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Teaching with your mouth shut and other things that happen in an inquiry-based classroom

I still remember how great that day was. I had rocked it in all five sections of my 8th US history class. I spent 55 awesome minutes each period highlighting the causes of the American Revolution. And. I. Killed. It. The kids clearly couldn’t get enough. They were so busy copying down all of the notes I had provided for them that they didn’t have time to ask any questions.

The French and Indian War. Proclamation of 1763. Stamp Act. Some other Act. Maybe two, not positive cause I was on a roll. Something, I think, about the Boston Tea Party. Pretty sure there was something about Crispus Attucks and that guy who kept yelling about liberty or death. Seriously. This lecture was on fire. And I left the building that day convinced that my kids walked out smarter than when they walked in.

Except . . .

they probably weren’t smarter. Maybe better copy downers. Better taker noters. And for sure a whole lot better at not interrupting the teacher when he was talking.

But smarter? Nope.

How do I know? The research says so.

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Whiteboards. The old fashioned dry erase kind. And . . . yes, they still work.

I am a huge fan of Google Jamboard. There are so many cool ways we can use a digital whiteboard software like Jamboard to engage kids in solving problems, for messing around with primary sources, and to capture student thinking.

But I was reminded recently by a middle school teacher that not every classroom has access to digital devices or Google tools. And he shared some great ideas of how he uses the old fashioned dry erase whiteboards – you know, the kind you use markers with and old rags to wipe clean – to do some pretty cool stuff too. So I started asking around and there apparently are a lot of you who love using the old fashioned dry erase whiteboards. There are also apparently a lot of ways to use those whiteboards in a social studies classroom.

So today you get five super simple but powerful activities that all work to encourage critical thinking, gather new information, or activate prior knowledge. And the cool thing is that while they work great with traditional dry erase boards, they can quickly be adapted to those new fangled internet-based whiteboards as well.

First things first.

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Looking for Google Expedition alternatives? Aren’t we all.

Seriously, Google?

I’m not sure who decided to discontinue the amazing Expeditions app and the equally amazing Tour Creator tool. But, excuse my French, what the heck random Google decision maker person?

Some of your past decisions to end things made sense. (I’m looking at you Google+) But you seem to make a habit of creating some cool stuff and then kill it not soon after. (I’m looking at you Google URL Shortener.)

Expeditions and Tour Creator? Super cool stuff. I never met any teacher who couldn’t find a way to use these tools – especially when incorporating the associated Cardboard 3D viewer headsets. And now they’re gone because why?

Google threw Jennifer Holland, Google’s director of education program management, under the bus. “We’ve heard and recognize that immersive experiences with VR headsets are not always accessible to all learners,” she said. Thanks Jennifer . . . and now immersive experiences aren’t available for *any* learners. Hmmm.

Okay. Rant over. I’m better now.

But now what? What can you do with that big box of 30 Cardboard headsets? Are there similar 3D VR things available and how can you can access them? Well . . . yes, there are some options out there.

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Is it possible to love the Library of Congress too much? No. No, it is not.

Is it possible to fall more deeply in love with a library?

I mean . . . I’m already in love with the Library of Congress. That’s a given. But I had the chance to attend a remote meeting yesterday with a few of LOC’s amazing staff and I’m pretty sure that I’m more in love with the LOC now than I was before.

And it’s all because of three things. Three things that I kind of knew the Library had but forgot they had or they were moved and I wasn’t sure how to find them.

So . . . if you’re looking for more reasons to love the Library, you need to spend some time exploring these three awesome digital resources.

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Super Dave and Connect, Extend, Challenge

I had the opportunity this spring to spend time learning together with about 35 middle school ELA and social studies teachers as part of a Library of Congress TPS mini-grant project. We’ve spent multiple sessions over the last few months exploring the connection between literature and social studies content. (As Ferris Bueller once said, “. . . I highly recommend you picking one up.”)

The project was awesome for a lot of reasons but one of the main reasons was middle school teacher and social studies rock star Dave McIntire. It was last summer that I asked Dave to act as a master teacher for the project, sharing his experience and expertise with the group. And so ever since we kicked the project off in January, I’ve had the chance to soak up all the goodness that is Mr. McIntire and have learned so much.

Last Monday, as he shared a sample lesson with the group, I was able to pick up one final nugget before we broke for the summer.

A simple but powerful strategy called Connect Extend Challenge.

Now I’ve had the chance to learn about all sorts of primary source and evidence graphic organizers, thinking strategies, and summary activities. So while there are always new things to learn, running across something I haven’t seen before doesn’t just happen every day of the week.

And when Dave threw out the Connect Extend Challenge tool, it just reinforced his reputation as a social studies guru. If you’ve heard of this activity, love it, and use it already . . . feel free to go about your business. But if you’re like me and Connect Extend Challenge is something new, hang around.

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