Thursday, May 18, 2017

Create a Virtual Field Trip using Google Earth

When teaching about places outside our hometowns, many of us dream of being able to show our students these locations in real life. Cost, travel time and the work it would take to plan a field trip to China, for example, are completely out of the question...unless you're ready to use the magic of the internet! I'm about to show you how to make virtual field trips for your students that will enhance your curriculum and amaze your students.

Google Earth is a free program you can download here. Each device your students use needs to have the program downloaded to it. Google Earth has a wide variety of layers that enable you to access pictures, information about earthquakes, NASA and much more. My favorite option is 360Cities and I'm excited to show you how you can use it in your classroom!

360Cities is a feature that has 360 degree photographs that put you and your students right into the action. Students can turn the photographs in all directions and truly explore the wide world outside their classroom right from their own computer screens!

Ok. Roll up your sleeves and let's start creating your first virtual field trip!

P.S. There's directions for the less tech-savvy teacher at the bottom. This is an activity that any teacher can do!

I'm going to jump in and assume that you've already downloaded the program. Once you're set up and ready to go, look on the left hand side of the screen and find the "Layers" window.  Go to the "Gallery" option and make sure that 360Cities is selected. I usually deselect all the other options because I like a nice clean interface. On that note, I also deselect the "Global Awareness" layer and the "More" layer so that I can focus on finding the 360Cities locations. Feel free to explore these sections, though, and click on various layers to see what you can find!

Identify the locations you would like to have your students visit. I've chosen famous landmarks because I want to introduce my students to the process of using Google Earth during our first couple weeks of school in a really engaging way. Then make a list of the specific locations you want your students to visit.

Here's my list:

1. The Great Wall of China
2. Pyramids of Giza
3. Mount Rushmore
4. Taj Mahal
5. Machu Picchu

Right click in the "Places" window on the left side of your screen. Click "Add" and "Folder". Name your folder ______ Virtual Field Trip.

Now it's time to find the first location on your list. In the search bar at the top left of your screen, type in your first location. Click "search". Google Earth will automatically take you to your destination.

Next, scout around for a good 360Cities icon. I usually find them in most of the places I have on my lists. Once in a while I strike out. In that case, I have to adapt and find a new location! :)  In this case, though, I found the perfect option at the Great Wall of China. There's nothing inappropriate in the picture and it has great image quality! (Please note: I've never found anything inappropriate in any of the 360 images, however I never leave anything to chance. I always preview the pictures before I send my students to any locations around the globe.)

Back on the map, click the "Add Placemark" option and a pin will be added to the map. Drag and drop it onto the 360Cities icon and give it a name. Finally, make sure your new pin is inside your Virtual Field Trip folder. Simply drag the destination onto the Virtual Field Trip folder so that it falls underneath as a subfolder.

You did it! Now repeat the process to add other destinations to your virtual field trip.

Once you have your folder filled with all your destinations, it's time to export the file and put it somewhere all your students can access it.

Right click on your virtual field trip folder in the "Places" window and click the option "Save Place As...". Save the .kmz file into a folder on your computer.

Our last task is to make the virtual field trip easy for our students to access. There are a few ways you can accomplish this task:

1. Post the .kmz file to your class website
2. Share it through a school-based program like Google Classroom or One Drive.
3. Save it to a flash drive (This works if you're only using one or two other computers in your classroom for stations or centers. It's not advised if each of your students have their own computer! The task would be quite time consuming.)

Students will need to save the file onto their computers to use it in Google Earth. Then all they have to do is go to Google Earth, click "File" and "Open", find the file and voila! They are off on a fun and educational adventure.

If the directions above make you a little nervous, there's another option just for you! :)

You'll still need to locate particular locations on Google Earth as well as relevant 360Cities locations. Instead of dropping a pin, however, you'll hover over the 360Cities icon and find the latitude and longitude of the icon. The coordinates you'll need are located at the bottom of your screen.

