Thoughts on teaching, learning, technology, and leadership from the field

Category Archives: food for thought

This is the email I sent to our Social Studies teachers this morning… 

We know that kiddos are going to be coming to you this morning with lots and lots of questions. If you’re wondering what to tell kids when they ask, remind them that the Framers of the Constitution designed the branches of government to check and balance one another; that no president has all of the power; that change in this country is a process and requires compromise. And that this was a very, very close race. Not everyone who voted for either candidate agreed with everything the candidate said or promised. And that campaign promises aren’t as easy to enact as candidates make it seem.

I’ve sent out this Politics in the Classroom guideline a few times and it’s been in the WAIP but wanted to send it again. Remember board policy, as well as best practice, includes the requirement that teachers be fair and impartial in their discussions with students.

Here are some short videos and games to talk about the powers of the president, branches of government, and checks and balances, if you need them.

Ben’s Guide to Government – areas for all ages – I like the Branch O’ Mania game for looking at different branches of government

BrainPop has several good videos in their election series, including the branches of government and the powers of the president.

Separation of Powers and Checks and Balances – Video, Best for Secondary Kids

Executive Command game – good for secondary students, simulate a day in the life of a President and the powers they have/don’t have.

Civic Responsibility Launcher game – great for lots of ages. Your elementary kids can play this whole class if it’s projected – helps talk about what good citizens are and do.

Yours in the pursuit of excellence in Social Studies and civics,

Amy Lynn Mount


apple-256263_960_720Dear teachers,

Happy Teacher Appreciation Week. I hope your free Chik-Fil-A sandwich or BOGO Chipotle burrito was delicious. I hope your PTA and administration wrecked your diet with baked goods and goody bags attached to cute little sayings. I hope your kids remembered to say thank you. I hope a few wrote you sweet little notes that are worth more than to you than the kids could ever imagine. I hope some saintly parent donated a few reams of paper or other desperately needed supplies to your classroom.

I wish though, teachers, that you didn’t have to rely on the kindness of parents for donations. Or that you didn’t have to pay for them out of pocket. While the discounts this week, the platitudes from politicians and celebrities, the knickknacks, the junk food are nice, the reality is that a week of appreciation is not sufficient.

This week, in Texas, we heard that schools will still be measured by test riddled with glitches.

This week, in Detroit, teachers held “sick outs” to call attention to the budget crisis so severe that their paychecks, their livelihood, the roof over their heads and the food on the table of their own children, is in jeopardy.

This week, the Center for Education Policy released the results of a study showing that teachers today feel stressed by poor leadership, a lack of voice in national discussions about education, and over emphasis on standardized testing.

Here’s what I wish you had instead of Teacher Appreciation Week.

And, I wish that on your hardest, bleakest days that you remember the optimism and enthusiasm you had when you walked into the door of your first classroom. I sincerely hope that you never lose it entirely, even if it gets occasionally bruised and battered. I wish for you the strength and the courage to keep pushing for kids, their families, the future of our field, and the future of this country.

<3, Amy

I was working with a middle school campus this week in starting to think about STAAR preparations. As most schools are, we are concerned with preparing kids for the vocabulary they’ll face on the test.

Which got me to thinking, what are the most common words that kids will face? I know that several places have lists of words but I wasn’t able to find one with a frequency count, so I’ve created one.

I used all of the released STAAR tests from 2013-2015. The program I used pulls all text  – directions, passages, graphic organizers, etc. It will not pull words that are part of images, like maps or cartoons. It scrubs all of the punctuation and capitalization.

I’m sharing the files – feel free to dive in!


9/11 American Flag
Creative Commons License Photo Credit: VN Malazarte via Compfight

Every country in the world teaches kids
– how to read
– how to write
– how to do math
– some science
– art and music of their culture

Only in the US do we teach kids what it means to be active, engaged citizens of the greatest nation of the world.

And that’s the charge of Social Studies teachers – to pass down our heritage the future.  We make the US unique!