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Posts from the ‘graphic organizer’ Category

Caption This! Using photos and text to analyze primary sources

One of the most powerful professional learning strategies is also one of the easiest.

You ready for this? You might want to sit down. Ready?

One of the most powerful professional learning strategies is . . . making intentional time for teachers to talk with other teachers. Yup. Teachers yakking with each other. Consultant presentations? Absolutely. Book studies? Yes, please. After school webinars? Sure. But the best PD is often just the two of us sharing ideas over some nachos and a cold beverage. (Hmmm . . . Nacho PD? On a Friday? At 4:00? Today?)

It’s taken me longer than it should have to realize the simple fact that teachers talking with other teachers makes everyone smarter.

You already know this. When two or three social studies teachers get together pretty much anywhere besides the hallway outside their classroom, you’re almost 100% guaranteed to get a great conversation about best practice and great strategies.

I’m lucky. I get the chance to have conversations with so many really great social studies practitioners. Heck . . . just a few days ago, high school history rock star Derek Schutte shared his awesome idea of asking kids to do voice-overs of historical events as if they’re sports casters. I love that idea! Research. Context. Primary sources. Emotional engagement. Student choice and voice. (You know want to know more about that. Make that connection and see an example via Twitter.)

It was last fall during one of those random but powerful teacher conversations that got me hooked on the idea of Caption This. I did some online internetting and found several different variations floating around so I wasn’t exactly sure where the idea for the activity might have started. But I loved the concept and especially appreciated how it asks kids to contextualize and solve problems using visual clues.

So I shared the basic idea with the ESSDACK Social Studies PLC. A recent Tweet from one of my PLC buddies (and former Kansas History Teacher of the Year), Jill Weber, reminded me of our conversation:

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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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Yup. Hexagons. Again. Cause they’re awesome.

I can’t remember where I first learned about hexagons in the classroom. And I talk about them as much as I talk about Google tools like Jamboard. So if you’re already using hexagons, good on you. You are excused. (Though feel free to hang around for a quick refresher and maybe a couple of new tools.)

If you’re not quite sure what I’m talking about, you’re in the right place.

Using hexagonal thinking in the social studies classroom is a way for students to think about and understand connections between ideas, people, places, dates, events – basically all the stuff we’re asking our kids to mess with while they’re in our classrooms. Hexagons are a perfect tool for creating intentional conversations between students and content. They give you a great tool to encourage deep and critical thinking about the foundational knowledge that make up the discipline.

Why are they perfect?

A hexagon can connect with six other hexagons. And those six can connect with even more. So when you put a bunch of ideas or events, people or places on a bunch of hexagons and pass them out to different groups of kids, every conversation and every set of connections will be different, even though the decks of hexagons they received are all the same. The discussions that develop will go in all sorts of directions, with kids asking questions and justifying their connections with evidence. And this works in all the social studies disciplines.

The basic idea?

Give individual kids or small groups a stack of hexagons. Each of the hexagons has a person, place, idea, event, or whatever printed on it. All of these persons, places, ideas, events, or whatevers are part of a broad topic such as the Cold War or the New Deal or whatever. They connect them together in ways that make sense to them. And then you ask them to explain their thinking.

Maybe some more details?

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See Think Wonder and Jamboard. It’s like they were meant for each other. (Oh . . . and Project Zero)

We want our students to make sense of content, be engaged, and see connections to contemporary issues. That’s why we’re so bought into the idea of using primary sources. But we also know that using primary sources can be difficult. So we’re always on the lookout for handy primary source analysis tools.

Based on work done by the Project Zero people over at Harvard Grad School of Education, the See Think Wonder strategy is one of those all purpose thinking routines that can be use across grade levels and content areas. And it’s perfect for helping kids break down primary sources, especially images, artwork, and political cartoons.

So . . . if you’re not already using it, hang around. Some ideas and free resources coming up.

If you already are using See Think Wonder, hang around. Cause Google Jamboard and STW were made for each other.

The beauty of STW is that it encourages students to make careful observations and thoughtful interpretations. And when paired with Jamboard, it can stimulate curiosity and help set the stage for more inquiry.

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Tic Tac Tell: Supporting the use of foundational content

One of the advantages of doing what I do is the chance to meet and talk with lots of great social studies teachers. Whether it’s traveling around doing on-site trainings or leading workshops in ESSDACK’s own facility, the opportunities to brainstorm ideas and learn new things are abundant.

Several months ago, I spent the day working with a small group of middle school teachers. The conversation shifted to literacy strategies and what works best to help students read and write in the social studies. Andrew Trent, teacher from Clay Center and colleague on the state assessment writing team, shared a strategy that I had never seen before.

Titled Tic Tac Tell, the strategy is very simple to implement but it has a lot of potential for adapting to different grade levels, content, and complexity. The original focus of Tic Tac Tell was to provide a quick and easy way for kids to interact with vocabulary words.  We know that to learn new vocabulary words and phrases, kids need to experience those words or phrases multiple times in a variety of contexts. Tic Tac Tell works great for that, especially with elementary kids.

But I think you could also use this to introduce, review, and assess a wide variety of concepts, ideas, people, places, or events.

So. How to use it?

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