Write down the coordinates exactly as you'd like your students to type them into the search bar to get to their location. In this case, the coordinates should be typed:

40 25 57.96 N, 116 33 48.63 E

You can post your list of coordinates on the board or on a piece of paper for student reference. Students will type the coordinates exactly as you have written them.

You're all set!

I would LOVE to hear how you plan to use Google Earth in your own classroom as I'm always on the lookout for new ideas to bring to my own students. Leave a comment below to share your ideas! :)

Sunday, May 7, 2017

TpT Teachers Appreciation Sale and a Gift Card Giveaway!

 I feel like I've been waiting for this Teachers Pay Teachers sale for forever! My wish list is full of resources for the end of this year and some goodies to help me get started in planning for next year. I'll definitely be adding some more to it before the savings end on Wednesday night!
The TpT Teachers Appreciation Sale is happening this year on Tuesday, May 9th and Wednesday, May 10th. Tons of resources will be on sale just as we're all gearing up for the end of the year. So excited!
As a special THANK YOU for all you do for your students and colleagues, I'm also excited to partner with The Artventurous Life to host a TpT Gift Card Giveaway!
 The giveaway is for two $10 Gift Cards to TpT! Two winners will be emailed a gift code they can enter in the "Redeem a Gift Card" box when they check out with their order on TpT. To enter, all you have to do is complete the Rafflecopter entry below. The giveaway opens on May 8 at midnight (12:00 a.m. EST). You can complete as many entry options as you want and the giveaway will end at 12:00 am EST on May 10. We'll contact the winners, send the gift codes and the shopping can begin!
a Rafflecopter giveaway

Remember to use the code THANKYOU17 when you checkout to save an additional 10% on your purchase.

Tuesday, April 18, 2017

Review Games for Any Classroom

It’s no secret in my classroom that I’m always on the hunt for an engaging review game for my students. They’re always so excited to play a game before tests and it allows me to see if there are any concepts that need to be addressed again before an assessment. I’m excited to share these ideas with you, all of which have been given the student nod of approval!

Jeopardy-style Review Game: This is a classic staple of many classrooms, including mine! Teams compete to win the game all while reviewing questions related to our content. I’ve played the game as a whole-class activity and in small groups if my students have access to laptops for the day. It’s fun to act like a game show host for the day! I even play it up sometimes by having teams make up their own team name. Usually they compete for an extra credit point or two on our next test. It’s pretty easy to find a ready-made template online. All you have to do is make up your own questions! Using a standard board with 25 questions usually takes up about 40 minutes or so. I typically create two boards to maximize review time in class. It's hard to estimate how long a class will take playing the game so I come prepared each time! Oh - and don't forget the final question! The game can be won or lost in those last 5 minutes. It creates quite an exciting finale!


Trivia Game: I think this style of review game is going to be one of my new favorites. The best part? The game board is designed to be useful for multiple subject areas. Before playing the game with my students, I write down 20 questions. Although it's not necessary, I usually come up with a theme for each round of questions. On the day of the game, I divide students into teams of 3-4 and give each group a minute or two to think of a team name. In a series of 4 rounds, teams answer questions while trying to earn points! It's like trivia night right here in the classroom! The kids LOVE it and it really keeps every single student engaged in the review activity. I recently uploaded a free Trivia Game Board template with all the information and point sheets that you need to try the game in your own classroom.  CLICK HERE  to visit Teachers Pay Teachers and download it for yourself! (I promise it's totally free!)

Bingo: If you’re looking for a more individualized review experience, a bingo-style game is a great choice. I’ve used bingo-style games before (like this Causes of the Revolutionary War Bingo Game in my TpT store) and it’s a quick, informal way to review key terms, important figures, concepts, etc. I love creating bingo boards that are easily customizable by students. It’s important that every board be different and students can quickly fill in the squares on the board from the list of important concepts at the bottom of the game board. It’s an efficient use of time for me AND the students. A win-win!

