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7 strategies that support historical thinking with grade school kids

As we continue to talk about ways to integrate literacy skills and social studies content, I often get the chance to chat with elementary teachers about the process. It’s always an interesting conversation and always seems to include some sort of comment that questions the ability of grade school students to think historically.

It’s not that K-5 teachers think historical thinking can’t happen. They’re just not sure what it can look like. So if you have questions or know someone who might have questions about what historical thinking looks like at the grade school level, we’ve got you covered.

(And you secondary folks? Don’t be afraid to browse through the list. There’s a lot of crossover.)

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Tip of the Week: Google adds Templates, Voice, and Explore

I’ve always been a fan of the goodness that is Google. And I like when all of a sudden my GAFE tools have extra features.

For some of you, this all may not seem like a big deal. But recent small changes by Google in their online tools have made my life just a little bit easier. For those of you in GAFE schools or whose students use Google, these changes can also impact how you both interact with content and data.

The first change is  Read more

Got art? Using visuals as part of your social studies instruction

I admit it. I’m a little biased. Both my kids have a strong sense of art, of being able to create visually appealing pieces. (The Rowdie effort to the left is not one of their best efforts, though it does accurately convey the family pet personality.) We constantly had crayons, painting supplies, easels, and all sorts of other artsy things in use around the house. So I’ve always been keen to the idea of integrating visual arts and images into social studies instruction.

And I think we often forget how powerful the arts can be in connecting our kids with social studies content and big ideas. Art, in all of its forms, is a great way to create emotion, generate connections, and build relationships. When we fail to intentionally integrate the visual arts, music, sculpture, dance, and theater, we do our kids a disservice.

One of the quickest ways to incorporate the arts is to focus on the visual – paintings, drawings, and images. But what can that look like? Read more

Teaching with Historic Places, Brown v. Board, and the NPS

I always enjoy spending time at the Brown v. Board National Historic Site in Topeka, Kansas. Based in the former Monroe Elementary building, the site honors the people and ideas that culminated in the 1954 landmark case declaring state laws establishing separate public schools for black and white students to be unconstitutional.

It’s a history place. And, you know, I like history. So what’s not to like? Brave parents. Courageous students. Hard working lawyers. Landmark court decision. Good vs. evil. It’s a very moving experience.

The side benefit? Great staff. I worked this morning with Thom Rosenblum – site Historian, Nick Murray – Education Specialist, and Linda Rosenblum – National Teacher Ranger Teacher Coordinator as we discussed future teacher training possibilities.

But the conversation and the location got me thinking. Do classroom teachers really know what goes on at the National Park Service? We’re always looking for resources and lesson plans and materials and ideas and field trips and outside experts. Do classroom teachers know that the NPS has all of that stuff?

If they don’t, they really need to head over to their nearest national park or historic site and check out what’s available in their own back yard. Cause there’s tons of sites with tons of stuff. Read more

Going beyond the Exit Card: 10 easy to use reflection strategies

We get it. Having some sort of closure activity as part of the learning process is important. Teachers use this sort of immediate information to measure student understanding, monitor student questions, and collect feedback on instruction. For students, closure activities serve as a content review at the end of a daily lesson and enhance their meta-cognitive skills.

But we’ve all been there. You and your kids get so hooked into an activity or lesson that you lose track of time. You look up and there’s a minute left of class. Students are throwing their stuff in backpacks, the bell rings, and off they go without a chance to think about their thinking. Or worse, we fail to intentionally plan for any sort of reflection or meta-cognition to happen.

And while we understand at the intellectual level that we need to have some sort of closure after and during learning, it can be too easy to blow it off if we’re busy or if you’ve done the Exit Card thing just too many times.

So what are some alternatives to the Exit Card? Give these a try. Feel free to adapt as needed. Read more

Tip of the Week: Google Keep comes to iOS

I know that many of you already ask students to organize evidence and information for a variety of reasons – lecture capture, short-term and long-term research, group work, basic data collection, primary / secondary source analysis. We want kids to analyze evidence, validate resources, search effectively, and appropriately cite their data. And for, well . . . forever,  paper and pencil was basically the only option for this sort of thing.

Nothing terribly wrong with paper and pencil but that medium is tough to edit, update, and share. So a lot of us and our students are taking our stuff to a variety of online tools. In the last year or so, a new option has become available. Read more


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