday and Tuesday

Monday with a MAP Math test is tough and tiresome – a perfect day to try something new. On EMC2Learning I found a new called the Triple Threat Showdown. Students had 60 total minutes to work as a team to show what they have learned the previous 2 weeks (colonization, Middle Passage, Triangular Trade, Columbian Exchange, Roanoke and English colonies). The goal was to win 2 out of 3 categories as a team. The categories you asked?

  1. Legos – build things related to content learned the previous 2 weeks and explain to me how it relates to something they learned.
  2. Sketchnotes – sketch and annotate content they learned.
  3. Apples to Apples – draw 3 cards (nouns or adjectives) and relate/connect each card to something you learned.

This game sparked some engagement in 505 – it was unbelievable the creations, connections, and sketch note ideas the students were creating. When we first started this, I wished their connections and explanations were a bit more detailed. As each student showed me and/or told me about their connections it provided me with an opportunity to give feedback. The feedback from me really helped students perfect how to speak and write about the content.

I really liked this 2 day Triple Threat Throwdown because it was a perfect fit for a 2 day shortened class period. (I’m not sharing the Triple Threat Throwdown because it’s a file from


With a longer class period, Wednesday was a good day to start new content. We started with a Text Quest to learn about the impact of geography on the English colonies. (I’m not sharing the Text Quest because it’s a file from

Some people get caught up in the fact that students need to know and label ALL of the 13 colonies. Yes, it’s good to know stuff, but I don’t waster much time doing that. Instead, I randomly use a 13 colonies Blooket game as a side competition during the Text Quest. What is the Text Quest?

The Text Quest came from EMC 2 Learning. Basically, students are placed on 3-4 teams that compete in 2 rounds every class period. The teams are playing for 1st through 4th place, every round, every class period.

Round 1 – I had teams debate for 5 minutes about what happened to the lost colony of Roanoke. Teams submitted their responses through Socrative. Socrative is a tool I used to use all the time, stopped using it, and now it’s back in my life again. I love how students/teams can submit responses to short answer questions and you can hide the names and judge teams 1st through 4th without any bias.

Teams submitted responses, I read them word for word (spelling errors and all) and give feedback on their claims, evidence, and reasoning. The discussions students had about Roanoke were amazing. Plus, I love being to provide feedback in real time.

Round 2 – Students worked within their groups to do a colony sort. I used the Categorizing the Colonies from Mr. Roughton’s website. Students had 25 minutes to create their own categories for the 13 colonies.

Some groups sorted by population size while others sorted by agriculture vs. manufacturing. Each group wanted to know the right answer, and I replied, “There are no wrong or right answers, just better answers.”

At the end of this activity, students did a really great job of working together and creating categories to better understand the colonies. The winning teams were chosen by me based on a completed product, simple/general categories, and a good explanation of what they could learn about the colonies based on the categories they created.


The Text Quest continued on Thursday with another set of 2 rounds. This time our focus was on the geography of the colonial regions.

Round 1 – For this round I had teams debate this question, “Which colonial region would the worst to live in?” Students had great discussions and submitted their responses through Socrative.

When judging this round I was looking at their claims for improvement from the previous days feedback. My main feedback on writing claims is, “Stop using pronouns when writing claims. Get the point and state your opinion.” I was also looking at evidence used from the Colony Sort papers.

Round 2 – I used an Annotation Scramble in round 2 so students could read our upcoming text and make connections to it. Students worked in groups, on one Google Doc, with the same article linked to our upcoming Cyber Sandwich. Students had 15 minutes to make as many connections (annotations) as possible to this text on colonial regions I received from Megan Ferne (@MeganFerne). My goal with this assignment was to have students connect with a cut and dry article about colonies – let’s face it, colonies aren’t that exciting. Here are the connections they made:

  1. Text to Text
  2. Text to Self
  3. Text to World
  4. Unknown words

I judged this round based on every group member making a connection, the quality of connections, and the amount of annotations.

We did a bit of time left, so I busted out a Blooket about identifying the 13 colonies and tied 5 extra team points to it for the overall winner and 5 extra team points for the most correct questions.


Today we moved into the Cyber Sandwich portion of the Text Quest. The article annotated by students the previous day was the same article today. I love to have students work with a text multiple times (even though they don’t realize it). However, today I broke the article into 3 sections (New England, Middle, and Southern) because it would be an easier load to handle. It worked out really well. Instead of a summary at the end of the Cyber Sandwich, I had students create an infographic comparing the geographies of the colonial regions.

Round 1 – Students had 25 minutes to work together on the Cyber Sandwich. I encouraged them to read their section and takes notes for 10 minutes. Then they should spend 15 minutes designing the infographic. I walked around the room and gave some feedback, but, for the most part, I let them do their thing. Students came up with some amazing work in 25 minutes explaining how geography impacted the way of life in the colonies.

Students submitted their infographics and I projected them on the board. I used this time to give feedback and fill in missing gaps of information. I judged the infographics based on the quality of information, creativity, and organization.

