Traveling Tuesday #4–The Tower of London and Tower Bridge

two of my favorite places!

two of my favorite places!

Two places I will never get tired of visiting in London is the Tower of London and Tower Bridge.  I don’t know if I can even express why I love them so much.  Aside from my love of the historical Tudors, I think the history the Tower of London has seen is impressive beyond words and I love that I can walk the grounds of a place that has seen 1,000 years of history unfold.  You really just have to stop and look around and take in your surroundings.  Imagine standing there hearing Mark Smeaton’s screams as he was being tortured into confessing an affair with Anne Boleyn, or William the Conqueror’s contented sigh as he stood overlooking the Thames taking pride in his accomplishments, or feeling the anxiety of Elizabeth I as she was held in the Tower not knowing her fate.  The Tower of London has been a royal residence, a place of torture and execution, a royal menagerie, a mint, the home of the crown jewels, a WWI memorial, and is one of my favorite places to visit in London.

I’ve always thought Tower Bridge is just stunning.  The architecture, the colors, it’s such a historic looking bridge compared to the vast majority I see in the states (not to mention the actual history it has also seen), I can’t get enough of it!  The last time I was in London I saw a couple taking some wedding pictures with the bridge in the background and I’m not going to lie, I was more than a little jealous of how those pictures were going to turn out.

When I’m at places like these, I can’t put the teacher part of my brain on pause, even though I try to stand there soaking up the moment.  The last time I was at the Tower of London, I thought of an “If Walls Could Talk” type activity for my students.  I don’t have it posted in my store right now because I’m still working on it, and I’m also working on a “Meet Anne Boleyn” activity since I really just can’t get enough of the Tudors and again, standing in the spot where she was executed is just a bit activity inspiring for a history teacher.

I definitely get inspired by my travels to make activities for my students, and in teaching certain people/places/topics it inspires me to travel even more than I already have.  I absolutely love it when I can show students my own pictures from a location rather than getting them from google, and I love going places where you can practically *feel* history around you.  It also helps make history more real for students if they can see a picture of me standing at Stonehenge, or touching WW2 bomb damage on the outside of a London museum, or at the entrance to a concentration camp.  It’s kind of like “that *is* a real place, or that *really* did happen.”  The more I can make history real and alive for my kids the more likely they are to remember it years later.

Well I’ve definitely rambled away from the Tower of London and Tower Bridge, but suffice it to say they are two of my favorite spots of all time and I have been lucky enough to visit them a few times and bring them and their history to my students in a variety of ways.

Using Pamphlets as a Review Activity

Both my students and I look forward to pamphlet projects.  I love that they can get creative and they love not writing essays.

student made pamphlets

student made pamphlets

First and foremost, students have to be concise in pamphlets.  They only have so much space in which to present their information, and depending on the topic they might also have to fit in images and maps.  So they have to decide what the most important, relevant, and compelling things are that they should say, and how to say it succinctly.  Too many times my students ask me “how much should I write” and I always answer with “however much you need to say to make your point.”  This is a great way for students to really practice picking the most important parts of a topic and defending their opinions concisely.

Secondly, and maybe this is just how I’ve chosen to do it, but students can explore a variety of points of view in pamphlets.  History books can’t cover every point of view for each historical event, so I try to work it in whenever possible.  When we do some types of pamphlets, the kids dedicate one flap to a different point of view than is represented in the main part of the pamphlet.  Another way they work with multiple points of view is by grouping up and each makes 3-5 pamphlets, depending on how many points of view we have covered on the topic.

For example, with the New Deal, there were other solutions for recovery and reform proposed at the time than FDR’s New Deal.  So in groups of 3, my students make 3 different pamphlets, one for each major plan proposed at the time (the New Deal, Share the Wealth, and EPIC), and then they make a 4th pamphlet for a recovery and reform plan of their own design (because they so frequently say things like, “why didn’t FDR just do a/b/c” or “why didn’t the someone think of x/y/z” so this is their chance to make their own solution/plan).

In each pamphlet they explain the program’s main points (how it will work, its benefits), how it differs from the other programs, and why it is the best one and should be supported by the public.  For fun, they write a mini-autobiography on the back explaining how they have the authority to tell the public which plan they should support.


As I wrote this post, I thought of a pamphlet students can make to review the causes of World War 1 and you can find it HERE.  I also recently made a pamphlet activity for the French Revolution (has one element in particular that students should have fun with), Revolutionary War (patriots vs loyalists), Civil War (to become an abolitionist or not), and World War 2 (help FDR make 4 big wartime decisions).  You can also find one for the Industrial Revolution, War of 1812, European Imperialism, US Imperialism, the French and Indian War, the Mexican-American War, and the Spanish Civil War.  If you try any of them out I hope your students enjoy them!  Updated to add, I also made a generic template for students to create a pamphlet for any topic, you can find that one HERE.