Attack: I found this FREE review game on Teachers Pay Teachers by the amazing Math in the Middle. It. Is. Amazing. The game, called "Attack!", uses pictures of castles (or any other image that relates to your curriculum), which groups of students can “attack” by getting answers to your questions correct. It’s a huge hit in my classroom and every time we play, students think of new rules to add to the game. They recently added a rule that allows teams to help rebuild castles in an effort to form alliances with other “kingdoms”.  They hardly even know they’re reviewing content! ;)

Paper Toss: An old one but a good one. It’s been called by many names but it’s still a favorite for kids of all ages. Sometimes I save scraps of paper before it hits the recycle bin. Other times I wait until the end of the year and the kids recycle all of their paper one last time. To facilitate comradery, I usually put students into groups of 4. Each student gets the chance to answer a question. If they get it right, their group gets a point and they get to try to shoot for a basket in an attempt to earn an additional point.  We always make sure to recycle the paper at the end of the class! And the best part? A few minutes before the end of class, all the students get to throw their paper into the wastebasket in what can only be described as a big, friendly paper ball fight!
Like I said at the beginning, I'm ALWAYS on the hunt for new review games. If you have any suggestions to share with me, please tell me in the comments! I'm sure I'm not the only one who would appreciate some new ideas. Make sure to take a peek into the comments yourself to see if any inspiration strikes you! :)
~The Teacher's Prep

Monday, September 26, 2016

Presidential Election Resources for the Classroom

This election cycle has thus far been quite interesting, hasn’t it? Thoughts as to how to approach the topic have been on my mind for months. As teachers, it’s our job to present an unbiased look at the candidates while focusing on the ins and outs of the election process. We aim to facilitate healthy discussion, when appropriate, and guide students in becoming responsible citizens capable of making their own informed decisions. I hope you find the resources in this post helpful in your own curriculum design as you navigate the exciting world of elections.

Scholastic Election 2016  

This website is packed with resources for elementary and middle school students. A cool interactive feature is the Road to the White House. As students scroll along the page, they follow the steps that presidential candidates take as they attempt to win the election. There are small bios and fun facts in Meet the Candidates and even a selection of video clips that are each about 2 ½ minutes long.


I’m so thankful that iCivics exists. My students love it! The site includes short lessons on the Electoral Process, Candidate Evaluation and Voting. There are even NEW additions specifically to address the 2016 Election, like candidate bios, debate guides, and an election night tracker. One of my students’ favorite parts of the site is the games section! Two games specifically reinforce concepts related to the election process: Cast Your Vote and Win the White House. My students would happily play Win the White House every day if I let them. Ha!

2016 Presidential Election Candidate Quiz    

There are several candidate match-up quizzes available online, but one of my favorites is the 2016 Presidential Election Candidate Quiz available through As students select their choices, there is a pop-up box that shows them how the candidates align to their views. Students can learn more about certain issues by clicking on the “More” buttons located beside many of the questions. I recommend this quiz be shared with older students. I also always recommend that teachers preview the questions on the site to make sure that the topics are suitable for your school community.

Interactive Notebooks

I love interactive notebooks. They’re engaging and keep students interested in the content due to the hands-on nature of INBs. I designed one for students in 5th – 8th grade that covers voting rights, the voting process, types of elections, the Electoral College, the Presidential campaign process and campaign finance. Each time it’s used, student notes are organized and can be referred back to often during our lessons on the election cycle. The kids love to get out the scissors and glue sticks and customize their notes. If you’re interested in learning more, it’s available on Teachers Pay Teachers right now. There’s even a digital version for teachers using Google Drive in their classroom. J

The Living Room Candidate   

Can’t get enough of those campaign commercials? While we might be tired of seeing candidates in our living rooms by the end of the season, the commercials offer a great learning experience for our students. The Living Room Candidate is a website that has archived commercials that date back to 1952 and recently began including ones from the current campaign cycle! I appreciate that there are so many options available for teaching students the process of evaluating presidential campaigns. If you don’t feel comfortable showing the ads from this year’s election, choose ones with similar messages or themes from past years to teach students the same concepts. The website also includes a selection of lessons geared towards teaching students about evaluating campaign ads.

