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Posts from the ‘assessment’ Category

Becoming US is latest from Smithsonian. And it’s a no-brainer. (Seriously. Go there now.)

I got the chance to attend and present at the very awesome Minnesota Council for the Social Studies conference this weekend. (Thanks @jessellison!) Spending time with hundreds of other social studies teachers is always a good thing. I always walk away smarter.

But some days you don’t just walk away smarter . . . you walk away SMARTER. Today was one of those days. And I know that I just posted something a few days ago about the new cool Smithsonian Open Access tool. But this afternoon, Orlando Serrano from the Smithsonian National Museum of American History highlighted a new website from NMAH that really blew me away. And I gotta share. Read more

You got your regular hexagons. You got your visual hexagons. Both are awesome for making connections.

More than several years ago, I asked my daughter, a fourth grader at the time, to work her way through the very cool Plimoth Plantation’s You Are the Historian simulation. It’s a wonderful online tool that asks kids to answer a very simple question – what really happened at the first Thanksgiving. Using evidence and video clips from experts, elementary students learn to make a claim and create a final product using evidence that supports their answer.

And I wanted a product review from a true end user. Used to these sort of requests from her history nerd father, Erin plunged in. During our in-depth debrief over milk and cookies, I asked her a variety of questions about her experience. Much of the conversation is now forgotten but I still remember what she said when I asked her to tell me one thing that she would share with her teacher the next day.

The past is what happened. And history is what we say happened.

I couldn’t have been prouder.

Of course, we still made her wade through the rest of her K-12 experience but doesn’t Erin’s comment pretty much sum up the whole point of teaching social studies? Yes, there was a whole ton of foundational knowledge that she continued to gather. There were specific sorts of skills she continued to perfect. But the core of what we want students like Erin to walk away with is embedded in the simple idea that history is about interpretation and analysis.

About balancing bias and perspective, about collective and individual memory, about investigation and rethinking and keeping an open mind. About making sense of evidence and making a claim using that evidence.

Traditional social studies and history instruction – instruction that focuses on helping kids find the “correct answers” through the use of traditional lecture / take note / fill in the blank / memorize the content is not just poor instruction. It also denies students the opportunity to learn the valuable skills of balancing multiple perspectives and accepting the absence of a single “history” and the co-existence of multiple “histories.”

We too often get caught up in the attempt to “cover” our content. To get to the end of the chapter. To the end of the textbook. And in doing so, we end up pushing process and thinking skills offstage rather than allowing them to share the spotlight with content. We need to go beyond basic foundational knowledge and create a sense of ambiguity and uncertainty in how things are going to work out.

One suggestion?

If our students really are going to learn and master historical thinking skills, it’s essential that they experience for themselves how historians reach their conclusions. (See Sam Wineburg and his Reading Like a Historian, his SHEG website, and . . . well, just about anything that Sam has ever written.)

But what can that look like? Read more

Fave Posts of 2019: Single-point rubrics and Google Keep make your life easier & your kids smarter

I know that most of you are still settled deep into holiday break mode. Getting up a little bit later than normal. Watching football. Eating too much. Catching up on your reading. Trying to decide if The Mandalorian is worth your time. Enjoying family and friends. Not really thinking about the back to school schedule that cranks up in January.

But if you need a break from all of that free time, we’ve got you covered. Between now and the second week in January, you’ll get a chance to re-live five of the most popular History Tech posts from 2019. Enjoy the reruns!


We’ve all been there. You just finished putting together a great instructional lesson or unit. Kids are gonna love it. They’ll be working together. Doing research. Creating stuff, not just consuming it. The historical thinking will be off the charts.

Then you realize . . . you haven’t created the rubric yet.

You know that clear expectations and feedback are critically important to the learning process. You know that rubrics can help you in assessing what students know and are able to do. So you sit back down and eventually decide to use four scoring columns instead of five. Six rows of criteria instead of three. Clear descriptors. Nine point font all crammed into your matrix so that it fits on one page. Definitely tons of feedback gonna happen from this beauty.

But it’s worth it, right?

Mmm . . . using a great rubric Read more

Calculating your Social Studies ROI. Cause it’s #RefreshFriday

It’s #RefreshFriday.

Yup. It’s that time of year when I want to say I’m too busy to write anything new but it probably has more to do with the fact that’s Friday. It’s 103 degrees outside. And I’m just super lazy.

But part of it does have to do with a conversation I had yesterday with some of the marketing geniuses at ESSDACK. We spent an awesome 60 minutes talking about a variety of different topics –  all focused on our ROI. And I started getting flashbacks to this post I wrote several years. If you remember reading it, it’s okay to go back to your cold beverage. If not, welcome to a quick updated post on #RefreshFriday.

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ROI was never something I had to worry about back in the day when I was teaching middle school. If I made to 3:30 with nothing on fire and all 145 middle schoolers accounted for, I checked it off as a major success.

Return on Investment? ROI? I’m not even sure the term had been invented yet. And if it had, I would have had no idea what it meant and how the idea might apply to my classroom.

For anyone without the MBA degree, ROI is Read more

Need a handy assessment tool? Make a pie.

I had such a good time today. Any time I get the chance to spend time with a bunch of other social studies teachers, not much can ruin the day. Seriously . . . a whole day talking, sharing, playing with, and exploring the best social studies tools, resources, and strategies?

And during our time together we messed around with a tool that I had almost forgotten about. The Pie Chart.

The Pie Chart is a powerful graphic organizer / writing scaffold / assessment tool / Swiss army knife. It does it all and is drop dead simple. I first learned about the Pie almost a decade ago from social studies super star Nathan McAlister.

Nate was part of our Teaching American History grant as the summer seminar master teacher and used the Pie Chart as a hook activity to kick start a conversation about the causes of the Civil War.

Steps he took: Read more