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Posts from the ‘best practice’ Category

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

Crop It: hands on primary source analysis strategy

I’ve had the chance over the last few weeks to spend a lot of time working with both elementary and secondary teachers on effective uses of primary sources. Together, we shared a wide variety of both digital and paper / pencil strategies that support historical thinking.

One of the easiest but most effective strategies is called Crop It. In some ways, it’s a lot like my Evidence Analysis Window Frame but I really like the flexibility embedded in the Crop It idea. The idea is pretty simple: students use L-shaped paper “cropping” tools to explore a visual or textual primary source.

One of the problems that we often face is finding ways to help students see details – and to make sense of the those details – when viewing a primary source. Photos, paintings, and graphics can contain a ton of specifics that get missed if students don’t take the time to look for them.

Crop It slows this process down so that students scan a source at a deep level and think about what they’re looking at. It gives them a way to find evidence, see multiple viewpoints, and gain a more detailed understanding of a primary source.

This strategy works especially well with elementary and middle school students to help them develop and support historical thinking. And the cool thing is that you can use it with all sorts of visual sources.

Step One:

Read more

Ed tech is good for kids. Except when it isn’t.

Some things just don’t make sense when we first try wrapping our heads around them. The balloon should move backwards like everything else in the car. Working together to solve a problem makes sense. Chilling water at 150 degrees to 32 degrees should be harder to do than chilling water that starts at 75 degrees.

Only it’s not.

How about this one?

  • Ed tech is good for kids. Except when it’s not.

The whole point of History Tech is focused on finding ways to integrate technology into social studies best practices. Ed tech is a good thing. Ed tech can be used to support data collection and analysis, critical thinking, collaboration, problem solving, communication. It’s a good thing.

Except when it’s not.

Recent research seems to suggest that there are times when using technology Read more

A History Teaching Toolbox: Your next must read

Part of what I get to do is spend time browsing the Interwebs finding tools and resources that would be useful for history and social studies teachers. Sometimes I find new stuff like the very cool Smithsonian Learning Labs and sometimes I just keep going back to the classics.

Russel Tarr is one of the classics. His Active History site (along with his ClassTools and Tarr’s Toolbox) always has some new strategy or tool that I haven’t seen and it’s always something useful. I’m really not sure how he finds time to actually teach but he’s been doing this for almost twenty years.

He has a degree in Modern World History from Lady Margaret Hall, Oxford University and is currently Head of History at the International School of Toulouse, France. On his free time, he delivers training courses to history teachers in the UK and Europe, writes regularly for the national and international press on historical and educational issues, and is a prominent figure in the educational community on Twitter – where he is one the most followed history teachers in the world.

All of this to say that he knows what he’s talking about. And it just got better. Read more