MAT Blog

Broaching that age-old question: “Why do we have to learn this?”

Posted by Marygrove MAT on Nov 3, 2014 2:52:23 PM

7550213772_f6cd3f6e5b_h“Why do we have to learn this?” It’s a fair question, it really is, and if we’re confident that what we’re doing has a purpose that transcends “The Test,” it’s probably a question that we should get comfortable with.

This morning we came across a YouTube channel called The School of Life; they have a lot of great videos, but there were two that might come in handy the next time your history or literature students ask you why they are learning about the fall of the Roman empire, or are skeptical about the merits of reading some “dusty old” novel.

While I think both videos make legitimate arguments, they will probably work best as conversation-starters. Enjoy!

What is History for?

What is literature for?

The Reading Playbook, a teachers guide to success


Tags: history teachers, social studies teachers, Literature Teachers,

5 of the Best YouTube Channels for History Teachers

Posted by Marygrove MAT on Sep 30, 2014 10:28:41 AM


social_studies_teachers-1Crash Course

To date, John and Hank Green have put together over 130 YouTube videos. Most of them are under 12 minutes in length and cover a wide range of subjects related to world history, literature, U.S. history, chemistry, ecology and biology. Although Crash Course is clearly targeting a student demographic, adults will find that they have much to learn from these two self-proclaimed “nerdfighters.”

social_studies_teachers_2Mr. Betts Class
This is a hilarious and informative YouTube channel that covers all-things social studies. Want to hear George Washington facts put to the tune of Lorde’s hot single, “Royals?” How about a Miley Cyrus parody about the 13 colonies? No problem, Mr. Betts has you covered.

Viewers can expect a new video every Thursday, so check back often!

Hipsocial_studies3Hughes History
In addition to teaching US History and AP Government for the past 15 years, Keith Hughs is the host of HipHughs History, a YouTube channel jam-packed with educational “shorts” designed for students and lifelong learners. Videos primarily focus on U.S. history and politics, but span across world history and general interest.

social_studies_teachers_4jpgUS National Archives
While the folks at National Archives do lack a sense of humor, they make up for it with an impressive collection of lectures, historical videos, and exclusive, inside-the-vault tours of the National Archives.

History Channel
While we find ourselves questioning the “historicity” of some of their content—Pawn Stars, Swamp People, Ice Road Truckers, anyone?—the History Channel is still unimpeachable when it comes to making historical documentaries. Click here to view the History Channel’s official YouTube collection.





Surfing for Substance II Download

Tags: history teachers, social studies teachers

University of Maryland’s Resource for K-12 History and Social Studies Teachers

Posted by Marygrove MAT on Aug 26, 2014 10:12:36 AM

history_labsMost of us are accustomed to using “labs” in math and science courses, but less often do we associate them with subjects like history and social studies. The University of Maryland’s new History Labs website is designed to turn all of that on its head.

Here you will find an impressive collection of resources and assessment strategies for K-12 American history teachers who are interested in taking a hands-on approach to their subject.

Rather than asking students to focus on memorizing names and dates, History Lab’s methodology is designed to help teachers evaluate students on a continuum. In other words, students will be asked to engage in a series of analytical, procedural, and experiential activities that push them to:

  • Seek to answer an open-ended overarching question that encourages several answers and perspectives
  • Analyze sources and apply information to answer that overarching question
  • Apply literacy and close-reading skills to historical sources
  • Critically examine source materials
  • Apply grade-level and ability-appropriate interpretive skills
  • Adjust or modify the overarching question when necessary
  • Develop present, defend, and refine their evidence-based answers

To learn more about History Labs, watch the video below—and be sure to stop by the History Lab website for more resources.

15 Ways to Kick Start the First Day of School

Tags: history teachers, social studies teachers, K-12 classroom

The Best of the Week: Volume 12

Posted by Marygrove MAT on Jun 27, 2014 12:49:04 PM


There’s never enough time to blog and reblog all of the interesting resources we find during the week, so we decided to start a Best of the Week List where we share all of the education-related blogs, articles, apps and resources we come across every week.

