Getting through to the end...

Spring break has probably either come and gone for you, or it is ending this week. Insert tears, screams and large glasses of wine here.

The stretch of school between spring break and the end of the year can be BRUTAL. There are little to no days off, warmer weather which means antsy kids, and still SO much to do. Keeping kids engaged gets harder because (1) they know the end is coming and they've started to mentally check out and (2) you know the end is coming and your eagerness to spend every free moment planning and creating amazing lessons is dwindling. Ok, so maybe you haven't ever wanted to spend every free moment planning, but you get my drift.

Here are some tips to help get your students (and yourself) through these last few weeks.

  1. Movies. If your school allows movies, play the doggone movies. Of course, make sure they relate to your content... you can find a movie that goes with ANY topic. Play it in sections and stop to ask questions. The students will appreciate the break. Erin uses movies - and you should too! 
  2. Get more hands on. Even if you haven't been an INB fan or taken the time to really push foldables in your classroom... this may be a good time to try. Interactive activities keep students more engaged because they require cutting, coloring, glueing and creativity... more than basic worksheets. Mel & Gerdy have an End of Year Interactive Notebook Activities resource that works for ANY (yep) subject. 
  3. Projects, projects, projects. Give your students assignments that span a few days. It's great for them to work on something that comes together over a period of time - plus projects provide great opportunities for collaboration. Students can explore a topic on their own and then work together (or alone) to demonstrate their understanding or complete a task. 
  4. Choice boards. Give your students choices as the year is coming to an end. They've been required to show understanding in ways you've chosen (graphically, written, using technology, worksheets, etc.) so why not give them the choice. You don't have to use something formal - just provide them with a few different options for demonstrating their understanding of a specific topic or skill. I personally LOVE choice boards because students have a little bit more excitement about what they are doing since they were able to pick what to do. 
  5. Plan as many outdoor activities as possible. Kids are wiggly and distracted in the room. Outside they are often more focused. Consider taking them out for a few minutes just to review notes or complete activities using clipboard.
  6. Just enjoy your students. They'll be moving on soon so try to carve out a little time to do something enjoyable with them. Take the last 5-10 minutes of class one day a week to just let go and take a break. Play a quick game together or just chat!
  7. Have them write letters to future students about your class. These are SO funny to read! I have a template for the letter in my EOY Activities resource. 
  8. Put them to work! Getting your room organized at the end of the year can be (and often is) a nightmare. Give the students small tasks (especially if they are early finishers) such as labeling bins, counting supplies, etc. They'll feel needed and be on task and your end of year clean up list will get shorter and shorter! 
  9. Testing is over - so just stop teaching ok? Seriously - read Erin's post about it! 

Scavenger Hunt Fun!

It's that time of year! The weather is warming up, the sun us shining, the birds are chirping, the trees and flowers are blooming......and the kids would much rather be outside than inside! Who can blame them? I would much rather be outside than inside, too! I wanted to share an easy but FUN activity with you all. I know it's past Easter, and we don't celebrate Easter at my school, so you could totally use this idea anytime this spring. The eggs are just a vessel to hide clues in.

scavenger hunt social studies, In the Middle, Brainy Apples

Our spring break is next week. Which means that this week our kiddos are on high alert for anything that will distract them from our lessons. We decided to take our kids outside and let them run wild, as long as they were getting their work done. When we return from spring break, our state testing begins. So we decided to use a scavenger hunt to review with our students. It gets them outside. They can run. They can talk. They can jump and spin. They can enjoy the outside. And it gives them a break from the classroom.

We wanted to review government terms and apply them to Canada, so the questions all relate to our 6th grade Georgia standards of government and Canada. I have included the PDF if you teach this content, and I also included a generic answer document in case you don't teach this content, but you wanted to use this idea. You would have to make your own question cards, but it's pretty easy using a Word document. You can also do this with ANY subject. All you need are questions cut apart. Easy and no time at all to prepare for, aside from stuffing the eggs (but parents could totally do that!).

