When Do I Teach That? A Sequence of Texas History Units

Hello Texas History teaching friends! Recently I have had several people ask me when I teach each unit, and about how long I take to teach it. Enough people have asked that I decided to make a post about it, so that it would be easier for all of us to refer to it. 
Disclaimer time:
Most districts have a scope and sequence that they would like for you to follow for each subject including mine. I really do try to stay close to it, but then real life teaching takes over, and I just can't. I would recommend seeing what your district has to offer, because they have people who do this sort of thing, you know, for a living. 

With that being said, below is the rough (and I mean rough) plan that I use each year for planning Texas History in my classroom. You might notice that if you add up the days it doesn't come out to a complete school year, and you'd be right, because again, real life teaching. It tends to get in the way of the best laid plans. 

I would like to be able to say that I teach every subject every day, but again, let's be real. I consider it a great week if I was able to get in 3 solid half hour chunks of Texas History instruction. So, sometimes those five days that I planned turn into ten, and sometimes during test prep season I don't get to Texas History at all for a couple of weeks. 

In the end it all gets in though, even if we have "Texas History Tuesday" every week after the STAAR tests are done, where we do nothing but Texas History all day each Tuesday. Believe it or not, the students love it! 

The moral of this semi-ridiculous story, which is not at all what I started writing but I like it so I'm keeping it, is to do what works for your classroom. I coped exceedingly well with small chunks of time, but I know not everyone works this way. Do you, and do what works for your students! 

Now of course if you want to know HOW I teach it, all the PowerPoints, INB activities, task cards, and other student activities can be found in this Mega-Bundle. :)

More Vocabulary Games

This is the second edition of vocabulary games that I have used in my classroom that are student loved. For the first group of games, check out this post.

Just as with the first few games we use the box of word cards with these games that have an index card with each word that also has a definition, the word used in context, synonyms, and antonyms written on the back. Some games these cards are necessary for, and other they aren't, but some of my students use them even when they don't need to so I always leave them there.

Win, Lose, or Draw

This game can be played with two or more players. The first player draws a card from the box and secretly read the information. Then they have thirty seconds (you can of course adjust this time) to draw a picture that should describe the word without using any words. Then the other players try to guess their word based on the drawing. If they are able to guess the word they get a point. 
Play continues with players switching roles. 
Management tip: This game probably took the most modeling out of every game that they played. Whenever drawing is involved kids, and adults, can get their feelings hurt that their drawings are not understood. The noise level while guessing can also be an issue if not explicitly discussed and adhered to. 

Guess My Word

Guess My Word is a great game for two or more players, all the way up to the whole class. This one is exactly how it sounds. The first player draws a card and describes the word using the definition, synonyms, antonyms and anything else they've got until one of the other players is able to guess their word. 
Play continues with players switching roles. 

Spell It

Again, two or more players... are you sensing a pattern. I use this game particularly when we are studying prefixes, suffixes, and root words. Each of the players has a whiteboard, marker, and eraser. One player draws a card and reads the word and definition to the others. Then, you guessed it, the rest of the players spell the word. 
For a variation on the game you can play it "Sparkle Style" where each student only offers one letter and they spell it together ending with jazz hands and the word Sparkle. Some years my students love this, and others it falls flat on its face. 

Vocabulary Basket Toss

Two or more players, you get the drill. This one requires a few extra materials. I have seen teammates bring in a small basketball hoop and ball, I on the other hand opt for a small basket and a wadded up piece of paper. You know, use what you've got right?
The first student pulls a card and reads the definition. The next player tries to identify the word from the word wall. If they identify it correctly then they may choose to keep one point, or shoot the paper into the basket for two. If they miss or get the word incorrect they get no points. 
Play continues and roles switch. Player with the most points in the end wins. 
Management Tip: Movement and noise level are a big one for this game. I like to place a piece of tape on the ground where the student must stand to shoot their paper into the basket, because otherwise there is ALWAYS a heated discussion on someone cheating by getting too close. We also discuss silent cheering and proper voice level, but it can quickly get out of hand if allowed. 

Check for Understanding with Cooperative Learning Structures

The following are four of my favorite ways to get students up and moving while thinking critically. I use all four of these structures in my classroom almost daily!

Take-Off Touchdown

This structure is so easy to pull out at a moment's notice that it just might be your new favorite. Students start seated in their chairs and the teacher poses a statement like, "Take off if you learned something new about the moon today." Students who agree with the statement stand up. The teacher is then able to quickly survey the scene then say, "Touchdown," for all students to sit. What academic implications can you think of for this one?

Find Someone Who

I use this one with every content area and just your basic run of the mill worksheet. Students wander around the room looking for others who can answer or solve each question. After they find a partner they each solve a problem and sign their name. I encourage students to trade with as many partners as possible, and usually have a small incentive for anyone who solves a problem (has to be different ones) on every other student's paper. 

Find the Fiction

This one is truly great for figuring out misconceptions! In their table teams each student writes down two facts and one misconception about the topic, but tries to make the misconception as believable as possible. Then each student takes turns reading their statements and the others try to figure out which statement is the misconception. 

