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Monday, February 27, 2017

March is Women's History Month!

Women's History Month Interactive Notebook and Lapbook Templates are perfect for a month-long focus project on famous women who made a difference in history!

Women's History Then and Now Interactive Notebook Activities features our Rosa Parks: More Than A Seat Test Prep Passage and our Primary Source Document Depot mini-packet!

Women's History Month may be celebrated in March, but our interactive notebook activities can be used ALL YEAR LONG!

Perfect for whole class activities in grade 2, paired work in grade 3, or group projects in grades 4-6, our 109-page interactive notebook packet includes everything you'll need to allow students to self-direct their learning, refine those web-based research skills, and use differentiated activities that interest them the most! There's something for everyone in our bundle and students will end up with eye-catching material that's perfect for a March, Women's History-themed bulletin board!  

Sunday, February 26, 2017

The Most Comprehensive New York City Unit on #TeachersPayTeachers !

It's extremely hard to find good, engaging teaching resources that focus primarily on New York City and the 5 boroughs.  That's why we created our New York City 5 Boroughs SUPER MEGA Lesson Plan and Interactive Notebook Unit which motivates student learning and promotes higher order thinking. Furthermore, we wanted to create a product that utilized digital resources for interactive learning and discovery through technology integration.  

Not only does our Super Mega Bundle include lesson plans for each NYC Borough, we've also incorporated tons of interactive notebook / lapbook applications to use during the unit of study, which is aligned to the Common Core State Standards, ISTE Technology Standards, and the Next Generation Science Standards! Our Super Mega Pack Unit includes all the resources you'll need for the entire unit of study!

As an added bonus, our unit also includes our differentiated Alexander Hamilton: A Founding Father Becomes A Broadway Sensation ELA Informational Text Test Prep Passage - our Robert Moses: New York's Controversial Builder ELA Informational Text Test Prep Passage - and our Brooklyn Bridge ELA Informational Text Test Prep Passage which is perfect for Close Reading strategies, individual test prep practice, small group work, tutoring, vacation packet practice, enrichment / intellectual challenges, and more!

You'll also receive our student test-prep checklist for student reference along with our NEW Primary Source Document Depot: New York City (42 page mini-bundle)!


Interactive Notebook / Lapbook Activities accompany each New York City Borough Lesson Plans Unit!

Common Core Aligned, 560+ pages 

Friday, February 24, 2017

Using Primary Source Documents for Intellectually Challenging Research and Rich Discussion

Primary sources provide a window into the past and give us access to first-hand, original documents and records produced by people who lived during that period.  Our Primary Source Document Depot Multi-Pack gives students the ability to utilize technology to explore various primary source documents in an interactive way.  In addition, our graphic organizers will challenge them intellectually to gather their research and synthesize the information that they find. 

Primary Source Multi-Pack Topics Includes:
• The Spanish - American War
• The French and Indian War
• The American Revolution
• Famous Presidential Speeches
• Women's Rights
• Civil Rights

Common Core Aligned, 166 pages.

This Product is Designed to:
• engage students using social studies based primary sources and informational text 
• help students understand how to analyze primary source documents through the use of graphic organizers
• utilize digital resources for interactive learning and discovery through technology integration 
• highlight key historical issues and themes
• use multiple resources for comparison purposes
• promote discussion
• motivate student learning and promote higher order thinking 
• be used in small groups, for differentiated instructional purposes, for 1:1 targeted instructional tutorials, as a close or shared read, or as a whole class for test prep purposes and/or homework for critical thinking and higher-order thinking tasks.
• to allow for student to use the informational text test prep passages as a an additional resource for information as part of a larger unit that you may be working on. 


Be sure to check out our entire lineup of primary source documents in our Teachers Pay Teachers Store

Thursday, February 23, 2017

Go International with Interactive Notebooks!

Regardless of what grade you teach, whether you are a classroom teacher or social studies cluster/special; you no doubt teach a unit of study based on a foreign country. 

If you're looking for a fun way to engage students with international studies, why not try an interactive notebook or lapbook?  Use our interactive notebook and lapbook resources for countries that are studied around the world! Engaging activities allow students to think on a higher level by virtue of collaborative and imaginative work. Students will create their lapbooks for differentiated, self-directed learning!