Does Your Vote Count? By TedEd      

I enjoy finding short, relevant video clips to incorporate into lessons. The Electoral College is a concept that many students find difficult to grasp at first. I was excited to find a 5 minute video hosted by TedEd that is not only informational but visually appropriate and engaging for students. There’s even a little quiz that you can use to check student understanding during your lesson on the Electoral College.


Classroom Debate Toolkit by PBS            

Classroom debates are memorable and rewarding experiences. They encourage students to research and synthesize information while the teacher facilitates a safe atmosphere to debate topics with fact-based evidence and supporting arguments. Middle School and High School is the perfect time to introduce debates to your students. If you’ve never conducted a debate in your classroom, check out the Classroom Debate Toolkit by PBS. Once on the site you can select a PDF document. It's a step-by-step guide to creating and hosting a debate in your classroom. It’s a student-driven experience facilitated by the teacher and challenges students to create logical arguments to support their point of view. The PDF even has a list of ideas for your classroom. While many of the ideas are geared towards older students, there were several debate topics that would be appropriate in a secondary classroom.

 What resources do you use to teach about the Presidential election? I'd love to hear about them so share in the comments!
~ The Teacher's Prep

Friday, July 29, 2016

THREE Back to School Giveaways!

You guys, I am SO EXCITED for this post because I get to share THREE giveaways with you!! I know, THREE! There's a gift card, resource prize packs and a grand prize! It's like Christmas in July, people.

Alright, enough extraneous capitalization. Let's get down to business!

The first giveaway is for a $10 Gift Card to TpT! The winner will be emailed a gift code they can enter in the "Redeem a Gift Card" box when they check out with their order on TpT. You can buy from your favorite teachers or put it towards that bundle you've had your eye on. To enter, all you have to do is complete the Rafflecopter entry below. The giveaway opens on July 30 at midnight (12:00 a.m. EST). You can complete as many entry options as you want and the giveaway will end at 12:00 am EST (midnight) on August 2nd. I'll contact the winner, send the gift code and the shopping can begin!

a Rafflecopter giveaway

The second giveaway is being hosted by the incredible Julie Faulkner and Lauralee on her blog, Language Arts Classroom. It's filled with resources for secondary teachers like you! There are over $400.00 worth of resources being given away on her blog from August 1-5. All you have to do is hop on over to the post between those dates and enter into the category that you teach. I'm contributing something to the Secondary Social Studies Prize Pack...and let's just say it'll be an exciting addition to your creative project collection!

There's a little something for everybody in the giveaway and lots of sellers have contributed some fun resources! There are a variety of categories: Secondary Social Studies, Middle School Science, High School Science, Middle School Math, High School Math, Middle School English and High School English.

Oh yes, the GRAND PRIZE. Teachers Pay Teachers has generously provided a TpT swag bag filled with all sorts of goodies and gift cards to get someone's school year started off right. Visit the Language Arts Classroom between August 1-5 to enter the giveaway!

Have a wonderful Back to School season!