Between giving the feedback and doing or Friday check in, I missed the opportunity to do a Fast and Curious Quizizz after the Cyber Sandwich. I wish I had 10 extra minutes. However,m one class got to do the Fast and Curious and raised their class average from a 49% to and 80% over 2 days.

Overall Thoughts

Overall, it was a good week. I was a bit mad at myself that I didn’t fit the fast and curious quiz in more because I like for students to see growth and learning. Sometimes the rounds and work seem a bit rushed, but I’m fine tuning as I go. Plus, as students gets used to Eduprotocols and the timer, it will get better!

The Week That Was In 505

This shortened week was a continuation from the effects of colonization. Last week, during our lesson on the effects of colonization I hinted at slavery and the Middle Passage knowing I was going to build off of that topic and conversation this week. This week turned out to be an EduProtocols free week, which is super rare for 505. My focus this week was to get students up and moving whether it was in the classroom or outside.

Tuesday – Middle Passage stations

Wednesday – Middle Passage stations, blackout poetry

Thursday – History Mystery Investigation – Roanoke

Friday – History Mystery Investigation – Roanoke

Middle Passage

When it comes to teaching about the Middle Passage and slavery, I don’t try to shock the students. I don’t show any videos that require a permission slip. I’ve even heard of having students lay side by side to create an experience – no, nope, not me. I thought and thought about a way to introduce the students to the Middle Passage. I really like the SHEG lesson about the Middle Passage, but it didn’t seem right for what I was trying to teach. A great idea hit me as I was looking at the SHEG lesson! The Middle Passage Slave Ship diagram listed the dimensions of the space set aside for enslaved adult males at 6′ x 1’4″ space. So, as students came in on Tuesday, I had a 6′ x 1’4″ space marked off with tape and the diagram on the board.

The taped off space with the picture created lots of questions. We used some questions to figure out that the diagram was a slave ship. It’s one thing to read about a 6′ x 1’4″ space, but it’s another to actually see it and make a connection.

After our introduction to the Middle Passage, I set up stations around my room. I’ve had people ask me to share the stations, but I cannot because I got them from Peacefield History. The stations begin with a quick Ted Ed video on the Middle Passage to build background information. The other stations included a primary source from Olaudah Equiano, a great video from Slate showing the amount of slave ships leaving Africa, some statistics, and a map. I love the mix up of sources for the stations. In an effort to mix things up, I had paper copies of the stations for students, I had the stations set up around the room in case students was to move around, I had the stations online, and I had QR codes for scanning. (This seems excessive, but I try to cater to every possible need.) The Middle Passage stations lasted 2 days. As students finished their station questions, they brought them to me and I gave some quick feedback and graded.

Through these stations students learned about Triangular Trade and applied it to past learning about European colonization. They also learned about misconceptions regarding the Middle Passage. Finally, they learned about the horrors of a slave ship on the Middle Passage from the Olaudah Equiano source.

To wrap up the Middle Passage stations, I got a great idea from the Fully Engaged book from Michael Matera and John Meehan. I had students go back to the Olaudah Equiano primary source. Students selected 10 words important to understanding the source. They blacked out the remaining words. The final step was create a poem, story, or drawing related to the 10 chosen words. I phrased it as, “Unlock the a hidden meaning” within the source. With middle schoolers, it’s all in how your phrase things to create excitement and buy-in.

History Mystery – Roanoke

About 2 weeks ago as student asked me, “Do we study Roanoke in here?” I replied, “I haven’t done that in 5 years, but we can.” If a students inquires about a relevant topic, I should honor that question to build trust, rapport, and engagement for 505. I found my lesson from years ago, but I knew Mr. Roughton had something better. I went to Kevin Roughton’s site and found his History Mystery – Roanoke Lesson. I like this lesson for several reasons:

  • It includes great primary and secondary sources.
  • It works well with our historical thinking skills (sourcing, contextualizing, corroborating).
  • It includes conflict between Spain and England which ties to Ohio’s standards of conflict over resources.
  • It has students writing a claim with reasoning and evidence.

I printed off the lesson and I like to organize the exhibits (evidence) by writing the exhibit letter on the sources. To kick this lesson up a notch, I found out custodian and asked for a hammer and nails. I walked across our campus and nailed all of the exhibits to trees. The trees were located near the woods and my thinking was to create a “you just arrived in the New World with trees, grass, and nature” feel. I don’t know if it worked, but we got to go outside, move around, and students were engaged.

As the day progressed, I realized I had to do 3 things with this lesson:

  1. I had to place the Roanoke story in context by comparing the Roanoke to Jamestown and Plymouth with a map and a timeline.
  2. I had to model historical thinking skills with an exhibit – especially sourcing, and contextualizing. I thought out loud as I modeled the process.
  3. I had to explain the story of Simon Fernandez. If you don’t know who that is, it’s an interesting story so click here.