These products are specifically designed to:
• engage students through self-directed learning and intellectual challenges
• help students understand how to analyze primary source documents and various social studies topics through the use of graphic organizers
• utilize digital resources for interactive learning and discovery through technology integration and web-based research
• highlight key historical issues and themes
• use multiple resources for comparison purposes
• promote small group discussion
• motivate student learning and promote higher order thinking 


Brazil Interactive Notebook / Lapbook Activities Bundle
China Unit Lesson Plans and Interactive Notebook Activities Mega Bundle
Canada, Oh Canada! Interactive Notebook and Lapbook Activities 
Nigeria Lesson Plans with Interactive Notebook Activities MEGA Bundle

Australia Interactive Notebook and Lapbook Activities  with our ELA Informational Text Test Prep Passage
Quebec Canada Interactive Notebook Activities Consumable Workbook with Test Prep Passage

Mexico Interactive Notebook and Lapbook Activities {English & Spanish Versions}

Italy Interactive Notebook Activities with Differentiated ELA Informational Text Test Prep

Wednesday, February 22, 2017

All the Rage! Interactive Notebook and Lapbooks

Interactive Notebooks and lapbooks are a type of portfolio or collection of student work on a variety of topics using flaps and/or folded displays and they are all the rage right now!  Most lapbooks are created out of office file folders which are then folded in half. Lapbooks allow students to showcase their work by providing them an interactive space for sketches and drawings, story summaries, graphical information, timelines, charts, and other forms of written work. Best of all, they can range from any topic or unit study. They truly let students creatively display their work in a way that interests them the most, which allows for a multitude of differentiation for each individual student. 

Check out how we've designed our interactive notebook and lapbook products here.

Engage Students with Informational Text Test Prep

Why use dry (and let's face it, occasionally boring) test prep material when you can have students engaged in their reading by learning historical information at the same time?  According to research, using informational text has a powerful effect on student learning and comprehension.  When teachers include informational text in the classroom, they also expand opportunities for home-school connections that support literacy (Duke & Purcell-Gates, 2003). Furthermore, when you read informational text, you do so for an authentic purpose—to obtain information that you want or need to know (Purcell-Gates, Duke, Hall, & Tower, 2002).  Our Social Studies Themed Informational Text ELA Test Prep Bundle does just that and is perfect for Close Reading strategies, individual test prep practice, small group work, tutoring, vacation packet practice, and more! As a bonus, our Student Test Prep Checklist for student reference is also included!

As an added bonus, our bundle also requires absolutely NO PREPARATION and includes our Annotation Assistant with teacher notes, graphic organizers, and student bookmark assistant to help students annotate and take notes.

Our Informational Text Test Prep Bundle includes:
Christopher Columbus Informational Text ELA Test Prep Passage
The Iroquois Confederacy ELA Test Prep Informational Text
The Story of The Pilgrims Informational Text ELA Test Prep Passage
Symbols of America Informational Text ELA Test Prep Passage: A National Bird Is Chosen
Canada: America's North American Neighbor ELA Test Prep Informational Text
Nigeria: The Legend From Lagos ELA Test Prep Informational Text
Cinco de May: The 5th of May ELA Test Prep Informational Text (Presented in both English and Spanish!)
The Brooklyn Bridge: The Bridge That Refused to Quit ELA Test Prep Informational Text 
Colonial America: A Difficult Decision ELA Test Prep Informational Text 
The First Female Pharaoh ELA Informational Reading Test Prep Passage
Angel Island: The Ellis Island of the West ELA Informational Reading Test Prep Passage

Test Prep, Cross-Curricular, and Common Core aligned. 96 pages.

Answer Key included.

Monday, February 20, 2017

DynamicDuo101 TpT March Product Showcase

Women's History Month is March! 

Our Women's History: Then and Now Interactive Notebook Activities with Rosa Parks: More Than A Seat Test Prep Passage and our Primary Source Document Depot mini-packet are perfect for a month-long focus project on famous women who made a difference in history!

Women's History Month is March but our interactive notebook activities can be used ALL YEAR LONG!

Thematic Units. Why They Work So Well

Whenever you are building a new curriculum, or even refining or enhancing an existing curriculum / thematic unit, it’s always a good idea to do your homework first.  What exactly does the research say about your idea?  Is there any research on the topic to begin with?  How much bang for your buck can you get out of the unit if you base it on proven research?  These are all great questions to ask yourself as you start the process.

According to Dr. Geoff Ward of James Cook University, thematic units to refer to any approach that integrated learning across the curriculum with some organizing connection that give a sense of unity to the study.  The key here is integrated.  When you can integrate material across a wide span of the curriculum and give students an all-around sense of fulfillment on a topic that is being studied, you can instantly build excitement and interest above and beyond the average, everyday lesson.  When students get excited to hear multiple teachers talking about a single topic with different projects (however mini or major) that will be worked on, students can all of a sudden get wrapped up in everything and anything ancient Egyptian, ancient Greek, Native American, or what have you.  They will be so immersed in the unit from multiple angles that they will walk away with a solid understanding that will take the level of instruction higher than any other method.

