Mmm . . . I get this a lot. Especially over the last few months as we’ve rolled out the new proposed social studies standards document for Kansas.
The current document is all about content – with specific indicators that must be taught because they will be on the state-level multiple choice test. And we’ve done a great job over the last decade or so of training our teachers to only worry about whether or not their kids have memorized the tested indicators. The pendulum swung way over to foundational knowledge at the expense of critical thinking.
Since beginning its work, the writing committee for the proposed standards has concentrated on creating a document that balances out the need for foundational knowledge with the need for historical thinking skills. You can’t have one without the other.
But because the system has been so focused on specific historical data points, many teachers – especially the ones that have entered the classroom in the last five or six years – are struggling with the idea of what this historical thinking stuff looks like.
I’ve shared some ideas about this before but the pendulum is swinging back. There are more and more very good resources springing up around the Interwebs that can help. So to help anyone who is looking for some examples of what historical thinking looks like, check out these sweet resources:
A couple of weeks ago, while catching up on a massive backlog of RSS feeds, I ran across a handy tool that seems perfect for helping you integrate Common Core ELA stuff into your instruction.
Created by Russell Tarr and shared out on the incredible Free Technology for Teachers blog (do you think Richard Byrne ever sleeps?), the Classtools SMS Generator does a great job of recreating the look and feel of an ongoing text message conversation. Kids can immediately relate to the idea that two people would use this sort of medium to share information back and forth.
Yesterday was a good day.
Any time that I can spend with social studies teachers, talk history content, and share ideas about instructional best practices has got to be a good day. That was yesterday.
But I noticed something. A lot of what we were doing revolved around visual things, not just text. We always think about social studies being a text-based activity. Documents and text books handouts and lots of paper. But much of what we did yesterday involved images and maps, Google Earth and videos.
Part of it is that I truly am a visual learning and so my brain naturally tilts in that direction. But good instructional practice and brain research is telling us that using visuals is a great way for content to connect with kids.
A recent addition to the visual toolbox we have access to is the infographic. So what’s an infographic?