Create Your Own Bundle and SAVE!!!

One of the thousands of amazing things about TpT is the ability for teachers to create classroom resources for other teachers, including whole units, at discounted prices–what teacher doesn’t want to save money?!  After being inspired by a fellow TpT-er, I figured out how to give you all the chance to pick and choose what you want from my store and make a customized bundle.

With this customized option, you’re not restricted to JUST my Revolutionary War items, or JUST my WW2 Primary Source Analysis activities, but rather you can request my Ancient Egypt Review, Compare the Ancient and Modern Olympics, French Revolution Test, FDR Timeline, Imperialism in Africa Map, Women’s Suffrage Mini-Lesson, and Travel Agent Poster Project for a discounted bundle price of 20%-40% off.  Really, if you want 2 or more items that aren’t already bundled together follow the instructions in my custom bundle listing and I will bundle them for you at a discount!

create your own bundle!

click here to create your own bundle!

I’m really looking forward to creating a bundle just for you!!!  Click the image above for more information on creating your own bundle, and click HERE to start browsing my resources.

TpT Tips:

1.  If you want to be notified when I have posted a new resource, am having a sale, or have a freebie to give away to just my followers, click the green star next to “follow me” under my store name.

2.  If you would like to receive credits towards ANY future TpT purchase, please leave feedback on the items you have already purchased from ANY store on TpT 🙂

3.  There is no longer a $3 minimum to check out on TpT so if you see an item for $1.50 you can buy it right then and there!

My Take on Exit Tickets

Exit tickets, or exit slips, are really big in classrooms right now.  They give a teacher a quick snapshot of what a student did or did not understand so the teacher knows if the next day should start with a review/clarification or can move on to the next topic.  Well, when I adopted exit tickets in my own classroom I didn’t want too much extra work for myself (yes, I said that out loud) and I wanted my students to be able to show me on their own what they learned however they wanted (within reason of course) rather than everyone answering one or two pre-set questions.

So that led me to my own version of exit slips, 3 examples of which you can see below.  The top one is for President Johnson’s Impeachment Trial, the bottom left is about the Space Race, and the bottom right is about propaganda geared towards men during WW2 (it’s asking men if they want to be a war hero or a couch potato).

my take on middle and high school exit tickets

my take on middle and high school exit tickets

So what I have my kids do on the front of a piece of paper, is give me some sort of representation of what they found most interesting that day/week in class.  This gives them the chance to be creative, be visual, and do anything other than write an essay to show me what they learned (one student wrote a haiku about the Boston Tea Party once, that was pretty cool).

Then on the back, they very honestly answer 2 questions:
1) What are 3 other things you learned today/this week that you understand well enough to explain them to someone else?
2) What are you still confused about or have questions about, essentially, what did I not teach you well enough?

I’ve been very lucky that since I implemented these exit tickets, I really have most of the time received honest answers to those questions.  I think this style of “show me what you learned and what you still are confused by” puts less pressure on the kids because there isn’t one question of the day with a right or wrong answer, it gives them a chance to do some self-reflection, and it gives me way more interesting pieces of student work to look over at the end of the day and a more well-rounded representation of what was understood and what wasn’t.  If you’re looking for something new to try this year, I’d definitely recommend this, it’s student tested and approved 🙂

Oh and to clarify, I either address what the students wrote for #2 before we start class the next day (especially if it was mentioned a few or more times) or I’ll respond to it on the back of their exit ticket.

6 Months on Teachers Pay Teachers and Feeling Reflective

Well, I’ve officially been on TpT for 6 months!  I found out about TpT back in the summer of 2012, but didn’t consider becoming a seller for a few reasons:
1) It seemed like it was mostly for elementary school students (now known to be not true) 2) I couldn’t stop thinking “no one would buy my activities and projects (now known to be not true)
3) secondary teachers are “supposed” to make their own stuff (now known to be not true)

After getting displaced and not having a paycheck I started thinking about TpT again.  I kept thinking about it, my husband kept suggesting I do it, I kept thinking about it, and I kept thinking about it some more.  I finally decided to take the leap when our daughter was almost 1 and I was itching to have some professional fulfillment again.  It took me less than a minute to come up with my store name because I wanted my target audience to know exactly what I was offering them.

