Teaching The History of Thanksgiving: Are We Doing It Right?

Growing up I was taught the history of Thanksgiving in school, just like many of you. The stories were about cornucopias, planting corn, peaceful dinners, and interactions of the Native Americans (referenced as Indians at the time) and the Americans. It was a great story that left us all feeling satisfied and happy with the ending, understanding why we all sit around the table every Thanksgiving Day with our families and eat food. 

And then one day I learned more about the true history behind Thanksgiving, as I’m sure most of you did too. If you haven’t yet, just do a quick Google search and it’ll give you a deep dive of information. I distinctly remember that day in my college class when I learned the true, brutal history of Thanksgiving and how betrayed I felt learning that I had been withheld from the truth. It made me think of the reason behind the misinformation given. Here were the few I came up with. 

  1. Because my teachers were genuinely misinformed. They hadn’t taken the time to research it themselves, they just trusted the curriculum placed before them and went with it. And we can’t blame them for that! Have you ever thought about researching long division and questioning if it really works or the history behind it? No! 
  2. Our schools teach American Exceptionalism in their curriculum. They want students growing up thinking we as a country are the most exceptional and incredible at everything we do. So this means hiding history. 
  3. I think in a way it’s also their mindset that they are “protecting” students by shielding them from the violence and bad things of the world. That if we teach only good things, that’s how our society will continue to act. 

But is this the right way? Information is incredible for teachers, it would be beneficial to research the history before teaching it. And it’s okay to admit that our country isn’t the best at everything! For example, if you Google search “Which country has the most advanced health care?”, you’ll get multiple lists all with various answers, but it’s important to note that The United States is not even in the top 5 of the majority of these lists. It’s okay to admit that we aren’t the best in health care (or education, or transportation, or anything else!), because it’s a good learning opportunity for our country to receive information from those that are better at it than we are. 

And is it really doing our students any good to protect them from the truth? I know for me, it didn’t “protect” me from anything, it just made me feel betrayed and lied to once I did learn the truth. There’s power in learning about our harsh pasts of the country because we as a society can recognize the mistakes and learn from them so they aren’t repeated again. 

This video does a great job of giving a quick (real) history of Thanksgiving:

What are your thoughts on teaching the true history of Thanksgiving in classrooms? 

Review Games For Every Age and Subject

review games for every age and every subject

Points: This one is simple. It’s easy and can be done on a whim. Divide the class into groups or just in half. Start asking questions on the topic you want to review and give points to teams that answer correctly. It’s a bonus if you ask probing questions that require a discussion among the team! 

Kahoot!: I believe this game is well-known among most teachers, but if not, you can see their website here. It’s free! And a great way to study as a whole group or individually. 

Jeopardy: A classic! You can find free templates online to use from your computer, or go with the old-fashioned paper taped to the whiteboard way. This can be fun to switch it up from not using technology all of the time, and it’s an easy one to store and use again the next year. 

Beach Ball Toss: Write or tape review questions onto a beach ball and toss it around the room. Whoever catches the beach ball, answer the question that their left thumb lands on. 

Hedbanz: If you own this popular game, you can easily change out the cards to reflect the information you are reviewing. 

Whiteboards: Need a review game but haven’t planned ahead? Don’t worry, we’ve all been there. Have your students grab their personal whiteboards and write or draw answers to questions. If you want to promote collaboration, break into groups and have each group answer on one whiteboard. 

Be The Teacher: This role reversal can be so fun for students! It can be done as a bigger project that lasts a few weeks with plenty of preparation, or just on a whim if you feel like you have students that can easily get up and teach specific subject matter. 

Why Learning Geography Is Important (Pt. 2)

teaching geography

Back in 2013, we published an article on “3 Reasons Why Learning Geography is Important.”

The three reasons outlined in the article are: 


Increasing Worldviews: This is what opens doors for students to realize that there are unlimited options for the “right” ways to live your life. Learning about other cultures (and where they’re located) is a huge step in increasing tolerance of all different lifestyles. It shows the differences, which we all expect to see, but can also shed light on unchanging factions of human nature that we all share.

Creating Contributing Citizens: Knowing about geography, the resources located in each country, and the effect those have on the economy can educate students on the reasons for certain current events. Learning about the governments in each country can also contribute to growth in other areas involving world events.

It’s Impressive: Not that we should learn solely to impress others, but there is something to be said for a person who can talk about Azerbaijan and Andorra. Plus, if you ever want to work for the CIA or be the next Lara Croft or James Bond, knowing your geography is a must! Haven’t you ever noticed how all the really awesome adventure stars in movies randomly know all sorts of things about the most random places? Geography.”


While this article still stands and is relevant today, there are more points that I feel like we can add about learning geography. 

Studying Geography is a gateway into studying History. So we know the pyramids are in Egypt and the Eiffel Tower is in Paris, but what’s the history behind it? What can we learn about why these icons are there, where they came from, and who built them? There is so much of our world’s geography to learn, along with the history and background of the location. 

