Teacher resources and professional development across the curriculum

Teacher professional development and classroom resources across the curriculum

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Focus on Geology: Bringing Rocks to Life in the Classroom

Fossilized Leaf. Photo from Earth & Space Science.

Fossilized Leaf. Photo from Earth & Space Science.

You search, we listen. “Rocks” is one of the most frequent search terms on learner.org, so we are highlighting resources for teaching about rocks in this curriculum focus.

Students discover different types of rocks and how rocks change with the Rock Cycle Interactive. Students build geological vocabulary, name the different parts of the rock cycle, and take an assessment at the end. This activity is great for independent study in the classroom and at home.

Students learn how melting rock deep inside the earth forms volcanoes with the Volcanoes Interactive. They practice raising and lowering the temperature of rocks to experience how rocks respond to temperature inside the earth.

The Habitable Planet, unit 1, “Many Planets, One Earth,” section 3, Reading Geologic Records, explains how scientists use rocks and fossils to define geologic time phases in Earth’s history on a geologic time scale. Rocks and fossils tell the story of Earth’s animal and environmental history.

What are igneous rocks and how are they formed? Earth and Space Science, session 3, “Journey to the Earth’s Interior,” compares extrusive and intrusive igneous rocks, and relates lava to the movement of tectonic plates. This workshop includes an activity for teachers to identify young students’ ideas about the structure of the earth, ideas that help inform science lessons.

More resources for teaching about rocks:

Essential Science for Teachers: Earth & Space Science, session 2, “Every Rock Tells a Story
Session 5, “When Continents Collide

Earth Revealed, program 10, “Geologic Time”
Earth Revealed, program 14, “Intrusive Igneous Rocks”
Earth Revealed, program 17, “Sedimentary Rocks: The Key to Past Environments”
Earth Revealed, program 18, “Metamorphic Rocks”

Teaching Veterans Day (November 11) 

48058869 - veterans day vector illustration. text and american flag with stars.

On Veterans Day, we honor and thank those who have served in the U.S. Armed Forces. The Department of Veterans Affairs website includes useful materials for teaching about Veterans Day.

Also, the following Annenberg Learner materials are available online for use in your classroom:

Professor Donald Miller gives a personal view as he describes what life was like for soldiers and their families in program 22, “World War II,” of A Biography of America.

Psychiatrist Daniel Shay connects the experiences of American soldiers returning from war to the return of Odysseus to Ithaca following the Trojan War in Invitation to World Literature, program 3, “The Odyssey.”

Postwar Tension and Triumph,” unit 19 of America’s History in the Making, takes a look at the realities that veterans faced when they returned home from World War II.

Hollywood has used war as propaganda both in favor of and against the use of American troops in foreign conflicts. See the role of government and media in how combat films have evolved in American Cinema, program 6, “The Combat Film.”

Image Copyright: karcha / 123RF Stock Photo

Columbus Day: A Multifaceted View

encounterIn the United States, the Columbus Day holiday was created to commemorate Christopher Columbus’s landing in the New World in 1492. While this was an achievement, Columbus has also come to negatively represent conquest and colonialism. The following resources provide a multifaceted view of Columbus’s New World encounters.

Global trade started with Columbus’s arrival in the New World. America’s History in the Making, unit 2, “Mapping Initial Encounters” details the trade practices that occurred between native peoples, Europeans, and Africans in theme 1 of the video. This unit also presents primary sources that illustrate different perspectives of these initial encounters.

Examine how archaeological and scientific evidence has changed the way Americans think about Columbus Day in Bridging World History, unit 2, “History and Memory,” video part 1, Commemorating Columbus. Columbus’s early image as an explorer and civilizer is contrasted with resulting conquest, colonialism, and the destruction of peoples and habitats.

American Passages, unit 1, “Native Voices,” Stories of the Beginning of the World presents the literary voices and oral traditions of Native Americans.  How did the New World encounters influence the lives of Native Americans?

More resources for Columbus Day:

A Biography of America, program 1, “New World Encounters

American Passages, unit 2, “Exploring Borderlands,” author Christopher Columbus

Social Studies in Action, grades 3-5, program 9, “Explorers in North America


athyumbqt_j410wsirlegk9b13neuqn1yz-50ygfnuqgofjoeaah__dq94qmepxpzxsgnqs190Annenberg Learner is pleased to partner with StoryCorps and to announce The Great Thanksgiving Listen. 