Stephanie's History Store

Click here for over 300 history and geography activities!

Right away I was addicted (like really, by day 3 I was consumed by TpT in a good way–at least during my daughter’s naps and when she went to bed).  It is amazing and fulfilling to know that students around the world are using your unique activity, that they are hopefully enjoying history just a bit more because of your activities, and that they are learning about topics more in depth than the textbook provides because another teacher browsed your store.  I also love the professional challenge of creating new projects and that I get to keep learning in terms of both history topics and education practices.

Almost more than anything, I love the community on TpT (if any of you are reading this, THANK YOU for helping me get to this point!).  Every teacher and TpT staff member I have met (virtually or in person) is SO friendly and SO supportive.  I love that we share personal stories and whether good or bad we are there for each other.  We help each other overcome technology problems and discuss things like how to best incorporate current events into the classroom.  We proofread and brainstorm for and with each other, we celebrate each other’s success and offer encouragement and advice when one of us is stuck or frustrated.

Since it is a worldwide company, we are able to compare education systems, standards, and practices around the world and genuinely be united in our quest to provide all of our students with the best education possible.  I am grateful to TpT for a gazillion things already, but one of the biggest is for reminding me that even though I’m not in a traditional classroom right now, I’m still a teacher and I still have a lot to offer.  I can’t wait to see what the rest of my TpT journey has in store for me.

If you’ve spent even a second thinking about signing up on TpT….YOU SHOULD!!!  Don’t wait!!!!  Don’t think there aren’t buyers out there for you because there are!!!  I wish I had started years ago.  If it works for you and your students it WILL work for others, they just need to find your store.

Back to School Season, But Not For Me

back to school season

back to school season

Right now I should be stocking up on memes to print and laminate for my classroom.  I should be buying markers, colored pencils, and organization bins for student supplies.  I should be researching the most effective seating arrangements and visiting my classroom to see which ones will work.  I should be hoarding pens, pencils, and erasers because every day at least 5 students need to borrow them.  I should be fine tuning my lessons and making changes to any that didn’t go so well last year.  But I’m not doing any of that.  I have had a classroom one way or another since I student taught and this year I don’t.

I was displaced at the end of last school year and rather than be a day-to-day sub in any school in the district for any grade, I decided to stay home with my daughter.  I NEVER EVER EVER pictured myself being a stay-at-home mom.  Has it been a blessing in disguise, absolutely!!!!  Did it take me a few months to realize it, yes!  If I could have had a long-term subbing job each semester where I actually taught that would have been different, but it unfortunately wasn’t an option.

When my daughter turned one I knew she was going to need more than just me at a certain point and I needed to get back to teaching.  She started going to day care 2 half days a week and that gave me the time I needed to finally open my own store on Teachers Pay Teachers.  Now with 6-8 unadulterated hours a week to create activities for other teachers, I had a professional outlet again.

With no traditional jobs in sight, I reached out to some home schooling communities to see if any families would be interested in having me teach their kids social studies a couple of times a week (because let’s be real, not every parent who home schools loves every subject, is an expert in every subject, has creative ideas for every subject, etc).  In one local home school co-op, the kids get together 2x/week for class.  They are taught things like science, math, Spanish, history, robotics, and music theory (essentially the history of the world through music).  I was lucky enough to have a specialty that the co-op director needed a teacher for so the best of all worlds seems to be falling into place for me.  My daughter will still get what she socially needs in 2 days of daycare, I will teach 2 days a week (Geography and Music Theory) and get some professional fulfillment, and I will still have my at home time with my daughter.

So I won’t technically have my own classroom which will be weird and I won’t be decorating the room I’m in because the co-op is in a multi-purpose/multi-use community building.  Needless to say, I’m pretty jealous of all these back to school pins on Pinterest and I’m living vicariously through my friends who are starting to decorate their classrooms, but I’m doing something new which is in itself exciting, and I’m doing what works for me and my family.  All in all I have no complaints, but man I love back to school shopping and decorating and I am definitely missing it right now!

