50 Years Later

Sometimes, a casual conversation makes you stop in your tracks. Back in early January, my dad said, “you know, the end of the month is 50 years since I arrived in Viet Nam”. I hadn’t realized it was. He arrived in Viet Nam right before the Tet Offensive in 1968. He was only 20 years old. I thought for a moment and responded with, “That means this April is the 50th anniversary of Dr. King’s assassination”. He nodded.

2017 brought my family so many amazing celebrations, most notably, my father’s 70th birthday and my parents’ 40 anniversary. As 2018 began, I hadn’t realized the historical impact of this year. 50 years have passed since 1968, since Dr. King’s assassination, Robert Kennedy’s assassination, Viet Nam, and everything else that occurred in this pivotal year.

I teach in an urban community so all of my students know about Dr. King and many other influential African Americans. One of my former students even celebrates her birthday today, along with Dr. Maya Angelou. History can be hard for students to connect to as it all occurred “so long ago”. When we meet people that lived through something, it brings life to that event. That event now has a story with real people connected to it. It shows us how these events impacted the people that lived through it. It shows us the life and legacy of that historic person.

Last week before our spring break, I told my students today is the 50th anniversary since we wouldn’t be in school today. It caught some of them off guard too and they stopped to think about what I just said. It made me think about the fact that Dr. King was just a few years older than me at the time he was killed. It makes me wonder if we have made progress. It made me realize that many of the people from modern history are already gone.

As one student said, “we are losing so many great black people”. Linda Brown died on March 25. We happened to be studying the Supreme Court case Brown v. Board of Education in one class that week. We are losing many of the people who have shaped history over the years. Dr. Maya Angelou and Nelson Mandela just two that come to mind. I can no longer say, “she is still alive”. So, I find stories connected to these people to illustrate their legacy.

As we remember Dr. King today, we honor his life and legacy. We look to see is shaping the next 50. Among them, Dr. King and his legacy will live on.

Electoral College Map Activity

I have to admit, I have been excited about this map since the end of last year. This giant map of the United States stayed in my trunk all last year. Its partner, the world map, was proudly hung on my classroom wall all last year. Students labeled the world map at the beginning of the year and used string to draw the equator, prime meridian, and time zones in the continental United States. Throughout the year, we placed current events from around the world on the map, all while the U.S. map stayed in my trunk. Then at the end of last year, I finally thought of what to do lwith the U.S. map!  I was going to make a giant map of the 2016  election results. Every state was traced in both blue and red and then laminated.

Below are step by step pictures of how I made the map and the final result.

Trace each state.
Draw and cut each state in the color you need.
Laminate the states


All of the states, traced, laminated, and cut. You now have them to use in the future.
The completed map. Students’ predictions are along the top and side of the map. Numbers are written with expo marker because it easily wipes off.


The completed map. Students’ predictions are along the top and side of the map. Numbers are written with expo marker because it easily wipes off.

Election 2016

It is finally here and America has elected a new president.  My students and I have been talking about this election since last year and we still can’t stop talking about it. All last year, they wanted to know who our next president was going to be, but each political party had to nominate a candidate. First, we discussed how candidates campaign and primary elections.  One by one, candidates dropped out of the primary race and we narrowed down the choices.  Since both conventions were over the summer, we ended last school year still not knowing who the candidates were. However, once we returned in September, the race to the White House was in full swing.

My students are too young to vote, but that didn’t stop their curious minds. Students asked questions about the candidates as well as the election process. Perhaps they were invested this year since the winner may run for re-election in 2020 – when most of my students will be eligible to vote.  All 12 of New Jersey’s congressional representative were eligible for re-election.  We spent time learning about why we have 12 congressmen and 2 senators and about the Electoral College. We played an engaging game using Airhead candy and an interactive map from 270towin.com. Fun and interactive classes tend to be the greatest lessons. Next, students made their predictions.  Some states were harder to predict than others. In order to make their predictions, we analyzed the results from the 2004, 2008, and 2012.

The day after the election we compared our predictions to the actual results. Yes, we were all surprised, but we looked at the data to see how it all unfolded. Then, we created a giant map to display the results and use as a reference for future lessons. We said we will pay attention to the transition and it will continue to be a topic of discussion; just because the election is over does not mean we don’t stop learning and caring.

Students analyzed data from the past 3 elections and from the current predictions to then make their own predictions.
The day after the election, students created a giant version of the Electoral College to display in the classroom. For more about how to create this map, click here. Their predictions are posted along the top and side.


African American women who have already made history in Rio

Leading up to the Olympic Games in Rio, there was already so much talk about some of the athletes. Ibtihaj Muhammad made headlines as the first Olympian to wear a hijab during competition. She will return home to New Jersey with a team bronze medal. Below are four other African American women who have already made history in Rio.