So all I did was type out 25 questions that would be government review and Canadian government. Then I cut apart the questions, and stuffed them into eggs. We made 100 eggs, 4 for each questions. Then we hid them in our outdoor classroom area. Some eggs were in plain view. Others were hid a little better. There were 3 of us outside at the same time, so about 80 kiddos, and there were plenty of eggs.

scavenger hunt social studies, In the Middle, Brainy Apples

We had some rules, such as: you must put the question back in the egg, close it, and place it where you found it; and you have to FIND the eggs- no taking an egg from someone's hand!

Our kids loved this activity! I had several come up to me and tell me thank you for letting them do this. It's so simple, yet they kids really appreciated it. I know we used eggs, but you could still do this in April or May. You could use anything to hide the questions in. Eggs are just easy.

Click on the images below to download either the Canadian Government activity or the Generic Answer Key that can be used with any questions.

Social studies, In The Middle, Brainy ApplesSocial studies, In the Middle, Brainy Apples

Social studies, In The Middle, Brainy Apples
Social studies, In The Middle, Brainy Apples
Social studies, In The Middle, Brainy Apples

I hope your students enjoy this activity as much as mine did!

Teachers Pay Teachers, Middle Grades, Secondary, Social Studies
 Teachers Pay Teachers, Middle Grades, Secondary, Social Studies

Why the Middle? Five GREAT Reasons to Teach Junior High

Why should you consider teaching the middle grades? We've got FIVE reasons to jump in feet first and enjoy this amazing age group!

If you've ever gone to a teaching job fair you've probably noticed that the lines for elementary school applicants are endless, the high school lines are out the door, yet the middle school applicant lines are (sadly) short.  Teachers that occupy the last of those lines are often seen as saints or crazy. It's funny, and TRUE, that whenever we would say that we teach middle school science, the person on the other side of the conversation would inevitably say "bless your heart!" Why are middle schools given such a bad rap? Ever since the "creation" of the middle school in the early 1900's, the view of the middle school student, and even those that teach them, is rarely viewed in a positive light. The tween is often seen as hormonally charged, awkward, egocentric, apathetic, unreachable, yet oh-so independent. The middle school educator is a rebel, gutsy, quirky, and often the most misunderstood of all teachers.

So, why did we choose to teach in an environment where students make poor choices and think they rule the roost? Because it's FUN! Of all the grades we have ever taught, 7th was the best. We'd never consider teaching high school biology or 5th grade science. Middle school is that wonderful, precarious bridge leading from the nurturing need of the elementary school student to the other side where independent high school students are actually interested in the material you are teaching.  We like being in the middle! Each day had its own set of challenges but also its rewards. Students might think they own the joint, but they also make teaching so interesting.

There are so many positives to this age range. Here are just a few that we love about our experiences in the middle:

1. Potty all the time: Every word that comes out of your mouth has an unintentional double-meaning or joke behind it to a middle-schooler. They will laugh at words you use in class like "doodle"on your page, "ball" up the piece of paper, or plants produce seeds and "nuts." As life science teachers, the worst is when a student messes up the word "organism" - we're sure you can guess where it goes from there.  And of course, once the chuckling begins you know you'll end up laughing, too. Once an episode or two of riotous laughter has occurred, you'll either find yourself avoiding those words or using them on purpose because you love to see student's reactions. What are some of your favorites - please share in the comments below!

2. Herding cats: Have you ever tried to corral a hundred cats at once? Taken a hundred or more tweens on a field trip to a museum where precious ancient artifacts are carefully laid out on tables and shelves and then ask them not to touch anything? Spent your lunch duty trying to keep students at their assigned tables when someone realizes that it's so-and-so's birthday and they want to sing happy birthday to said so-and-so and would like to involve the entire cafeteria?  If you teach middle school, then we know your answer is YES (at least to #'s 2 and 3). Middle schoolers are all of those things we mentioned above, but they are also curious, insightful, audacious, fearless, thoughtful and socially energized people, and their lack of shyness at this age, while exhausting, is also refreshing.  It's tough and it'll keep you on your toes, but the impulsive nature of these kids is what keeps them engaged in class and asking those meaningful and insightful questions throughout lessons.