Globalization: Some of our oldest community members do not fully grasp the concept of globalization, because the idea of leaving your state, let alone your own community, was not as attainable as it is in today’s world. Right now we can have conference calls while sitting at our home in Minnesota with someone else sitting in their home in India and another person at their home in Japan. And even beyond that, it’s a simple airplane ride away to visit these various places for work, recreation, education, and more. Navigating our entire world is easier than ever, and it’s important to know where you’re going while doing it. 

And more. There are so many reasons to learn geography! It is not a lost subject, it should be a growing one. What other reasons would you add to this list? 

Helping You Offset Classroom Costs

Extra pencils
Crayons
Highlighters
Sticky notes
Anchor charts
Bulletin board supplies
Sticky tack
Pens
Dry erase markers and erasers 
Classroom books

Just a small list of must-haves at the start of a new school year for teachers, no matter how long they’ve been teaching! Supplies wear out, get lost, or break and every year a new list must be written. But where’s the flaw in this? Teachers aren’t buying these supplies and turning in their expense reports to the principal to be reimbursed. They aren’t turning their lists of supplies into the secretary to order, either. Teachers are paying out of pocket for their supplies each year, and let’s be honest, they don’t get paid enough to do that! 

It’s a broken system, and it’s unfair to teachers everywhere. But until something changes, here are a few tips to keep your personal costs down when it comes to supplying your classroom with what it needs. 

Make a list of wants vs needs. Do you NEED borders for your bulletin boards in order for your students to learn and grow? No! If you are able to buy them, great! If not, don’t stress. Have your students create some for you! Be very reasonable with yourself on what your classroom wants and what it actually needs. 

Ask family, friends, and neighbors to donate to your classroom. Creating an Amazon wishlist is a great option for them to know exactly what you need and gives them the ability to support you in an easy, convenient way. Read more about #ClearTheList here

Enlist parents of your students to help. Tell them your classroom needs and give them the option to donate if they can! 

DIY instead of buy! Target has great book bins, but a quick Pinterest search gives you plenty of ideas on how to make them yourself out of recycled material. Bonus that you are recycling! 

Create a Donors Choose to help raise funds for the bigger projects/ needs of your classroom. 

Reach out to your school and district to see what they are willing to supply and what else falls on you. Some schools are willing to chip in a certain amount of supplies and some schools are not able to supply anything. It’s worth it to ask! 

What else do you do to offset the costs of school supplies for your classroom? 

Get to Know You Games for Back to School

We are officially on the countdown here for school starting in the fall! However, since we start mid-August, that’s technically late summer… Needless to say, school prep is in full swing at our house with my daughter starting preschool in 6 short weeks and myself trying to decide (just like every year) if I want to substitute teach a few days here and there. 

With going back to school also comes “get to know you games” that I am certain each teacher starts googling as they get closer and closer to that first day of school. Well never fear, I have a list here of great get-to-know-you games that you can pull out for students to get to know each other, and for YOU to get to know them. 

Would You Rather

Materials: A list of “would you rather” questions. 

How to play: Come up with, or even google search, a list of “would you rather” questions. These are questions like “Would you rather eat only vegetables all day, or only fruits all day?” or “Would you rather have indoor or outdoor recess?” You can come up with your own questions that you’re genuinely curious about, or find silly ones online! 

For them to tell you their decision, they choose a side of the room. You determine which side is which for each question, and the students all move to that side of the room to choose their answer. You can determine if you want the middle of the room to be “neutral” or if they MUST choose a side and cannot remain neutral. 

Drop The Cloth

Materials: A big blanket or sheet, not see-through and fairly wide.

How to play: Split the class into two teams. Choose two students as your “helpers.” These students can be swapped out throughout the game to make sure everyone has a chance to play. Create a line in the middle of the floor either with the blanket or a long piece of tape, and have the two teams sit on either side of the line, on the floor. Your two helpers will lift up the blanket, creating a barrier between the two teams so that they cannot see each other. Choose one person from each team to move forward and sit right in front of the blanket. On the count of three, the helpers drop the blanket and the two chosen students have to race to say the other student’s name before the other person. Whichever student says the opposite student’s name first, wins a point. Bonus, you as the teacher jump in with one of the teams to see how many names you can remember! 

How to win: You can either say “first to _____ points wins” or play as long as the game naturally goes, or until every student has a turn, and see which team has the most points in the end.

Snowball Fight

Age range: 2nd grade- high school (or once your entire class can read fairly well.) 

Materials: Plenty of paper, a large open space (a classroom can work fine, but somewhere like the gym or field outside can be better). 

How to play: Write out one “get to know you” question for each sheet of paper. You’ll need at least one question per child, but having 10-15 more is also beneficial to have a good variety of questions. You can either write these out yourself or if your students are older, you can have them submit their own get to know you questions. 

A distinct divider will need to be in the middle of the space you are playing in, whether that be a line on the gym floor or a strip of tape on the classroom floor. Divide your class into two teams and dump the crumpled pieces of paper into the middle of the floor. Give the students 30 seconds to a minute to then throw the “snowballs” across the room to the other team. 