Why I Have a Library in My High School Classroom

When I got my first classroom, one of the things I was most excited about was putting together my classroom library.  Just because it’s a high school classroom doesn’t mean it can’t have a library like elementary ones.  I make a point of keeping a variety of books in terms of reading level, historical topic, and style (infographic type Barnes and Noble books, fiction, non-fiction, etc).  I usually have about 200 books in the bookcase for my kids.

Some of my students in the first two months of school are always “too cool” to check out one of my books (I have a sign out sheet to keep track), but slowly I almost always win them all over.  For other kids, I realized they almost don’t know how to appreciate a good book because they don’t have books at home and they don’t have older siblings or parents reading as models.  Others aren’t comfortable reading around their peers because they may use their finger to track words, or read more slowly than the person sitting next to them.

Some students love the library from the beginning and I frequently hear, “oh I’ve always wanted to learn more about xyz” so a lot of my kids can deepen their knowledge of a topic or broaden their horizons and learn about something new.  I keep my shelves organized by topic.  I have a whole shelf for WW2, another for the Holocaust (my MA is in the Holocaust so it’s a personal favorite subject), a shelf for Ancient History, etc.  It makes it as easy as possible for students to browse the books if they know where to even start looking.

I don’t ever want my students to be bored and think they’ve learned everything there is to learn.  Every once in a while, especially when I can tell the kids getting burned out, we put the curriculum on hold for a day and they can read anything they want in the library for the whole class period, but I always suggest they pick a book about a topic they’re not too familiar with.  It gives them a recharge, it possibly sparks excitement for something new in them, and it gives me a whole class period to talk to some of the kids one on one.

I also have a whole shelf in my bookcase dedicated to about 75 issues of National Geographic.  I have gotten SO much mileage out of these magazines!  I periodically offer whole class extra credit opportunities where the students can pick out an article out of any of the magazines, write a GREAT summary on it, and submit it for up to 15 points.  I know there’s a lot of debate in the value of extra credit, but I figure if the student is willing to read and write I’m not going to deny them that opportunity.  Additionally, if I have a sub and the activity I had planned doesn’t last as long as anticipated, I leave a note for the sub telling him/her to put the students in pairs, each pair reads an article, and instead of writing an academic summary, they create a series of social media posts (using words and images) to explain the topic to their peers.  They are more willing to stay on task with a sub if they  are doing a fun activity, and really, what teenager doesn’t want to come up with “cool” hashtags for Instagram or Facebook status’ for a mummy, a gladiator, a shark, a president, etc.

These are some of my favorite books to have available to my students:
–Children of the Flames
–The Rape of Nanking
–The Years of Extermination
–Plagues and People
–Guns, Germs, and Steel
–The Children of Henry VIII
–The Constant Princess
–The Other Boleyn Girl
–See No Evil
–The Way of the Gladiator
–Life in Year One
–Freedom’s Daughters
–The Early History of Surgery
–Riding the Rails
–First Ladies
–A Guide to the Salem Witchcraft Hysteria of 1692
–First Family: Abigail and John Adams
–The Private Lives of Roman Emperors
–The Things They Carried
–Letters from Rifka
–Do They Hear You When You Cry?

What is a “must have” in your classroom library?

How I Re-create Trench Warfare in the Classroom

When I studied abroad in London one of my favorite things to do was visit the Imperial War Museum.  I probably went every other week because there was THAT much to see, and all of it was fascinating!  Every war Britain had ever participated in to any degree was represented.  One of the exhibits is a World War I trench warfare re-creation.  One of my favorite parts of the exhibit (besides the walkthrough) was seeing all the actual signs that were used in and around the trenches during the actual war.  After walking through it for the first time, I couldn’t help but think how neat it would be for my hypothetical future students if they could sort of experience the same thing.

DISCLAIMER: you have to do this with students you can trust (there was one period last year I did not do this with because I couldn’t trust their during-activity behavior)…your kids WILL get rowdy, it WILL be really loud, and things WILL be thrown, but they will LOVE it!