Quiz Quiz Trade

Quite possibly my favorite structure of all time! Students each have a card with a question on the front and the answer on the back. (Task cards are a fabulous resource for this!) Students stand up, hand up, and pair up. The first student then reads the other student's card and answers the question. The second student praises if correct or coaches if wrong. They repeat the process, but switch roles. After both questions have been answered they thank one another, trade cards, and find a new partner. 

Positivity Challenges

Okay readers, it is time for a new school year! This means that we get a fresh start, a new opportunity to make the best impression possible on our students, their families, and our coworkers. You might be thinking, yeah, I am pumped about this year! Or, you might have a bit of the back to school blues. Either way, it is still important to stay positive!

With this being said, I know that back to school is tough! It really is. There are so many expectations for teachers at the beginning of the year, and it is no small miracle that somehow everything gets done before the students arrive. You are probably thinking that I have to be crazy to put one more thing on your plate, and I realize that. BUT I also realize that positivity is infectious, and in an education world with such negativity, we can use everything we can muster.
So here it goes:
I challenge each and every one of you to choose one of the challenges below and complete it. If you are an overachiever (raises hand in shame) then you might want to take on more than one, because here's the thing about these challenges. Each and every one of them is going to make someone feel good. In exchange, I am willing to bet that it will also make you feel good too! So, without further adieu, here they are:

Call every parent with something positive the first week

Have you ever met a parent that didn't want to hear amazing things about their child? Plus, this way when you have to make a less than exciting call home you already have a relationship with that parent. Try to be as specific as possible with these calls, really hone in on one thing that is special about their child.

Write a student a positive note each day of the grading period

By writing just one note a day, a totally doable task, you are breathing life into your classroom community. In the digital age, students are over the moon about receiving a personalized note. By continuing through the first grading period, you are sure to make it to all of your students at least once, if not multiple times. Personally, I do this all year long. Don't get me wrong, some Thursdays I write four notes, because I forgot to do it all week, but I make sure that five notes go home every week. I also try to make sure that these notes are personal, and not generic.

Leave a note for a coworker encouraging them once a week

We as adults need encouragement too! I think this would be even more fun if you did it anonymously, but that is just me!

Spend two minutes a day listening, really listening, to a different student

This is an AMAZING way to get to know your students, and really it doesn't take a lot from you. Every once in a while you get a student that just doesn't know what to talk about, but most of the time they are more than willing to talk your ear off, and the opportunity to do so, makes them feel so special! No matter the age of the student, your undivided attention is a rainbow shining down on them!

Now which one will you choose?

We are going on the honesty policy here, but we want to hold each other accountable. SO, if you snap a quick picture of yourself (or the action itself) and tag me @teachinginthefastlane in it on either Instagram or Facebook, you just might find yourself with a little extra positivity yourself!

My Spanish Missions Notebook

Welcome back for the Spanish Missions of Texas edition of a peek inside my Texas History INB. If you would like to check out previous entries on setting up your notebook, maps, regions of Texas, Native Americans, or European explorers just click on the title. 

Diving right in:
The Spanish missions in Texas are one of the most recognizable landmarks in Texas for my students. With Austin being so close to San Antonio most, if not all, of my students have been to the Alamo and many have been to several of the missions. This unit is always fun, because seeing the connection they make to what they have seen just send those lightbulbs a twitter.

We use this PowerPoint to get our information, but also use these QR Codes for additional research for inquiring minds.

Our first entry into our INBs is all about the people of the Spanish Missions.
From there we move to the parts of the Mission. Most students who have visited one, or all, of the missions don't realize that there was once more to them than just the church.
We also discuss Jose Escandon and his impact on Texas through the Spanish missions.
Next comes my students' favorite part, the QR Quest to learn more about each of the missions. There are two different scaffolded versions of the Quest and it is perfect for completing as an assessment or in a station while you work with a small group.

Throughout the unit we also use these task cards to check our learning as we go. I love to use them as exit tickets or writing prompts for quick writes in our INBs.

Now of course I love to keep tons of books about the missions around our classroom. These are a couple of my favorites:

Teaching is as Easy as ABC and 123 Linky and Giveaway

Hola readers! I am teaming up with six other bloggers for a giant linky and giveaway aimed at first year teachers. We would love to spread the love, so if you have any love or advice for those joining us in the profession please link up below!
My numero uno and most valued piece of advice would be to take care of yourself! I know that it sounds cliche, but it got that status for a reason. When you are not your best you can't possibly give your best to your students, which is kind of the whole point. When you are at school it is all about your students, but make sure to schedule some time to take care of you too.

This might mean that you make sure and leave as soon as you can one day a week or treat yourself to dinner out on a busy day. Whatever you need to do, is what you should do! Personally, I hated staying late, so I would leave at a decent hour four out of five days and then stay late once a week. I also try really hard to not go to the school over the weekend, and instead try to plan something fun like a hike or a Netflix marathon.
My name is Alyssa and I am a teacher supply addict. Admitting it is the first step right? Either way I had a super tough time narrowing it down to just two must haves, but here goes nothing.