~The Teacher's Prep

Monday, July 25, 2016

A Middle School Teacher's Guide to the First Week of School

The pencils are sharpened, your classroom is clean and the bell rings…gulp…here they come! My feelings on the first week of school are conflicted. On one hand, it’s one of the most important weeks. Explaining and practicing the class procedures and expectations sets the tone for the rest of the school year. Success is vital. On the other hand, I’m so excited to start teaching my historical content that waiting until all the expectations are explained requires a lot of patience! Every teacher has their own plan of action for that pivotal time.
Here are 5 things I can’t live without during the first week of school:
One: An Icebreaker. I aim to try and make kids feel comfortable in my classroom on day one. One of my favorite little activities is Fact or Fiction. Each student receives a small slip of paper and they’re instructed to write one fact and two fictions. Then each person (including myself!) introduces themselves and we all try to guess which statement is the fact! It’s a great way to quickly learn about each other.
Two: Classroom Information and Expectations. This is every teacher’s staple, I know, but it had to go on the list because it’s a must-have! When you’re making your own, spell everything out – from the obvious grading procedures and late work policy to how to pass back papers and when to sharpen pencils and go to the bathroom. Trust me, leave no stone unturned. Your classroom will function much better if you set the tone from day one. (Oh, and don’t forget a seating chart!)
Three: Fun and Games. On the second day of school, I love to start class with a little game. It’s a great way for the kids to start practicing our classroom procedures and expectations while getting familiar with their teacher and classmates. Here are some of my favorite games that I use during the first week of school: (P.S. Some of these activities can be found in my Back to School Activities resources! Click the grade level you’re teaching to check them out: Sixth, Seventh, Eighth)
InstaFriend: This activity gets students moving around the room and interviewing fellow classmates! Their InstaFriend paper has a series of descriptions and characteristics. When they find a student who matches the description, they write their name in the box. Each name can only be used once!
Right or Wrong: I love skits. LOVE THEM. I like to introduce students to the idea of skits during the first week by allowing them to create their own based on our class expectations. I first divide students into small groups of 2-3. Each group then randomly receives one of our class procedures or expectations. As a group, they have to work together to create two mini skits – one showing the RIGHT way to follow the expectation, the other showing the WRONG way. They get to be silly and I get to reinforce my class expectations. After each skit I happily point out all the positive behaviors as well as each time a class policy was violated. It’s a light-hearted way to grab their attention and create a positive atmosphere all while practicing the laws of the land.
Classmate Bingo: I love to play this game at the end of the first week. I give each student a blank bingo board with a large selection of personal characteristics, hobbies, etc. at the bottom. The students choose 16 off the list and create their customized board. Then, I randomly select characteristics from the list. If a student has that characteristic on their board, they have to write down a student’s name that matches the characteristic – but no cheating! They have to use what they’ve learned about others during their first week of school to try and win the game.
Four: A Pre Test. After a few days of class information and fun, it’s time to start getting down to business. Each year, I make a short pre-test on the information they’ll learn about that year. It gives me a chance to see what the kids already know and gives them a feel for what subject matter they’ll be learning about in the coming weeks. FYI: Your pre-test probably won’t take the whole class period. Make sure to have plans for other activities, too, on the day you give your pre-test!
Five: A Writing Activity. True fact: when I tell kids they’re going to do a writing activity, they groan every time. It’s a signal that the “real work” is about to begin. Luckily, they’re always relieved when I assure them that this activity will require very little research because it’s about a subject they’re experts in – themselves! I have a few different activities to choose from each year. Here are some suggestions:
Student Survey: What are your strengths? Weaknesses? What do you hope to learn in this class? These are just some of the questions I ask students in the survey. The more I know about my students, the better I can help them achieve success in my class.
Write Away: A staple of many: write a letter to a future you! I ask students to write goals for the year, dreams they wish to see realized, and questions they want to ask their “End of the Year” self. I tuck these letters away and revisit them during the last week of school.
I’m Ready: Like every middle school history class, we do a lot of writing and students always have to back up their reasons, statements, etc. with evidence to support their claim. In this writing activity, students have to identify which class rule or expectation they believe is most important and provide evidence to support their claim. This activity both reinforces my classroom policies and secretly gives me a preview of their writing proficiency.
Have I left anything out? If you have any fun plans for the first week of school, share them in the comments. I’m always looking for new ideas for my classroom!

Sunday, June 26, 2016

5 Ways to Ace the Teacher Interview

Whether you’re fresh out of college, making a career change or finding yourself in need of a new position in the school system, the interview is a daunting hurdle faced by everyone.  Hearing the words, “You’re hired!” was the sweetest sound my new-teacher ears had ever heard.  Happy dancing ensued and I was more than ready for the wonderful challenge of being an educator.

