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.
The Structured Academic Conversation can help with this problem. Read more
It’s a double bonus type of day.
First, today is one of the last days of our Century of Progress Teaching American History project. So I get to spend all day with 41 middle school teachers and we talk about nothing except history stuff.
Today’s history stuff?
Chinese immigration during the late 1800s. And we’re tying in history content conversations with Joel Breakstone of the Stanford History Education Group. He’s sharing with us how to create lesson plans designed to train kids to think historically. There’s been some very helpful theoretical sorts of stuff focusing on historical thinking but also very practical suggestions about what a great lesson should look like.
Second, yesterday the Kansas Board of Education voted 9-0 to approve the proposed social studies standards. Some of us have been working on these for the last 20 months and to have them accepted for full implementation is pretty sweet.
Such a cool day! It’s like the perfect storm. New standards that focus on high level historical thinking skills and content/strategies that can help us meet those standards.
So I figured . . . why not share some of the goodies we talked about?
Like many families, mine spends part of every evening re-hashing the day – sharing experiences, discussing current events, solving the world’s problems, and arguing whether the X-Men are actual super heroes.
Earlier this week, during a discussion about school, my daughter blurted out:
I really don’t do anything at school. I’m asked to learn stuff that doesn’t mean anything to me in ways that are incredibly boring.
She and I have had this discussion before. She plays the game very well – straight A’s, great test scores. She knows the rules. And the traditional view of school would suggest that because she has a nice GPA she actually knows something. But every time I hear about worksheets, answering questions at the end of the chapter, or high school students reading out loud from the textbook to one another, I’m not convinced. Research is telling all of us that these sorts of instructional strategies don’t impact long-term learning.