This lesson took 2 days to finish and once students knew about Jamestown, Simon Fernandez, and saw me modeling historical thinking skills – full student engagement. They worked well together, asked great questions, and enjoyed the story of Roanoke. Next time I run this lesson, I might provide context better with a quick Cyber Sandwich or Frayer some important words. In the end, this lesson was a great set up for our 13 colonies lesson next week.

The Week That Was In 505 – A Reflection

Sometimes students ask me, “Why do we do the same things all the time?” It’s a question that occasionally bothers me and pushes me to do better. Other times, it’s a question that annoys me.

This week in 505 we went into the motivations and effects of exploration and colonization of North America. We focused on 3 European countries – Spain, France, and England.

I have 47 minute classes. Here is the layout of the lesson I’m describing….

Monday – Fast and Curious, Thin Slide, Frayer

Tuesday – Finish Frayer, Cyber Sandwich, Fast and Curious

Wednesday – Fast and Curious, Gallery Walk or Sketch and Tell

Thursday – Fast and Curious, Hexagonal Learning

Friday – Finish Hexagonal Learning, Annotated Map with 3 Connections

Fast and Curious – Every Day

On Monday we began the Fast and Curious with a Quizizz over exploration and colonization of North America. The questions related to vocabulary and content from a reading linked to our eventual Cyber Sandwich. Students took the quiz with very little background information. The results were awful, but I remind students that it’s okay to miss questions and potentially fail. As you can see, the results were not great..

Despite the poor results, I give immediate feedback and I run this same quiz at the start of class each day.

Frayer – Monday

One of my favorite teaching strategies to build vocabulary knowledge and background information is through the Frayer model. Immediately following our first run with a quiz, I have students skim the article attached to the eventual Cyber Sandwich. I set a timer and instruct them to find 3 unknown words that could help them understand the article. They submit their words through a word cloud generator on Mentimeter.

As words are submitted to the Mentimeter word cloud, they show on on the Smartboard. The same words submitted over and over again appear to be larger on the board. It makes it easy to choose those words to Frayer. At the conclusion of the 5 minutes, I quickly go over some of the smaller/lesser words. We often choose the larger words to frayer. In this instance, students chose the words ‘Colonization’ and ‘Indigenous’ as the important words to know.

I like to pair the Frayer with the SEE-IT model. SEE-IT is an acronym that stands for State, Elaborate, Exemplify, Illustrate, and Talk. With our first Frayer, I modeled how to paraphrase definitions, elaborate on the definitions, and how to add 3-4 examples. For the illustration box, I like to use for icons. This practice works best when students are collaborating and talking about the words.

Cyber Sandwich – Tuesday

After Frayering unknown words, and giving students a chance to skim the article, it’s time to do the Cyber Sandwich. I like to do the Cyber Sandwich at the beginning of class then run the Fast and Curious quiz. This way, students can see their growth in learning after the Cyber Sandwich is complete

The Cyber Sandwich I created was paired with a National Geographic article entitled, “Motivations for European Colonization.”Students read the article, and took notes, for 10 minutes. I encouraged them to get 2 important facts from each subheading (6 or more facts). Students then discussed and compared notes for 5 minutes. Finally, students summarized the article with 5 or more sentences for 10 minutes.

Setting a 10 minute timer is a great way to get students focused on reading. This is a practice we use in my school with SSR (sustained silent reading), so it lends itself nicely with a common practice.

With this particular Cyber Sandwich, I chose to do it with paper. This is the nice thing about EduProtocols – they can be used with tech or paper. I was inspired by a podcast called The Science of Reading which discusses a lot of research based practices we should be doing with literacy skills within any classroom. One important takeaway from a recent episode was using a nice blend of paper vs. digital tools for reading comprehension. This inspired me to do my Cyber Sandwich on paper.

At the conclusion of the Cyber Sandwich, students completed another fast and Curios quiz using Quizizz. Here are those results, with the highest percentage raise being 7th period with a 30% raise:

Gallery Walk or Sketch and Tell – Wednesday

On Wednesday, I began class with a new style of Frayer. I turned the 4 boxes on the Frayer into recall questions and encouraged the students to answer the questions without looking up the answers. After we discussed the Frayer responses, we jumped into another Fast and Curious. By this day, all classes raised their overall class averages to 80% or higher.

For Wednesday, our question was, “What were the effects of colonization on North America?” Students had a choice to do a Gallery Walk or Sketch and Tell. With the Gallery Walk, I used a document based question (DBQ) that I split up and turned into 5 stations. I taped the 5 stations around the room and created an organizer so students could write their responses.

The Sketch and Tell had a mini article attached, and students had to create and tell about 2 effects colonization had on North America. Students could use Legos, Play Doh, or Google Shapes for their creation. Most students chose to use Google Shapes.

Hexagonal Learning

I don’t know who created Hexagonal Learning, but it’s a strategy I learned from social studies teacher Chuck Taft. For this teaching strategy, I typed some of the concepts we learned about into hexagon templates on Google Drawings. Template 1 is here. Template 2 is here.

