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Posts from the ‘fun’ Category

Play Like a Pirate – Fun is an essential part of learning

I spent part of the morning chatting with golfing buddy and educational expert Steve Wyckoff. He’s got a way of sucking people into unplanned conversations that end up making everyone smarter. It’s always a good time when it starts with Steve’s signature line:

“So what’s become clear to you?”

This morning wasn’t any different.

We spent perhaps an hour meandering around a matrix that focuses on levels of student engagement. The different quadrants of the matrix ask students to think about how challenging a class is and whether they love or hate it. We’re thinking about using this to get usable data from middle and high school students. As in, “pick a quadrant that best describes each of your classes.” Read more

Tip of the Week: BreakoutEDU and student engagement

Escape rooms.

I’ve never tried it but people I know who have done the escape room thing say the experience is awesome. If you’re not familiar with the concept, head over and take a quick peek at one example from the TV show The Big Bang Theory.

The idea is that you are “locked” into a room with a time limit. There are clues scattered around that you must find and figure out. These clues eventually lead to a key or passcode that you can use to escape from the room and win the challenge.

Escape rooms are great examples of the research that suggests the brain loves solving problems and novelty. When we experience new and intriguing tasks, reward chemicals are released – cementing learning and retention.

So it shouldn’t be a surprise that a couple of teachers adapted the escape room idea to their classrooms. James Sanders and Mark Hammons developed an activity that they titled BreakoutEDU. But instead of escaping from an actual room, BreakoutEDU players solve clues to open a series of locks and boxes with the ultimate goal of getting into the final Breakout box.

And the cool thing? Read more

Tip of the Week: Back to school ideas for social studies teachers

We have two very simple unbendable, unbreakable rules in our house. No Christmas music allowed before Thanksgiving. No talking about school before August.

It’s August. So . . . we’re talking about school.

Spoiler alert.

If you’re not already at school, you’re heading there soon.

You probably already knew that. And you probably already have some idea of what you and your students will be doing during the first few days of school. But it’s always nice to have a few extra tips and tricks in your bookbag to start off the school year.

So today? The sixth annual Back to School Ideas in a Social Studies Classroom post. Use what you can. Adapt what you can’t. Add your own ideas in the comments.

What not to do

Before we get to the good stuff it’s probably a good idea to think about what doesn’t work. Read more

Happy Birthday!

On June 7, 1776, the Second Continental Congress listened as Richard Henry Lee of Virginia proposed a resolution declaring the United States independent from Great Britain.

“Resolved, that these United Colonies are, and of right ought to be, free and independent States, that they are absolved from all allegiance to the British Crown, and that all political connection between them and the State of Great Britain is, and ought to be, totally dissolved.”

It was a bold move. Several states including New York, New Jersey, Pennsylvania, Delaware, Maryland and South Carolina were not yet ready to support this potentially fatal step. Failure to approve the resolution could lead to the collapse of the shaky alliance between the 13 colonies. And earlier Preamble proposed by John Adams on May 15 declaring that “it is necessary that the exercise of every kind of authority under the said crown should be totally suppressed” barely passed. Four colonies voted against it and the delegation from Maryland stormed out of the room in protest.

Congress agreed to delay the vote on Lee’s Resolution until July 1. Read more

5 ways to make history “fun”

It was several years ago that I first heard Sam Wineburg. He was speaking at a combined Kansas / Missouri Council for History Education conference almost six years ago. I had read his stuff, agreeing with his ideas about how we needed to re-think our approach to teaching history.

And his presentation didn’t disappoint.

I’ve been in love ever since.

Much of our work on the recently approved Kansas state standards revolved around the sorts of things that Wineburg is pushing and the websites he’s created – thinking historically, using evidence, communicating solutions. But something he said back in 2008 has stuck with me:

 I don’t think that a history class should be about things such as History Alive or about making cute posters, or about making history “engaging.” It’s about getting students to thinking rigorously about the evidence. Fun is okay, but I would rather have them hate the class and come out of the class having the skills needed to be good citizens than having them enjoy themselves.

I used to do a lot of “project-based” learning back in the day. It was fun and kids were engaged but I know now that not much high-level thinking was going on. You know the kinds of stuff I’m talking about – three fold brochures highlighting Civil War battles, oral presentations that required historical costumes, and lots of coloring.

Nothing wrong with fun projects . . . unless kids can do all of it without actually doing some sort of historical thinking.

But I recently ran across a cool article that reminded me that it is possible to teach high-quality social studies while still having fun. Written by Tim Grove, Chief of Museum Learning at the Smithsonian National Air and Space Museum in Washington, D.C. and author of A Grizzly in the Mail and Other Adventures in American History, suggests five concepts that we should incorporate into our instructional designs.

Read more

Tip of the Week: 5 Great Ways to Start School for Social Studies Teachers

I spent part of this week working with elementary and secondary social studies teachers as part of the pre-school activities. It’s always a good time because, well . . . it’s just me and social studies teachers. So we get to talk about the fun part of the core curriculum – history and social studies stuff.

But we always get sidetracked somewhere during the day because the conversation drifts over to the first couple days of school. What activities work best for kicking off the year? I stole some of their ideas, added a couple of my own, and pasted them below. (Be sure to add your suggestions to the comments!) Read more