Skip to content

Old or new, maps are cool.

Can you ever have too many maps?

The obvious answer is no. You can never have too many maps.

So when I ran across some very cool old maps last Saturday at the Wichita Flea Market, there really wasn’t any question about whether or not I would buy them. The question was how many will I buy.

I settled on two. Which means my wife helped me decide that I should settle on two. There are quite a few maps already in my house and I was gently made aware of that fact. Which means semi-gently.

Both of the maps I walked away with are almost 100 years old. One is a 1924 map of tourist Rome published in Italian, the other a map highlighting the 1924 British Empire Exhibition with suggested mass transit options from around the London metro area. So cool.

Perfect for displaying, reading, primary source analysis, (the Empire Exhibition and its various colonial pavilions is just asking for some in-depth conversation) or just wafting in the 100 year old smell.

But while we all can agree how cool old maps are, new maps are nothing to sneeze at. I love the ability of digitized maps to allow access to all sorts of data in all sorts of very visual ways. Take a look at these two Read more

Boring stories, missing voices, and 7 tools for Indigenous Peoples’ Day

Several days ago, a group of us got together to do some Inquiry Design Model creation. And one of our conversations focused on the interactions between indigenous people and European colonists during the early years of the United States. That led to further discussions around Columbus Day vs. Indigenous Peoples’ Day.

As part of that conversation, I asked teachers to read a couple of different articles focusing on primary sources and thinking about the voices that may be missing from the stories those sources are telling. The first article, Teaching Hard History With Primary Sources, is from Teaching Tolerance and provides resources for including voices of enslaved persons in American history.

The second was published just a few weeks ago at Education Week. Titled How Do We Teach With Primary Sources When So Many Voices Are Missing?, the article highlights the difficulty in telling a complete story when Native American voices can be hard to find. Bottom line? We need to train both ourselves and our students to look beyond what the easy to find sources are telling us. It’s what Sam Wineburg called “reading the silences.

Finding these missing voices is important for a lot of reasons. But one particular quote in the EdWeek article stood out for me: Read more

Focus on the doing of social studies, not just the model

Back in the day, Madeline Hunter ruled.

I never actually met Madeline but for a time, it was like we were joined at the hip. College of Ed professors loved her. Principals loved her. Teacher observation and evaluation tools loved her even more. And so all of my early teaching years were focused on her theories and lesson plan designs.

For the non-Boomers in the room, a quick review of Madeline’s design:

  • Anticipatory set
    Do something that introduces the lesson, hooks kids into wanting to learn the lesson, and establish your objectives for the lesson.
  • Direct instruction
    Foundational knowledge – the facts, ideas, and skills – is delivered to the students. Usually some sort of lecture, video, or reading.
  • Guided practice and application
    The teacher helps students apply what they have just been taught.
  • Independent practice and application
    Students apply the learning on their own.
  • Assessment
    The teacher measures how well students have met the objectives.

It’s not like this is terrible instruction. Making it clear to kids what our expectations are is good. Finding ways for them to collect and organize foundation knowledge? Good. Independent application? Absolutely. Done right? Pretty darn good.

But like a lot of things, Madeline’s best intentions rarely made it into actual practice. Back in the day, I was usually okay with step one. I could hook kids into content. But after that? Not so much.

I ended up teaching like I had been taught. How the teachers down the hallway were teaching. Direct instruction to me meant lecture, the occasional video, and a lot of assigned readings. If there was any guided practice and independent practice, it usually involved lots of homework and worksheets.

I got better. I started doing more hands on projects and cooperative learning. But there was still a lot of direct instruction. And while the projects were engaging and kids enjoyed them, I didn’t work super hard at making them relevant or tying them to big ideas. So I had a fun class but I’m not really sure students walked any out any smarter than when they walked in.

As my own kids entered and left social studies classrooms throughout their 13 school years, it became clear that they were having similar experiences. There were some hands on projects and occasional awesomeness (thanks Mr. Robb.)  But they still experienced a lot of direct instruction and “independent” practice in the form of study guides and worksheet packets.

