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Posts from the ‘common core’ Category

3 ways the National Humanity Center will make your kids smarter

The National Humanity Center has been supporting the humanities for over 40 years. That’s a good thing. Because they’ve had plenty of time to develop a ton of tools that can help make you a better teacher and your students a whole lot smarter.

Start with the NHC’s suite of lesson plans. All of their America in Class lessons have Read more

What does a great historical inquiry question look like?

Just finished a great two days with Rich Cairn from the Collaborative for Educational Services. Together with a small group of middle and high school teachers, we spent the time working to figure out effective ways to engage English Language Learners with social studies inquiry methods. Rich is in charge of Emerging America, a Library of Congress Teaching with Primary Sources project.

Part of what he does is to help teachers across Massachusetts – and now Kansas – use Library of Congress resources to make inquiry learning accessible to all learners. During our time together, we addressed a wide variety of topics – challenges faced by English Language Learners, challenges faced by teachers of EL students, ways to use graphic organizers to support language acquisition, using the LOC website, researching the history of immigration policies and court cases, and generally have an awesome time.

A small part of our conversation focused on the use of essential and compelling questions. Here in Kansas, we’ve been pushing compelling questions for a while. They play an important part in our current standards and are the key to a great inquiry-based lesson.

Question. Evidence. Solution. Communicate the solution. It all starts with a great problem to solve.

And during our conversation Rich shared a sweet definition of what a great historical inquiry-based question should look like in that process. He was happy to share it.

So . . . if you’re looking for a list of characteristics of what a compelling / essential / overarching / inquiry-based question should look like, here ya go: Read more

50+ tasty tools for building historical literacy

We’re all on the lookout for great materials and tools that can help as we design instruction. SHEG. Library of Congress. National Archives. Evidence Window Frames.

So it’s alway a pleasant surprise when a list of handy dandy tools and resources drops in your lap. About a week ago, I was searching for a specific online article that I had forgotten to Pocket. And . . . the Charlotte Mecklenburg Schools: K-12 Social Studies resource page popped up in the results.

Instant fan.

Drew Hammill and John Nabors work as 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

Top Ten Posts of 2016 #2: 6 C’s to better document analysis

I’m sure most of you are doing the same thing I’m doing right now. Spending time with family and friends, watching football, catching up on that book you’ve been dying to read, eating too much, and enjoying the occasional nap.

But if you need a break from all of the holiday cheer, we’ve got you covered. Between now and the first week in January, you’ll get a chance to re-read the top ten History Tech posts of 2016. Enjoy the reruns. See you in a couple of weeks!


Over the last few years, we’ve seen the instructional strategy pendulum swing over to encouraging more use of evidence by students to solve authentic problems. And there’s tons of stuff out there to help us and students make sense of primary and secondary sources.

You’ve got the Library of Congress primary source analysis worksheets. You’ve got the awesome stuff by Sam Wineburg and Stanford. There’s the DocsTeach site by the National Archives as well as all of their document analysis lessons / worksheets. And lots of things like Historical Thinking Matters and Historical Scene Investigation. Read more

Top Ten Posts of 2016 #5: Using evidence and primary analysis worksheets

I’m sure most of you are doing the same thing I’m doing right now. Spending time with family and friends, watching football, catching up on that book you’ve been dying to read, eating too much, and enjoying the occasional nap.

But if you need a break from all of the holiday cheer, we’ve got you covered. Between now and the first week in January, you’ll get a chance to re-read the top ten History Tech posts of 2016. Enjoy the reruns. See you in a couple of weeks!


There’s a cool buzz running through the history education world.

teaching history poster

Primary sources. Documents. Using evidence. Solving problems. Historical thinking. And that’s a good thing. But I know that it can be difficult sometimes trying to figure out how to use primary sources.

First piece of advice?

Don’t worry so much about primary vs. secondary sources. Start thinking about evidence, about data, instead of focusing just on one sort of document over another. Because if we’re asking great questions, kids will be using all sorts of documents and sources to solve the problem.

I’ve always tried to preach the idea of Read more