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Teaching Your Students About Thanksgiving

As teachers, we’re responsible for introducing new ideas to our students all the time. On top of providing information, society (like our students’ parents) gives us the added responsibility of preparing children for the real world by exposing them to culture, history, important day-to-day skills, and so much more in order to prepare them for life beyond school.


With November upon us, we have a great opportunity to teach our students about both the history and cultural importance of Thanksgiving . It’s just as important to inform students about the historical significance of Thanksgiving and why we celebrate it today as it is to help them experience what it means to be thankful in their everyday lives.

Try an Experiential Exercise

One of our favorite teaching methods at TCI is the “Experiential Exercise.” This teaching method plays on the brain’s ability to help us remember certain activities and experiences through emotional connections. When an activity is a little out of the norm (in other words, not just a traditional lecture about Thanksgiving), students are more likely to remember it in the months or even years to follow. Students will be able to relate their experiences in the classroom when they go home to celebrate Thanksgiving with their friends and family.

TCI has many Experiential Exercises to help you consider ideas for creating your very own thematic lesson around Thanksgiving, its history, and modern culture surrounding it. We can use the Experiential Exercise to help Thanksgiving stand out in our students’ memories.

Depending on the grade level of your students, you can recreate the first Thanksgiving and have them play out different roles. Another Experiential Exercise you could have your students recreate the voyage to the Americas. Having students take on “roles” during the activity will help them feel like they are a part of the exercise. As a result, they’ll develop a stronger connection to the classroom activity and have better memory retention of what was taught during the lesson.

There is no best approach to teaching students about Thanksgiving. It all comes down to what we think is most important about Thanksgiving and how we, as teachers and administrators, can best portray this in our own schools and classrooms. Do we want to dive deep into the history and specifics regarding its origin? Do we want to address conflicts and resolutions during the earliest Thanksgiving? Or can we approach Thanksgiving in today’s era and spread the message about giving thanks for what we have today?

If you are interested in checking out other lessons based on drawing connections, you can gain access to a myriad of educational tools for helping teachers thrive through TCI’s subscriptions. We help you to save time with our pre-created lessons that can be adjusted to meet your own teaching needs. For an example of an event-centered lesson, you can take a look at our free Black Friday economics lesson available on our website.

On-Demand Webinars: Back to School with TCI

We have now completed our two back-to-school webinars for teachers who will be using TCI subscriptions (science or social studies). In TCI 101, we focus on the teacher subscription…particularly on how to plan, prepare materials, teach, and then assess. In TCI 201, the student subscriptions are featured. Watch this webinar to see how to easily add students and classes. Afterwards, you’ll see how we provide a content+ experience that is rich and interactive.

Share these with teachers you know who are new or even veteran teachers as they discover how TCI continues to improve and innovate!


TCI Employee Profile: Bernard Mesa


Meet Bernard Mesa, our Middleware Engineer! How has his role shifted over the years? Read on to find out.



Describe your role at TCI.

My title at TCI is Middleware Engineer. My role is to keep TCI data communicating between our different systems. I work both in team collaborations and one-off tasks.


What is a typical day for you?
It really varies. Each week my manager and I set up an action plan to complete. However, requests for the projects of other teams might come up, so the plan is always being adjusted. Every morning I have Software stand ups and every week I meet with our Business Intelligence and Dashboard and Reports teams. The Business Intelligence team looks into tools and systems for strategic planning and data analysis. The Dashboard and Reports team manages our business systems. The time I spend working with different teams changes depending on the time of year.

How did you find TCI?
At the career fair at San Jose State University. I started as an intern in November of 2013 before being promoted to staff.


What do you like best about working at TCI?
My ability to make an impact. TCI is a smaller company, and any change or update I make to my work has an immediate, visible effect.


Why do you think others would want to work at TCI?
The same reason as the above. In a larger company, it can feel like you get no recognition for your contributions. Here, your work really feels meaningful. Everyone’s role is important to the company’s success.


