Yes. I am a poly sci nerd. Love elections. Love debates. Love the data. So meeting in DC this last week was . . . awesome.
And this morning, I ran across LegEx. A great way to close out a Poly Sci nerd week.
Short for Legislative Explorer and maintained by the University of Washington Center for American Politics and Public Policy, the site is a interactive visualization that allows you and your students to explore actual patterns of lawmaking in Congress. The graph provides a great way to get the big picture while providing opportunities to dig deeper. Compare the bills and resolutions introduced by Senators and Representatives and follow their progress from the beginning to the end of a two year Congress. Go back in time and compare / contrast different years, bi-partisan vs. partisan, parties, or House vs. Senate.
You can Read more
I think we sometimes forget that every time we step in front of a room full of students, we are performers. I’ve heard some make the comment:
“I’m here to teach. Not to entertain.”
I wouldn’t necessarily disagree with that. But I’m not talking about entertainment here, simply trying to keep all the cats in a herd by doing a song and a dance without any real purpose. Think the last day of school around 1:30.
I’m talking about performing. The idea that I have information and knowledge and wisdom to transfer. And the way to get all of that stuff across is through a performance – the act of emotionally grabbing a group of people and sucking them into your world. There’s a difference. And there’s also tons of brain research out there that can help us make our performances as effective as possible. Find some of that research here, here, here, and here.
It’s not just educators who use this research to connect with others. A recent article over at Entrepreneur highlights what this can look like in the world outside of the classroom. The article describes the presentations of Craig Federighi, Apple’s senior vice president of software engineering, and how he uses specific brain-based strategies to suck audiences into his world.
You need to head over to get the full details but I like how the article highlights five specific presentation techniques that Federighi does very effectively, techniques that you can — and should — use in your classroom: Read more
I started using the idea of the four C’s several years ago when we began work on revising the Kansas state social studies standards. I liked the idea that lessons and units could be structured around four basic teaching and learning concepts:
Ask kids to gather and organize information. Encourage them to work with others to make sense of information. Support students as they create new products and solutions. Validate student work by finding ways for them to share out what they know.
It wasn’t necessarily a new concept. But for most social studies teachers wrestling with the expectation that historical thinking skills (rather than basic historical knowledge) were the key to a successful classroom, the C4 Framework made sense. It helped them begin to organize the teaching and learning around the notion of doing of history rather than focusing on rote memorization. So I continued to work with teachers to integrate the C4 Framework idea into their classrooms, modified presentations, developed materials, and created a simple website.
Of course, last fall the National Council for the Social Studies released their national standards – the College, Career, and Civic Life Standards – and promptly dubbed them the C3 Framework.
Sigh. Read more
My wife is smirking at me. She’s feeling her oats. Yup. Yesterday was her last day of school. As a fourth grade teacher, the last week of school for her is usually pretty brutal and starting today she can relax a bit.
My summer? Pretty busy. Over the next eight weeks, I’ll have the chance to meet all sorts of people around the country. That’s a good thing, I suppose. I like busy.
But right now she’s rubbing it in just a bit.
Cause she knows. She knows I love to read and that summer has traditionally been the perfect time for me to race through my summer reading list. This year, it’s going to be tough.
For as long as I’ve been in education, I’ve had a summer reading list. One of my early mentors (Thanks Mr. Ortmann!) “forced” me to do it and I learned to love the idea. Develop a list of professional and fun books. Commit to reading them. Talk about the content with others.
Of course, in all of the years that I’ve been doing it, I’ve never actually finished the original list. Schedules change. Books aren’t as good as I had hoped. A couple of years ago, I went on a Civil War binge and got completely sidetracked.
But the idea is still a good one. It makes us better educators. And isn’t that part of the job?
So . . . the 2014 Summer Reading List: Read more
The last regular season session of our Century of Progress Teaching American History grant was just over a year ago. I had the privilege to spend time with 40 middle school teachers over a period of three years sharing ideas about what a quality US history classroom should look like.
And just so you know . . . awesome.
We worked with scholars and other teachers. Software companies. Primary source documents. Technology. We all walked away smarter.
And one of the most practical things we always tried to work on when we were together was to develop possible lesson plan ideas. A year ago, one of the last ideas of the year was the Reality TV Show Pitch.
A reality show pitch is pretty simple. The task is to create a quick presentation which convinces a roomful of television producers to air your idea for a reality show. We adapted the concept to design a possible lesson focusing on Kansas history using the GRASP method as our design framework: Read more
Apparently we’ve been on some sort of double secret probation since last fall. The state of Kansas was in danger of losing its exemption from NCLB because we weren’t tying teacher evaluations more closely to student growth and state assessments. The state may have gotten off the hook by encouraging local districts to link “significant” student growth and teacher evals.
And, yes, teacher quality is incredibly important. But I personally have issues with politicians and others not directly involved on the front lines claiming to know best when it comes to measuring teacher quality. Common sense and research suggests that kids are successful or not for lots of reasons.
But while the political issues of teacher evaluation by schools and districts will continue, I still believe that as professionals we have an obligation to reflect on a personal level about our own best practice. Constant improvement is a good thing. And I also believe that there is a lot of value in asking our kids, our customers, to be a part of that evaluation process. Read more