3. Reminding you of YOUR youth: Ah, yes. When's the last time you learned a step routine, ate a Taki, or popped 15 Skittles into the air and caught them in your mouth just before lunch?  How about the last time you wrote a phone number on your hand, passed a note, or jumped on a desk and acted like a fledgling bird?  Depends.  If you're in a corporate office board meeting, probably never.  But, if you're a middle school teacher, you probably did all of those things yesterday with a bunch of giggling 11 and 12 year old kids. Being a middle school teacher allows you the unique opportunity to relive your middle school years... perpetually.  Like, for real.  You're probably thinking, ugh... WHY would I want to do that? The great thing about reliving middle school when you're not a student is the sheer fact that you've done it once, and you survived!  And now, NOW you get to do it with all of the wonderful knowledge of a seasoned middle school veteran, and enjoy it for the fun and amazing ride that it is, without all the drama and tears... although your name may still end up on the bathroom wall (like Gerdy's)!
Five GREAT reasons to consider teaching middle school!

4. Finding themselves: When a fresh new group of young faces enters the halls of middle school, they are often bright and innocent and full of youth.  Then... they change. While it can often feel like a Jekyll and Hyde kind of experience, it's important to remember that this period of self exploration and reflection is so important to the creation of the adults that these adolescents will one day become. Seems like a long time ago when we teachers were in middle school and we'd be willing to wager that most of you would say that those were your least favorite school years. If you look back though, on how awkward, confused or even lost you felt and how other times you felt excited, crazy, and in awe of your new independence, we'd also be willing to bet that those years helped to shape the person you are today. Take a moment to put yourself in their shoes. Remember your firsts: a boy/girl party, time alone at the mall, movie with friends, breaking up with a boyfriend or girlfriend, staying up all night - nearly everything had to do with the social aspect of life. Everything was so new and exciting.  It's so fun and interesting to watch as your students experience freedom and individuality, and that you get to be a part of that.  And as their educator, you can draw from your own personal story and, with your guidance, help to mold and shape them into the people they will be as adults. This is an amazing time of self exploration and they will try you, they will test the boundaries, they will not stop talking when you ask them repeatedly, but by the time they leave middle school they know a little more about who they are and you helped them along the way.
Reaching the middle school student and four other reasons to consider teaching junior high.

5.  When you finally reach them: Nothing feels better than to see the lightbulb go off in a middle school classroom.  Middle school can be like an arcade - there are lots of bells and whistles and pings and pongs and bleeps and bloops to constantly distract students from the ultimate mission of winning the game.  For many of them, it's not only the distraction of being a teenager (a lot of distraction in and of itself), but their home lives can also add to the noise. Life is very overwhelming at this age and students are just understanding how their bodies and brains work.  As we mentioned before, we get a unique opportunity to help guide these children, not only in the ways of science, math, language and the arts, but also in life. Whether you reach out to a student who is struggling in class or personally, it's such a gift to be able to see when they finally get the equation or understand the advice, and to know that you are a big part of that.  

So there you have it.  We may be crazy, we may be saints, but one thing is for certain, we love being in the middle. Have you hugged your middle school teacher today?

Student Created Webpages

Hope everyone who is in the snow zone is staying toasty warm! My area just missed getting slammed, but it still didn't stop our school from having a snow day yesterday. Part of me was cheering for the day off, but another part of me was disappointed. Why in the world would a teacher be disappointed about having a snow day? Well, my students just started a project on Thursday, and I am bummed that I didn't get to see the excitement from Thursday carry over into Friday. I know come Monday that excitement will be there, but have you ever had that feeling of starting a project with your kiddos, and you just didn't want class to end?

What are we doing that is so exciting this teacher was *slightly* bummed about having a snow day? We are in the beginning of our Latin America unit, and we are getting into the history. I knew I wanted to have my advanced students create some type of project because our first topics are the Aztecs and Incas. And even though not all of my students would find the Aztecs and Incas as fascinating as I do, I did want to get my students excited about learning. They are going to build a website about the Aztecs and Incas.
**Side note- I teach 5 classes of 6th grade social studies. Three of those classes are advanced and two are on-level. I differentiate for my advanced classes, so I either come up with a variation of an activity my on-level students are doing (or sometimes I come up with something for my advanced kids and tier it for my on-level kiddos), or I plan something completely different for them. As long as my lessons are standards-based, I have complete freedom in the activities I plan for my kiddos, and I can vary the activities as much as I want between the two levels of classes.

