When I sit back and think about the changes in social studies instruction and learning that have happened here in Kansas over the last few years, I’m always a wee bit amazed. Good teachers across the state have always asked kids to read and write and use evidence and think historically. But up until two or three years ago, the focus for many had been on simply having kids collect and memorize historical data.
The conversation is changing. Teachers and administrators are now talking more about the process of social studies rather than just the data. Teachers are looking at and using Sam Wineburg’s stuff over at SHEG. They’re using more literacy activities, more fiction and non-fiction, and generally having better discussions about what quality social studies looks like.
A huge hat tip to Don Gifford, social studies consultant at the Kansas Department of Education, for driving all of this forward. He put together a team of educators from across the state to rewrite the Kansas standards, facilitated the writing, and maneuvered the document through the hoops needed to get unanimous approval from the state board. He’s busy at the moment trying to create a state assessment that measures historical thinking while combining it with the ELA writing assessment. And, since this really hasn’t ever been done before, it’s an interesting and complicated process.
All of this to say that there is a lot of transformation happening here in the Sunflower state. And that’s a good thing. But change is never easy and so the struggle as been to find ways to ease people into the idea of teaching process AND content. To find resources and scaffolding to help teachers see what this sort of instruction and learning can look like in practice.
One of the powerful pieces of the state document is the Literacy Expectations and Best Practices section. It highlights those things that students and teachers should be doing in a high-quality classroom.
But what I often hear is that Read more
One of the obvious reasons for attending professional conferences and workshops is the opportunity for checking out new BBQ restaurants. Of course, there is that whole learning new stuff, meeting new people, attending sessions idea too.
And last week’s KCHE / MOCHE Best Practices conference in downtown Kansas City gave me the chance to check off both. Got to eat some great BBQ and do all of that other stuff. I really did walk away smarter (and thanks to Oklahoma Joe’s BBQ, also just a little bit rounder.)
Perhaps the biggest takeaway from my two days? Read more
Loving this already! I’m in Kansas City at the very cool World War One Museum at the Best Practices in History Education conference. The get-together is being hosted by the Kansas and Missouri Councils for History Education.
Meeting new people. Seeing old friends. Talking about history and strategies and resources and technology and big ideas and World War One stuff. What isn’t fun about that?
I’m gonna try and post stuff from each session. Keep your fingers crossed.
Session one? Read more
Need a place to connect past with present? Need writing prompts? Need hundreds of articles about current events in an easy to access place? Need articles with leveled reading? Need a searchable database that filters by keyword, grade level, Common Core reading anchors, and articles with machine scored quizzes?
If your answer to even one of those questions is yes, then I’ve got just the tool for you. Newsela is a free (so far) site that provides all sorts of things perfect for social studies teachers looking to integrate literacy and contemporary issues into their classrooms.
I’m spending a lot of time this week working with small groups of social studies teachers, leading conversations about our new state standards and what that can look like in the classroom. One of the things I enjoy most about those kinds of conversations is the sharing that we all do – strategies, ideas, suggestions, web sites, just about anything that’s going to help us do our jobs better.
And Stephenie came through. A fifth grade teacher in a small parochial school, Stephenie has been using Newsela since last spring and loves it. She shared how she was using the tool and we ended spending the next hour or so exploring, talking, suggesting, and generally falling in love with the possibilities of Newsela.
At its most basic level, Read more
The current buzz in the state of Kansas is the upcoming state level social studies assessment. It’s scheduled for full release during the 2015-2016 school year with a pilot release next spring.
It’ll be interesting.
Because we’re trying to do something that we haven’t done before. Measure historical thinking skills, not the ability to memorize foundational knowledge. We can’t just use simple multiple choice.
Obviously, part of the process is to encourage the teaching of these sorts of skills at the classroom level and to develop different types of assessment strategies that teachers can use.
Four online tools that you can use to measure the historical thinking skills of your kids: Read more