*A great rule to have in place for this game is to only throw one snowball at a time. Don’t learn this the hard way as I did! 

Their goal is to have the least amount of snowballs on their side of the room when the timer goes off. Once the timer goes off, every student takes a seat where they are standing and grabs the nearest snowball to them. Then they uncrumple a piece of paper and answer the question to the class. Bonus if they say their name before answering the question! Go around the room until each student has read a question. If time permits, reset the game and play again! 

How to win: Whichever team has the least amount of snowballs on their side when the game ends, wins! You can do one round, or the best one out of three, three out of five, etc. This is also a great game for students to practice their listening skills as you quickly go around having students answer the questions. 

Two Truths and a Lie

How to play: Each student must come up with two truths and one lie about themselves. They can be provided with a paper to write them down if you feel like they will forget by the time the game is around to them. They’ll say the two truths and one lie out loud to the class in whatever order they would like, and the rest of the class has to determine which one is the lie. Here is an example.

I love orange juice. (lie)

My favorite color is blue. (truth)

I traveled to the Oregon coast this summer. (truth)

Go around the room until every student has had an opportunity to say their own two truths and a lie. 

How to win: This can be a simple “get to know you” activity where it’s just all fun and games with no winner. Or you can play individually where each person tracks their own points. Another way is to break the class into groups and have each of them decide together what the lie is, to bring in a little teamwork! And then keep score to see how many each group gets correct. 

Roll the Ball

Materials: A small ball 

How to play: The whole class sits in a circle. The teacher starts by rolling the ball across the circle to a student and asks the student a get to know you question. 

*Tip- sample questions can be written upon the board for students if they need to reference them. 

The student catches the ball, states their name, and answers the question. Then this student rolls the ball across the circle to a different student, repeating the process. Go until each has had a turn to answer questions.

A Few Facts To Help You Decide If Homeschool Is For You

Let’s talk pros and cons of homeschool to help other parents out there make the best decision of whether or not homeschool is the right answer for them. For this list, I will not be writing them out in a pro/con list necessarily, but rather in just a list. Because some points may be a pro for one family, but a con for another. So here are the facts! 

  • Homeschool your kids are home and around you 24/7, whereas a school where they leave for the day, you aren’t around them as much. 
  • Traditional schools are a built-in social atmosphere where kids learn how to interact with peers. In a homeschool scene, it takes more deliberate effort to create those social interactions with your kids. 
  • True homeschool comes with more flexibility in the curriculum. Online homeschool will have their set curriculum, but if you are solely your child’s teacher, you get to teach when, how, and where you want! 
  • There is a lot of flexibility in your day and your life when you homeschool. Many families take advantage of this by traveling more often. Worldschooling is also something worth looking into. 
  • Homeschool can be 100% tailored around the student, which is nearly impossible in any school with more students than just a few. That means if they are falling behind in reading, but excelling in math, their whole day can be planned around their needs. 
  • If it’s online homeschool, it’s not necessary to do as much planning for curriculum/day-to-day learning because the program takes care of that. 
  • If you are 100% homeschooling without an online platform, you choose the curriculum, plan everything out, and execute it. 

There are a lot of pros and cons when it comes to homeschool, and some of these points can be a very big deciding factor on whether or not a family chooses to homeschool. If you homeschool, how did you decide that it was the best journey for you and your family? Share below to hopefully help someone else make this decision! 

The Pros And Cons of Public School

When sending your child to school, there are a lot of options out there, not just public schools. It can be overwhelming to make a decision with so many options, what are the differences between public schools and charter schools? What about private schools? Is homeschool an option for your family? 

Over the next few weeks I am going to break down facts about different types of schools, listing pros and cons and points that may help you better make a decision. For today- let’s talk about public schools. 

Public schools are scattered throughout the nation, typically with boundaries throughout neighborhoods saying which homes attend which schools. Because they are open to the public, they are inexpensive. Usually, only a small fee for registration, if that. 

However, with the boundaries public schools bring, oftentimes it can mean lower-income students are clumped together and higher-income students are clumped together, which can lead to lower diversity levels. This stems from redlining. 

Public schools can create a sense of community for kids because they go to school with the same kids in their neighborhood. They walk together, play together, and go to school together. Another great aspect of public schools is oftentimes they are located close enough to homes that your child can walk or bike to school. 

A downside to public school is the amount of time it takes for new innovation to be adopted into the curriculum. Typically charter or private schools are more likely to bring in these methods before public schools do. 

It can also be hard to obtain a more individualized education because of larger class sizes, many parents can find concerns in not enough time and attention on their student and the help they need. 

Public schools are government funded, therefore the government plays a big role in not only the funding, but the teaching, the policies, etc. 

Overall, public schools have multiple pros and cons. And while some of these points may be a positive aspect to one person, it could mean a negative point to another. The purpose of this article is not to sway you one way or another, but to simply inform. 

What else would you include about public schools that might help a parent make a decision about what type of school they would choose for their children?