The day before the re-creation, I tell my kids them that the room will look very different the next day because we will be recreating trench warfare.  I divide them up into the two alliances so we can start right away the next day.

The Prep Work
The great thing about this is you can totally customize it to each group of students since you’re in charge, there’s really no “script” to follow.

1.  I would start prepping the “ammunition” a week or two ahead of time.  I had students help me the last few minutes of each class ball up scrap paper to use as ammunition that they’d be throwing at each other (they didn’t know that yet though).  I had 2 big garbage bags full and that seemed to work well (the huge black bags, not the 13 gallon size) with classes ranging from 32-38 kids.  Before the kids came in the room I emptied one bag of ammo evenly in each trench.

2.  Divide the desks up in your classroom lengthwise on opposite sides of the room, this will be your “barbed wire” and the empty floor in the middle of the room will be no-man’s land.  The desks can be sitting up normally or with the legs in the air, depends on what you’ll be doing next period).

3.  I write down a list of 15 actions I would call out to the students.  Depending on how it went the first time, I add more for the next period.  If it’s an action where the “ammo” is being thrown I let that happen for about 10 seconds.

4.  In the last 5 minutes of class, I have the students gather up the “ammo” and put an even amount in each bag…I only had to bribe 1 class with a few extra credit points, the others all willingly helped clean up.

The Activity
When the students come into the room (the lights are off), they immediately go to their respective trenches and I told them to get down in the trench for safety.

Once each trench is settled you can say something like, “It’s November 1914, the war is in full swing…let’s see what’s happening in Battle X between Britain and Germany.”  I then give the kids the following sorts of action prompts and they follow through on them (these are just samples):

–5 British troops try crossing no-man’s land to kill the German captain, the Germans use gas against them, 3 British soldiers die.  (the “dead” soldiers come stand or sit with me at the front of the room)
–Britain sends supplies to the front lines, you all get a machine gun, “fire” your guns for 10 seconds at the Germans
–airplanes fly overhead mapping out trench locations
–a tank comes rolling at the German trench, you don’t know what to do so you shoot at it and waste a lot of bullets
–nothing happens, generals are planning their next move
–nothing still happens, you actually start to feel bored
–it’s been raining for a week, the trench is half flooded, rats eat any food you leave out
–2 soldiers from each trench get their legs amputated due to gangrene….they’re off the front lines
–the Germans try storming the British trench with cavalry, it fails, the British shoot 3 horses and kill one soldier
–it’s December 1914, the Christmas Truce happens between British and German troops…sing Christmas Carols, play soccer, and exchange presents
–an airplane flies overhead and drops bricks on your trench because it has run out of ammunition
–the German supply lines have been cut off, malnutrition and disease sets in, 2 soldiers die
–5 British soldiers attempt a night raid on the German line, one gets stuck in barbed wire, another is bayonetted, one is taken POW, and two are killed by friendly fire trying to make it back to their own trench
–10 German troops try storming the British trench, they are all gunned down by machine fire
–10 British troops try storming the German trench, they are all gunned down by machine gun fire
–the Germans get word that their comrades sank the Lusitania
–the British are ecstatic that the Americans are finally entering the war on their side
–morale and supplies are running low
–both sides take a last ditch effort to win the battle, all the soldiers stand up and shoot their machine guns at the other trench

I hope you have the opportunity to try this at least once, it’s really a LOT of fun, and in my “end of year feedback” form this is always mentioned as a favorite activity that should be repeated next year.  If you have any questions about it either leave a comment or email me at

I have a whole section of my store dedicated to WWI, click HERE to see it!

Teaching with Political Cartoons

One of my absolute favorite things to do in the classroom is to teach with political cartoons.  I integrate them into every topic possible.  I love that they give kids a real “in the moment” look at what someone was thinking about the given issue or topic.  I love that political cartoons represent all the different points of view at the time, and they make kids consider a perspective that isn’t necessarily represented in the textbook.  They can be funny, ironic, sobering, in your face, subtle, misleading, or say what everyone is thinking but no one is saying…they can be anything and everything!