I love hexagonal learning because it helps create great discussions among students. The hexagon has six sides where connections could be made to other ideas. When you place many ideas on many hexagons, the discussion about where to connect what will be different every time.

I had students get into groups of 2 or 3 and they began to cut out the hexagons (I would suggest having students do this the day before). I gave each group a large sheet of construction paper and explained the idea of making connections between hexagons and ideas. I also reminded the students it’s important to listen to each other as discussions are being made about connections.

After the students had discussions about the placement of the hexagons, they glued the hexagons into place.

At the end of our discussions and glueing, students took another Fast and Curious and quiz with Quizizz and all class averages were raised to 90% or above. This is great because our goals was to reach a 90% class average by Thursday.

Annotated Maps

I’m not going to get into annotated maps, but you can learn more about them here. In short, annotated maps are hand drawn maps where students make connections between geography and history. It seemed natural to combine hexagonal learning with annotated maps.

I had students hand draw a map of North America where they labeled New Spain, New France, and the British Colonies. Next to their map, they wrote about 3 connections they made with hexagonal learning. When everything was completed, they taped their maps to their hexagonal learning papers.

Final Thoughts

Overall, this was a great lesson and students were involved and engaged through the whole process. When I run a Cyber Sandwich in the future, I will mix up the notes and task at the end to keep students engaged week to week.

One thing I’m trying to do more this year is self-reflection. I had students self reflecting, setting goals, and keeping track of scores on a Google Sheet.

A Reflection On My First Unit

Each new school year I’m committed to trying new, creative teaching strategies while making old lessons better. One of my favorite strategies is smashing some EduProtocols together for lessons and/or larger units. The unit I’m featuring in this post is a historical thinking mini- unit where the students learn about primary sources, secondary sourcing, sourcing, contextualizing, corroborating, and close reading. These skills come directly from the Stanford History Education Group (SHEG) site.

In years past when teaching historical thinking skills, I felt like I spent way too much time on the topic. I would usually spend a week or more going over sourcing, corroborating, and contextualizing. During the unit we would practice these skills with topics the students probably didn’t know much about. It wasn’t the best way to begin the school year in social studies. Ultimately, my historical thinking skills unit wasn’t very engaging. The new mini-unit I put together lasted 3 days (I have 47 minute classes).

Wednesday – Fast and Curious, Sketch and Tell.

Thursday – Fast and Curious, Sketch and Tell, Number Mania

Friday – Fast and Curious, Number Mania, Digital Breakout

Fast and Curious

This year I began the historical thinking skills unit with a Fast and Curious on Quizizz. I asked basic vocabulary questions about historical thinking skills. Moreover, I asked questions about primary and secondary source examples. Once we finished the quiz, I saw the questions that were color coded yellow and red and gave some feedback. The average across the classes the first day was a 65%.

The 2nd class day we did the Fast and Curious on Quizizz again. I gave feedback as I discussed the yellow coded questions. The class averages were raised to a 73% for the 2nd day. The 3rd day of classes, we did the Fast and Curious one more time. All of the classes averaged together ended up being 84%.

I like Quizizz because it provides so much data to help with feedback. For example: yellow and red coded commonly missed questions, average time per question, and it keeps track of student data. I also like that Quizizz randomizes answer choices, questions, and students aren’t memorizing letter choices. Here is my Quizizz link.

Sketch and Tell

In past years I would have students write out definitions with examples as they worked in groups. I started to do this with my 1st period class, but as I was circulating around the room, I was bored. Next period, I switched it up to a Sketch and Tell Eduprotocol. Here is my template link.

I created a slide deck with directions and 5 sketch and tell slides for the words: primary source, secondary source, sourcing, contextualizing, and corroborating. When the next class came in, the slide deck was ready to go and we got out the Play Doh. Using the Play Doh, or Google shapes, students created abstract representations of each historical thinking word. For example, some created a question mark or magnifying glass for the word sourcing. Students then explain the meaning of their representation ultimately creating a definition for each word. This ended up being more engaging and more hands on for these basic vocabulary words.

Infographic/Number Mania

Once students finished their Sketch and Tell, they created groups of 2 or 3 and made a Historical Thinking Skills infographic using a Number Mania template (I love using this template I got from Stephanie Howell – @mrshowell24). I explained to students that infographics share large amounts of information in condensed, easy to understand formats. I also gave my classes 40 minutes of class time to complete the task. The success criteria I established was this:

  • Simple definitions used for each historical thinking skill.
  • 3 examples provided for primary sources 3 examples provided for secondary sources.
  • Icons and images used relate to historical thinking skills.
  • Information was organized and easy to understand (no large blank spaces)

Digital Breakout

To end this unit, I put together a digital breakout. Instead of my typical breakouts where I use a Google Form for students to collect clues, I set up fake email accounts with vacation responses that sent their next puzzle. With each puzzle, students had to figure out the email address so they could send an email and get the next puzzle. There were 3 puzzles students had to complete:

  1. Determining if a source was primary or secondary.
  2. Determining which source would be the best to use to understand different historical events.
  3. Sourcing a painting and justifying if it would be useful with understanding the first Thanksgiving (a SHEG lesson).

