Teacher resources and professional development across the curriculum

Teacher professional development and classroom resources across the curriculum

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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 This Fall! Arabic Classrooms for Teaching Foreign Languages Resource

ML8A0240 copysmAnnenberg Learner and Qatar Foundation International (QFI) are partnering 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 will be available as part of the Teaching Foreign Languages Library and also through QFI’s OER platform, Al-Masdar, in fall 2016. Annenberg Learner and the QFI will debut the resources at ACTFL’s Annual Convention in November 2016.

We will add more information to this page as the release date gets closer. Also 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

Differentiated Instruction By Subject


A blended learning approach to instruction allows students to collaborate using technology. See Reading & Writing in the Disciplines.

As you plan for the new school year, think about how you structure your classroom and lessons to engage all students and meet each learner’s needs. While differentiating instruction can be daunting, it can also be a lot of fun. Differentiation involves recognizing individual student’s talents, interests, and challenges. It also involves varying ways you present content and use the classroom space. Below are examples of teachers differentiating their classrooms. Jump to the subject you teach or read them all. For a deeper look into what differentiation is and how to recognize the potential in all students, listen to the “Differentiated Instruction Works: How and Why To Do DI” podcast on the ASCD website.

Arts and World Languages

Tap into students’ love for the arts. In The Arts in Every Classroom, program 2, “Expanding the Role of the Arts Specialist,” watch how dance, visual art, and theatre teachers coordinate with teachers of other subject areas.

Use the arts to teach students how to express their ideas in multiple ways. In Connecting With the Arts, program 12, “Finding Your Voice,” middle school students use music, art, and dance to explore the concepts of conflict and protesting.

Students are most engaged when they are talking about what they know. In Teaching Foreign Languages, K-12, “Comparing Communities,” students compare community life at home and abroad while practicing language skills. The video is captioned in English for all language teachers.

English and Language Arts

In Teaching Reading, K-2, workshop 6, “Differentiating Instruction,” learn what flexible grouping looks like and apply examples to your own classes.

Think outside of the essay and use your students’ kinesthetic and creative skills. Watch middle school students explore characters in literature by creating ceramic place settings in Connecting With the Arts, “Revealing Character.”

Vary methods of communicating with students using technology to give feedback. Jen Roberts uses Google Tools to collaborate with her students on their work. Watch “Blended Learning: Acquiring Digital Literacy Skills” from Reading & Writing in the Disciplines. Under the video, see the Differentiated Instruction paragraph to learn more about how Ms. Roberts scaffolds the lesson to meet different students’ needs.

History and Social Studies

In Social Studies in Action, program 4, “China Through Mapping,” Ms. Norton offers multiple entry points into a lesson on Chinese culture and history. Elementary students create salt-dough maps, sing songs, and complete a group mystery puzzle using printed maps of China. At 20:24 in the video, Ms. Norton explains how she assigned the roles for group work.

Try lesson plans that use photographs to hook visual learners and students interested in photography. The Essential Lens video, “A Closer Look,” explains the Focus In strategy for examining the meaning and point of view of photographs. Browse several photo collections connected to activities and big ideas that can be used in the social studies classroom. Themes include “Economies and Empires” and “Change and Resistance.”

Ms. Ambrose’s students discuss racial profiling as they develop an understanding of constitutional law and criminal law in Making Civics Real, workshop 7, “Controversial Public Policy Issues.” One of her students reflects “… if she sees that something is boring us, if something’s not working, she’ll get at the problem. She’ll change it to make sure that we’re always interested, so that we’re always learning something. As soon as you lose interest, you stop caring, you stop learning.”


In Teaching Math K-4, video 17, “Choose a Method,” the teacher provides multiple learning experiences for exploring problem-solving methods with her fourth graders. Two groups work independently, one on computers and another on puzzles and games. The teacher and students in a third group investigate different computational methods, including base-10 blocks, calculators, mental math, or paper and pencil.

A blended learning approach to instruction allows students to collaborate using technology. Math students evaluate arithmetic sequences and share work on a Smart Board. While some students also practice speaking and teaching skills, other students focus on concepts. Watch “Blended Learning: Using Technology to Learn Math Concepts” in Reading & Writing in the Disciplines.

In “Creating Opportunities for Mathematical Discourse” from Reading & Writing in the Disciplines, Ms. Langer lets students choose from different types of classroom materials to explore content, provides scaffolding to students as needed, and allows students to work in groups or independently as they study graph theory.


Young kids love animals. Bring the outdoors inside to young citizen scientists with Journey North. Students answer the essential question, “How do animals in different parts of the world respond to seasonal change?” while completing activities in the viewing guide and watching animal cams by Explore.org of bears, birds, and more.

Use photographs to hook visual learners and students interested in photography. The Essential Lens video, “A Closer Look,” explains the Focus In strategy for examining the meaning and point of view of photographs. Browse several photo collections connected to activities and big ideas that can be used in the science classroom. Themes include “Processes of Science,” “Energy,” and “Genetics and Bioengineering.”

In Reading & Writing in the Disciplines, “Creating a Culture of Collaboration,” learn how Mr. Berryman develops students’ understanding of scientific terms in multiple ways, from using an interactive web app, a word wall, drawing activities, and more.

Teaching About the First Atomic Bomb, Dropped August 6, 1945

Nagasaki, Japan under atomic bomb attack / U.S. Army A.A.F. photo [9 August 1945], LC-DIG-ds-05458

Nagasaki, Japan under atomic bomb attack / U.S. Army A.A.F. photo [9 August 1945], LC-DIG-ds-05458

In the early hours of August 6, 1945, the United States dropped the world’s first atom bomb on Hiroshima, Japan, killing over 120,000 Japanese citizens as a result of the blast and the after-effects of the fallout. President Harry S. Truman justified the use of the bomb, saying that there would have been a much greater loss of life had the U.S. invaded Japan by land.

In A Biography of America, program 23, “The Fifties,” try the You Decide; The Atom Bomb? interactive to determine if President Truman made the correct decision to drop atomic bombs on Hiroshima and Nagasaki with the goal of ending World War II.

Read “Living with the Atomic Bomb: Native Americans and the Postwar Uranium Boom and Nuclear Reactions” about the cultural and human consequences of the nuclear weapons race of the 1950s in American Passages, “Becoming Visible.”

The discussion of controversial issues can promote critical thinking skills. John Allen Rossi’s article “Creating Strategies and Conditions for Civil Discourse About Controversial Issues” raises questions about the decision to drop the bomb on Hiroshima. See Making Civics Real: A Workshop for Teachers, “Controversial Public Policy Issues.”

Mathematics Illuminated traces the origins of game theory to the work of Hungarian mathematician and physicist John von Neumann, who worked on the Manhattan Project, the top-secret plan to build the first atomic bomb.

More resources for teaching about World War II and the atomic bomb:

Reactions in Chemistry, workshop 3, “Energetics and Dynamics

The Western Tradition, program 48, “The Second World War

Share additional resources on this topic in the comments section below the post.