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Posts from the ‘best practice’ Category

What’s your social studies ROI?

ROI was never something I had to worry about back in the day. If I made to 3:30 with nothing getting set on fire and all 135 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 a basic business concept that measures the efficiency of an investment of time and/or money. The higher the ROI, the more efficient the investment. Spend $10 on lemons, sugar, and the time to craft a cardboard sign. Make $60 selling lemonade. The ROI is $50. Nice job.

Spend $10. Make $5. ROI is negative $5. Time to go back and rethink your business model.

And back in the day, ROI would not have been something that educators would have worried about. The business model of school was different. Kids showed up. Kids sat in rows. Teacher talked. Kids copied down what the teacher said. Kids memorized what they wrote down. On Friday, teacher asked students to write down what they memorized. Teacher assigned a grade. Repeat.

The world of school is different now. We’re not following the traditional model of kids in rows and teacher centered instruction. (At least we shouldn’t be.) And ROI needs to be a part of this new world.

Before you all jump in with Read more

21st century social studies: tips, tools, and tricks at #maceks17

It’s day one of #maceks17 and it’s already awesome. Meeting old friends and making new ones. I get the chance to do a couple of things today – help man the ESSDACK booth and do an afternoon session. Excited about both. Hanging out at the table gives me the chance to meet lots of different teachers and hear all sorts of stories about what is working in classrooms.

And spending time with social studies teachers talking about technology?  That’s the sweet spot.

But if you’re reading this, chances are you missed MACE and the afternoon session. I get that. Not everybody gets the chance to hangout with the #maceks17 folks. So if you’re curious about the 21st Century Social Studies: Tip, Tools, & Tricks preso, here’s quick summary of what we talked about: Read more

Tip of the Week: 5 social studies text sets, reading passages, and notable tradebooks

As we ask our kids to read more fiction as well as non-fiction texts, it can sometimes be difficult finding just the right content. The good news is that there are resources online that can help. Here five of the most helpful: Read more

It’s not always what you see that bites you in the butt. All in with the Dorsal Fin

The reason why the movie Jaws is so incredibly spooky? Because for most of the film, we never really see the main character. Just the scary music and the occasional dorsal fin. We can’t see what’s under the water but we know something’s there.

Something big and hungry.

History is a little like that. It’s easy to see the surface stuff. People, places, dates. But it’s the stuff that our students don’t see that is usually the biggest and most important. Underlying causes. Past events. Hidden connections. All of these contribute to how things happened and continue to happen.

I recently ran across a handy graphic organizer idea that I think can help kids intentionally think about these hidden, under the surface pieces. The Facing History folks have titled this teaching strategy the Iceberg because it can help students organize and make sense of the different factors that lead to particular events. The strategy is also great for training kids to balance informative and literary texts, for building content knowledge, for generating text-based responses, and supporting the use of evidence.

It’s also great for organizing notes as student learn about a period in history, as a review, or as an assessment tool.

And yes. I get it. An Iceberg is only Read more

Okay, Google. Teach my class

I just got off the phone with a former social studies teacher and current building admin. She’s working with several of her teachers as they develop standards-based lessons and units.

Part of the problem that they’re running into, of course, is that the state standards here in Kansas are not your typical standards. Our document does list some suggested people, places, events, and ideas for each grade level. But that list is not mandated or assessed at the state level. The social studies standards in Kansas is made up of a simple bulleted list:

  • Choices have consequences
  • Citizens have rights and responsibilities
  • Societies are shaped by beliefs, ideas, and diversity
  • Societies experience continuity and change over time
  • Relationships among people, places, ideas, and environments are dynamic

The purpose behind this “simple” list is to encourage classroom instruction that ties social studies content to these big ideas. We used the term mental velcro a lot – why teach the aftermath of the Civil War? Why teach about the Army of Amazons in southeast Kansas? Why teach redlining in Chicago during the 1930s?

Because Read more

Relevancy, current events, and best practice

One of the longest conversations we had while working to rewrite our state standards was the one focused on relevancy. As in, how can we encourage teachers and students to make connections between past and present. We knew that engaging kids in the content is key. That hooking students into wanting to solve problems is vital to long-term retention and application.

We finally settled on using language centered around “contemporary issues.” It was a great conversation and one that all social studies teachers need to constantly think about.

But I recently ran across an article over at the Middle Web Future of History site that does a great job of explaining what it really can look like when we make social studies relevant and work to connect it to the lives of our students.

Written by Lauren S. Brown of US History Ideas for Teachers, the article suggests Read more