When we get to the cartoon(s) of the day, I first have my kids try to decipher the cartoons based on the background knowledge they have on the topic and what they can see/read in the cartoon.  At the end of some topics they occasionally make their own cartoons (representing opposite points of view), and we frequently look at the evolution and usage of political cartoons through the event (if big enough) or over the years (among MANY other activities and approaches).

My all time favorite political cartoonist is Theodore Geisel (Dr. Seuss).  During WW2 he produced some absolutely genius political cartoons, including my favorite cartoon of all time which I have in a poster size for my classroom.  my favorite political cartoon of all timeI just think it is SO clever and SO spot on as to how the “Hitler Headache” was dealt with at the time…it’s really the BEST.  When we study this particular cartoon, I always end my part of the lesson by asking my kids, “what do you think it will take for these guys to take off the ostrich bonnets?”  In other words, what is it going to take for America to see or accept the magnitude of Europe’s predicament, or help Europe deal with the worsening Hitler situation?  They then write a respectable reflection and prediction paragraph response in their journals (a topic for another post).  In general though, when we get to a political cartoon, my kids answer analytical, opinion, and reflection/prediction questions individually, in pairs, or in groups.

If you want to incorporate Dr. Seuss political cartoons into your World War 2 unit, click HERE for the best website with which to start.  If you want a custom lesson designed based on political cartoons (Dr. Seuss or political cartoons in general), please email me at  I also have a pre-designed political cartoon activity in my TpT store, click HERE to see it.

Here’s a sample of my other “must show the kids” Dr. Seuss cartoons during WW2:

Foodie Friday #4: Grilled Cheese and Trees

While on a trip to Muir Woods I discovered the best grilled cheese sandwich: The Marin Melt!  At first I was a bit skeptical because it’s served on “healthy” bread but the cheese is Cowgirl Creamery Mt. Tam (my favorite specialty cheese and I can thankfully buy it at our “fancy” supermarket) and Pt. Reyes Farmstead Creamery Toma Cheese.  It’s also a $9.95 sandwich (as of 2 years ago) but your taste buds will thank you if you give them the gift of the Marin Melt.  The cheeses are the perfect combination of salty and buttery and a smidge tangy but just a smidge.  The bread actually balances out the cheeses perfectly and since it’s “healthy” bread you feel less guilty about the sandwich.

And as a history teacher perk, you can eat this amazing sandwich then take a walk through Muir Woods and look at trees that were standing when Vikings first came to America, when King Louis’ head was chopped off, when Rasputin was in his prime, when Rosa Parks didn’t give up her seat, when the Easter Island heads were put up, when Socrates drank hemlock, etc.  To stand in the shade of trees who have watched the world go by for longer than many people can fathom is something you can’t do just anywhere, and it’s such a unique experience you might as well top it off with the best grilled cheese sandwich!

Muir Woods

Muir Woods

The Marin Melt

The Marin Melt

Handling Absent Students and Homework as a High School Teacher

During the summer, one thing all teachers have to think about is what worked well in their classroom last year and what they need to change.  We all learn really quickly that how a classroom is set up can contribute to the success or struggles of your classroom management.  The easier it is for your students to do things on their own, the easier your day-to-day will be.  One thing I got sooooooo tired of was spending way too much time each morning dealing with kids who had been absent.

So thanks to another Pinterest inspiration, a few years ago I made a student center right when you walk in the room.  This put the responsibility for absences and handing in work on the kids.  Only 2 or 3 times a month do one of my 165 students come up to me and say, “I was absent yesterday” to which I respond, “I know, go check the bin.”  Here’s my system, but it’s modified since I had set this up in the entryway of my house.  Normally there would also be a spot for pens/pencils/staplers/etc.  (Here it is set up in my current classroom!)

I have 5 groups of students every day.  Each period gets a color coded group of file folders (I have a sign with their class period and coordinating color that stays up all year).  2nd period is blue (I most recently had 1st period prep).  There is a blue Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday, and Friday file.  Repeat for my other periods.  Let’s say “Katie” from second period is absent on Monday.  That’s when I hand out their Compare and Contrast the Revolutionary War and French Revolution Graphic Organizer and National Anthems.  I write “Katie” on her handout and put it in the blue Monday file.