**Another side note- I am totally fine with turning my kiddos loose on a project I have never done before. I like to live dangerously. And my administration fully supports us teachers. If this project turns out a flop, I am OK with that. I take note of what worked, what didn't work, and tweak it for the next go around.  I know my kids will learn the knowledge they need to from this project, it just may or may not be a pretty process!

I planned this project just for my advanced kids. Why? Well, because this project is very much self-directed, and students will be learning without me. I know my advanced students can do this. My on-level students will need more involvement from me to learn the content.  I totally know that my on-level kids will enjoy creating a webpage just as much as my advanced kids, so they are going to have a project like this later on this year with information they have already learned.

Let's Get To It!
I chose Weebly, but you could also use Wikispaces. I have never used Weebly before because my district uses an on-line learning platform. All of my class correspondence and resources are uploaded there. However, I wanted my kids to create their own webpages.

Why a webpage? It's very real world, and most of them are technologically savvy enough to figure out how (in other words, they know how to tinker really well with technology). I wanted them to explore the Aztecs and Incas on their own because they would be way more engaged than if I led the discussion, and I wanted them to have some type of record of what they learned. They have made posters before, but not very many have made their own webpage, so I knew this would be a very intriguing project for them. My students have completed anticipatory activities before learning about specific content, but I honestly just wanted them to be able to explore on their own with a few guidelines. I wanted to keep this portion of Latin America history as self-directed as possible with as little as me as possible.

Independently or groups? I explained the project to my kiddos and let them decide if they were confident enough to create their own by themselves, or if they wanted to team up with a pal. I allowed up to 3 in a group because I wanted to make sure each member put in work. Thankfully my school as plenty of technology to go around, and I am able to check out one Chrome Book per kid. If you don't have one-to-one technology, your students may not have the choice to work alone. I *gently* persuaded most of my students to team up with at least one other person because you can only get 40 free students accounts with a teacher Weebly account. I have WAY more than 40 advanced students, so I knew I needed some groups. Yes, students can create their own Weebly account for free, BUT I wanted easy access to their webpages. Per district policy, the webpages must be set to private, so the only way I will be able to assess their webpages is to have 90 usernames and passwords. Um, no. With student accounts under my teacher account, all I have to do is log into mine and I can simply click theirs. Easier and time saver.

Putting it into action. I feel like my advanced kiddos are pretty independent and the majority are very motivated, so my intro was really just explaining the project to them, giving them the project guidelines/rubric page, provided some text resources, gave them some reliable online resource sites, gave a quick overview of Weebly, and I turned them loose. This may not work for everyone. You may need to give a more detailed intro to your kiddos. You know them best. I knew that the time of year (snow day, no snow day???) leaves my kiddos pretty wiggly and restless if I talk for too long. Letting them tinker may take a bit more time, but at least I know they are engaged in the task at hand, and I don't have to struggle to maintain their attention. I also have no problem letting my kids take the reins. One of the biggest lessons I learned moving from elementary to middle school was that I had to give up a lot of control. In elementary school I did tons of centers, my students moved a lot, it was not quiet. But for the most part, I couldn't give an overview and turn them loose and let them have complete reign to tinker and hope that academic work would get accomplished. In middle school I can. One more reason I love middle school and will not go back to elementary school without crying, screaming, and kicking.

Reliable websites- BiographyHistoryDiscovery,  and National Geographic. I gave my kiddos a run down on why Wikipedia is not the *most* reliable source of information out there.

How it's going. I feel like so far it has gone very well. Granted we are only going to be on day 2 when we return to school, but my kids tinkered with Weebly for about 15 minutes, felt comfortable, and started researching. They used library books I checked out, the websites I listed above, and whatever else they searched on line. Many of them working in groups created a Google doc to share their research and simultaneously add information. I didn't even tell them to do this. They just did it on their own! #winning

How long it will take. I am giving my students 6 full class periods to work on this. Each class is 55 minutes long, so I am hoping this is plenty of time. I did tell them, though, if they are making this elaborate webpage, they might have to work on it at home. Keep in mind, many of my kiddos will work on it at home. If push comes to shove, and it is nearing the 6th day and most of my kids aren't anywhere close to being done, I will give them extra days. I am OK with that. Yes, we have set curriculum we have to get through, but I fully believe that to become a better teacher, you have to be willing to take risks and sometimes just fly by the seat of your pants. See where the adventure takes you. Jot notes of what went well and what went horribly wrong, and improve with the next project.