The last sourcing puzzle had to be approved by me. When it was approved, I gave them a clue to help figure out the 3 digit code to open up the lockbox.

This digital breakout proved to be awesome because it was a crazy Friday for our first full week of school and super engaging. Plus, it wasn’t super hard and intimidating. I like for students to have a good first experience with digital breakouts so it keeps their interest throughout the year.

Final Thoughts

All in all this was a much more engaging lesson.

  • The Fast and Curious was great for repetition and learning the material.
  • The Sketch and Tell was great for hands on learning, dual-coding, and having students relate the abstract to more concrete examples they created.
  • The infographic was a creative way for students to work together. Plus, this was a great way to see how students would/could work together. Alao a great way to see their creativity with a blank slide.
  • Digital Breakouts are always fun and engaging – especially on a Friday.

2 Things I Learned This Year

Just finished a crazy school year. Mask covered, remote learning, not remote learning, some kids quarantining, some not. Man oh man….what a year! In many ways it was a great, rewarding school year. In other ways it was tiring. Nevertheless, here are 2 things I learned this year:

Desks in Rows are Fine

I put my desks in traditional rows. Guess what? It was just fine. Students still worked in groups. They got up and moved around. It went well, and I don’t feel this need to have desks in groups anymore.

Messages Matter

Students cared more about my daily message than Social Studies. Every day I write a new message on my board for students. I don’t read them out loud. I don’t even ask students to read them. The messages are there. Sometimes a poem, sometimes a life lesson, sometimes my thoughts on what school should be. I go through the year not knowing what these messages mean, but I discovered they mean a lot to many students….what I thought they didn’t read, they do read. So, check in with students. Share messages with them. Sometimes it means more than the subject and/or content.

With the school year coming a close, I’ll share with you my final message to the students:

A Current Unit Reflection – Survivor Renaissance

I started a new unit I have never done before – Survivor Renaissance – inspired by Michael Matera. The unit has students studying and learning about the Renaissance, Reformation, and Exploration. In Ohio, the standards covered are this:

  1. The decline of feudalism, the rise of nation-states and the Renaissance in Europe introduced revolutionary ideas, leading to cultural, scientific,
    and social changes
  2. The Reformation introduced changes in religion including the emergence of Protestant faiths and a decline in the political power and social influence of the Roman Catholic Church.
  3. European economic and cultural influence dramatically increased through explorations, conquests, and colonization

This unit is still ongoing, but I wanted to reflect on the work completed so far. I broke up this unit into 3 missions.

Mission 1 – Meet and Greet

Mission 1 has students getting into teams and choosing their Renaissance Influencer from a unique group. Each team had their own list of Renaissance influencers to choose from to ensure that the same person wouldn’t be picked twice. Examples of people included: Galileo, Petrarch, Johannes Gutenberg, or Leonardo DaVinci. Students spent 2 days researching, and becoming experts, about their chosen Renaissance person. They used some cornell notes found here. During the Research process I had students keep their Renaissance person a secret because they were going to design a slide for our Great American Race Competition.

Mission 1 – The Great American Race

After the research was completed, students made slides about their chosen Renaissance Influencers. They featured characteristics of the person’s early life, what they were famous for (artwork, voyages, inventions), and some random facts. I emphasized not putting the Renaissance person’s name on the slide because we were going to have a competition. My next step was compiling students created slides into a Google slide deck. I created a “copy” link and pasted it into a Google Form. Students opened the shared form, created a copy of the Great American Race slide deck and submitted their answers. An example can be found here. After the Great American Race, I averaged the amount of correct answers per team to determine the winner.

I like the Great American Race because students assume it’s easy. They always say, “We have to Google answers? That all?” However, students quickly learn that Googling answers can be an art. They have to choose the correct key words when searching. This lesson also teaches students to design slides with quality information. When I made the slide decks for each class, I included every slide no matter how great or bad the information. It created nice discussions of designing slides with good, credible information for others.

Mission 2 – Diving into the Renaissance, Reformation and Exploration

What changes occurred with arts and science during the Renaissance? Why did Martin Luther, and others, challenge the Catholic Church? Why did European countries begin exploring? I brought teams back together and shared 3 different Iron Chef slides designed around these questions. One team had Renaissance, one team had Reformation, and another team took on Exploration.

In one class period, teams worked together to design slides to teach others about these topics. Each slide included a link to a short reading and I gave success criteria for a good presentation. Here is that success criteria: 4-5 important facts, 2-3 relevant images, and the secret ingredient question answered. Here are some examples here:

Renaissance Arts and Sciences



Up to this point, I was using past tense because we completed the Iron Chefs. However, this next step I haven’t had a chance to get to because I had to leave school early. The next step in this process is having students create a presentation video with Flipgrid over their information. They will record their screens and tesch other classmates. I will hand out Frayer models students so they can watch other presentation videos and collect information. The final step in the process will be a Quizizz with student created questions.