Scotch Laminator

This bad boy is my best friend and life saver. You might be excited to see that your school has a laminator, but what they don't tell you is that it won't actually have lamination three-quarters of the time. This sucker will save you from despair each and every time. I ordered mine off of Amazon and get these lamination sheets for refills. 

Water Bottle

If the laminator is my best friend, then my water bottle may be my soul mate. I take this guy wherever I go. It is large enough that I can fill it and drink it before lunch and then fill again at lunch and drink it for the rest of the day. This was I am sure to stay hydrated. The only issue here is the super cute I have to go to the bathroom dance that occurs for about fifteen minutes before lunch and towards the end of the day. You laugh, but you shall soon be doing a dance of your own, of this I am sure. ;)
I would recommend investing in a good one. I personally prefer the glass style, but it is all about you! 

Plan Ahead

Just like when you were in college you will be given deadlines for when things need to be done. If you have time to do them right away then do! By getting things out of the way you will feel a sense of accomplishment and not be nearly as stressed as those who push everything off until the last minute. 
This goes for grading, completing necessary paperwork, and planning your lessons. If you do a little bit everyday then it won't be bad. If you wait until the end, you are going to regret it. Of course there will always be days when you would like to or need to complete more than is possible, and on those days you just have to say that all you can do is enough. 

Stay in the Moment

I know, I just told you to plan ahead and now I am saying live in the moment, but really. A school year goes by exceedingly fast, and they seem to speed up every year. Don't get so bogged down in what you are doing and forget about what you are really doing. You are shaping young minds. You get to work with some of the greatest little people in the world, and they deserve to be listened to. 

So, share your thoughts with your students. Celebrate accomplishments both big and small. Take some time to be silly, goofy, and just plain learn from them. Trust me, you have time to tell that ridiculous joke or have your student share what they did last night. These are the meaningful moments that you will remember, not prepping for a test. 


With everyone!!! Talk to your team and make sure you are on the same page. Reach out to families from the moment you meet their child. Let your administrators know how they can support you. In all of these cases, if you don't talk to them, they aren't going to know. 

You team, more than likely, is going to be your biggest support system. Be open with them. If something they are talking about is over your head, ask for an explanation. If a student in your class is challenging, ask them for suggestions. If you are feeling overwhelmed, ask how they did something. Teachers love to share and help. You are in good hand with them. 
**Side note: If your team is not supportive, then make your own team. Find a coworker or two that are positive and helpful and go to them. You are never alone!

Your students' families want to know what is going on. A weekly e-newsletter or class website is a great way to keep them updated on what is going on in the classroom, but make sure you reach out to families about their individual students as well. I try to make it a point to call home with a positive tidbit for every student the first week of school. (Pro-Tip: If you have a student(s) that you know are challenging then call on the first day!) By making the first time you reach out positive, families are more willing to help when things get tough. 

Your administrators want you to be successful. If they didn't think you were capable of the job then they wouldn't have hired you, so get that out of your head. They are there to support you, so if you need something then talk to them about it. If you feel that you need more training on a topic or would really like to see a modeled lesson this is your go to person!
With this being said, I always tended to go to my team first, but have had awesome relationships with every administrator that I have worked with. Administration really can make or break your experience as a teacher. 

Now that you know exactly what is going on it is time for the first day of school ;) it is time for a giveaway! Check out the image below for all of these awesome first year teacher goodies we have for you! Enter the Rafflecopter below for a chance to win! 

If you have advice for first year teachers please link up a post below to share with them! 

a Rafflecopter giveaway

My European Explorers Notebook

You came back? Yay! This edition of taking a look inside my Texas History INB is all about European Explorers and their impact on Texas. You can check out earlier editions on setting up your notebook, maps, regions of Texas, and Native Americans by clicking on the subject.
When we start our European Explorers unit we are coming out of a HUGE project on Native Americans that our students love, and I am always afraid that the next unit will be a let-down. So, in order to make sure that doesn't happen we pack with unit full of facts.

We always start by going back to the map and seeing if students remember their continents, which is always a bit of a let-down for me, but sometimes it's not. We talk about where Europe and North America are and I have my students take some guesses about why the Europeans wanted to come to America.
Europe and North America are and I have my students take some guesses about why the Europeans wanted to come to America.

From there we talk about a few of the early explorers such as Leif Erickson (whose name they know from Spongebob more often than not) and Columbus. Once we get past those two we use this PowerPoint to get the rest of our information.
We talk about what a conquistador, explorer, and empresario are, as well as how each of them affected Texas.

As we discuss each of the explorers we trace their route on a map of the world and write down important facts in our fold-ups.

We also discuss the three g's of conquistadors and debate which one students think is the most important.

We also complete a sort of plants that are native to the Americas and those that were imported. It is always really fun to see what students think is natural to our area and what isn't. Pro-tip: When you glue the sorting pockets into student INBs have the opening face the spine so that if the cards fall out of the pockets they will fall into the fold, not all over the floor.

To end our unit I use these task cards to hold a scavenger hunt assessment. If you have any extra time (what's that?) my students also LOVE these activities of creating a postcard to send home from the point of view of an explorer and this dice simulation that puts them in the shoes of an explorer trying to find a new place.
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