Reading and Language Arts (register a book online, share it, and find out where it travels)
10 More Awesome Fantasy Series That are Not Harry Potter or Lord of the Rings

History-Related Links
For 40 Years, This Russian Family Was Cut Off From All Human Contact, Unaware of World War II (fascinating article from
Inside America’s Atomic City (interesting article and images from Messy Nessy)
The 1970s Cold War Era Home Built 26 Feet Underground
An 8th Grade Final Exam from 1895
1,000 Years of War in 5 Minutes
10 Myths About Vikings
Famous Last Words (tragic and amusing collection of last words!)
The History of Taxes (an interactive infographic)
D-Day Landing Scenes in 1944 and Now (an interactive photo collection)
A Beginner’s Guide to Understanding A Coat of Arms (an infographic)

Classroom Management
How To Turn A Negative Consequence Into A Positive Classroom Management Strategy (an excellent article by Larry Ferlazzo)
7 Ways to Increase Student Engagement (an infographic)

STEM-Related Links
99 More Incredible Lectures From the World’s Top Scientists
Impact Calculator (create a virtual impact on Earth by changing the size, speed and composition of an approaching asteroid or comet)
Bill Nye, Neil deGrasse Tyson, Pamela Gay, and Lawrence Krauss Discuss Our Future in Space
MIT's Freaky Non-Stick Coating Keeps Ketchup Flowing
Remastered and Stabilized Apollo 16 Footage
Science Hack (every science video on the site is screened by a scientist to verify its accuracy and quality)

Random Education Links
4 R’s of Summer School: Keeping the Momentum Going
What People Think A Teacher’s Summer Is Like Vs. What It’s Really Like
Road Tested / Lesson Closure: Stick the Landing (good advice on ending lessons with a bang)
Meaning Makers or Empty Vessels (6 questions we should ask ourselves before assigning homework)
Rethinking Homework (an interesting article from author and former-principal, Alfie Kohn)

Technology in the Classroom
Shadow Puppet Edu (a free app to help you capture and share student work)
Integrating Technology & Genius Hour: My Journey as a Teacher & Learner (a nice collection of resources related to Genius Hour)
Contemplate (a proverb-generating web application)
Draw a Stickman (free web application; could be useful for developing students’ fine motor skills)

The Coffee Cup Analogy (good advice on pursuing happiness)
The Straight Dope (you ask a question, Cecil Adams will answer it)
Partially Examined Life (philosophy podcasts)
Philosophy Bro (nice collection of summaries of philosophical works)


A Teacher's Guide to Summer Travel

Tags: STEM, classroom management, history teachers, social studies teachers, reading instruction, The Best of the Week

5 of the Best Interactive Map Generators for Teachers

Posted by Marygrove MAT on Jun 26, 2014 9:23:24 AM


If you’re artistically challenged like I am, you’re probably getting tired of looking at hand-drawn maps that barely resemble their topographical subject. Perhaps it’s time to re-energize and refocus your students—and yourself—with these five interactive map generators.

map generatorMy Histro gives users the ability to customize their interactive maps and timelines by adding text, pictures and video to them. Once you’re satisfied with your work, you can either embed it, convert it into a PDF file, or export it into Google Earth format for offline storage.

map generatorTripline is a nice little web application designed to help users document their travel adventures or plan a trip itinerary. There are a few ways you can plot out your trip: One, you can use your smart phone to “check-in” at various locations; two, you can simply add markers by plotting them directly on the map; three, you can use Foursquare or Twitter to geo-target your location.

map generatorU Mapper allows you to choose a map provider—Bing, Google, Yahoo, etc.—or upload your own customized image. Once you’ve selected your map, you can add images, audio, and choose from a variety of objects to tack onto your map.

map generatorStatPlanet is an award-winning application that allows users to create interactive maps, graphs, charts and infographics. StatPlanet is intuitive to use and allows you to easily post your work on the web. To see some stunning, user-generated maps, click here.

map generatorIf you’re a creative type, you should know that Mapfaire doesn’t give you a lot of options—but it is an ideal application for younger or less tech-savvy students. No registration is required to use the app, but you will need to have a Google account.