On Thanksgiving weekend 2016, the acclaimed oral history project StoryCorps will work with U.S. history teachers across America to ask their students to record an interview with a grandparent or another elder using the free StoryCorps app. With permission from the participants, each of these interviews will be uploaded to the StoryCorps archive at the American Folklife Center at the Library of Congress. Also, download the free The Great Thanksgiving Listen Teacher Toolkit to find program details, including guidelines and recommendations that can easily be made into lessons that address state standards for social studies or history curricula.

The Great Thanksgiving Listen will use near-universally accessible smartphone technology to foster meaningful connections within families, communities, and the classroom while also creating a singular and priceless archive of American history and wisdom. This 2016 event is expected to result in the single largest collection of human voices ever gathered.

The Great Thanksgiving Listen 2016 follows StoryCorps’ highly successful inaugural effort in 2015. More than 100,000 participants took part in the drive to preserve the stories and voices of an entire generation over the Thanksgiving weekend. In a 2016 TED Talk, StoryCorps founder and president Dave Isay addressed a global audience to talk about the 2015 pilot, sharing some of the stories it generated and the lessons it taught.

Watch David Isay, the founder and president of StoryCorps, talk about The Great Thanksgiving Listen!


Watch Steve Inskeep, host of NPR’s Morning Edition, provide useful tips for students who are conducting interviews.


Founded in 2003, the nonprofit organization StoryCorps has given more than 100,000 Americans the chance to record interviews about their lives, pass wisdom from one generation to the next, and leave a legacy for the future. StoryCorps shares edited excerpts of these recordings with millions each week through popular weekly NPR broadcasts, animated shorts, digital platforms, and best-selling books. StoryCorps helps us recognize that every life and every story matters.2015_05_01_StoryCorps_012

Dave Isay, founder and president of StoryCorps, is the recipient of the 2015 TED Prize, awarded to an individual with a creative, bold vision to spark global change. With the proceeds of the TED Prize, StoryCorps released an app that walks users seamlessly through the StoryCorps interview experience, from recording to archiving to sharing their story with the world. The StoryCorps app, and its companion social media platform at StoryCorps.me, make a large-scale and historic undertaking like the Great Thanksgiving Listen possible for the first time ever.


Read about the impact that storytelling has on students and teachers in “How telling stories can transform a classroom” by Amy S. Choi on TED Blog.

New! Arabic Classrooms for Teaching Foreign Languages Resource

ML8A0240 copysmAnnenberg Learner and Qatar Foundation International (QFI) have partnered to bring a robust professional development Open Education Resource (OER) to U.S. Arabic language educators. The project, Teaching Arabic, is produced by WGBH Boston with guidance from leading advisors on the teaching of Arabic and world languages. Teaching Arabic includes seven videos of public school Arabic classrooms where student-centered teaching and authentic language is emphasized. In addition, teachers will have online text resources to assist them when using the videos for professional development purposes.

The classroom videos feature three high school, one middle school, and three elementary school classes ranging from New England to California. An additional overview video is provided to explain best teaching practices when blending novice and intermediate-level students with those who come from Arabic-speaking homes in order to create an effective learning community. The videos also exhibit Arabic teachers skillfully incorporating different dialects of Arabic with the more formal modern standard Arabic.  The videos and resources are available as part of the Teaching Foreign Languages Library and also through QFI’s OER platform, Al-Masdar, in fall 2016. Annenberg Learner and QFI debuted the resources at ACTFL’s Annual Convention in November 2016.

Watch the overview video posted on our Youtube channel:

Stay up-to-date on all new releases by subscribing to the Annenberg Learner newsletter.

Six Ways Learner Can Support You This School Year


Teachers learning together at the 2016 Annenberg-Newseum Summer Teacher Institute.

Welcome back for the 2016-17 school year. Time to start working on those new ideas that have been brewing all summer. While we hope that many of you have spent part of your summer relaxing, we also know you participated in professional development workshops (like the Annenberg-Newseum Summer Teacher Institute) and developed new strategies and curricula for your students. In the Learner office, we have a big year ahead of us. We are excited for a year of partnerships and community-building, all to support your hard work in the classroom. Below is a reminder of resources we provide to charge your teaching batteries throughout the year.

