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Posts tagged ‘historical thinking’

Picturing US History: Building visual literacy

Using photos, videos, and other types of images is one of the most effective ways to hook kids into your content. Images can create emotion, explain events, generate questions, and help solve problems.

But sometimes it can be difficult integrating visuals into your instruction. What images to use? What activities work best? How can you align these activities with national and state standards?

Picturing United States History: An Interactive Resource for Teaching with Visual Evidence can help. Created by the folks at the American Social History Project/Center for Media and Learning at the City University of New York Graduate Center with funding support from the National Endowment for the Humanities, the site is a digital project based on the belief that visual materials are vital to understanding the American past. Read more

What’s our job?

Next spring, the Kansas Department of Education will roll out a pilot version of the Social Studies State Assessment. The test is designed to measure how well classroom instruction is aligned to the one-year old state standards by focusing on document analysis and addressing a specific writing prompt. It will be interesting.

For quite some time, the Kansas state standards – like many across the country – focused on the collection and memorization of content. The test aligned to those standards was 60 multiple choice questions that measured the ability of a kid to memorize data. It’s not hard to figure out what happened next.

We know that tests drive instruction and so what happened over time in Kansas – like many states across the country – was that teachers focused on finding the best way to make sure that students could regurgitate specific content knowledge.

So instead of making sure kids could process information and solve realistic problems, the goal in many schools was to find a way to game the system. We knew which specific content indicators were on the test (and because the questions never changed most of us knew what exactly what would be asked) and so class content became focused just on those things. Teachers drilled and killed on specific indicators without context. Kids memorized data in no particular order.

All in the name of test scores and the exalted Standard of Excellence that indicated the majority of your students were at the “proficient” level. And, of course, most schools eventually achieved the Standard of Excellence. Kids and teachers got good at playing the game.

Except we were all playing the wrong game.

We don’t need kids who are able to memorize 60 specific facts about 30 specific content indicators. We need kids who ask good questions. Analyze evidence. Work with others. Make mistakes. Learn from their mistakes. Solve problems. Communicate solutions.

Which brings me to last weekend. Read more

24 great places to find primary sources

It’s always a difficult task. If we’re going to have kids think historically and to solve problems, you’re gonna need two things. Engaging and authentic problems to solve. And . . . evidence they can use to solve the problem.

For teachers, of course, both of those things present a challenge. Creating great questions is not easy. NCLB and older standards encouraged us to feed kids low level questions that anyone with a cell phone could Google in a minute. Writing un-Googleable questions is hard.

But even when we can make that happen, teachers often run into another issue. Where to find useful evidence? What primary and secondary sources can I make available to students? Read more

4 resources to help you assess historical thinking

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.

Today?

Four online tools that you can use to measure the historical thinking skills of your kids: Read more

Chronicling America – 1000s of historical newspapers

Are you kidding me? Seriously?

Thousands of historical newspapers from all over the country? Yup. And over 7,892,470 actual newspaper pages? Let that sink in for just a moment. Yup. But where, you ask, can I find such an incredible research tool? The very useful Chronicling America site from the Library of Congress, of course.

You’d think I’d be happy with almost eight million pages to play with. I mean, it’s 7,892,470 pages. Which is . . . you know, a lot. The 7,892,470+ pages cover newspapers from almost all 50 states and the District of Columbia from 1836 to 1922.

But once you get in the collection, it’s easy to get a little greedy. Wouldn’t it be nice to have some coverage from the Civil War? The Great Depression? Prohibition? WWII? Vietnam? Hippies? 9/11?

Still . . .  Read more

5 ways to make history “fun”

It was several years ago that I first heard Sam Wineburg. He was speaking at a combined Kansas / Missouri Council for History Education conference almost six years ago. I had read his stuff, agreeing with his ideas about how we needed to re-think our approach to teaching history.

And his presentation didn’t disappoint.

I’ve been in love ever since.

Much of our work on the recently approved Kansas state standards revolved around the sorts of things that Wineburg is pushing and the websites he’s created – thinking historically, using evidence, communicating solutions. But something he said back in 2008 has stuck with me:

 I don’t think that a history class should be about things such as History Alive or about making cute posters, or about making history “engaging.” It’s about getting students to thinking rigorously about the evidence. Fun is okay, but I would rather have them hate the class and come out of the class having the skills needed to be good citizens than having them enjoy themselves.

I used to do a lot of “project-based” learning back in the day. It was fun and kids were engaged but I know now that not much high-level thinking was going on. You know the kinds of stuff I’m talking about – three fold brochures highlighting Civil War battles, oral presentations that required historical costumes, and lots of coloring.

Nothing wrong with fun projects . . . unless kids can do all of it without actually doing some sort of historical thinking.

But I recently ran across a cool article that reminded me that it is possible to teach high-quality social studies while still having fun. Written by Tim Grove, Chief of Museum Learning at the Smithsonian National Air and Space Museum in Washington, D.C. and author of A Grizzly in the Mail and Other Adventures in American History, suggests five concepts that we should incorporate into our instructional designs.

Read more

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