A Teacher's Guide to Summer Travel

Tags: apps for educators, history teachers, social studies teachers, apps for teachers, interactive maps

The Best of the Week: Volume 11

Posted by Marygrove MAT on Jun 20, 2014 9:53:00 AM


There’s never enough time to blog and reblog all of the interesting resources we find during the week, so we decided to start a Best of the Week List where we share all of the education-related blogs, articles, apps and resources we come across every week.

Reading and Language Arts
News-O-Matic: Daily Reading for Kids (free application available on iTunes)
Seven Strategies to Teach Students Text Comprehension
Text Compactor (free online summary tool)

Random Education Links
The Tough Decision to Leave the Classroom
Genius hour: Making time for Passion in the Classroom
10 Ways to be a More Reflective Teacher
The Genius Hour Manifesto
Transforming School Culture Through Mutual Respect
Four Essential Ways to Avoid Educator Burnout
The Ultimate Summer Reading List for Teachers
A Nice Collection of Free Education Guides from Edutopia

History-Related Links
“Smithsonian Quests” program (online summer learning experience for students)
History on the Net (free history information website) (online history lessons, revision, games, worksheets, quizzes, and links)
D-Day Hour by Hour for the iPad

Classroom Management
The Real Meaning of Classroom Management (an interview with teacher and author, Harry Wong)
Top Classroom Management Software Products
DyKnow (a web-based classroom management tool)
Behavior Tracker (available on iTunes for $.99)
Pupil Track (available on iTunes for $.99)

STEM-Related Links
2 World Cup Math Lessons: “How Many Ways?” and “World Cup Draw”
Create a Graph (free web application)
Mahjong Chem (free game to practice chemistry)

Technology in the Classroom
12 Ways to Share Almost Any File With Your Students
An Educator’s A-Z Guide to Twitter (an infographic)
Just (an easy to share text and images)
Zaption (an app that allows you to create video-based quizzes)


New Call-to-Action

Tags: STEM, history teachers, reading teachers, technology in the classroom, The Best of the Week

5 of the Best Places to Find Historical Photographs

Posted by Marygrove MAT on Jun 9, 2014 10:02:00 AM

A couple years ago, Larry Ferlazzo shared a hefty collection of ideas for how teachers can use photos in the classroom. Since then, I’ve been regularly incorporating a number of his activities into my writing lessons. I won’t bother to rehash all of Larry’s ideas here, but I do want to share a few of the websites where I find cool, and often strange, historical photos.

historical photosRetronaut is hands down one of my all-time favorite websites. I subscribe to the Retronaut newsletter, so every morning I receive an email with a new collection of historical photographs. It’s a great way to start the day, and even if I don’t plan on using photos in the lesson that day, I still choose a “photo of the day” so that students can look at it and discuss before we dive into our lesson.

historical photosJones Photo Historical Collection houses four generations of the family-owned photographs. Most of what you’ll find on this site is from the 20th century, and although the collection is still a work in progress, viewers can currently browse over 10,000 photographs.

historical imagesShorpy features thousands of high-definition images from the 1850s to 1950s. They also have a gallery store where you can purchase prints.

historical imagesCritical Past is home to more than 57,000 historic clips and 7 million stills. Although you won’t be able to download these clips to your hard drive without paying for them, you can stream everything on the site for free.

historical imagesLibrary of Congress is another place where you’ll find a nice collection of historical photographs. The Library’s Prints and Photographs Division houses over 14 million items, ranging from historical photographs and architectural drawings to advertising labels and posters from all over the world. You can find more than one million pictures among the digitized collections in the Prints and Photographs Online Catalog at the Library of Congress Web site.


End of the Year Advice Book

Tags: history teachers

140 Interactive Maps for History and Social Studies Teachers

Posted by Ryan O'Rourke on Apr 15, 2014 10:57:00 AM

social studies teachersI love interactive maps and this morning, Stumble Upon took me to what may be the holy grail of free interactive maps!