1. Monthly Update E-Newsletter

Do you receive our monthly newsletter? If not, you can subscribe here. We look forward to connecting you to our free online ad-free resources and letting you know when new resources and PD opportunities are developed. Stay tuned each month for more from Annenberg Learner.

2. Resources for Lessons

Complement your textbooks with streamed videos in social studies, science, math, language arts, world languages, and the arts. Click on “View Programs” on the homepage to see a list of all our resources.

3. Interactives and Lesson Plan Search Functions

When brainstorming for lesson ideas, search the interactives database for online activities to enhance and improve students’ skills in a variety of curricular areas.  Search the lesson plans database for plans in all subject areas and grade levels.

4. Learner Express

Learner Express provides short video clips in math for Common Core and science for STEM curriculum.

5. Blog and Social Media

The Learner Log blog highlights specific teaching strategies and subject area resources from Learner.org and other educational organizations. It also provides a forum to discuss them with your peers. Tell us what topics you would like to see in the blog at blog@learner.org.

Our social media links provide instant connections to resources related to topics in the news, current events, and historical dates. Check us out on FacebookTwitterGoogle+, and Youtube.

6. Graduate Credit and CEU Opportunities
Advance your career, sharpen your teaching skills, and update content knowledge in the subjects you teach with the following graduate credit and CEU opportunities for Annenberg Learner courses from PBS TeacherLine, Colorado State, and The University of San Diego.

PBS TeacherLine provides certificates of completion and partners with many colleges to offer graduate credit for five Annenberg Learner professional development courses. Search Annenberg Learner to see what is available.  For general information, including pricing, see the main PBS TeacherLine site.

Colorado State University (CSU) offers graduate credit for Annenberg Learner professional development and content courses, as well as continuing education units (CEUs) for a selection of reading, education, math, and science courses. Register for either graduate credit or non-credit continuing education units on Colorado State’s Online Plus website.

K-12 educators (and some courses are applicable toward community college level instructors) looking to earn credit for time spent on planning for the successful implementation of a new idea to enhance student learning and/or school improvement can take courses online through The University of San Diego.  View information about the Annenberg Learner Implementation Planning Series here.

Summer Science Projects

LIFE girl magnify tmag copyMake summer learning experiences in science fun with these activities.

1. Construct models of the Sun, Earth, and Moon and create a series that matches the phases of the Moon using the Moon Phase Activity from A Private Universe.

2. Build your own miniature ecosystems and observe plant and butterfly life cycles within. All instructions and links for materials are provided in Life Science: Brassica and Butterfly System.

3. Create a Cat-Traption, or Rube Goldberg-style machine. First, see if you can tell where the energy comes from as you move through different stages of the Cat-Traption interactive in workshop 3, “Transfer and Conversion of Energy,” of Science in Focus: Energy. Then try making your own Cat-Traption at home.

4. Start a rock collection and examine the geological makeup of your neighborhood. Use the Rock Cycle interactive to help you identify the specimens you collect.

Add additional activities to the comments section.

What does great teaching look like?

TM K-4 students1

from Teaching Math Library, K-4, program 46 “Buffalo Estimation”

Are you new to teaching? Do you want to refine your teaching strategies after reflecting on your practice? One of the best ways to improve is to watch veteran teachers guide their students in the learning process. We encourage you to observe teachers in your school and to look to Learner.org for great classroom moments you can watch on your own time. Take ideas from our workshops that show real teachers effectively engaging with their own students. Here are a few highlights with additional resources listed below by subject:

Making Meaning in Literature
shows teachers facilitating discussions to create a literary community in their classrooms. For example, in program 4, teacher Tanya Schnabl’s students develop discussion questions and connect their experiences with the dilemmas in the assigned texts as they explore “government limits and personal freedoms.”

See examples of every step of an inquiry-based lesson, from fostering a learning community, to designing how students will explore the materials, to collecting and assessing data, in Learning Science Through Inquiry. In workshop 6, “Bring It All Together: Processing for Meaning During Inquiry,” watch the teacher draw out meaning from students’ observations of their soil decomposition experiment. Shuffle to 8:42 in the video.

Find ideas for teaching about civic engagement in Making Civics Real.  Teacher Matt Johnson leads his Constitutional Law 12th graders in applying what they’ve learned to new hypothetical cases that mirror actual students’ rights cases presented to the Supreme Court in workshop 8, “Rights and Responsibilities of Students.”