Whenever “Katie” comes back to school, she goes to the absent bin, checks the blue files for each day she was out, and takes all the papers with her name on them.  My role in this system is to make sure each assignment gets filed away.  The easiest way for me to do this is after handing the activity out to the kids, I take a paper for each absent kid, write their name on it, and file it in the appropriate color and day of the week.

In terms of getting work turned in and handing it back to students, again, putting most of the responsibility on them is what works best for me.  I have what every year I inevitably call “the black stacky thing” labeled for each period.  Each student is responsible for putting his or her classwork/homework in their period’s slot.  At the end of every day, I put each period’s set of papers in a folder labeled for each period so the papers don’t mixed up, and when it’s time for me to hand back student work I just grab the folder and pass their work back.  I usually hand work back while the kids are doing pairs/group work because it’s an extra opportunity to help a student understand something they were confused about in a one-on-one setting, or to just get that face time with individual students.

where students turn in their work

where students turn in their work

This has worked for me for a few years.  Students practice basic responsibility, I have less daily stress, the rate of “missing” assignments or misfiled assignments has gone down significantly, and my desk is a heck of a lot less cluttered!  (That might just be the best part of all this!)  To read an earlier post about how I organize my lesson plans and master files click HERE.  How do you handle absent students and work that gets turned in?

To read more tips from other teachers click HERE.

Traveling Tuesday #2: Salisbury, England and Stonehenge

I’ve been extremely lucky in how extensively I’ve internationally traveled thus far in my life.  I’ve been able to visit 13 countries and live in 2 (besides America): Canada, Mexico, Greece (twice!), Turkey, France, Germany, England (twice!), Spain, Austria, Switzerland, Lichtenstein, Belgium, and Gibraltar!  One of the best perks of all my travels is that I can bring real pictures of the world (especially historic locations) to my students on a regular basis. I’ve shown them everything from Stonehenge and Ancient Olympia to a concentration camp and Eagle’s Nest, and a lot in between.  Side note, my trip to Stonehenge was where I took the picture that RebeccaB Designs magically turned into my amazing TpT logo 🙂  (click HERE to see her FANTASTIC TpT store)

Stonehenge, 2005

Stonehenge, 2005

One of my favorite parts of traveling internationally (other than the food) is that you can actually walk through and feel history.  Yes America has historical spots, but there’s a huge difference in going to a 100 year old location and an 800 year old location, let alone a place that is 2,000 years old.  To go somewhere that has been an operating restaurant and inn since around 1400 and still has original woodwork and furniture and paraphernalia inside is just amazing.  You can’t help but marvel that something has lasted so long despite the world continuing around it.  You can’t help but be amazed at what was accomplished pre-modern technology.  You really get some perspective when you walk through a door and sit on a bench that has seen who knows how many (millions of?) butts in its lifetime.  And not like 1 million people in a day in Times Square.  One million(isn?) representing the span of humanity for at least the last 615 years: a knight, a peasant, a monk, an archbishop, a lord, a king, a Prime Minister, a wheat farmer, the first person in the village to use a seed drill, the first family to own a radio, the first woman in the town to wear pants, a student from Indonesia, a photographer from Canada, etc.

Well, Salisbury is that place where you go back in time and can practically physically feel history all around you.  It is really close to Stonehenge and when you are in the town you feel like you are in a Medieval Village.  The farmer’s market is pretty much where it’s been for 1,000 years, some of the roads have barely been widened enough for one car to fit, the aesthetic of the town is as close to authentically Middle Ages Britain as the people of Salisbury have been able to keep it, and it’s really just incredibly picturesque.  I studied abroad in London during college and my day trip to Salisbury and Stonehenge was one of my favorite things I did all summer!  This minuscule sample of pictures can’t come close to doing it justice, so if you’re ever in the London area, take a day trip to Stonehenge and Salisbury and I guarantee you won’t regret it (if you like history, haha). Come back every Tuesday for Traveling Tuesdays.