Skip to content

2021 Summer Reading List: Books that’ll make me a better person

Maybe it’s the heat. Or maybe it’s too much AC.

Either way, it’s been hard to get started on the annual History Tech Summer Reading List. It’s been a tradition for as long as I’ve been in education. Back in the day, Mike Ortmann, a social studies rock star who taught down the hall from me in Derby Middle School, encouraged me to do something besides be a life guard during the summer.

“Read some books.” Mike said. “Talk to some people. Do some research. Get off your butt and become a better teacher,” he said.

So I did. And Mike was right. We need to keep learning, keep asking questions, keep moving forward. And what better time for that than between now and September? So every summer, I make a list of books I plan to read June, July, and August. Long time History Tech readers already know this.

They also know that not once, not ever, a couple of times I came close but never ever, have I actually finished the list.

I’m getting less and less optimistic that it will ever happen. It’s always something. I get distracted. This summer, we’ve got the Olympics and Euro 2020. And my wife and I are in the middle of a move. Don’t hold your breath.

But I am loving my 2021 list. So maybe, just maybe, this is the summer.

Read more

How much do I love Google Arts & Culture?

A lot.

Seriously.

A ton.

Google Arts and Culture might just the most underutilized Google tool of all time. There is so much stuff that we as social studies teachers can use from the site. And if you haven’t been over there to poke around lately, youneed to get off the couch and head over.https://artsandculture.google.com/

First known as the Google Art Project, the site was launched just over ten years ago as an online platform that highlighted high-resolution images and videos of artworks and cultural artifacts from partner organizations and museums from around the world. So for history and humanities teachers, the site was super powerful from the get-go.

Basically it’s a database of artwork, objects, artifacts, and documents from thousands of museum collections and historical sites from around the world. Much of this content comes from Arts and Culture partners – public museums, galleries, and cultural institutions. These partners also provide such things as 3D tour views and street-view maps that allow you to “walk” through their actual brick and mortar sites.

So what kinds of things can you find at Arts & Culture? At the basic level, you can find artwork, history, and geographic places. But within that structure, there is so much more. Seriously. It is incredibly easy to stop in for a quick search and surface an hour later, having gotten sucked into whatever cool thing lead to the next cool thing that lead to a 3D tour of some cool place.

But recent changes and additions make it even more useful.

Need some great history, geography, or literature lesson plans? Start with their new 3 Tips for Teachers – a tutorial for using all of the goodness that is Arts and Culture. Then head over to the updated Learn With Google Arts & Culture page. You’ll find ready to use lesson plans, links to virtual field trips, and a wide variety of interactive activities.

Read more

Structure Strips: Training wheels for making claims with evidence

Sure. There are probably some of you bike riding savants who had no need for them. You just hopped on and started riding, jumping ramps, and weaving through traffic – no problem.

But most of us needed them to get started.

Training wheels.

They let us get on our itty bitty bikes and tootle around town like we knew what we were doing. We could do basic stuff like steering around the dog and brake at the corner. But doing all of that while keeping our balance? Not yet.

Writing argumentative essays and making claims using evidence is a lot like that. You’ve got some kids that can jump on and just take off, no problem.

But most of your kids are going to need a little help. Especially elementary and middle school. And there are lots of things you can do to help them keep their balance while doing that.

But I’m really starting to like the idea of something called Structure Strips. I ran across them a few years ago while I was working with some elementary ELA teachers. They were using them to help students create descriptive paragraphs. A little more research highlighted how others were also using Structure Strips in a variety of ways, including in social studies.

And as I’m working with Kansas teachers to prep for next year’s state social studies assessment, these just seem to make more and more sense.

A Structure Strip is a simple but powerful scaffolding tool that can help kids focus on organizing their thinking and written responses to prompts. Kinda like training wheels.

Read more

Your kids are screwing up their summative assessments. 5 ways to fix it

I’m spending a lot of time recently around the soon to be required Kansas state assessment.

A lot of those conversations has focused on ways to prepare our kids for the assessment. Bottom line? Have kids practice critical and historical thinking skills. Done.

At its most basic level, the assessment will ask kids to solve a problem using evidence and communicate the solution. This assumes, obviously, that the kid will have acquired a few historical and critical thinking skills somewhere along the way.

And the more I get the chance to work with our current standards and the planned assessment, I’m starting to realize that we need to do more than just train students to start thinking in certain ways. We also need to train them to stop thinking in other ways. We want them to be able to source and contextualize evidence. We want them to read and write effectively. These are useful skills.

But there are also ways of thinking that can slow that process down and even grow into habits that can lead to ineffective (and perhaps dangerous – I’m looking at you, January 6) citizens.

I recently ran across an older article on my Flipboard feed that specifically addresses these ineffective and potentially dangerous habits. Posted by Lee Watanabe-Crockett over at the Global Digital Citizen, the article highlights both the problems and their solutions. You’ll want to head over there to get the full meal deal but because Lee focuses more on generalities than things specific to social studies and history, I’ve given you just a little taste below:

Read more

It’s okay. Sam Wineburg says kids can hate your class.

Okay. I don’t want kids to hate social studies. Let’s be clear about that from the get go. But . . . I also think that we sometimes fall off the wagon on the other end by working way too hard trying to find activities that our kids will enjoy or projects that are “engaging.”

It’s been more than just a few years since I first heard Sam Wineburg speak. I had read his book Thinking Historically and Other Unnatural Acts. Read some of his early articles on historical thinking skills and loved his ideas about how we needed to re-think our approach to teaching history. But it wasn’t until a combined Kansas / Missouri Council for History Education conference way back in 2008 that I first heard him speak. He opened the conference with a keynote highlighting the main ideas in his book.

And now, of course, he’s a future social studies Hall of Famer having helped to swing the pendulum of social studies instruction over to something more focused on a balance of both content and process.

But something he said way back in 2008 has stuck with me:

Read more

Wayback Wednesday: RealClearHistory – Right there in plain sight. (With maps. Lots of maps.)

I’ve been messing with maps this week. And why not? Maps are awesome. As part of my messing around, I ran across this older post about a great site that I had sort of forgotten. So . . . welcome back to Wayback Wednesday and RealClearHistory.

————————–

For a while now, I’ve hung around over at RealClearPolitics. For a poly sci junkie, it’s a great place to spend a few minutes or a hundred, digging into polls, commentary, and election gossip. But it wasn’t until a few weeks ago that realized that the RealClear network of sites also has a History version.

Duh.

At RealClearHistory, you get the same sort of article aggregation from a variety of places in a variety of topics. We can all use a little more content knowledge and RealClearHistory is pretty decent place to find interesting resources and insight. And what better time than summer? To take full advantage, be sure to use the search feature in the top right to find articles, resources, and maps.

Yup. Maps. We all love a great map. Robert Louis Stevenson once observed:

Read more