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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.

Cinco de Mayo Scavenger Hunt

Cinco de Mayo image

Cinco de Mayo celebrates the Mexican army’s victory over the French at the Battle of Puebla on May 5, 1862. Today, many in the United States use this occasion to honor Mexican contributions to our country. For this activity, students are challenged to look for three examples of Mexican tradition and heritage within their own communities. They will then bring in the photographs of these influences to share with their classmates.


You can download the lesson here.

Teacher Highlight!


If you follow us on Twitter, you may have noticed that we retweet a lot of pictures of student work in action. Many of these pictures are from the classroom of Denise Yassine at the Congressional School in Virginia. We are always happy to see her updates, and we reached out to ask her a little more about her process.


Denise Yassine, teacher for both 5th Grade American History and 6th Grade World Geography at the Congressional School.


What initially drew you to TCI? Did any aspect about the program jump out at you – that was different from the way you taught before?

I learned about TCI while in graduate school at George Mason University. I remember sitting in a boat made of tape with my cohort, imagining what it was like to be a Pilgrim crossing the Atlantic.


I have always valued hands-on, experiential learning, so the interactive classroom activities woven into the lessons set this curriculum apart. I also appreciate the online offerings, such as the engaging presentations, built-in textbook, and interactive notebook.


To date, I have used three different TCI programs: Social Studies Alive! America’s Past, History Alive! The Ancient World, and Geography Alive! Regions and People.


How does TCI help enrich your experience as a teacher?

I find the TCI curriculum to be the underpinning of everything I do. It is a springboard from which I can launch a variety of assignments, and it provides me with the brain space to exercise my creative juices. Having the notebook worksheets available as PDFs allows me to tailor my lesson handouts with both TCI and my own material. I also augment the lessons with additional videos, texts, writing exercises, and projects.


Here are two examples of projects I’ve created to complement the TCI units:

  • -The Thematic Maps Projects: After learning about a variety of thematic maps in the Geography Alive! lesson “A Spatial Way of Thinking” and through my own online resources, students explore U.S. or world issues and create their own maps to find cause and effect between them. Students can choose how to share their data through a variety of methods, such as Mindcraft or Google slides. You can find my rubric here: Rubric
  • -My Migration Story Project: During the immigration unit, my students are tasked with the job of researching the pull and push factors that led their ancestors or family to come to the United States. Many students don’t know their immigration story and, together with their families, find this project to be very meaningful. Some students have even recorded their migration story using Here are the links used for this individual project, one for the project overview (Migration Project Information) and for the rubric (Rubric).


What do your students like best about the program?

My students love the active learning opportunities. The foundation of knowledge piques their interest in the content and helps them delve more deeply into their questions.They also love the fact that many activities let them be in the driver’s seat while I act as their facilitator.


Do you have a favorite lesson or activity? Why?

Oh my, that’s like asking who is my favorite child. I love them all!

However, I’d have to say that, in terms of being engaging lessons that have a depth of subject and that also capture my students’ imaginations, the following really leave a lasting impression:


  • -Underwater Archaeology
  • -Nile River tour
  • -Slavery unit
  • -Civil War sibling metaphor
  • -Emigrant Interviews
  • -African Women Entrepreneurs


I know I am successful as a teacher when my lessons linger, and the TCI curriculum helps me make that impact on a daily basis.

Thank you, Denise, for sharing your TCI experience with us! You can follow Denise and her class on Twitter (@dayassine) and don’t forget to check out TCI (@TeachTCI) as well!

We Appreciate You!


TCI Giveaway: Enter to win a $100 Amazon gift card to by sharing why you love TCI.


In honor of Teacher Appreciation Week, TCI wants to show our gratitude to all of the teachers who help bring learning alive! We will be raffling off a $100 gift card for one lucky participant.




1. Follow us on Twitter at @TeachtTCI.


2. Post a photo on Twitter of TCI curriculum being used in the classroom. Whether its students collaborating or worksheets and projects, we want to see TCI in action.


3. Tag @TeachTCI and #TeacherAppreciationWeek in your post.


4. Each post will get you one raffle ticket. There are no limits on how many tickets you can get.


The contest will end at 11:59pm (PST) on May 4th. We will announce the winner on May 5th. We can’t wait to see how YOU use TCI!


Teacher Appreciation Week Blog

Exciting Methods for Formative Assessment

This quick 20-minute webinar focuses on strategies and ideas for using formative assessment during all phases of the lesson cycle.  Scroll down for the presentation used, with embedded live links.

  Exciting Methods for Formative Assessment

TCI Employee Interview Double Feature: Ari Stein and Rebecca Ou


If you have ever used any of our Bring Science Alive! programs, you are probably familiar with Ari and Rebecca who model the investigations in our demonstration videos. But did you know that they play key roles in creating these programs? Read further to discover the true extent of what they do to help bring science alive.


What are your roles here at TCI?


Ari: This is always hard to describe. I am the Managing Science Editor, so in addition to directly editing several physical science programs, I work closely with the other program editors by reviewing the texts of all the programs for pedagogical approach, structural clarity, and accuracy. I also collaborate with curriculum developers to design activities.


Rebecca: My title at TCI is Senior Science Editor, and my work is very similar to Ari’s with a greater focus on the actual textbooks and writing. I am the primary editor of two future science programs, Matter and Space. I also manage our summer interns and work closely with the teachers who review our curriculum.