Project page and rubric. Here is the project detail page and rubric I gave to my kiddos. Nothing fancy, and it would be easy for you to create something similar if you didn't want to have the topic be the Aztecs and Incas.

I will be back when we finish to post some screen shots of my daughter's webpage when she finishes (yes, I do get to teach my daughter since she needs advanced SS and I am the only advanced SS teacher.....difficult at times? Yes. Would I trade it for anything in the world? Never!). I promise I will show it whether good, bad, or ugly because teaching is messy sometimes, and so are student created projects!

Have you had your students create their own webpages before? What were your biggest victories and defeats?

Happy Teaching!
Heather- Brainy Apples

Fitting It All In: 6 Tips for Science Experimentation on a Shortened Schedule

So you've figured out set-up, take-down and storage of your lab materials using some handy tips from our previous blog post. You've just gone over the directions and your kiddos are ready to get elbow deep into a frog exploration when the bell rings. Wait... WHAT?!?!? What happened to your class time?  Where did it go? You just looked at the clock and you had at least a good half hour left. How can anyone get through an elaborate lab such as a dissection or an inquiry lab from start to finish in a 50 minute (or less) block of time? In this day and age of "go, go, GO!", teachers have to be flexible. Over scheduled students are changing classes, heading to constant testing which alters schedules for weeks on end, participating in plays, sports activities, and the like which pulls kids from your room on a whim. So, how do you ensure that every student experiences experiments and labs in this kind of chaos? We've got some teacher-tested tips for you for when time is of the essence!

1. Smooth Review: To ensure a well organized lab day, go over lab expectations, rules, consequences, procedures, materials, etc. the day before the lab takes place.  Allow students to complete their hypothesis and ask them to read over the procedure again for homework. The following day, do a quick overview of the lab by letting students summarize what you discussed the day prior, quiz them with a few of the most important questions and then set your kids loose! They should be ready and set to go.

2. Work Together: Don't be afraid to work WITH your students in coming up with a feasible hypothesis or logical conclusions. Students can still develop their own inferences, but when the class brainstorms ideas together, the process can go much more quickly. For summarizing or analysis questions, answer them as a class or allow them to work with their groups. This will speed up the time that's often wasted "thinking stuff up" and will help lead those that were a little lost down the right path to the big picture.

3. Pre-fill and Pare Down: Another great way to fit labs into shortened classes is to have graph paper partially filled out with the correct data range so students can easily create a title, identify their x and y axes and fill in their plot points (provide two versions and you have a great differentiation tool you can use for your students who just don't quite get science or math concepts as quickly). Where possible, reduce the number of trials during an experiment. You can also limit results and conclusion questions to those that are most important to the lab. Simple recall assessments are time wasters.

4. Split it up: If you're able, complete one half of the lab one day and the other half on the following day - this is especially helpful for labs like dissection when exploration is really necessary to gain a full understanding of the concept at hand. Wrap up specimen in a gallon ziplock bag with the group name written on the outside for storage overnight. Have time to complete the lab, but not the analysis? Ask students to answer important questions for homework. The next day, spend 5-10 minutes reviewing the main takeaway of the experiment and revisit any misconceptions students may have. Whatever end point you reach, be sure to incorporate a little time for closure because you never want to leave your students hanging when it comes to understanding the big picture.

5. 'Round Robin quizzes: Dissection is a major component of what life science and biology teachers do, and ensuring identification and understanding of the many working parts of an organism is key to success in our labs. Unfortunately, time constraints often limit our ability to ensure each student sees each organ and understands location and function - to this end, we do group quizzes. Create a quick checklist that you can hand out to each group and have students put their names at the top of the sheet.  Prior to exploration, inform your kids that a verbal group quiz is how they'll be graded for their participation. The checklist can also be a guiding handout, with a graphic of what kids should be locating. Once you've visited each group and observed they are on the right path, use the last 15-20 minutes of the lab to visit each group and quiz the students about where each structure is located and what the function of each is. It saves time and your sanity as you try to assess their level of involvement in and comprehension of the lab.  