So.

Is it possible to take the best parts of Madeline’s model and adapt it to a world that needs our students to be engaged, informed, and knowledgable citizens? Read more

Emojis. Cause they’re good for kids and fun to use. What’s not to like?

I always walk away smarter after spending time with classroom teachers. Wednesday was no exception. I got the chance to work with about 35 K-5 teachers and spent the day focused on the Inquiry Design Model – tweaking previous IDMs and developing new ones for next semester. And in addition to finding out about some new ways to integrate primary sources, a teacher shared this little gem:

“Never wear white when teaching Kindergarten.”

 If you teach K-3, you already knew this. But for secondary folks like me? Good tip.

I’m not sure that there is any sort of measurement tool able to document the level of respect I have for elementary teachers. But that’s it, right there in a nutshell. Teaching five year olds is hard enough, what with all the reading, writing, arithmetic, social emotional, classroom management stuff. But now I find out that my wardrobe choices are also impacted. (And you really don’t want to hear the reasons why white is a bad choice. Trust me. Seriously . . .  just walk away.)

Once we got past the never wear white idea, we had the chance to jump into our work on their IDMs. Including some conversation about effective teaching strategies and activities. One of my fave conversations centered on the idea of using emojis as a way to help kids make sense of social studies and incorporating them as part of a quality lesson that can help improve student thinking and literacy skills.

And yes, I can hear you. You’re saying that integrating little graphic images used by millions of Instagram tweeners instead of more traditional tools is no way to teach historical thinking and literacy. But I’m convinced that these little graphic images have tremendous potential to help kids makes sense of evidence, increase literacy skills, and demonstrate learning.

We started our day on Wednesday introducing the idea by using a fun web tool called Emoji Scavenger Hunt. We got into groups and raced around the building, collecting actual objects that matched emojis provided by the game. It was a great way to kickstart the conversation.

You can get an idea of the emoji potential by taking a look at Read more

The inquiry method, dinosaur teachers, and Social Studiesball

Six years ago, almost to the day, I uploaded a post titled New standards, the C3, dinosaurs, and Social Studiesball. The state of Kansas was in its very first year of implementing a new set of social studies standards – a set of standards that focused on creating a balance of content and historical thinking skills. A lot less memorizing and a whole lot more application and process.

It freaked some people out.

Okay.

It freaked a lot of people out.

It was a different way of doing social studies. More student centered. More skills based. More problem solving. More use of evidence to support claims. Less focus on specific content and recall of basic facts. Heck . . . the state department of education basically said “within these rough scope and sequence parameters, teach whatever you want.” No check boxes of required test items. No multiple choice state assessment.

The 2013 post used the Michael Lewis book & Brad Pitt movie Moneyball as an example of how a shift in thinking can impact current practice.

And now, after six years, we’re revising the document and the state assessment with an even stronger focus on the inquiry model and historical thinking processes. It seems appropriate to revisit the 2013 post with a few updates.

—————————

A few years back, I picked up a book called Moneyball: The Art of Winning an Unfair Game by Michael Lewis. It focused on the Oakland Athletics major league baseball team and their general manager, Billy Beane. Burdened by a lack of funds, Beane was constantly struggling to win games against teams with way more money to pay their players than he did. But by 2002, during a season that saw his team set a century old record for consecutive wins, Beane had found a way to beat those teams.

The answer?

Sabermetrics.

Sabermetrics is the application of statistical analysis in order to evaluate and compare the performance of individual players. But not the traditional statistics. Beane and the A’s looked at a completely different set of statistics in ways that hadn’t been done before. This different way of thinking about baseball gave them a competitive advantage – they could now find solid players that had been ignored by everyone else. And because these players were being ignored by everyone else, the A’s could pay them less and win games while staying within their budget.

Win / win. A sweet team for less money.

The problem? Read more