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Posts tagged ‘social studies’

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

Tip of the Week: Social Studies Web Site Showdown

I was working with some secondary teachers a few weeks ago and our conversation shifted into the topics of useful websites. What sites were the best and most useful? Where can teachers find primary sources slash lesson plans slash videos slash whatever. We were a bit off task but the discussion turned out to be very helpful.

(I flashed back a bit to my middle school teaching days when my kids would work very hard trying to shift the conversation over to current events rather than, say . . . causes of the Civil War. Shocker. It wasn’t that hard.)

The web site discussion has stayed with me. What are the best sites for social studies teachers? Are there ten or five or one site that is so good that everyone, everyone, should be using? I’ve got my favorites. You’ve got yours. But I’m curious what that sort of combined list might look like.

More importantly, cause I’m competitive like that, can we narrow this down to the top four, the top two, to the ultimate, best social studies web site of all time? I think we can.

So . . . welcome to the first annual Social Studies Web Site Showdown!

Between now and September 12, I will be collecting in the comments below, via email, and online via this Google Form your favorite social studies web sites. I will then seed the top 32 sites into a tournament bracket and we’ll play off the sites until we get to the Final Four and ultimately the best social studies web site of all time. So let me know – what are your favorite sites? Leave up to ten of your favs.

Let the Showdown begin!

Tip of the Week: 5 ways to start the year

I hate to be the one to bring this up but . . . mmm . . . school starts soon. I know many of you are going back to classrooms next week with kids making their appearance soon after. And it’s always nice to have a few tips and tricks in your backpack to start off the school year. What discipline-specific activities work best for kicking off the year?

So today? The fifth annual Five Ways to Start the School Year in a Social Studies Classroom post. Use what you can. Adapt what you can’t. Add your own ideas in the comments. Read more

What would you say to your Senator?

I get the chance this week to spend time with some pretty amazing people. Michelle Herczog. Peggy Jackson. Kim O’Neil. All leaders of the National Council for the Social Studies Board of Directors. And almost 30 other social studies educators from around the country representing state level councils.

We’re meeting in Washington D.C. to discuss ways to support classroom teachers and to advocate for the Social Studies at the local, state, and federal level. Good times. Seriously. I mean, how often does someone like me get the chance to hang out with the movers and shakers of the social studies world? These are all excellent classroom teachers, committed to social studies, and history geeks like me. So I’m loving it.

We’ve had formal and informal conversations about all sorts of stuff and will continue those conversations through tomorrow. But one of the main reasons we’re here is to chat with representatives from the House and Senate, urging continued support for the teaching of high-quality social studies across the country.

Later today, Read more

Moo, moo says the cow. Create everyday heros with Heifer International

Yes. I did get samples of their free stuff in the mail today. Yes. It was probably a bribe to get me to post something online. Yes. I’m okay with that.

Cause the work done by Heifer International is pretty amazing. If you aren’t familiar with Heifer International, it’s a non-profit that focuses on self-reliance and sustainable. And they do this in a very unique way: Read more

CCSSO chickens out. C3 framework work moves to NCSS

Okay. Chicken out may a bit harsh. But it’s a bit unsettling when the most well known organization drops out of the national social studies standards creation gig.

Three and a half years ago, I wrote a short piece concerning the difficulties involved with the creation of a national set of social studies standards. At the time, I was convinced that it would be difficult to create such a document. There would be just too many problems to overcome – the two biggest being that there would likely be a focus on easily measured specific content and no way for 50 different states to agree on what that content would be.

I was hoping for a focus instead on process and thinking skills rather than

 just a very long laundry list of specifics without any concern for thinking skills. So maybe . . . if the focus is on using information rather than on just a long list of dead guys without context.

What happened, of course, is that the Council of Chief State School Officers (CCSSO) folks finished off the ELA and math documents, leaving the social studies work to continue in a sort of double-secret probation mode. Eventually much of the that secret work was finished and we were given a preview of the final social studies document last November.

It was just a teaser but it was enough to let us know that the final document would not include any real content but would instead focus on process and thinking skills. And it supported the work we had been doing in Kansas to re-write our state standards. So . . . cool.

The rough draft (also found  here) of the final national document, the Career, and Civic Life (C3) Framework for Inquiry in Social Studies State Standards, came out earlier this spring. Some will be disappointed in the lack of specific content indicators but I like the direction the document is leading the discipline. Encourage high levels of doing and thinking while allowing local states and districts to create their own set of actual content.

So I’m not sure Read more

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