Other examples of effective teaching:

Language Arts and Literature Classrooms-

Reading & Writing in the Disciplines

Teaching Multicultural Literature: A Workshop for the Middle Grades

Write in the Middle: A Workshop for Middle School Teachers

The Expanding Canon: Teaching Multicultural Literature in High School

Mathematics Classrooms-

Reading & Writing in the Disciplines

Teaching Math: A Video Library, K-4, 5-8, 9-12

Insights Into Algebra 1: Teaching for Learning (high school)

Science Classrooms-

Reading & Writing in the Disciplines

Science in Focus: Force and Motion (K-8 teachers)

Reactions in Chemistry (high school)

Foreign Language Classrooms-

Teaching Foreign Languages K-12: A Library of Classroom Practices

Social Studies/History Classrooms-

Reading & Writing in the Disciplines

The Economics Classroom: A Workshop for Grade 9-12 Teachers

Social Studies in Action: A Teaching Practices Library K-12

Arts Classrooms-

Connecting With the Arts: A Teaching Practices Library, 6-8

The Art of Teaching the Arts: A Workshop for High School Teachers

Curriculum Focus: Inquiry-Based Learning 


Photo credit: U.S. Department of Agriculture via flckr (CC BY 2.0)

Inquiry-based learning is not about memorizing information. Students become life-long learners when they know how to ask questions, analyze the information and data they gather, and develop appropriate resolutions to problems. “So it’s really understanding the origins and where that knowledge comes from that is profoundly important for the process, for children to learn… They need to learn to ask ‘how do we know if it’s true’ and ‘is it true’ and ‘should we look at it another different way.’ ‘Where is the evidence?’ Without that, the factual knowledge is not very useful.” – Karen Worth of the Educational Development Center, commenting in Learning Science Through Inquiry.

So how do we teach our students to do just that? Here are some examples of building inquiry skills in science classrooms from Annenberg Learner:

  • In the workshops for Learning Science Through Inquiry, watch teachers guide students to explore their questions and find meaning and purpose in their science investigations.
  • Discover why providing students opportunities to use inquiry strategies is essential to learning, and view inquiry-based teaching strategies in Looking at Learning…Againworkshop 4.
  • Journey North’s Menu of Inquiry Strategies lists a variety of activities that allow students to pursue their intellectual interests. Students learn to think like scientists by developing hypotheses, planning experiments, asking questions, reviewing data, and considering implications.
  • In Essential Science for Teachers: Physical Science, the session 8 lesson plan, Electrostatics Exhibits; The Exploratorium, Open Pathways,” describes students examining the electrostatic properties of materials and asking questions that lead to further exploration of the topic.

Introduce Students to American Artists and Their Themes

33478148 - high school art class with teacher

This August show your appreciation for less widely known American artists. Examine with your students how different artists interpret and reimagine their physical and social environments.

Puerto Rican-born artist Miguel Luciano uses humor to explore the historical, political, and social relationships between Puerto Rico and the U.S. See Luciano’s painting Pelea de Gallos (Fight of the Roosters) in Art Through Time, program 1, “Converging Cultures.”

In program 10, “The Natural World,” view the unspoiled beauty of the romanticized West in Albert Bierstadt’s painting Yosemite Valley, Glacier Point Trail.

Revenge of the Goldfish
 is one of the elaborate dream-like sets that Sandy Skoglund builds and then photographs. Learn more about her work in program 2, “Dreams and Visions.”

Portrait painter Kehinde Wiley reinterprets old master paintings by replacing the European white elite figures with young African American men in their street clothes. The subjects of the paintings choose their own scenes from art books. Program 9, “Portraits,” includes Equestrian Portrait of the Count-Duke Olivares, based on a similar portrait of Don Gaspar de Guzmán by Velázquez.

To see the work of more American artists, browse the Art Through Time series by region.

Watch a lesson plan for younger students in The Arts in Every Classroom, A Video Library K-5, program 9, “Collaborating With a Cultural Resource.” Elementary students in New Orleans study art by local naturalist and painter Will Henry Stevens. They explore their cultural heritage while acquiring painting skills.

Image copyright: stockbroker / 123RF Stock Photo