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Using the TPS Teachers Network album feature to make your kids smarter

Most of you are already aware of the vast amount of resources, lesson plans, and teaching materials available at the Library of Congress. You can spend hours and hours browsing through their Teacher page with its standards aligned lessonsprofessional development tools, and their primary source sets. Or on their blog designed for teachers.

Or their 15 other blogs, their ten Twitter accounts, seven Facebook accounts, and other social media tools. Or Today in History. Maybe their interactive digital iBooks. And if you get really lost, you can always just Ask a Librarian.

You get the idea. They have tons of stuff.

But you knew that already. But . . . what do you know about the Library’s Teaching with Primary Sources program? The TPS program is designed to “deliver professional development programs that help teachers use the Library of Congress’s rich reservoir of digitized primary source materials to design challenging, high-quality instruction.”  It does this by funding all sorts of projects around the country through three regional offices that help train teachers and students in the use of LOC resources.

(So . . . side note. You’re looking for some loose change to provide professional development in your district? This would be the place to go. Seriously. As in . . . your district or organizations needs a few or more thousands of dollars to help teachers integrate historical thinking skills into their classrooms using primary sources kind of seriously.)

One of the programs created by the Western TPS regional office is a cool little something called the TPS Teachers Network. Think Facebook, Pinterest, and an modern email listserv all rolled into one and you get the idea of what they’ve got going on. It provides a way for you to connect with other social studies and history teachers to talk, share, and basically just nerd out about social studies stuff.

Joining the TPS Teachers Network is as simple as pie. And once you’re in, check out these handy Getting Started tips.

At its most basic, the TPS Teachers Network provides an opportunity to join groups discussing a variety of topics such as teaching English Language Learners, using videos in the classroom, the student as historian, and supporting literacy through the use of primary sources.

But my new favorite tool on the Network is Read more

Graphic organizers are like power-ups for your English Learners (and just about everyone else!)

Graphic organizers aren’t new. I’m pretty sure that Ptolemy was using some sort of Venn diagram to explain longitude and latitude. And I’ve seen photos of cave drawings that looked a lot like cause and effect timelines.

They’ve been around a while.

But . . . I still think that we don’t use them enough. The visual and textual combination of a great graphic organizer is the perfect tool for connecting people, places, ideas, and events. We use them to make sense of new information, to show dynamic relationships, and to make connections to prior knowledge. All in a visual format that makes sense to our brains.

And as handy as they are for your mainstream students, think video game power-ups when you use graphic organizers with English Learners (EL) and multilingual students. A power-up gives a gamer extra strength, or a new weapon, more speed, and sometimes just the opposite – the game slows down while your character retains the same speed.

For your kids who are learning English or who might be reading / writing below grade level?

Graphic organizers = video game power-ups

When we integrate graphic organizers into our instructional designs, EL kids get extra power that can help them understand and grasp new ideas . Last week, I got the chance to learn with and from seven other teachers as we shared successful EL teaching strategies. And trust me, the information flow was pretty much one way – from the smart people in the room straight to me. But from that conversation, a few things became clear: Read more

What does a great historical inquiry question look like?

Just finished a great two days with Rich Cairn from the Collaborative for Educational Services. Together with a small group of middle and high school teachers, we spent the time working to figure out effective ways to engage English Language Learners with social studies inquiry methods. Rich is in charge of Emerging America, a Library of Congress Teaching with Primary Sources project.

Part of what he does is to help teachers across Massachusetts – and now Kansas – use Library of Congress resources to make inquiry learning accessible to all learners. During our time together, we addressed a wide variety of topics – challenges faced by English Language Learners, challenges faced by teachers of EL students, ways to use graphic organizers to support language acquisition, using the LOC website, researching the history of immigration policies and court cases, and generally have an awesome time.

A small part of our conversation focused on the use of essential and compelling questions. Here in Kansas, we’ve been pushing compelling questions for a while. They play an important part in our current standards and are the key to a great inquiry-based lesson.

Question. Evidence. Solution. Communicate the solution. It all starts with a great problem to solve.

And during our conversation Rich shared a sweet definition of what a great historical inquiry-based question should look like in that process. He was happy to share it.

So . . . if you’re looking for a list of characteristics of what a compelling / essential / overarching / inquiry-based question should look like, here ya go: Read more

3 powerful tools to integrate multimedia, VR, & digital timelines to increase literacy

My kids love it whenever they get the chance to use technology as part of the writing process. My job is to make sure that the tech use is meaningful and purposeful – when used correctly technology can help enhance and transform my lessons, provide real-world activities, and increase student engagement.

Jill Weber, Cheney Middle School

We all strive to develop students with the skills necessary to be successful after high school graduation. And national and local standards provide us with documents packed full of suggested benchmarks and commendable expectations.

The Common Core ELA writing standards encourage students to “use technology, including the Internet, to produce and publish writing and to interact and collaborate with others.” The National Council for the Social Studies urges us to find ways for our kids to “take informed action” based on what they have learned.

What teacher doesn’t want that for their students?

We all want our students to write more. To develop solutions to authentic problems. To spread their voices beyond the classroom. But it can be difficult for classroom teachers to have a clear vision of what that might look like in actual practice.

The good news is that there is an abundance of multimedia resources available that support the creation and sharing of student storytelling products.

Read more

5 push / pull digital storytelling tools that work on Chromebooks (and Macs and PCs)

I grew up out in Western Kansas. As in, west of Dodge City. West of Jetmore. West of Kalvesta. As in, far enough west to get incredible views and horizons that are miles away. Old barns and windmills. So it was a great day yesterday when I got the chance to drive out that direction to work with middle and high school teachers at @NessCityEagles.

The goal was to share ideas and work with technology integration tools that can be used on their student Chromebooks. Much of our conversation and work time centered around a few of my favorite story telling push / pull digital storytelling tools and what they can look like in the classroom.

What’s a push / pull tool? These are tools that you as the teacher can use to push your instructional content out to kids. But kids can use the same tool to create their own content which you pull back from them. One teacher yesterday used the phrase:

“kids can use this to both consume and create content.”

And the cool thing is that because these tools are designed to work on the Chromebook’s Chrome browser, they work just as well on your Mac or PC Chrome browser. So in no particular order, five awesome digital storytelling tools: Read more