Since I had to skip a day and skip the Flipgrid, I had students create a Sketch and Tell about their slides. Here is why I like this idea…..

  1. I could read their Sketch and Tell explanations while I was out and look for any misunderstandings.
  2. I could provide quick feedback.
  3. A lot of the students wrote their sketch and tell explanations in a way they could read and record for their Flipgrid.
  4. The Sketch and Tell is something the students are familiar with.
  5. The Sketch and Tell provided a way that students didn’t have a gap in learning before making their presentations.

Here are some Sketch and Tell examples:

Next steps (literally typing and thinking out loud):

As this unit progresses, I need to build in some review competitions to keep up the gamification and team aspect of the Survivor Renaissance format. I also need to plan out how to set up the tribal council to vote off Renaissance people.

  1. Maybe have students vote on the best sketch and tell.
  2. Turn the Quizizz paired with the Iron chef into a competition – highest team average wins.
  3. Lego or Playdoh build competition.
  4. Review game competition – mystery boxes, Gimkit paired with apples to apples, tower builder review game.
  5. Empathy Maps – do before tribal council?
  6. Alphabet Battle
  7. Sudoku Learning to show relationships between people, concepts, etc…
  8. Linking logs to show relationships between concepts

More to come……

Eduprotocol Smashing Through a Unit

Today concluded a unit which was entirely made up of Eduprotocols. My unit question was compelling ended – Which led most to the expansion of Islam – innovation, trade, or conflict? This is my reflection on smashing several Eduprotocols together.

Lesson 1 – Origins of Islam

The unit began with an introduction to Islam. Last year, after switching to remote learning, the students missed out on Islam. Before the students could answer the compelling question, they needed to know some basics of the Islamic faith. To do this lesson I started with a fast and curious with Quizizz, and the students bombed the quiz. Next, I had them skim an article and create a word cloud of unknown words using Mentimeter (found here). The students chose 3 words to Frayer and we created a definition, listed 3-4 examples, and created examples and non-examples (found here). Having the students skim an article and Frayer 3 words allowed them to build some background knowledge on Islam. Now the students were ready for the Cyber Sandwich and reading. Students shared a Cyber Sandwich with each other, read the Origins of Islam article for 10 minutes, took notes, discussed their notes, and summarized their notes (found here). We concluded this unit with the same fast and curious Quizizz and students raised the class average from 48% to 92% over a 2 day period.

Lesson 2 – Innovations

The lesson on innovation attempted to answer this question – Why would new innovations help advance Islamic culture? This lesson took place with 3 days of remote learning. The first lesson was a brief Edpuzzle video about the expansion of Islam through the medieval world. The 2nd day of remote learning involved a Cyber Sandwich combined with a Sketch and Tell (found here). Students chose an innovation from the Golden Age of Islam and took notes. Then students took their information to create a Sketch and Tell instead of writing a summary. When students returned from school, I had them create Flipgrid videos talking about their Sketch and Tell innovations. I gave students Frayer models, on paper, so they could watch Flipgrid videos created by their classmates and take down 3-4 facts they learned about 4 innovations. Finally, they used their Frayer model notes to make infographics about muslim innovations (found here). With remote learning days built in, this lesson covered 5 days (3 remote, 2 in class).

Lesson 3 – Trade

The third lesson in the unit asked the question – What effect did trade routes and travel have on the spread of Islam? I continued using the fast and curious protocol using Quizizz. I kept the same questions from the previous Quizizz, but added new questions about innovation and trade. Students then completed a Cyber Sandwich with a 10 minute read, 5 minute discuss, and 10 minute summary (found here). When the Cyber Sandwich concluded, we took the fast and curious protocol again and raised out class average from 62% to 92%. The next day I followed up the Cyber Sandwich on Islamic trading with a lesson i found from Kevin Roughton called Conversion Factor. This lesson involved taking students on a walking tour through the Islamic Empire. It paired nicely with the Cyber Sandwich on trade. A video of that lesson is found here along with the Google Slides (found here). This lesson covered 2 days.

