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Posts from the ‘history’ Category

Two of my favorite things: Gettysburg and maps

I missed it.

The 150th anniversary of the battle of Gettysburg? I missed it. I suppose it would have been too crowded anyway. But I do have the latest Gettysburg book by Allen Guelzo and am working my way through the Tom Berenger, Jeff Daniels, Martin Sheen movie version of the battle.

And now thanks to Patrick’s suggestion, I’ve got some absolutely awesome maps. Two of my favorite things – Civil War battles and maps.

Some quick context. There has been a lot of discussion over the years concerning the different decisions made by leaders on both sides during the battle. Particularly the decisions made by Confederate general Lee on both the second and third day. Did Lee’s orders to attack the Union left flank on the second day and the frontal attack on the Union center on the third day make sense?

We know how the battle turns out. Confederate defeat. And often, because Lee is seen by many Confederate supporters to be infallible, Lee’s subordinates – especially Longstreet – get most of the blame for that. But the question remains. Why did Lee order attacks that with hindsight seem so wrong?

The Smithsonian might have the answer. Read more

Ford Institute and Best Practices: Part I – Prezi and Digital Storytelling

it’s the first morning of the Presidential Timeline’s Ford Institute and I am pumped! There are 20 of us here in Ann Arbor, Michigan at the Gerald Ford Presidential Library. Our task for the next four days? Working to share ideas and strategies to improve the teaching of social studies.

A few goals during the institute:

  • gaining historical content knowledge
  • strengthening our pedagogical skills
  • getting better at the use of technology

And we started with a couple of basic overarching questions:

  • How is knowledge constructed in social studies?
  • What strategies work?

So . . . as I’m working to create curriculum and learning more about how to use it, I’ll also try and share what us history geeks come up with.

Head over to the institute’s resource page. We’ll be adding to this as we go along. So be sure to refresh the page often. Let the fun begin!

We started with a simple knowledge activation exercise using Prezi. Ryan Crowley, part of the Presidential Timeline team, created a shared Prezi and asked us to add content to it. His guiding questions? Read more

CCSSO chickens out. C3 framework work moves to NCSS

Okay. Chicken out may a bit harsh. But it’s a bit unsettling when the most well known organization drops out of the national social studies standards creation gig.

Three and a half years ago, I wrote a short piece concerning the difficulties involved with the creation of a national set of social studies standards. At the time, I was convinced that it would be difficult to create such a document. There would be just too many problems to overcome – the two biggest being that there would likely be a focus on easily measured specific content and no way for 50 different states to agree on what that content would be.

I was hoping for a focus instead on process and thinking skills rather than

 just a very long laundry list of specifics without any concern for thinking skills. So maybe . . . if the focus is on using information rather than on just a long list of dead guys without context.

What happened, of course, is that the Council of Chief State School Officers (CCSSO) folks finished off the ELA and math documents, leaving the social studies work to continue in a sort of double-secret probation mode. Eventually much of the that secret work was finished and we were given a preview of the final social studies document last November.

It was just a teaser but it was enough to let us know that the final document would not include any real content but would instead focus on process and thinking skills. And it supported the work we had been doing in Kansas to re-write our state standards. So . . . cool.

The rough draft (also found  here) of the final national document, the Career, and Civic Life (C3) Framework for Inquiry in Social Studies State Standards, came out earlier this spring. Some will be disappointed in the lack of specific content indicators but I like the direction the document is leading the discipline. Encourage high levels of doing and thinking while allowing local states and districts to create their own set of actual content.

So I’m not sure Read more

History Now journal

It’s the middle of June.

I’m guessing most of you are not missing your classroom yet. But if you’re like most teachers, eventually you’ll need a history fix. You’ll need to start planning for next fall. You’ll need to pick up a book or a journal to learn something new.

And when you do, come back here because here’s the link you need: Read more

Tip of the Week: Structured Academic Conversation

One of the best things about working with social studies teachers is that I get the chance to see all sorts of great ideas and strategies. Several weeks ago, I watched a teacher use something called a SAC or Structured Academic Conversation.

It’s a discussion / debate strategy that I haven’t seen used before. And it worked great so I figured I would share it with you.

History and social studies classes are perfect places for debate. And we’ve all used debates as part of what we do. I’m a big supporter of the idea of having kids research and use that research to create persuasive arguments. I especially like the Fence Sitter idea.

But with these types of class activities, it’s easy for students to lose sight of the objective and get very competitive, focusing more on winning the argument rather than about what they should be learning. And I admit, I’m probably the worst. I love a good social studies argument. And I love to win.

Cause I’m right.

Always.

The Structured Academic Conversation can help with this problem. Read more

Learning is the end in mind, not fun

Every year, back in my Derby Middle School teaching days, we did Kansas Day. A big Kansas Day. As in . . . invite the newspaper, Board of Education, and parents kind of Kansas Day. I was the social studies guy on a teaching team and my goal was to find a way to integrate my social studies activities with math, language arts, science, and reading.

And a big Kansas Day fit the bill.

We organized all sorts of activities and projects for the day that students rotated through. Kids weaved wheat into hearts and shapes. They punched tin for pioneer lanterns. Sewed quilt pieces. Played frontier games. We had a blacksmith set up shop who demonstrated how to make horseshoes. A storyteller came and entertained.

It was always such a great day. Parents loved it. Made our principal look good when he talked with the newspaper guy. Kids were up and moving around.

It worked out so well that I started doing more projects and activities. I had kids use potatoes and paint to make African Ashanti cloth. We played Oregon Trail. Kids simulated the Constitutional Convention. You get the idea.

I was Project Man.

Because projects are good, right? My job was to engage kids. Have fun. Hook kids into liking social studies? Read more

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