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Brainy Apples: January 2017
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This Day In History Yearlong Project

Brainy Apples, social studies, history
One difficulty I have faced teaching social studies is figuring out how to help my students connect with events from the past. I want my students to be able to go beyond just reading about historical events. I want them to be able to reflect and think about what it would have been like to have gone through an event, or what it would have been like to have been alive during a given time period. This year I decided to have my students work on a yearlong project, and just because it's "yearlong" doesn't mean it's super time consuming. This project has helped my students stop and think. There is something about realizing some historical event happened, on this very day, that helped my students connect with past events. Not only that, but this project also has helped my students with their research skills, standards we are learning about in class, and perseverance (because it isn't always easy to find an important event that happened on a specific day in a specific region).

Basically this project entails 4 students every day having an assignment due. Wait! It's not that bad! I promise! At the very beginning of the year, I sat down with all of my class rosters (I teach 5 classes). I focused on the following regions because these are the regions we study in the 6th grade: Latin America & the Caribbean, Europe, Canada, and Australia. {I put up "Other" because I knew I would have some students who would make a mistake and not find an event in their assigned region. I wanted to still be able to hang theirs up even if it was not completed correctly. You could also use "Other" if you used tickets or some other incentive in your classroom. A student could earn that incentive by going above and beyond what you ask of them by finding an event in another part of the world in addition to the region he/she was assigned.}

Brainy Apples, history, social studies

I could have also added in more regions, but this was the first year I tried this project, so I wanted to start out slowly (and I only have so much bulletin board space). Then I tallied up all the days that would be in the school year. I included weekends and days we weren't in school from mid-August (because I needed time to explain this project to my students and give them time to start researching) all the way to the next to last week of school. I don't have the exact number because I left it at school (Friday was early release for snow...I was a tad excited to get home!), but I took that total number of days and divided it by the number of students. That's the number of days each student would be responsible for finding events. Each of my students would be assigned about 10 dates each. I wanted each student to find an event for each region, and I wanted to make sure students had a couple weeks in between their assigned dates.

I only assigned dates for first semester, so I could tweak the process if needed for second semester. I made an Excel spreadsheet for each of my classes, with the kiddos down the left and the regions across the top. To assign the dates, I started with the first kid in my first class, and began writing down the dates under the Europe column. When I reached the end of the first class, I went on to the second class. And so forth until I had used all of the dates for first semester. Then I moved onto assigning the dates in first semester for Canada. I used the same process for each region. Here are two of my lists so you can get the idea:

I added a second set of regions because I had dates remaining after I went through all of my classes. Not all of my students have 5 dates. Some have 4. But those students with 4 had 5 dates first semester, and those with 5 only had 4. It works out over the entire year. Even though I wanted a couple of weeks between a student's dates, sometimes it didn't work out that way. But I do give them all of their dates at the beginning of the semester, so they know well in advance to plan. I let them know not to wait until the last minute to research their date. Some dates and regions can be tricky to find an event!

The benefit of having the dates and regions written out this way is that you can easily see who has what, and if students write down the wrong date, you have evidence of the correct date. The easiest way for me to keep track of who turns in their assignments on time is that I made every Friday a due date. So if their date is the following Sunday through Saturday, their date is due the Friday before (on the back of the directions page, I have a chart of all due dates - you can download this from the link at the bottom of this post- students go through and highlight all of their due dates using this chart). This lets me hang up the dates Monday morning before school starts. I like the dates to be up all week so students can read through them during the week. No, not all students turn in their assignments by the due date. So as I go through the submitted assignments, I highlight the date green. If the assignment is missing, I highlight it pink. That way if a student turns it in late, I have a record of it not being submitted on time (I teach advanced, so students missing due dates factor into their grades and placement in an advanced class the following year). It also easily lets me see who I need to speak with Monday regarding their missing assignment. Grading is easy, too, because I use a simple rubric. I have 28 to grade a week (7 days in the week x 4 regions), but I can get them all graded in about 20 minutes. I give a grade for this (according to the points on the directions page), so it's a really easy way for me to collect about 5 grades per semester just from this project. 

Once the students have their dates and regions, they research to find one important event that occurred on that date in that region. Some regions are harder than others. Some dates are harder than others. Students know that if they can't find a historical event, they can use birth dates and death dates, and they know they can look at sports, books, movies, etc. I have gotten some kiddos saying, "I can't find anything!" I do offer a little bit of help, but often times they can't find anything because they have spent 5 minutes looking and gave up. 

I'm not even going to pretend all of my students turn their assignments in on time, which is why the pictures in this post have empty spaces. By Tuesday I usually have all the dates because I remind them on Monday if they haven't already turned it in. 

This assignment has three parts: the event, a visual, and a paragraph. Students turn in the event (with the date) and visual to be hung up, and then they turn in the paragraph which isn't displayed. I wait until the week after I hang them up to grade them because I staple all three pieces to the rubric. I did display the paragraph at first, but then I realized I did not have enough room for them. I also was going to put a header for each day of the week at the top, but decided against it. I just start with the Sunday date and staple from left to right. 

Brainy Apples, history, social studies

So far my students and I are loving this project! It's so cool to hear a student say, "Wow. Today is the day when Germany invaded Poland to start WW2." Just to hear them stop. Just that they S.T.O.P. and reflect on an event. That they THINK about the event. That's what I wanted from all of this. 

If you are interested in giving it a try, you can download all the documents {HERE}. I have included the directions with an editable due date table, headers, and examples to show your students. I hope you give it a try!

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