What’s interesting is that the idea of a cross-curricular thematic unit isn’t all that new.  As a matter of fact, it’s been around for several decades.  What makes it so new and so fresh for teachers now is the technology integration component which brings a whole new realm of possibilities available to students that just didn’t exist previously. 

MaryEllen Vogt, an Associate Professor of Education at California State University, Long Beach, points out nine areas of the curriculum that benefits students and states that cross-curricular thematic instruction “allows students to contemplate problems and situations that reflect the world as they know it.”  These nine areas are:

     Acquire, communicate, and investigate worthwhile knowledge in depth
     Integrate and enrich the language processes of reading, writing, listening, speaking, and thinking
     Practice reading different kinds of materials for varied purposes
     Use prior knowledge of the world and past experiences with language and text to create relationships among various sources of information
     Make choices, interact, collaborate, and cooperate
     Apply what they learn in meaningful and "real world" contexts
     Informally assess their understanding and application of what they are learning
     Participate and learn, regardless of ability, level of language development, or background
     Learn effectively in self-contained, multi-age, or departmental classrooms

Simply put, Common Core...Common Core...and yes, Common Core!   What’s even more fascinating is that very often in the past, thematic units were usually only meant for diverse learners who had the natural ability to be pushed to think on a higher level (aka your talented and gifted students).  However, today, thematic units are being used across the board to create meaningful and diverse learning for all types of students and on all levels.  Technology has certainly aided in that department, because, after all, how many kids do you know that aren’t attracted to some form of technology?

If you’re looking for professional articles and research regarding thematic units, a very good place to start is The Association for Supervision and Curriculum Development (ASCD: ). This membership-based nonprofit organization allows you to sign up for plenty of research-based information about curriculum and development.  You can even sign up for email delivery of current articles and information.  Take it up a notch and you can stay informed through social media by following them on Twitter at (@ascd) and receive a continuous feed of valuable resources.  As a matter of fact, social media has become one of the best resources for up-to-date and ever-changing information and resources (not to mention, it’s instant and mobile). Using social media can certainly be a fantastic one-stop-shop for everything Common Core, thematic, cutting edge, or technology-integrated material. 

You can also perform your own basic search online for ‘research based curriculum and development’ or ‘research based thematic unit creation’ for access to a wealth of information that will not only spark your creative juices, but will also give you the data you’re looking for with regard to small group work, students who are English Language Learners, students who have special needs or who have Individualized Education Programs (IEPs), students who can benefit from enrichment, etc.

To recap, thematic units work for a number of reasons.  First and foremost, students make connections by immersing themselves into a topic.  They read, write, create, design, and synthesize.  How much more Common Core can you get?  Furthermore, it allows students to learn in more than one way, which lends to Marzano-based research which assesses student outcomes and touches upon differentiation on multiple levels. 

On the teacher side of thematic units, the actual planning as well as teaching of material feels more fun to use, and not so much work.  Teachers can be as creative as they would like and can grab a student’s interests by engaging them and inspiring them, all the while connecting multiple areas of the Common Core State Standards.  It is without question that teacher excitement is transferred to student learning which benefits everyone...and that’s just the start!  Just wait until well-thought out units come to a close and students are producing high-level products to showcase what they have accomplished and what they have learned.

Have you ever seen those commercials selling a new piece of workout equipment? Or a personal trainer at the gym modeling a full body workout routine? The concept of course, is how to maximize your production while minimizing the time it takes to get there. When done properly, a full body workout can do that. You end up using more energy from more parts of your body, all being worked in unison. If you’ve ever tried this you know that you end up using (and training) muscles you never knew you had. Working individual body parts in isolation takes a lot more time; and can stagnate, as you tend to do the same routines over and over. You most likely are rarely working at full capacity, or working out those new muscles. You may end up thinking, “I’m working out a lot, but I’m not really seeing the results I wanted.” This is why (when implemented properly), a well done thematic unit can be as successful as a great full body workout. You maximize the output from your students, while minimizing the time it would take to try to teach every subject and skill in isolation. Moreover, the lessons will make more sense to the students. This will become evident when they make connections regarding how each new piece is an important part of the overall unit, and relates to what they’ve already learned.

The Finland Connection

Finland has long been regarded as a paragon for educational standards and their continued success has made the country a model that others have sought to learn from and emulate. In March of 2015  Richard Garner writing for The Independent wrote an article titled, “Finland schools: Subjects scrapped and replaced with‘topics’ as country reforms its education system.”

It might be surprising that a country so revered for its educational success is considering making changes or perhaps it is their willingness to change with the times and remain on the cutting edge of new ideas, that is the testament to their success.