Right now, though, you may be where I was when the interview process had just begun…scared, nervous, excited…and frantically searching the internet for practice questions and tips for finding success in those school interviews.  Since becoming a new teacher not too long ago, I’ve had the opportunity to sit on the other side of the table and be a part of interviewing committees. Here’s a secret: the process is just as challenging on the part of the interviewers, too! Who knew?! I seriously thought it would be a breeze to interview candidates…after all, I wasn’t in the hot seat anymore! As they say, there is always more to learn and I’m excited to share some insight in hopes that it helps YOU ace your teacher interview.
I know I’m starting with a basic tip, but you’d be surprised at how many candidates show up in wrinkled or ill-fitting clothes! When you walk into the interview room that first impression is vital. You don’t have to spend a ton of money, but arrive in a smart suit or skirt with a classic blouse or ironed and well-fitted Oxford shirt. (Hint: the buttons shouldn’t pull across your stomach or chest to reveal skin or an undershirt! And yes, that actually happened.)  As an interviewer, when I see someone who has clearly taken time to prepare themselves for a good first impression….well…I’m impressed! (See? It works!)
My favorite places to shop for business attire are Ann Taylor, Macy's, Dillard's and New York and Company. Head for the sales racks first to see if you can snag a deal. I was able to luck into great sales when I visited these stores before my interviews.
Also, make sure your hair is brushed, any makeup appears natural, and stick to simple jewelry. Save the statement necklaces for later!
A small portfolio with samples of a lesson or two that represent your teaching style will help interviewers get a better idea of your potential. If you’re brand new to teaching and don’t have any lessons prepared, bring samples of lessons that excite you and that you would like to use in your own classroom! The purpose of the portfolio is to demonstrate that you are ready to bring new or innovative ideas to the school and that you are prepared to work hard and go the extra mile. Very few people actually bring a portfolio to interviews, which makes it all the more impressive when a well-constructed one appears on the table. Oh, and bring extra resumes, too. Everyone at the table should have one in front of them during the interview.
Just a side note: don't forget to follow up after the interview with a personal email or handwritten card. Even if you don't get the job, you'll leave a lasting and positive impression.

Before you arrive at an interview, spend time thoroughly researching the school and its programs. When answering questions, weave details about the school into your responses to demonstrate that you understand the needs, challenges or values that are relevant to that particular school. Not only will this (once again) demonstrate your level of preparedness, but it will also ensure that you understand the school culture. If you’re researching the school and find that it may not be the best fit for you, consider looking elsewhere for a teaching position. After all, the interview is as much about YOU finding the perfect fit for your career as it is for the interviewers to find the perfect fit for their students and colleagues.
Talk to teacher friends and scour the internet for interview-type questions. Read, review, and practice answering as many as you need to until you feel comfortable fielding a variety of questions – from the mundane to the subject or grade-level specific. You definitely don’t want your answers to seem canned or overly rehearsed, but feeling confident in your ability to answer a multitude of queries will shine through during your interview.

Try a few of these:

1.       When did you decide that you wanted to be a teacher?

2.       Take us through a typical lesson.

3.       If I walked into your classroom, what would I see?

4.       Describe your plan to communicate with parents.

5.       How would you differentiate instruction?

6.       What role would assessments play in your classroom? Examples?

7.       What is your behavior management strategy?

8.       Why would you be a good fit at our school?

Finally, and most importantly, be yourself. Finding that perfect fit can be a long process, but it’s vital to find a situation where your personality and teaching style is welcomed and embraced by the school you’ll call home.  Be honest on your resume and when answering questions.  The truth always comes out, and it’s better to discover that you’re not a perfect fit for a school before you’re hired than after you’ve started teaching.  Losing a job due to dishonesty is not a great way to start your career.  Above all, remain confident that you are a great teacher and that it’s only a matter of time before you find the place and people that will help you grow into an amazing educator who will one day turn and offer a helping hand and a warm smile to others in search of their own teaching dream job.

-The Teacher's Prep