Is it possible to fall more deeply in love with a library?
I mean . . . I’m already in love with the Library of Congress. That’s a given. But I had the chance to attend a remote meeting yesterday with a few of LOC’s amazing staff and I’m pretty sure that I’m more in love with the LOC now than I was before.
And it’s all because of three things. Three things that I kind of knew the Library had but forgot they had or they were moved and I wasn’t sure how to find them.
So . . . if you’re looking for more reasons to love the Library, you need to spend some time exploring these three awesome digital resources.
We’re all familiar with iCivics, right? The government / civics centric website created with the encouragement and support of former Supreme Court justice Sandra Day O’Conner? The site with remote learning resources for parents and teachers?
With literally hundreds of lessons, simulations, and games – all designed to help you help your kids understand the importance of civics? With many in Spanish? With updated activities focused on media literacy? And some sweet PD webinars and videos built in?
All for free?
No? Well . . . there’s no better time than the summer months to poke around and find some stuff perfect for your grade band and content. Cause, trust me when I tell you this, you’re gonna find some things. Lots of things. Lots of free things.
Head over there now and spend a few hours. Then come back here to take the next step. Cause there’s a next step.
And if you’re already familiar with iCivics, awesome. You’re ready for the iCivics next step.
A focus on primary sources.
I had the opportunity this spring to spend time learning together with about 35 middle school ELA and social studies teachers as part of a Library of Congress TPS mini-grant project. We’ve spent multiple sessions over the last few months exploring the connection between literature and social studies content. (As Ferris Bueller once said, “. . . I highly recommend you picking one up.”)
The project was awesome for a lot of reasons but one of the main reasons was middle school teacher and social studies rock star Dave McIntire. It was last summer that I asked Dave to act as a master teacher for the project, sharing his experience and expertise with the group. And so ever since we kicked the project off in January, I’ve had the chance to soak up all the goodness that is Mr. McIntire and have learned so much.
Last Monday, as he shared a sample lesson with the group, I was able to pick up one final nugget before we broke for the summer.
A simple but powerful strategy called Connect Extend Challenge.
Now I’ve had the chance to learn about all sorts of primary source and evidence graphic organizers, thinking strategies, and summary activities. So while there are always new things to learn, running across something I haven’t seen before doesn’t just happen every day of the week.
And when Dave threw out the Connect Extend Challenge tool, it just reinforced his reputation as a social studies guru. If you’ve heard of this activity, love it, and use it already . . . feel free to go about your business. But if you’re like me and Connect Extend Challenge is something new, hang around.
Sure. There are probably some of you bike riding savants who had no need for them. You just hopped on and started riding, jumping ramps, and weaving through traffic – no problem.
But most of us needed them to get started.
They let us get on our itty bitty bikes and tootle around town like we knew what we were doing. We could do basic stuff like steering around the dog and brake at the corner. But doing all of that while keeping our balance? Not yet.
Writing argumentative essays and making claims using evidence is a lot like that. You’ve got some kids that can jump on and just take off, no problem.
But most of your kids are going to need a little help. Especially elementary and middle school. And there are lots of things you can do to help them keep their balance while doing that.
But I’m really starting to like the idea of something called Structure Strips. I ran across them a few years ago while I was working with some elementary ELA teachers. They were using them to help students create descriptive paragraphs. A little more research highlighted how others were also using Structure Strips in a variety of ways, including in social studies.
And as I’m working with Kansas teachers to prep for next year’s state social studies assessment, these just seem to make more and more sense.
A Structure Strip is a simple but powerful scaffolding tool that can help kids focus on organizing their thinking and written responses to prompts. Kinda like training wheels.
I’m spending a lot of time recently around the soon to be required Kansas state assessment.
A lot of those conversations has focused on ways to prepare our kids for the assessment. Bottom line? Have kids practice critical and historical thinking skills. Done.
At its most basic level, the assessment will ask kids to solve a problem using evidence and communicate the solution. This assumes, obviously, that the kid will have acquired a few historical and critical thinking skills somewhere along the way.
And the more I get the chance to work with our current standards and the planned assessment, I’m starting to realize that we need to do more than just train students to start thinking in certain ways. We also need to train them to stop thinking in other ways. We want them to be able to source and contextualize evidence. We want them to read and write effectively. These are useful skills.
But there are also ways of thinking that can slow that process down and even grow into habits that can lead to ineffective (and perhaps dangerous – I’m looking at you, January 6) citizens.
I recently ran across an older article on my Flipboard feed that specifically addresses these ineffective and potentially dangerous habits. Posted by Lee Watanabe-Crockett over at the Global Digital Citizen, the article highlights both the problems and their solutions. You’ll want to head over there to get the full meal deal but because Lee focuses more on generalities than things specific to social studies and history, I’ve given you just a little taste below:
Dan Krutka and I got to know each other several years ago when he was teaching and working at Wichita State. Dan was one of the original #sschat folks and did a ton for social studies ed here in Kansas. He’s since moved to Texas but continues to be a force in the social studies education and edtech world.
A couple of months ago, we started thinking about doing a series of livestreams. And we figured, why not? We’d get smarter together, maybe a few other people might get smarter, and it gave us both an excuse to spend some time talking about social studies. Cause who doesn’t love talking about social studies? So we sketched out a quick plan that let us hang out once a month, talking about, well . . . social studies tech related stuff.
Dan set up some quick StreamYard / YouTube connections and we streamed a couple of test runs. And last week, we rolled out an actual episode on what we hope will be a regular schedule – the first Monday of the month.
The March episode started with what turned out to be an extended conversation around a Top Ten tech list that Dan had created back in 2017. Dan was curious if any tools that made his list were still usable. We decided yes and no.
- We’re upset about Google Expeditions
- We love Smithsonian Learning Lab
- Docsteach is still awesome
- Chronicling America has been updated
We eventually got to a discussion about the power of Hexagonal Thinking and a few tech tools that can help you pull it off.
Catch the latest episode below and save the date to stop by April 5 on Dan’s channel: Read more