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Tip of the Week: Listen Current equals NPR goodness

I got an email several weeks ago about a new online teaching tool called Listen Current. It sounded interesting but threw it on the back burner because of other stuff going on at the time. I got the chance to play with Listen Current this week and I’m thinking that I should have looked at it a lot sooner.

Cause it is very sweet.

According to their own propaganda, Listen Current “makes it easy to bring authentic voices and compelling non-fiction stories to the classroom. We curate the best of public radio to keep teaching connected to the real world and build student listening skills at the same time.”

Basically that means that Listen Current provides access to audio clips from National Public Radio and other public networks from around the world that cover both current events and historical topics. The clips are short and easy to use with students. But that’s not all that the site can do for you.

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47 “Magic Words” for showing relationships in student writing

Over the last few months, I’ve written several times about evidence-based terms. Evidence-based terms are words and phrases that can help your kids write stronger and more effective argumentative essays.

These might phrases such as:

  •  The author stated
  • On page five, the text suggested
  • From the reading I know that

Using these sorts of words encourages the integration of historical thinking skills into activities focused on meeting ELA literacy standards.

Late last week, I ran across a similar sort of document that I used with both my middle school kids and college students. I called them Magic Words. Magic because using these words in their writing forced students to focus on what they learned in terms of time, cause and effect, spatial and personal relationships, and possible alternative versions of history. Read more

Sample state assessment, historical thinking assessment tools, and useful primary sources

Update

Okay. I’m an idiot. Several (many) of you have noticed that I said that I attached Don’s presentation. But I never did. Now I have. It’s linked below and here. Kansas teachers? You need to download this to see what the state assessment beta version looks like. (Be sure to scroll down for the rest of the goodies.) The rest of you? Scroll down for the rest of the goodies. You’ll find them handy too.

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For the last few years, you’ve read about the process we’ve been working through as Kansas rewrites its social studies standards and state level assessment.

I’m convinced that the writing committee made up of teachers and state department staff developed a pretty awesome standards document. If you’ve been already for the the conversation, you already know that the focus has always been on finding ways to encourage process and historical thinking rather than simple memorization.

The real question, from the very beginning, has always been trying to figure out what the assessment will look like. How can you measure – at a state level with thousands of kids at different grades in a standardized way – historical thinking? How do you score it? What does the rubric look like? How can you train teachers to use the rubric consistently? Even at a classroom level, teachers are still working to figure this out. At the state level? Add the recent mandate that the elementary and middle school version of the test must now also act as the state writing assessment and it becomes a bit of a nightmare.

Thankfully Don Gifford and his crack staff of . . . well, just himself is on the case. Yesterday Don shared the latest vision of what the state level document looks like. And I can already hearing those of from places not Kansas clicking the Next button to head somewhere else.

But you need to hang around because Don and others have created and shared a series of resources that I think are useful for all social studies teachers. Read more

Tip of the Week: How We Got to Now

If you haven’t read any of Steven Johnson stuff, you are way behind the curve. He has some awesome insight – especially when he starts talking about the big pictures of history.

For the last 20 years or so, he has taken small events and connected them to larger themes. In The Ghost Map, Johnson connects a 19th century epidemic in London to 21st century urban design. In The Invention of Air, Johnson walks you through English coffeeshops to the Scientific Revolution and Enlightenment.

His latest book, How We Got to Now: Six Innovations That Made the Modern World, he continues the practice of showing how seemingly minor items such as eyeglasses or clocks have had – and continue to have – massive impacts on how people live.

He reminds me of Mr. Tomayko. Tomayko was my high school history / government / econ teacher and he was awesome. Great conversations. Great connections between past and present. And great connections between small and big picture.

The book is very cool. It looks at six broad themes across world history by focusing on specific examples.

  • Glass
  • Cold
  • Sound
  • Clean
  • Time
  • Light

But even cooler? Johnson has

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The Green Book, Jim Crow, and historical thinking

It’s always a good day when you get the chance to learn something new. Today was a good day. Today I learned about an incredible primary source called the Green Book. As a lover of history and collector of primary sources, the Green Book is both incredibly interesting and incredibly depressing at the same time. Interesting because it’s such a rich primary source. Depressing because it was needed.

The full title of the book is The Negro Motorist Green Book: An International Travel Guide and was first published in 1936. The book was printed every year after that until 1965.

We often talk about the great American road trip. College kids take them. Families travel across  the country. My own experience? Second grade. Mom, dad, my five siblings, and a station wagon. Kansas to the Grand Canyon, Yosemite, Disney Land, and back. It’s as American as apple pie and baseball.

But for African Americans prior to the 1960s and 70s, this sort of trip was difficult, often embarrassing, and potentially deadly. Jim Crow laws, Sundown Towns, and unwritten rules often made finding hotels and restaurants open to black travelers impossible.

Cotton Seiler, the author of Republic of Drivers: A Cultural History of Automobility in America, suggests that for much of our history Read more

8 tech tools that encourage literacy skills

Some of them are low tech. Some are more sophisticated. Some are mobile apps. Some are not. Some are completely free. Some start free and allow for upgrades. None of them are silver bullets. None of them are going to save the world.

But I think we need to be using them more. These eight tools, and others like them, can change how we teach and how students learn. And I think any tool that does that – whether it’s paper and pencil or a mobile app – is a good thing.

In a recent article over at Huffinton Post, Dylan Arena, Ph.D., co-founder and chief learning scientist at Kidaptive states that

Technology by itself will almost never change education. The only way to change educational practices is to change the beliefs and values of teachers, administrators, parents and other educational stakeholders–and that’s a cultural issue, not a technological one . . . It’s about processes and people rather than bits and bytes.

These eight tools seem particularly effective at encouraging and supporting literacy skills. I’ve talked about many of these before but I think when they are clumped together, they become especially powerful in helping kids read and write in new and impactful ways.

There has been, and continues to be, a lot of conversation about reading, writing, and communicating skills. When I get to be a part of those conversations, I share the following lists with social studies folks. Pretty sure they’ll work across a lot of other content areas as well. Read more

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