How did your role evolve?
I was one of the three original tech interns at TCI. I started by rotating through different teams to get a better understanding of how TCI worked. I then moved into maintaining our databases. As the company’s needs evolved, I set up connections between our databases and my focus shifted to managing those connections.


What do you like to do in your time off?
I like to go wine tasting and travel, especially out of the country. I work out and take part in half marathons, hang out with friends, or sometimes just sit and watch Hulu.

Follow Up: The New June 30th Updates Have Arrived!


Thanks to your feedback, we’ve made some exciting changes to the TCI Teacher and Student Subscription for the new school year.


Watch the 2 minute Teacher Subscription Updates Video.


Teacher Subscription

1. Improved Control Over Your Table Of Contents.   You can now customize how much detail you want to see–whether you want to read all about an activity or preview the Reading Further.  

2. More grading flexibility.  For assessments, you can now select the point value for each question. For notebooks, you can change the value by lesson.

3. Easy access to images and videos.   Using the new Resource Library you can quickly filter through TCI’s vast number of additional resources, including primary sources, videos, images and more! Pull what you feel would enhance your lesson, or reuse your favorites.

4. Faster, More Reliable Presentations.  Wow your students with a new look and feel to your presentations. Besides looking great, they load faster, stream smoother, have more interactive features and are easily accessible from any device.

5. More Dynamic Assessment Questions.  Allow your student’s creativity to pour over into their assessments using the new drawing tool embedded into the online assessments. Now you can go above and beyond the typical multiple choice or writing question.


Watch the 1 minute Student Subscription Updates Video.


Student Subscription

1. Auto-Save all answers. Don’t worry about hitting the save button anymore. Our new auto-save feature ensures not a minute of your students’ work is missed.

2. Upgraded Reading Challenges. Now with new animations and an even easier flow from question to question.

3. New Page Layouts, optimized to look great on any device.

4. Online Drawing Tool. Students can easily create masterpieces as they answer assessment questions.


Don’t see a feature you were hoping for? Drop us a note on our feedback forum.



TCI Employee Profile: Mrudula Sarode

For this month’s TCI Employee profile, meet our wonderful QA Automation Engineer Mrudula Sarode! Learn what brought Mrudula to TCI and how her role has evolved by reading further.




Describe your role at TCI:

I am a QA Automation  Engineer.  My role is to test features to keep our software bug free and user friendly.  This involves manual testing as well as writing Ruby test scripts to run our automation test suite. Occasionally I do performance and load testing.


What is a typical day like for you?

The focus of my day varies. I run automation test suites in the morning.  This tests new features on our development server to see if there are any issues that need to be addressed. The focus of the rest of my day varies.  Every other week, we have software releases, where we release updates into Production. As the only QA member, I collaborate with three developers to make sure the features are bug-free and ready for release. I also work with Customer Support on any software issues that might come up.


How did you find TCI?

Through Craigslist. As a mother of a seven-year-old, I was interested in the fact TCI was an education company and the impact they had on students. I started as a contractor before moving to full-time four months later. I am now in my third year here at TCI.


What do you like best about working here?

I like the energy of the software team and the fact that TCI follows Agile principles in software development.  This allows us to move more quickly in creating new features and releasing updates for customers. I also appreciate the work/life balance, and the flexibility inherent in it.


What do you think others would want to work here for?

I think other people would want to come to TCI because it is a great company and mission to be a part of. For the software team specifically, it is full of great people who really believe in the value of teamwork.


How has your role evolved since you started at TCI?

I was originally a manual QA engineer, which involved a lot more clicking around and took up more time. Later, I studied Ruby on Rails and Selenium as we started moving towards automation.  Now I write scripts in Ruby and run them via Selenium.


What do you do outside of TCI?

Outside of work, I like hiking around the area and spending time with my son.

Teacher Highlight: Melody Greene

For June’s Teacher Highlight, we would like to introduce Melody Greene! A veteran teacher for thirteen years, she is also currently a TCI Implementation Specialist, helping schools bring learning to life!