6.  Demonstrate it: When time is really crunched, there is no better way than to do the lab yourself with students assisting throughout the process.  Tell students the problem at hand and have them help you brainstorm the best procedure to achieve the desired results.  Set-up the lab at your desk and ask for student volunteers to help complete the lab.  Formulate a hypothesis and answer analysis questions together as a class.  While it may not be as hands-on for the students, in a shortened class period it can be a real time-saver and still allows the students the experience of the concept you are demonstrating.   

Please feel free to comment below and let us know what kind of shortcuts you've incorporated in your classroom when you're in a time crunch in science! 

Homework - To Grade or Not To Grade

It's almost Christmas - so don't shoot me OK? I am not a fan of grading homework for about a million different reasons. For me, homework was an all or nothing mark in the grade book. You either do it - with effort or you don't. I know many teachers who do grade homework and if that's you, rock on!

Students in Middle School are different (as if you didn't already know that). Homework shouldn't be given unless you know students have an understanding of the concept. Why? Middle schoolers are grumpy and often lack patience. If they have homework on a skill that is difficult, brand new or just plain hard, they aren't going to do it. You and I both know it. Don't punish them because all you will end up doing is punishing yourself.

Why homework shouldn't be graded:

  1. You have enough to do. Seriously. You are grading classwork and exams, going to meetings (PLCs, IEPs,) dealing with parents, dealing with students, trying to have a life outside of school. You don't need to take up your time to sit and grade every single homework assignment. 
  2. You shouldn't pick and choose when you grade HW and when you don't. It isn't fair to the students. They need to know what is and what isn't graded. Going back and forth isn't providing them - or you - consistency. As you know, consistency is the KEY to successfully managing Middle Schoolers. 
  3. Not every student has the same resources. Some kids will go home and have their mathematical engineer mother help them with their homework. Others will go home and ask their big brother who is in AP Biology to do it for them. There will be kids who go home and take on the role of parent because their own parents work in the evening. When students are in class, they are given the same resources and opportunities. Outside of school, the environment isn't controlled. 
  4. It really isn't that important. Gah. I know... terrible right? Think about it. What is important? Classroom interactions, cooperative learning, assessment performance, classroom behavior, kids being GOOD people. Those things are important. Outside of schools, kids need to focus on things that will really truly matter in the future. They need to spend time with their families. They need to play sports and participate in other activities that will teach them how to work together and be a team player. School takes up enough of their day (think about how much of your day it consumes). Don't let it take up their evenings too. 
  5. Going over the homework in class requires the students to pay attention to their own work - and you! If you pass back homework that is graded, students will not pay attention to you when you are trying to go over it. The kid who had nothing wrong has zero reasons to pay attention. The kid who has most wrong will be irritated and not pay attention - probably shoving the paper in his or her notebook. Giving back a paper with a simple checkmark ensures they will at least listen to the answers you give and check their own paper. Often this will lead to questions.  Learning from mistakes is one of the best ways to learn!
Now. I'm NOT saying homework should never be given. Before a test, absolutely. Real world projects? Go for it. I'm simply saying that it doesn't need to be graded - unless your school requires a homework grade. And even then, grade for completion. A simple check or zero gives you points in the grade book without taking tons of time to check every single question. 

FREE Holocaust Resources

Hey all! I hope everyone is surviving the chaos that is December!

I will admit, I was VERY hesitant about missing a day and a half last week to go to a training. On one hand, it IS nice to not be in the classroom during the wild and crazy weeks leading up to winter break when the kids are all hyped up every.single.minute. On the other hand, I really did not want to subject one of our sweet subs to that torture. I wasn’t sure that I would even pay attention because my Christmas shopping is so not even close to being done, and I would most likely end up jotting down ideas and surfing Amazon while hiding my phone under the table. #sorrynotsorry

I am happy to admit that I was TOTALLY wrong. The training I attended was beyond amazing. It was the best training I have been to in a LONG time. What was this training, you ask?