Rebecca Ou

What does a regular workflow look like for you?


Rebecca: It varies. We are working on multiple programs at a time, so some weeks are devoted specifically to editing and reviewing manuscripts, while other weeks we focus on lesson development.


Ari: We’ll use PowerPoint storyboarding for our lessons and research to find assets. For investigations, once we have an idea, we take it to our investigation team for further development.


Rebecca: Our investigation team is pretty special.  It’s a small group, only seven of us, and as a result we are able to work very closely together. Instead of just presenting finished projects to the group, when we get together we have working meetings to really hammer out an activity. Even if not everyone can meet for every activity, it is a great way of exchanging ideas and coming up with something new.


How long is the process to finish an investigation?


Ari:  Well, the timeline for an activity to be developed enough for us to start testing outside of the department is about three weeks to a month. At that point, we test the activity together with TCI staff and in pilot classrooms. Afterwards, development goes on hold while we work with our vendors for the materials, and then it is another three weeks to send it to production.


Rebecca: I would agree. In total, the process is about six to eight weeks.


How did you initially join TCI?


Ari: Craigslist. I started working at TCI soon after I graduated from UC San Diego with a degree in Physics. This was when the science programs were just starting development; I was actually the second science employee hired by TCI.


Rebecca: I heard about TCI through Ari. We were friends in college; I stayed behind to continue my studies in chemistry and earn a Master’s. It turned out to be a perfect fit with my areas of interest: in addition to my major in Chemistry, I minored in Writing and worked on a research project for teaching chemistry through alternative media methods.


Ari Stein

Ari Stein

Has your role evolved since you’ve been at TCI?


Ari: Definitely. I was initially hired as a fact checker. As time went on, it became clear that I was good at editing and had a lot of ideas for the programs, so my role and responsibilities expanded from there.


Rebecca: I also started as fact checker, and then shuffled back and forth between lesson development and editorial work before settling into my current position.


What is your favorite aspect of developing the science curriculum? Any favorite activities?


Ari: It would have to be the brainstorming and finding novel ways to teach and explain science concepts. For a specific activity, there is a Performance Assessment I am currently working on where students have to save a restaurant from falling off a cliff into the ocean. I’m looking forward to seeing students work with it.


Rebecca: I really enjoy editorial, especially the freedom in choosing how to convey a subject so that it is coherent and grade-level appropriate, while still being challenging and meeting the requirements of NGSS. My favorite activity is also one for a future program; it will have students acting as interns for the International Astronauts Union, and their goal is to gather data from our solar system to support different theories about what defines a planet.


What do you do outside of TCI?


Ari: I’m a mentor for The Illuminators, Apollo High School’s robotics team. We just had our final competition, the FIRST Robotics Competition last weekend. I play board games, rock-climb, and I also practice glassblowing. In general, I like challenging things.


Rebecca: I like to go to the opera and ballet. I also rock climb, though not as often anymore. I write fiction and recently I have gotten more invested in video games.

What is the biggest April Fools joke of all time?



That is up to your students to decide in this free lesson from TCI. Students will break up into small groups to learn about the backgrounds of different April Fools’ jokes in history and quickly present their findings to the class. The class then debates how to best rank their pranks against all the others. Of course, it wouldn’t be April Fools’ Day without a prank of your own to play on your students!


Download the lesson here.

Historic Heroines: Classroom Resources for Women’s History Month



Women's History Month


March marks “Women’s History Month,” a time in which we honor the achievements and efforts of women across the globe.


This month provides a perfect opportunity to create social studies and history lessons that highlight significant female figures. While there is an endless list of women to recognize, here are some of my favorite online resources that can help create engaging and research-driven activities for students:



1. The National Women’s History Museum offers a range of online exhibitions that showcase the role of women in a variety of historical settings, such as World War II, the Civil Rights Movement, and the English colony of Jamestown. Visitors will also find an abundance of historical biographies, videos, educational activities, and more.


2. Some of the most profound accomplishments have come from women scientists and engineers. To honor these heroes, the White House launched “The Untold Stories of Women in Science and Technology,” which profiles some of their inspiring stories. These audio biographies are told by current women leaders in STEM and are available free for anyone.


3. The Library of Congress is a long-time favorite for free primary and secondary sources on U.S. history.  They recently created the “Rosa Parks: Primary Source Gallery,” which features items such as Park’s written reflections on her fight against segregation, personal letters, and historical photographs. In the classroom, students can analyze these resources to learn more about Rosa Parks and the Montgomery Bus Boycott.


4. With elections approaching, this month is a perfect time to expand students’ knowledge on Women’s Suffrage. The National Archive provides a set of digitized primary source documents from this movement. The site features items like a “Petition to Congress” from 1871 and “A Resolution Proposing an Amendment to the Constitution” from 1868.


What are some of your favorite Women’s History Month activities? Comment your answers!



The Case for Gaming: Why Teachers Should Include Video Games

Watch this quick-paced webinar as TCI’s Brian Thomas shares three reasons why research supports video games as an instructional tool.


Please take time to comment on this webinar with compelling games! Share the grade you teach, subject matter, game title, and why you use it.

Webinar Video

Embedded Presentation

The Case for Gaming


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