Simone Biles, Gymnastics: First, a little about gymnastics. There are four events in women’s gymnastics: floor exercise, uneven bars, vault and the balance beam. Gymnasts compete in each event and are scored by judges based on the difficulty of their routine and how well they execute the routine. Deductions are given for any mistakes and can sometimes mean the difference between winning and losing. Back to Simone. 19 year old, Simone Biles is arguably, the best gymnast in the WORLD. Prior to the Olympics, she was the world All-Around champion in 2013, 2014, and 2015. That means she completed in each of the four events and her total score was the best out of everyone that competed. In addition to the All-Around medals, she won individual medals in some of the events and the US women’s team, won the gold medal in the 2014 and2015 World Championships too. That brings us to the 2016 Olympics in Rio. Simone won a total of 5 medals in Rio: 4 gold and 1 bronze. The US Women’s team won gold. Simone also won the gold medal in the All- Around competition, floor exercise, vault, and a bronze on balance beam; she most decorated gymnast in United States history! Finally, Simone was chosen to be the United States flag bearer for the closing ceremonies.

Simone Manuel, Swimming: Swimming also has different events. Swimmers can compete in the freestyle, breast stroke, and back stroke style at different lengths, 50 meter or 100 meter. There is also a team medley where 4 swimmers compete in the event. Simone Manuel was a champion before Rio, but adding an Olympic gold medal to your resume is awesome. Simone earned the gold medal in the 100 meter freestyle and the 4×100 meter medley. The best part was watching her reaction after she realized she won and her interview after is an inspiration to all.

Ashleigh Johnson, Water Polo: The 21 year old from Miami, Florida is a student at Princeton University. Johnson’s also making history because she is the first African American women to compete in water polo at the Olympics. She said, “I definitely feel the responsibility to be a role model for other black people and minorities because there are so little of us in this sport. Just being myself, being black draws more attention to me. But I didn’t feel like looking different means I had to play differently, or had to prove anything to anybody. I felt like I could be myself and play as well as anybody else.” (Time.com) Johnson is the goalie for the women’s water polo team.

Michele Carter, Track and Field: Michele Carter won the gold medal in the Track and Field shot put. Carter is another athlete making history since she is the first American woman to win gold in this event. It has to be cool to win a gold medal in the Olympics. It’s even better when your father won silver and is your coach. Michelle’s father, Michael, won a silver medal in the same event at the 1984 Olympic Games, which were held in Los Angeles California. He was also a defensive lineman for the San Francisco 49ers and won three Super Bowls with the team. Mr. Carter was beyond ecstatic for his daughter’s victory. “It’s no comparison,” he said. “With a Super Bowl, you’ve got a chance to win it every year. This only comes around once every four years or once in a lifetime. I’m numb right now.” (USAtoday.com). Michelle is a great example of how giving all you got, even when others don’t think you can do it, pays off. In addition, Michelle is promoting body image for all women. Her program You Throw Girl aims to help women build confidence. Check out this article from The New Yorker.


Summer Olympic Games

Every 4 years, the world’s best athletes come together to compete. The 2016 Summer Olympic Games opened last night in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil. More than 11,000 athletes from 205 countries will compete in 28 events over the next 17 days (August 5-21, 2016)

More than 11,000 athletes from 206 National Olympic Committees will compete in 28 Olympic sports. For the first time, athletes from Kosovo and South Sudan are taking part (Kosovo gained their independence from Serbia in 2008). There are 554 athletes (262 men, 292 women) from the United States.

Opening ceremonies honor the host country’s history and culture with performances. Then, each country enters the stadium during the Parade of Nations in alphabetical order by the host country’s language (Portuguese is the official language). Greece is credited with the revival of the modern games and always enters first. The host nation always enters last. Michael Phelps, swimming, carried the flag for Team USA at the Opening Ceremony. Phelps is the most decorated Olympics medalist with 22 medals and is expected to win more in Rio. Phelps debuted at the 2000 games in Sydney Australia when he was just 15 years old. This is Phelps’ 5th  Olympic Games and he said it would be his last.

New to the Parade of Nations this year was The Refugee Olympic Team. This is the first time refugees have been represented at the Olympic Games. There are just 10 members on the team displaced from 5 countries but they represent the 19 million refugees in the world. They carried the Olympic flag as a symbol of unity and cooperation. After all nations entered the stadium, the games officially opened with the lighting of the Olympic cauldron. Olympic marathoner Vanderlei Cordeiro de Lima, of Brazil had the honor.

The Olympic Games will be exciting to watch. Of course, by time school starts, the games will be over and the athletes will have returned home. I’ll be posting more about the games soon. Enjoy!

Mrs. Johnson