The Georgia Commission on the Holocaust provided an amazing training about all aspects of the Holocaust. Yes, it is in Georgia, BUT: many, many states have their own Holocaust resources. So if you live in another state, Google Holocaust museums and/or commissions in your state. Many of these establishments provide many of the resources I am going to talk about in this blog post. You can also Google colleges and universities in your state for Holocaust resources. Kennesaw State University in Georgia provides many resources, so be sure to use your state colleges! There is also the UnitedStates Holocaust Memorial Museum that also provides resources. The BEST part of all of this?????? The resources are FREE. FREEEEEEEE!!!!!!!!! Sometimes you may have to pay a return postage fee, or a small travel fee if you want a speaker to come out, but most often you pay nothing. Zip. Zilch. Nada. Which, for educators who always seem to shell out our own money, this is priceless. If you do not live in Georgia, I hope you keep reading and get excited about the resources I discuss. So much that you go out and Google your own state and area to find similar free resources. And you can still use some of the ideas and resources posted on the websites I include.

Who Is This Post For?
Upper grades peeps who teach about the Holocaust! Not every grade level teaches about the Holocaust, but in Georgia grades 5-8 and high school world and US history courses do. I teach 6th grade and part of our curriculum is European history, so we do teach the Holocaust for a period of time. The Holocaust is  a subject that is very delicate and emotional, so when I discovered these resources, I was so thankful and grateful to not have to figure it out on my own. It was also fabulous to know how to handle the emotional side because many children will become upset.

What Is This Post About?
The training I went to was offered by the Georgia Commission the Holocaust, and, not only was it free of charge, they even paid for my substitute and gave out incredible resources. Not only that, but they had George Rishfeld, a Holocaust survivor, speak to us (which we also found out he was available to travel to schools to talk with students). The first-hand account stories he told us were intriguing, sad, and so crucial in helping future generations learn about the Holocaust. He is not the only Holocaust survivor who comes out to speak to schools. With a little time spent on your state’s Holocaust resource pages, you will be able to find speakers, too. I feel like I have jumped around a little bit in this post, so below I will outline the resources made available to Georgia educators through either the Georgia Commission on the Holocaust or by Kennesaw State University since these are the two I have experience with.  

Professional Development Opportunities
This was the training I attended. Like I said, it was free of charge, the organization paid for my substitute, provided a hot dinner the first evening and a lunch the second day, and they gave attendees several resources that will be used a lot in my classroom. There is actually another training identical to the one I attended in January in Thomasville, Georgia. Click {here} for the registration information. At the training I attended, there were a few teachers from South Carolina in attendance, so I don't think this training is limited to Georgia educators. I did not to think to ask them, but it is worth looking into if you live near Thomasville and are out of state. 
The training covered a wide range of Holocaust topics, and lessons (along with materials) were provided. **I talk more about these lessons below**

One of the biggest take aways I had from this training, were the guidelines for teaching about the Holocaust. The link takes you to the USHMM, and these guidelines are very helpful in knowing how to approach the Holocaust as well as what you need to keep in mind as you navigate through your unit of study.

And of course I LOVED the two books that were given to each attendee. One of the lessons includes excerpts from Salvaged Pages, by Alexandra Zapruder (page 102 of the PDF- I'm Still Here). This particular lesson integrated literacy which is awesome! I did actually buy the DVD  (*this is an affiliate link*) I'm Still Here: Real Diaries of Young People Who Lived During the Holocaust that is mentioned. You don't need to DVD if you have the book, but the DVD really brings the diary entries alive. And you don't need to buy the book if you attended the training. If you are interested in buying the book, Salvaged Pages, you can use this affiliate link. One of the other big takeaways from the training is that many people use The Diary of Anne Frank while teaching the Holocaust. However, it is very important to make sure students know that this is just ONE girl's story. There are many more diaries out there, and Salvaged Pages has several diary entries from survivors and non-survivors.