Too Many Penguins on the Iceberg

too many penguins

Why is it that when I come up with one teaching idea that I’m soooo excited about I come up with 4 others at the same time!?  Then I ping pong back and forth working on them and even though I love them and am excited about them it takes me foreeeeeever to finish any of them.  I have been working on an activity about the Tower of London for MONTHS!!!  MONTHS!!!  And even though it’s one of my favorite places to visit in the whole world I can’t seem to focus on it because I also have an Anne Boleyn activity I’m working on (ps yes I looooooove the Tudors), and I’m also trying to finish a second activity for President’s Day (yes I’m planning in advance) and I found a great speech by Teddy Roosevelt on the meatpacking industry so I’ve been making an analytical reading activity for that, plus I’m lesson planning for my day job (part time though it is), plus I have these grand ideas about meal planning in advance, so these ping pong balls are just bouncing around in my head, hitting each other, and I can’t catch any of them (I think this is the longest sentence I’ve ever written, pardon it’s out of control-ness).

This is all not to mention the other ideas for lessons and activities I want to make that have been sitting in a word doc for months as just an idea, maybe two extra sentences to help me remember what I had thought of when I go to flesh it out (1968 American Crisis of Confidence, Cuban Missile Crisis, Women of American Wars, Sewards Folly, and so so so so SO much more!!!  Now in the meantime, I’ve made some other activities and gotten them posted, but these few that I thought of foreeeeever ago and have been working on regularly, are still open on my computer shaming me with their lack of completion.

So how did I deal with this last yesterday?  Denial.  I put my head in the sand a la my favorite political cartoon of all time, and I watched tv during my daughter’s nap AND with my husband after we ate dinner (even though both times my computer was open on my lap, the Tower of London staring me in the face).  How am I dealing with this now?  Writing this blog post.  My daughter is asleep and my husband is out.  I have no excuse to not bust my butt and get ONE of them finished, but nooooo, I’m procrastinating with the hopes that someone might read this who has also been in this position and we can virtually eat some ice cream together and commiserate.  I’ll be on my couch with chocolate chip cookie dough.

10 Things About Me

I figured it was high time I give a little behind the logo information to you guys.  So here’s the first 10 things I thought of for a “who am I” type post (while still keeping some of it history related).

1.  I’m not an outdoorsy-naturey kind of person (really it’s the bugs I hate about being outside)

2.  I love pizza, french fries, sushi, Chinese food, and chocolate, but NOT chocolate ice cream

3.  I much prefer baking to cooking

4.  World War 2 is my favorite part of US History to teach

5.  The Scientific Revolution and Enlightenment are my least favorite parts of World Civ to teach

6.  I probably watch too much TV

7.  I have always loved reading more than anything, and yes, I re-read books (and for my favorites I listen to the audio version too)

8.  My dream job growing up was to be a dolphin trainer

9.  Folding and putting away laundry is one of my least favorite chores (only beaten out by emptying our cat’s litterbox)

10.  I absolutely love teaching secondary history.  I’ve had other jobs, but I can’t picture myself doing anything other than teaching going forward.

Can We Keep Reviewing?!

have fun reviewing vocabulary

have fun reviewing vocabulary

Pinterest came through yet again for me with a successful review technique!  I saw a pin about 5 ways to make vocabulary more fun for students.  It was a blog post by Kirsten Tulsian and you can read it HERE.

“Guess My Word” was my favorite method she described, though I modified it a bit to suit my classroom.  Each student had a turn standing in front of the room with a vocabulary word written on the board behind them.  The rest of the kids gave that student catch phrase type clues as to what the vocab word was and the student standing up had to guess the word.  So for example, the one word on the board was “manuscript” and the clues the students gave were things like “monks made these,” “this is what people read out of,” “calligraphy was the type of font used,” “the printing press resulted in these being less needed,” etc.  The clues could not be things like “sounds like…”  We did this with two weeks worth of vocabulary for an extra memory challenge, again, I’m working with 5th-10th grade for this Music Theory class.

At one point the program director came in to the room to see what the kids were so enthusiastic about and she stayed for the rest of the activity.  We finished before class was over and I was going to get a head start on the next topic but my kids were so enthusiastically asking me, “can we keep doing this, can we review with all our other words, can we keep playing” that I said yes, and we reviewed the previous unit’s vocabulary the same way.

I have a lot of those students in my Tuesday Geography class and when they asked “can we do this in Geography too” I said of course!  I was thrilled that this was a review method they were so enthusiastic about.  I think part of it was that they didn’t feel like they were doing work, and they were up and moving around.  They of course made a few competitions out of it, like who could come up with the hardest clues, who could guess their word the fastest, etc, and that increased their level of engagement even more.

The fact that the kids were SO excited and SO engaged and WANTED to keep working with their vocabulary this way, and the fact that the director even commented on how neat this method was and that she was so happy to see the students so actively engaged in the lesson made me send a huge mental thank you to Kirsten Tulsian for pinning her blog post.  If you are interested in some of my other popular ways to get and keep students engaged, you can read those blog posts HERE, HERE, HERE, and HERE, and for strategies and other classroom use items, click HERE.