In the article Garner explains that “subject specific lessons- an hour of history in the morning, an hour of geography in the afternoon- are already being phased out for 16 year-olds. They are being replaced by what the Finns call ‘Phenomenon’ teaching- or teaching by topic”

This is precisely what we have been doing at our school with the implementation of thematic units. In the article, Helsinki’s education manager Marjo Kyllonen is quoted as saying, “We really need a rethinking of our system, so it prepares our children for the future with the skills that are needed for today and tomorrow.” She goes on to say, “There are schools that are teaching in the old fashioned way which was a benefit in the beginning of the 1990s- but the needs are not the same and we need something fit for the 21st century.”

Garner explains how “Ms Kyllonen has been advocating a ‘co-teaching’ approach to lesson planning, with input from more than one subject specialist.” Once again, this ties in perfectly to what we have been able to institute in our school. While anything new takes some getting used to at first, the transition has been remarkably smooth. Even colleagues who might normally shy away from new tactics and even subtle changes have embraced the thematic unit concept and soon realized its value.

In the article Pasi Silander, Helsinki’s development manager states, “We have really changed the mindset. It is quite difficult to get teachers to start and take the first step...but teachers who have taken to the new approach say they can’t go back.” We couldn’t agree more wholeheartedly, and we are convinced you’ll feel the same way after you’ve tried our thematic approach.

Another article in March of 2015 titled “Goodbye, Math andHistory: Finland Wants to Abandon Teaching Subjects at School” written by KabirChibber also describes this exciting new innovation in pedagogy. Chibber explains, “The Finns are teaching phenomena- such as the European Union, which encompasses learning languages, history, politics, and geography. No more of an hour of history followed by an hour of chemistry. The idea aims to eliminate one of the biggest gripes of students everywhere: ‘what is the point of learning this?’ Now, each subject is anchored to the reason for learning it.”

When I read this article I had what Oprah calls an “Aha!” moment. This is what we’ve been doing. This is why we’ve been doing it. It made perfect sense to us, but now a country that has long been a paragon for educational success had endorsed the model.

Adam Hyman, author of Scholastic's Managing the Digital Classroom, has often said how the 21st century student has technology ingrained in every aspect of his/her learning and in the article, Pasi Silander (Helsinki’s development manager) agrees: “The world has changed with the spread of technology and many old ways of teaching have no practical purpose.” This is why we feel that thematic units (through technology integration) is not just the educational model of the future, but indeed the present as well. Again, because of the age of technology that we now see taking place, the model of the future has been molded in part because of that same technology that is available to both teachers and students.  Chibber ends the article by questioning “will the rest of the world follow the Finns lead?” We are proud to say, we already have been. 

Want to know more?  Get our eBook: Teaching Common Core Thematic Units Through Technology Integration and learn how to effectively create Common Core aligned thematic units for your students through technology integration and other curriculum areas.

The DynamicDuo101 on TpT: Who We Are

One of the biggest challenges that teachers face in a Common Core-aligned setting is designing, creating, and organizing material that all aligns to the standards (not to mention the time and effort that it takes to do so).  Done correctly through proper planning and organization, a Common Core thematic unit can ultimately help and enrich students of all ages and abilities in ways that you may have never thought of. 

Typically, teachers assign projects (common core-aligned or not) on one topic, for one period of time.  Yet, what if we took it upon ourselves to raise the bar and not only focus on just one topic, but rather to integrate research-based information with multiple subject areas like technology, social studies, visual art, music, and even physical education into one thematic unit that not only challenges students, but enriches what they are learning?  In effect, expanding a topic to reach more students with more options and more intrigue.

The 21st Century Student

Let’s face it, today’s 21 century student is more connected to information because of online and digital sources than ever before.  Students have access to a multitude of resources that can enhance nearly every facet of educational material that you can throw at them.  They are technologically savvy and can do magic with computers...effortlessly.  They learn how to use Google for online searches, design websites, and even master social media faster than a speeding train.  Moreover, they can learn techniques by seeing it demonstrated just once so effectively that sometimes teachers and parents say, “If only they could pay that kind of attention in math!”

Therein lies part of the problem.

Today’s student is hard-wired to utilize technology from birth and there’s no getting around it.  I like to use the horse and blinders comparison...when a computer, or some sort of computer device is placed in front of them, it’s all they see.  Nothing else matters.  So why not marry that effect to the Common Core State Standards and ISTE (International Society for Technology in Education) Standards to enhance learning to levels, which until now, have been uncharted?  Why not use technology to our advantage?  After all, this is what students desire...what they long to use...what they almost “need” to use in order to do what curriculums around the world are asking of them. 

Our Teachers Pay Teachers products assists you in effectively designing and creating Common Core aligned thematic units for your students that will enhance what they are learning by applying concepts that they have previously been exposed to.  The best part: when you realize that magic moment when your students are learning material in ways that you never thought could possibly happen -- and occasionally -- without even realizing it’s happening in the first place.