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Posts from the ‘best practice’ Category

5 inquiry learning and primary source teaching hacks. Cause you know . . . it’s good for kids

I’m spending the next several days with some amazing teachers. We’re all part of the Kansas Department of Education’s work on tweaking and revising the rubric used for scoring the state mandated social studies assessment.

We’ve chatted before about the state standards and the very cool state assessment. But in a nutshell? The standards focus on discipline specific skills and process rather than just rote memorization of facts. The state assessment, which the department calls a Classroom-Based Assessment, allows local districts and classroom teachers to design their own inquiry based assessment activity specific to their students and content.

These locally designed assessments are scored with a generic rubric created by KSDE and a select group of teachers. After a year of field testing, we’re coming back together to fix some issues with the rubric that teachers have noticed.

As part of that process, we’ve had the opportunity to look at a wide variety of student created products that address the tasks outlined in the CBAs developed by teachers. And we’ve noticed a few things about these tasks.

The goal of the CBA is simple. Measure how well students can make claims and support those claims using evidence and reasoning. And, well . . . this requires the use of evidence, specifically the use of primary sources. What have we noticed? Not all of the CBA tasks are . . . hmm, high quality. So it’s difficult to determine, using the rubric, whether kids can actually make claims using evidence because the task is poorly designed. A lot of the design issues involve the integration of primary sources.

We figured this would happen and that ongoing professional development would be needed along the way. Teachers across the state (and across the country) are still wrapping their heads around what inquiry-based instruction and assessment can look like. So, in addition to tweaking the rubric, we’ve also started thinking about and planning for next year’s professional learning opportunities around the design of not just the CBA but the integration of evidence in instructional activities.

Part of that planning is providing teachers with primary sources and how to integrate them into a inquiry-based activity. So . . . today? Five hacks for using primary sources as part of your everyday activities. Read more

Limit voting rights in 3 easy steps. (And how to teach your students about it.) Gerrymandering 101.

It’s as American as apple pie. We’ve been finding ways to re-organize voting districts to our advantage for years. Heck, the Kansas legislature just did it.

But I don’t think we spend enough time having kids explore the whole gerrymandering thing as part of our government / civics engagement instruction. And I don’t think enough of us or our students truly understand the power that redistricting can have on the democratic process.

“As a mapmaker, I can have more impact on an election than a campaign. More of an impact than a candidate. When, I as a mapmaker, have more of an impact on an election than the voters, the system is out of whack.”

David Winston
Republican redistricting consultant following 1990 Census

Quick primer. Gerrymandering is the legislative act of creating voting maps that favor your particular political party. And according to a Wired article from a few years ago, it usually involves one of two different tools:

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If you’re asking kids to do Popcorn Reading, you’re doing it wrong. (Here’s what to do instead.)

Earlier this week, I flashed back to a semi-obscure movie called Conspiracy Theory. Two sentence summary? The main character is freaked out because she keeps seeing this guy, meeting him in elevators, or jumping into a cab before realizing that he’s the driver. She begins to believe that this guy is out to get her but he eventually ends up saving her life, because spoiler alert, there really is a conspiracy.

I don’t think my life is in any danger but my brain jumped back to that movie because over the weekend, my news feed kept sending me to multiple articles that featured headlines like “Teaching Practices to Leave Behind” or “4 Reading Strategies to Retire this Year” or “Stuff We Know Doesn’t Work” and “Why You Shouldn’t Use These Activities in Your Class Because They Will Ruin Your Students and They’ll End up in a Movie with Mel Gibson.”

A search engine conspiracy based on something I may have said out loud within earshot of Alexa? Oh, absolutely. But I took it as a sign and it got me thinking about strategies that I used to use in the classroom and about things I still see teachers doing. Strategies that research tells us really didn’t work.

And the list got pretty big. There are a lot of things we do as teachers that we do . . . well, just because. (And full disclosure? I used almost all of them at some point.) Not because they’re research based or because we have any evidence to suggest they work. We do them perhaps because we saw someone else use them or we experienced them ourselves as students.

And we should stop.

Curious what’s on the list?

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Masterpiece Matchup: Stick figures, primary sources, and amped up learning

I’m so lucky. Four times a year with the Essdack SS PLC, I get the chance to sit around, drink as much Diet Pepsi as I want, talk to super smart social studies teachers, and walk away smarter.

We started meeting after our last Teaching American History grant ended because we couldn’t imagine not getting together anymore. Over the last ten years or so, the group has changed but the goal is still the same:

sit around, drink Diet Pepsi, talk to super smart social studies teachers, walk away smarter.

Last week was no different. Jill Weber shared some claim / evidence / reasoning magic. We explored the brand new African Americans in the Midwest website, and Laura McFarren walked us through something she calls Masterpiece Matchup.

Laura teaches middle school US History in Derby and is always on the lookout for ways to engage her kids with primary sources. Cause . . . like for most of us, that’s always a struggle. But in a perfect example of teachers helping teachers, Laura ran across an idea from Amanda Sandoval called Masterpiece Matchup. (FYI – Amanda is amazing. And, yes, you should be following her. If for no other reason than to see how she has her learning environment arranged.)

Laura took Amanda’s original idea, mashed it up with a SHEG Structured Academic Controversy that focuses on the Lewis and Clark expedition, tried it in her 8th grade classroom, and shared it with the group. And it was awesome. As the A-Team’s Hannibal Smith used to say:

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Post It Notes need to be your new best friend

Who doesn’t love sticky notes? Different colors. Different sizes. Plus . . . you know, they’re sticky. But they’re easy to underestimate. I mean, they’re literally a single use, throw away, forget about because their job is done, sort of thing.

But I was reminded recently by a friend of mine that sticky notes can be used in a lot more ways than just as a simple reminder stuck the corner of your computer monitor. There are lots of cool ways that we can use them to support historical thinking and the collecting / organizing of foundational content.

The simpliest way?

We all use exit tickets. But I like the simplicity of having a kid write down a few quick things on a sticky note and just whacking it on the door or bulletin board on their way out of class. The prompts might be: something new, rate its importance 1-10, how it connects to something else I know. Or try one of these sentence starters:

  • One thing I knew already was
  • I’m confused about
  • I learned . . . and now I’m thinking
  • One idea that challenged my thinking is
  • I agree or disagree with
  • One thing I got done today was

Maybe even have kids color code their ticket. Green for something that made sense to them. Red for a question.

So . . . how else can you use a sticky?

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