You’re all busy with a lot of things. And I’m guessing one of the biggest this week is the upcoming Midterms. But this quick read from a couple of years ago might be able to help.
A big part of what I do every week involves spending time with teachers, especially social studies teachers, leading and having conversations around best practice, instruction, and assessment. And it’s almost always the best part of the week.
Think about it. I get the chance to sit and nerd out with other social studies people talking about our favorite history stuff. I know. It’s awesome.
A lot of our recent conversations have focused on the soon to be released Kansas state social studies assessment. 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 some 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, the more I 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) citizens.
I recently ran across an 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 problems and 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:
I’ve been on a serious Nathaniel Philbrick kick over the last few months and just finished Mayflower: Voyage, Community, War. It’s an incredibly interesting and detailed exploration of the interactions between the Indigenous nations of what we now call New England and English Pilgrims and Puritans during the 1600s.
One issue that Philbrick was very open about reminded me of a conversation I had with a group of upper elementary teachers several years ago. I had asked them to read an article titled How Do We Teach With Primary Sources When So Many Voices Are Missing? Published by Education Week, the article highlights the difficulty in telling a complete story when Indigenous voices are hard to find, the same issue that Philbrick struggled with.
Bottom line? We need to train both ourselves and our students to look beyond what the easy to find sources are telling us. (I’m looking at you, Schoolhouse Rock. And our textbooks. And a lot of contemporary trade books.) It’s what Sam Wineburg once called “reading the silences.” We need to be more intentional about finding and using sources that fill in those silences, than let kids listen to the stories that are often untold and left out.
Finding these missing voices is important for a lot of reasons. But one particular quote in the EdWeek article stood out for me:
That can’t be right, can it? A musical about the founding of America that’s better than that tired, old Hamilton thing? I mean, we’re talking about a musical that was Hamilton before there was a Hamilton. Before there was even a Lin-Manuel Miranda.
So I’m guessing it’s a musical that many of you haven’t heard about. I had the chance to see a performance of it back in the day – like, seriously back in the day – at the amazing Wichita Musical Theater. And, of course, then I had to go and find the movie based on the Broadway version.
Cause we know how powerful poetry and music and emotion and pop culture and all the things that make Hamilton so awesome can be to encourage student connections to historical content. So why not go back a bit to the original Founding Fathers musical that ruffled a few feathers of its own?
If you’ve ever played the awesome card game Set, then you’ve messed with the idea of Which One Doesn’t Belong. The rules of the gameare simple: Collect as many sets of cards as possible. You create sets by combining three cards that are either All Alike or All Different in each of four different features. To be a set, each of the card’s features (color, shape, number, shading) must be all the same on each card or all different on each card. So this is an example of a Set:
After the last few years, there’s not much that surprises me anymore. It’s been such a weird two and a half years of school. (And for classroom teachers, an incredibly challenging and difficult time.)
But I’m always just a little bit shocked when I hear about districts that crank up during the first week in August. As in . . . next week. Seriously? I’m just now starting to figure out the Delaware beach system and you’re going back to school?
But maybe you’re in that same boat, shoving off with kids already in seven days. If you are, this post may be a little too late. But I’m hoping that for most of you, you’ve got at least one or two more weekends before your first student contact day.
To help energize your first awesome week with kids, here are seven great ways to kick off the school year. Use what you can. Adapt what you can’t. Ignore the rest.
What not to do
But before we get too far along with what we know works, it’s probably a good idea to think about what doesn’t. I’ve mentioned Fourteen Things You Should Never Do on the First Day of School before but it’s still a great reminder of what it looks like when we’re doing it wrong. Mark Barnes suggest that your goal should be a very simple one during the first few days of school:
You have many days to assess students’ strengths and weaknesses. You have months to discuss high stakes testing and standards. You’ll spend weeks probing the textbook.
The first few days of school should be dedicated to rapport-building and to joy.
Your goal should be that students go home that night and tell their parents: “I’m going to love history class because my teacher is awesome!”
Seriously. Other than somehow delivering their results with a large iced tea and delicious side order of hand-cut fries, is there any way that the Library of Congress Chronicling America site could get any better?
I mean, you’ve got almost 200 years worth of digitized primary source newspapers available for scanning, analyzing, printing, and perfect for use for all sorts of learning activities in your classroom. Searchable by keyword. By language. By state. And it’s free. What’s not to like?
So is there really any way that it can get better? Yes. Yes, it can.
Adding a map with an embedded timeline would make it better. So . . . that’s what the LOC people did. You now can search for newspapers by location and time visually using their new interactive map. So cool.
Glenn Wiebe – social studies nerd, consultant, tech guy
Thanks for dropping by! As a curriculum consultant for ESSDACK, an educational service center in Hutchinson, Kansas, History Tech is my chance to rattle on about social studies and technology. Feel free to poke around.
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Evidence Analysis Window Frames and Tools for Teaching & Learning
At ESSDACK, we want to offer tools and products that encourage you to learn and work when and where you want. Check out these handy products that can be used as instructional tools and professional learning opportunities in ways that work best for you.
The very cool Evidence Analysis Window Frame that scaffolds historical thinking skills and helps kids make sense of primary sources.
But you'll also find C4 Cards and 25 Days of History Tech Tools to help you grow professionally.