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Posts tagged ‘literacy’

Sample state assessment, historical thinking assessment tools, and useful primary sources

Update

Okay. I’m an idiot. Several (many) of you have noticed that I said that I attached Don’s presentation. But I never did. Now I have. It’s linked below and here. Kansas teachers? You need to download this to see what the state assessment beta version looks like. (Be sure to scroll down for the rest of the goodies.) The rest of you? Scroll down for the rest of the goodies. You’ll find them handy too.

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For the last few years, you’ve read about the process we’ve been working through as Kansas rewrites its social studies standards and state level assessment.

I’m convinced that the writing committee made up of teachers and state department staff developed a pretty awesome standards document. If you’ve been already for the the conversation, you already know that the focus has always been on finding ways to encourage process and historical thinking rather than simple memorization.

The real question, from the very beginning, has always been trying to figure out what the assessment will look like. How can you measure – at a state level with thousands of kids at different grades in a standardized way – historical thinking? How do you score it? What does the rubric look like? How can you train teachers to use the rubric consistently? Even at a classroom level, teachers are still working to figure this out. At the state level? Add the recent mandate that the elementary and middle school version of the test must now also act as the state writing assessment and it becomes a bit of a nightmare.

Thankfully Don Gifford and his crack staff of . . . well, just himself is on the case. Yesterday Don shared the latest vision of what the state level document looks like. And I can already hearing those of from places not Kansas clicking the Next button to head somewhere else.

But you need to hang around because Don and others have created and shared a series of resources that I think are useful for all social studies teachers. Read more

8 tech tools that encourage literacy skills

Some of them are low tech. Some are more sophisticated. Some are mobile apps. Some are not. Some are completely free. Some start free and allow for upgrades. None of them are silver bullets. None of them are going to save the world.

But I think we need to be using them more. These eight tools, and others like them, can change how we teach and how students learn. And I think any tool that does that – whether it’s paper and pencil or a mobile app – is a good thing.

In a recent article over at Huffinton Post, Dylan Arena, Ph.D., co-founder and chief learning scientist at Kidaptive states that

Technology by itself will almost never change education. The only way to change educational practices is to change the beliefs and values of teachers, administrators, parents and other educational stakeholders–and that’s a cultural issue, not a technological one . . . It’s about processes and people rather than bits and bytes.

These eight tools seem particularly effective at encouraging and supporting literacy skills. I’ve talked about many of these before but I think when they are clumped together, they become especially powerful in helping kids read and write in new and impactful ways.

There has been, and continues to be, a lot of conversation about reading, writing, and communicating skills. When I get to be a part of those conversations, I share the following lists with social studies folks. Pretty sure they’ll work across a lot of other content areas as well. Read more

Tip of the Week: History, Government, & Social Studies Skills by Grade and Discipline

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

Need to teach historical thinking and literacy? To both high and low levels? You need this book

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

Using evidence-based terms in a secondary social studies classroom

It was a great day today – 70+ K-12 teachers were hanging out at @ESSDACK, learning from each other and from Adam Topliff, Kori Green, and Lori Rice. All three are Kansas Department of Ed certified standards trainers who just happen to be awesome classroom teachers. As part of an agreement between ESSDACK and the Kansas Council for the Social Studies, they ended up in Hutchinson doing a couple of full day social studies workshops.

Adam, Kori, and Lori spent the day leading conversations about the state standards, the state assessment, and what good instructional practice looks like at different grade levels.

The best part was that I got the chance to just hang out and rotate between all of the sessions – picking up all of the goodness.

My walk-away from the day?

We need to have kids read and write more. Of course, that sometimes means more work for us as we train kids to do those sorts of things. One of the best things we can do is to provide lots of structures and scaffolds and organizers and tools that can help them become better writers.

And my new favorite structure slash scaffold slash organizer slash tool is the idea of giving our kids Read more

Newsela: Current events, connections to contemporary issues, and literacy

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

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