Melody Greene

Melody Green is a fourth grade teacher at Greystone Elementary School in Hoover, Alabama

What initially drew you to TCI? What about the program jumped out at you?  

During my first year as a U.S. history teacher, I was spending massive amounts of time creating hands-on lessons for my sixth graders until another teacher told me the school had materials she thought matched how I wanted to teach. Music played, and the lights did shine when I first saw those old TCI History Alive! binders. The interactive lessons, powerful images, and skill-building activities were fantastic resources and provided great guidance for a first-year teacher on how to encourage students and provide an amazing learning experience. The following summer, I had the opportunity to attend a TCI training, and it was the best Professional Development I have ever attended.


How does TCI help enrich your experience as a teacher? (Does it help you prepare for a lesson? What features do you find the most useful/use most often?)  

I first used TCI when teaching sixth grade U.S. history. I later began using Social Studies Alive! Regions of Our Country for my fourth grade class, which helps me teach my students a tour of the United States. The TCI lesson cycle sets students up for success by accessing their prior knowledge, building on it in an activity, and then distilling the new information through an authentic processing assignment. They  learn so much without even realizing it.


What do your students like best about the program?  

Students like the interaction of the program best of all. I have students from years ago who ask if I still draft for World War I or have students act out people groups from the Great Depression. My fourth graders love experiencing history by imagining that they are cowboys, factory workers on the assembly line, or tasting chocolate in Hershey, Pennsylvania.


Do you have a favorite lesson or activity thus far? Why?  

Picking a favorite lesson is hard to do! When I taught U.S. history, my favorite lesson was on World War I trench warfare, which includes a trench life simulation for students. I loved including extras like fake mice, hardtack, and recorded sounds to add to the students’ experience.The letters the students write afterwards to reflect on the experience are always so amazing.


From Social Studies Alive! Regions of Our Country, my favorite lesson is the Bus and Boat Tour of the Southeast. Despite living in this region, there are so many characteristics for my students to discover. They love learning about Jamestown and doing  the Jamestown activity. Visiting New Orleans is also a favorite. It not only sets up many great class activities, but also opens the door for parents to come in and share their own experiences living in these places. This year, we celebrated Mardi Gras with a King Cake, homemade jambalaya, and red beans and rice. These memorable moments have been made possible by TCI.


It’s That Time of Year Again: June 30th Reset


On June 30th of every year, TCI resets your Teacher and Student Subscriptions so you can start the new school year fresh!  


Here’s what will happen:

  • -Student accounts will be removed and their scores deleted.
  • -The number of Student Subscriptions available to you for the new school year will be reset to reflect the removal of expired subscriptions.


What you will need to do after July 1st:

  • -Select the program you will teach in the new school year when you sign in to your subscription. If you select the same program, your custom presentations and assessments will be available to you.
  • -Create new classes for the new school year. Once you get your student and class assignments, you can create classes and add account.


What you might want to do prior to June 30th:

  • -If for any reason you want to save your students’ scores, you’ll need to export them to a spreadsheet prior to the June 30 reset. To export scores, go to “My Classes” and click the “Student Scores” button. Click the “Export scores to CSV” button and save the data on your hard drive.

On July 1st, your new subscription will also get some complimentary upgrades.  Stay tuned for more details!

TCI Employee Profile: Michael Hall


This month for our TCI Employee Profile, we met with our one and only Junior Systems Administrator :Michael Hall! What does Michael’s role at TCI entail? Read on to find out!



What is your role here at TCI?

I am a Junior Systems Administrator.  My primary responsibility is making sure all of the infrastructure is running on a day-to-day basis. I maintain the computers and server racks, organize tech for TCI events, and collaborate with other projects as needed.


What is a regular day like for you at TCI?