The other book given to us had many photographs with a wealth of information about the Holocaust. It is called The World Must Know: The History of the Holocaust As Told in the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum, by Michael Berenbaum. You can order this book by using this affiliate link. Some of the lessons from the PDF also include photographs from this book (for example the time line activity, which is on page 166). In fact, many of the lessons that you can access in that PDF are integrated with even ELA teachers can use them. #winning Many book titles are included, so it makes my reading heart happy.

Lessons & Activities
My favorite activity I have used this far is the Holocaust ID cards activity that uses ID cards from the USHMM. The lesson provided by the GCH includes smaller ID cards that students use.

This link will take you to the PDF that contains tons of lessons/activities, including the ID card lesson. The ID card activity begins on page 128, with the smaller ID cards following. The cards on this download don't have the photos (which are on the link above from the USHMM. If you attend a training, though, the cards you receive do have the photos and a map on the back with significant places to that person (which is why the image above includes the photos of the people and maps on the ID cards).
**disclaimer** ALL of the documents I am posting are FREE of charge and available to ANYONE to download.

The PDF download from above contains SEVERAL lessons, and in most cases, the needed documents/materials. I am telling y'all! These resources are a GOLDMINE!

This link contains additional activities if you scroll to the bottom of the page (the top link on the page does not work, and I posted the second link above). You want to look for the hyperlinks listed under the third trunk (which brings me to the trunks in the next section). Overwhelmed? Yes, me, too! Even though I went to the training, there are still so many more resources I need to dig through. Perfect task for your team to help with!

The USHMM has a wide variety of resources on its site. I have not even began to look over most of these resources because I am still digesting all the information I have from the training I attended. I have used some of the animated maps because they are very clear and concise for students to understand. Showing this particular map really helped show students the magnitude of Hitler's conquered lands, and helped to set the context for my students to learn about the Holocaust. 
**I highly recommend previewing any map you might want to show your students to make sure they are age-appropriate**

Trunks, Exhibits, & In-House Programs
I have used traveling trunks before but not traveling exhibits. Kennesaw State University sends out trunks and exhibits free of charge. You will either have to: 1. pay for return shipping; 2. if you live close enough, you can drop them off yourself for free; 3. or, do what we are doing, schedule an in-house program for the last day you have the trunks/exhibit and the presenter will take them back for free. #winningagain

We have not used these yet, but we do have them scheduled for the first 3 weeks in May. You can reserve the trunks and exhibits for 3 consecutive weeks, so that's what we are doing. Because the in-house program is free, it is too pricey for KSU to send out the presenter multiple days, so for our grade level, we are combining our 3 social studies classes into one room for each of our class periods. So there will be about 90 students in each period, so that way all of our students get to participate, and KSU sends out someone for just one day. And since there are 3 of us who teach SS, we have 3 trunks coming at the same time, so we can rotate through the trunks and keep each one for one week. The exhibit will most likely be housed in our media center. #haventthoughtthatfarahead

Trunks include a variety of items that relate to the trunk's theme, along with the lesson/activity plans, suggested book titles (score!), and anything else needed. SCORE! The exhibits are 8-10 large, free standing panels that provide a context for many topics relating to before, during, and after the Holocaust. These also come with everything you need for the lessons/activities. DOUBLE SCORE!!

KSU also provides a free museum to Georgia residents, so all you would need to pay (if your school was fairly close) for would be transportation. 
All of the trunks and exhibits come with teaching guides, so you literally have EVERYTHING you  need before, during, and after you have the trunks and exhibits.
Sorry I don't have any photos of the actual trunks or exhibits. We have not used them yet :( 

Not only does KSU have trunks, but so does the GCH. These trunks are slightly different, so it is worth checking into even if you have used, or are planning to use, the trunks from KSU. This page also has the teaching guides for their trunks (which is the same link I posted above for the ID card activity). The GCM also has exhibits, but they are loaned out a little bit differently.

Homeschool Parent?
Homeschoolers, KSU also has resources just for you!

I do hope you are able to use some of these resources to help plan out your unit. If you don't live in Georgia, I do hope you will take some time to Google available resources and museums in your state. I can't imagine teaching the Holocaust without these resources! Want to help out a fellow teacher? If you have found resources for your state, post the link(s) in the comment section below. That way you are all helping each other out!