Lesson 4 – Conflict

The last lesson of the unit had students consider this question – How did conflict advance Islam? I continued with the fast and curious Quizizz and added more questions about conflict. In this particular lesson I wanted to help the students through the writing process so they could successfully create a paragraph with a claim, evidence, and reasoning. I had students work as a group with a Mini Report. They read an article, categorized and typed facts, and summarized their information on the expansion of Islam through Conquests. The next day, we started with a fast and curious Quizizz and went right into a Thin Slide. I used the Thin Slide so students could practice writing a claim. They designed a slide with 1 picture, 1 word, and wrote a claim for the compelling question (Which led most to the expansion of Islam – innovation, trade, or conflict?) in the speaker notes. After 10 minutes, I cycled through the slides and students read their claims word for word. I gave feedback afterwards. Following the Thin Slide, I had students work on an Iron Chef. The Iron Chef slides were collaborative and students designed a slide where they wrote a claim, wrote 2 pieces of text evidence, wrote reasons why the evidence supported the claim, and constructed a paragraph. The Iron Chef slides provided a way for students to give each other feedback. The next day, I began class with the same fast and curious Quizizz. We followed the Quizizz with a Nacho Paragraph. I wrote an awful paragraph – the claim was bad, evidence was vague, and the reasoning was nonexistent. I typed this paragraph on a Google Slide, added it to Pear Deck, and had the students rewrite my paragraph to make it better. Pear Deck made it awesome to give feedback in real time. The Nacho Paragraph was the most powerful Eduprotocol in the entire lesson. The feedback, modeling, and me thinking out loud as I read really resonated with the students. I had students revise their paragraphs on the Iron Chef based on the feedback from the Nacho Paragraph protocol. This lesson took 3 days. Here is a Wakelet collection of this entire lesson.

Final Lesson – Annotated Map

The final lesson was an Annotated Map. I have a strong dislike of premade maps, so I like students to hand draw maps, label them, and annotate the maps with historical research. In this case, the students were going to draw their maps, and write their Iron Chef paragraphs next to their maps. I like this strategy for helping students see the connections between Geography and History. I also had students take the fast and curious Quizizz again – class averages were above 90%! Below are some final products from this unit…..

Success Criteria

I like to post success criteria on Google Classroom for assignments. Most of the Eduprotocols I grade on a 4 point scale. Here’s how I do it (Grading a struggle of mine because I want a focus on learning, not grades. Furthermore, what determines a point total for assignments? I’ve yet to figure it out.)…….

Cyber Sandwich (4 pts):

  • 2-3 important facts from each subheading (or a total of 5 or more notes).
  • The summary paragraph should be 4 or more sentences.


I don’t grade this, but I do circulate the room and check for 3-4 examples and a definition written in the students’ own words.

Number Mania Infographic (4 pts):

  • 4 or more innovations identified.
  • A picture, icons, or GIF showing the innovation.
  • A description for each innovation.
  • A title.

Sketch and Tell (4 pts):

  • The sketch uses Google Shapes or Auto Draw.
  • 2 or more colors used.
  • The tell side successfully answers the question with 3-4 sentences.

Iron Chef (4 pts):

  • A claim was written without using a pronoun and answered the comelling question.
  • 2 valid pieces of evidence from past lessons were used and supported the claim.
  • The reasoning fully explained how the evidence supported the claim.
  • The picture added to the slide related to the claim.

Fast and Curious Quizizz:

  • I will record the score the students get the first time on Quizizz. I exclude this grade from the averages, but I do this to show them where they started.
  • I will record the final Fast and Curious score for a grade to show the students their improvement from day 1 to the end of the lesson.
  • The Quizizz was 16 questions and counted as 16 pts.

The Annotated Map and Final Paragraph (8 pts):

  • The maps I checked for neatness, were continent, countries, cities, oceans labeled correctly and drawn in the proper locations.
  • The paragraphs were graded:
    • to see if the claim avoided use of a pronoun and answered the compelling question.
    • 2 pieces of evidence supported the claim.
    • The reasoning provided more information about the evidence.
    • A concluding sentence.

A Lesson Reflection

I had a week before Spring Break started and my next unit was Westward Expansion. It never fails – one week before a long break with a new unit. I like to use these weeks to try something new. In this instance, I’m reflecting on a student driven unit on westward expansion.

The Design

The end goal for my unit came down to these expectations for learning:

  1. Explain how westward expansion contributed to economic, agricultural and industrial development.
  2. Analyze debates over sectional issues, war with Mexico and the displacement of American Indians in relationship to westward expansion.
  3. Describe how the United States added to its territory through treaties and purchases.

I was looking to see that the groups of students created their own questions related to these expectations. In order for the students to create questions, I started with an 8pARTS Eduprotocol. I created a shared slide deck (click here to access) and students analyzed the painting American Progress by John Gast. Instead of using the classic I See – I Think – I Wonder, I like to use 8pARTS to get students observing and writing creatively. I like to use 8pARTS as a way to get students asking questions they can refer back to during a unit. In this instance, I had the students create 5 questions in the speaker notes.

The next step in the lesson was having students pair up and use a jamboard to share their questions about Westward Expansion. Students collaborated and discussed questions as I gave feedback on good compelling questions.We discussed opened ended questions vs. closed questions. The key phrase that clicked with students in creating a good compelling question was me telling them, “A good compelling question can be answered with research now, but maybe you could change your answer 5, 10, or 20 years from now.” Here is an example of a JamBoard we used to collborate:

Students worked in groups and I had them create a compelling question to start researching. Students then created individual supporting questions for further research. I shared a created Cornell Notes slide to help them (click here for access). As students researched, I gave feedback on compelling questions and supporting questions. Two things that disappointed me were the vague notes and vague summaries on the Cornell Notes. As a result, I used 1 day to do a Cybersandwich.