My Reading Mapped gives users the opportunity to digitally experience history through over 140 Google Map formatted documentaries on history and science. 

Forty maps in the collection are linked to free eBooks that allow users to read more about explorers and their expeditions. Each location plot is cited with a quote, page reference, web link and/or other source. 

Maps have been categorized by the following:

If you’re looking for more interactive maps, check out one of our recent blogs posts, “5 of the Best Interactive Maps for Social Studies Teachers.”



Social Media Strategies for Teachers

Tags: apps for educators, Best Apps for Educators, history teachers, social studies teachers, interactive maps

Read All About It: 5 Places You'll Find News for Kids

Posted by Ryan O'Rourke on Mar 20, 2014 9:47:00 AM

Years later, I still look back fondly on what my seventh grade teacher called “Current-Events Friday.” This meant that each student was responsible for selecting three articles from the newspaper, summarizing them and then sharing one article with the class.

Back then, most of my peers and I were stuck with The Detroit Free Press, but the Internet offers our students infinite choices as to where they want to find their current events selections. Below you’ll find five of our students’ favorite news sites. 

Read All About It: 5 Places You'll Find News for Kids

news for kidsBy way of what they call a “special agreement” with more than 800 worldwide newspapers, Newseum posts hundreds of new front pages on their website every day.

news for kidsIf you’re students are looking for political and editorial cartoons on current events, The Cagle Post should be their first stop. 


The New York Times Learning Center is updated every day with articles, activities, and detailed lesson plans based on current events.

news for kidsIf you’re looking for a new way to approach current events in the classroom and you want to be sure that you’re sticking to the Common Core, stop by Newsela and sign up for a free educator account.

Once you add your students to the roster, you can directly assign news pieces. Here’s the cool part: There are four unique versions of each article and they all vary in difficulty. Should a student find that the reading level is too easy or difficult, a different version of the same news piece is only a click away.  

news for kidsEvery day, the folks over at Tween Tribune  scour the Internet for engaging news stories suitable for K-12 students. If you sign up for a free account, you can assign Tween Tribute quizzes related to the content your students are reading. An added bonus: the results of the quizzes will be sent directly to your email account.

download click and clunk

Tags: apps for educators, Best Apps for Educators, history teachers, social studies teachers, news for kids

The National Archives Contains Over 40 Online Exhibits

Posted by Ryan O'Rourke on Mar 14, 2014 10:19:00 AM

The National Archives website is an historical goldmine where users can dig for ancestry and military records, browse photographs, and even order ship passenger arrival records (1820-1959), Eastern Cherokee applications, and federal military pension files from 1775-1865.

To top it all off, there are 40 other online exhibits. We didn’t have time to browse all of them, but we do want to highlight our three favorites.

the national archivesEyewitness
Here you’ll find vivid and intensely personal accounts of historical events:

  • Thomas Jefferson reports firsthand on the fear and panic that grips the city of Paris in July 1789, during the first violent convulsions of the French Revolution
  • President Lincoln’s family physician poignantly describes how the President clings to life through the night of April 14, 1865, after being shot in Ford’s Theater.
  • The crew of the Apollo 8, in 1968, travels farther from Earth than anyone ever has and sees Earth as no one has ever seen it.

the national archivesDigital Vaults
This exhibit contains over 1,200 documents, photographs, drawings, maps, and other materials. Using a keywording system that visually links records, the Digital Vaults enables visitors to customize their exhibit experience, create posters, movies, games, and share them through email.

the national archivesPicturing the Century
This exhibit contains over 100 years of snapshots from revered photographers Walter Lubken, Lewis Hine, George W. Ackerman, and Ansel Adams to name a few. Users can browse by artist portfolio or by galleries to find photos that depict some of the most beautiful, horrific and pivotal moments in the history of our country.

Social Media Strategies for Teachers

Tags: apps for educators, Best Apps for Educators, history teachers, social studies teachers, virtual field trip

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