My mornings are dedicated to helping the TCI staff with any tech requests. At 10:00 am, the tech team holds a standup meeting to review the previous day’s work, see if anything urgently needs attention, and discuss our intended tasks for the day. Based on those needs,I might set up equipment, improve the infrastructure, plan upcoming projects, or keep up general maintenance. For work on the servers, I’ll pair with our Systems Architect, who is based in Seattle.


How did you find TCI?

At the San Jose State University job fair. I was a couple of months away from graduating and was interested in TCI’ s  mission. I initially started as an intern, but was later hired full time; this will be my third year at TCI.


How has your role evolved since you started?

My role has really done a one-eighty from when I first came to TCI. As an intern, my role was focused on desktop support – I answered the phones and tech tickets regarding hardware questions. My role has expanded so that I am more involved with servers and take part in direct decision-making roles for how we implement technology.


What aspect of TCI do you like the best?

Honestly, just the fact that I really enjoy my work – there is nothing I like more than being in front of a computer. Not only am I given a lot of freedom to make decisions about how we use technology, but I am also able to see the direct results, and it’s fantastic. The culture is great, and everyone is both really nice and dedicated to making education better, and everything done here really contributes to supporting teachers and students.


Why do you think others would want to work for TCI?

When people see what happens here and the work we do, they want to be a part of it. The mission to make a difference in education is a draw in itself, and teachers love our programs. I was lucky enough to run into a teacher while I was out with a couple of coworkers on a lunch break. She recognized the TCI logo on my shirt, and spent nearly an hour with us talking about how much she loves the program, how it has changed her teaching, and how much her students love it. It was amazing.


What do you like to do in your spare time?

I dirt bike, hike, and work on cars. I also play video games and work in my home computer lab.

Free TCI Lesson: Memorial Day

Memorial Day Image

Why do we celebrate Memorial Day?

In this activity, Teachers help students uncover how the holiday is celebrated, and research the conflicts in history that Americans commemorate on the last Monday of May each year. After gathering information, the class will then build a timeline of these events together, and consider the importance of this national holiday.


Download this free lesson plan here: Memorial Day Lesson

TCI Employee Profile: Ray Oto



This month for our TCI Employee Profile, we sat down with our Product Support and Community Specialist: Ray Oto. How did he hear about TCI and what are the key responsibilities of his role here? Read more to find out!




What is your role here at TCI?

My official title is Product Support and Community Specialist, but my responsibilities can be divided into four different aspects. I provide customer support to answer questions or resolve  issues regarding our products. I collaborate with the middleware engineer to test features in our ERP software, I coordinate TCI events and professional conferences in conjunction with our Sales team, and I process sales orders submitted by our customers, to ensure timely fulfillment of orders.


What is a regular day like for you at TCI?

Honestly, it varies depending on the time of year. Summer is approaching, so right now the sales orders are my priority; we are already seeing an uptick in volume. Otherwise, my day-to-day tasks include customer support, collaborating with the fulfillment team, and working in the ERP software.


How did you find TCI?

I learned about it from a high school friend of mine who also works at TCI; I was close to graduating at the time and was interested in hearing what he had to say about the company. Once I interviewed, I definitely wanted to be a part of the team. I have now been at TCI for two years.


How has your role evolved since you started?

I was initially a Product Support Intern, so my primary responsibilities were answering phones and tickets. All other elements of my role grew out of my interest in learning about different aspects of TCI and helping out with other tasks. For example, Salesforce was new to TCI when I started; I jumped in to help set it up and add new features.


What do you like best about working at TCI?

The goal, knowing that everything we do here will in the end contribute to creating a better and stronger learning experience for students. We are always seeking to improve ourselves; if a new tool or idea comes out, we are always willing to test it out. It’s also just a great place to work, with great people.


Why do you think others would want to work for TCI?

I think there is a lot of appeal in the variety of different things we do and the fact that TCI as a company is always pushing to improve our processes. And, again, it has a great atmosphere.


What do you like to do in your spare time?

I’m an active person who plays football, swims, and bikes. I also enjoy reading adventure books and playing strategy and puzzle games.

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