During the Cybersandwich, I had ever group choose 1 source related to their topic. Everyone in the group read the source for 10 minutes and took 5-6 important fats. They discussed the notes for 5 minutes. Finally they wrote a summary using their notes. I felt it was good to do this to get them back on the same page and to use a familiar lesson in class.

At the end of the lesson, I gave the students 3 options for project choices:

  1. Create a Graffiti Page – click here
  2. Create a Comic Book – click here
  3. Create a Newscast – click here

These are some of the project creations – most students chose the Graffiti Page or the Newscast:

The Good

I was really impressed with the project creations and the information included in them. The students did a nice job with research. I wanted to keep this project simple. Simple meaning – ask a compelling question, discuss supporting questions, and research for a few days. The simplicity of this lesson helped students create awesome projects.

Another item that helped students throughout this process was the simple, effective Thin Slide. Each day, the last 10 minutes of class, students designed a Thin Slide (1 picture, 1 word) about what they learned that day. After a 3 minute slide design, students do a 10 second presentation from their seats about their slide. This definitely helped students reflect, process, and use metacognition throughout this lesson.

The Bad

If there is one thing I would change about this lesson it would be a source review. Overall, an area I need to improve in is helping students chose appropriate resources for research. There is so much crap on the Internet and it’s hard to sift through. How can I help students navigate this process and become critical of sources?

Most of the topics the students chose were about people that went west. This is fine, but nothing was addressed about purchases, treaties, and wars. As a result, I started a new lesson on these topics making an annotated map (more on annotated maps here).

Overall I was really happy with this lesson. The use of Eduprotocols is always a win and the frameworks are so versatile and creative. The project choices were different and creative. Student engagement was consistent each day as they drove this lesson.

Positive Creates

Long before I got into education I thought I wanted to teach tennis. Planning, creating, and teaching lessons to ages 3 to 80 years young. Every ability level in between. Working 7 days a week, and as we used to say ‘Whoopin it up‘ for every class, taking to heart the words of a mentor of mine, “Keep it at 1/4 instructor and 3/4 entertainer.”

With everything in this life, things happen for a reason. I decided 6-7 days a week, 40+ hours on court wasn’t going to last. The ‘Whoopin it up’ wasn’t effective anymore. I just lost interest and decided if I’m not at my best then I’m going to try my hand at something else.

Fast forward 13 years to now – my daughter decided she wanted to try tennis. I decided not to push my tennis onto my daughter unless it was her choice. Now I’m viewing lessons from a completely different perspective – the parent perspective. This is what my new found perspective is affirming for me on a tennis court or in a classroom……

Find the positives and share them anyway and anywhere you can. A positive comment goes a long way. All Lennon could talk about was how well she did weaving between cones doing a footwork drill because her coach yelled, “Holy moly incredible footwork!” Lennon wants to play tennis everywhere we go. When I mention, “One more ball,” Lennon responds, “Then we can pick them all up and do it again?” Those positive comments and enthusiastic coaches created this love of tennis within a 4 year old.

In this life whether you’re coaching tennis or teaching in a classroom and you feel like it’s not enough – from my new found tennis parent perspective, it is enough. Stay positive. Share some joy. Smile. Whoop it up.

Small Changes

I never knew how to put this thought into words until I read this stupid joke:

Why did the chicken join the séance? To get to the other side.

Someone took the classic “chicken crossing the road” joke, which may have been funny hundreds of years ago, changed a couple of words, and made it funny again. Instead of trying to come up with an entirely new joke, not thinking of a joke, getting frustrated and giving up – all it took was a couple of words. Rethinking lessons can be this way too.

My approach to lesson planning is looking for the one thing I can change. How can I take a stale lesson, something not relevant or fun, change one thing and make it better? How can I keep the integrity and focus of the lesson? These are those things I look for:

Is there a lecture that I can do differently?

Is there a video I can replace?

Can I change the formative assessments along the way?

Can I get students creating and collaborating together?

Can I make a small part of lesson interactive?

Can I rearrange the original contents into a competition?

What does all of this look like? Take my Magna Carta lesson for example….

The lesson used to involve an introductory video, a mini lecture, a quiz, and a student created blog post as a summative assessment to fit with our Middle Ages Quest unit. The blog posts from this quest were always the worst – because students couldn’t quite connect this concept of the Magna Carta to their created character. (If you don’t know about the Middle Ages Quest Unit – click here)

I took a step back, zeroed in on that mini-lecture and changed it to a Cybersandwich (click here for a copy). Instantly, my lesson was changed. I started with a quiz, which they bombed, but allowed me to give feedback and address some keywords. Then students did a quick read for 10 minutes and took their own notes. Next, they discussed the Magna Carta with a partner for 5 minutes and compared notes. To finish the Cybersandwich they summarized the Magna Carta in first person point-of-view and created their blog post. Finally class was ended with the same quiz they took at the beginning. Class averages went from 62% to 92%, 56% to 83%. Confidence was built, and students had fun, from a couple of small changes.