While it is possible, I suppose, to teach social studies and history without primary sources, it’s probably not a good idea. And while there are more and more places to find primary sources, it can still be difficult to track down stuff that you can use.
It’s can be especially difficult finding newspapers.
Enter Google News.
Google News is already an awesome tool for finding resources for current events around the world. But if you know where to look, Google News is also great for finding old newspapers for use in your instruction.
Steps? Read more
I don’t think my daughter would mind me telling you that she loves Marvel Comics. I also don’t think she is the only kid out there that loves Marvel Comics. Or DC Comics. Or the X-Men. O superheroes in general.
A lot of your kids are huge into comic books and graphic novels. I’ve said it many times, most recently regarding the Hunger Games series:
Some suggest that we shouldn’t have to use pop culture to teach social studies. I disagree. I will use pretty much whatever it takes to engage kids in content. And if the relationship between Katniss, Peeta, and Gale hooks students into a better understanding of civic and geographic concepts, we ought to be all over it.
The same thing can be said about the whole Marvel Comic world. It just seems like a great way to integrate reading and writing skills into your instruction. But I haven’t played in that world enough to put ideas and lessons and materials together so they can be used in the classroom.
The good news? Read more
Several years ago, I had the opportunity to spend five days with Fritz Fischer at a Gilder Lehrman Summer Seminar. It was awesome. Fritz has been involved in history / social studies issues at the national level for years. He helped write the Colorado state social studies standards and now he’s come out with a great book titled The Memory Hole: The US History Curriculum Under Siege. It’s basically Fritz saving the world. Trust me on this.
The basic premise?
I am afraid that the discipline of social studies is being hijacked.
He calls them anti-historians. Working to insert their own sanitized versions of past events, they misunderstand the purpose of history, and are afraid of the process of history. He suggests that we are moving towards a 1984 Orwellian reality that “reinscribes” events “exactly as often is necessary.” That lives by the phrase “who controls the past controls the future.”
He suggests that
the past is disappearing because many people don’t care about the past but do care about creating a past that supports their view of the present.
The way to prevent this sort of Orwellian possibility is to Read more
Mark Hofer and Kathy Swan suggest that students are great consumers of information but aren’t necessarily great producers of information.
And the Common Core and new NCSS standards are asking our kids to do more creating. What does that look like? Mark and Kathy see great possibilities with new technologies that support student-created documentaries.
They’re very convincing. Video creation can align to reading and writing and communicating skills required in the Common Core literacy standards. Video can align to historical content. Video can be engaging.
But, they warn, beware the green pancake. Eating a green pancake will get someone’s attention but the pancake doesn’t taste any different or provide any more nutrition. It’s just green. But we can get very excited about it because, well . . . it’s green. So it must be really good.
It’s the shiny object idea I’ve talked about before. Technology, while important, is not necessary in every step of the documentary creation process. Make sure that kids are focused on the gathering of social studies content, on answering big ideas and rich questions, and on creating original solutions. Then you can begin to incorporate technology.
Mark talked about the idea of using Evidence-Based Arguments as a starting point. Every historical investigation needs to begin with a great question. Then they asked kids to do research and create videos. But what they got was disappointing. What they got was basically text with pictures, a script with a background. It wasn’t a story, it wasn’t engaging, and it often didn’t really answer the question. They begin to realize that they needed to learn more about how to create high-quality documentaries, how to use images and video to actually tell a story.
And eventually they came up with a Four Step Process that students work through to create high-quality documentaries: Read more