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Posts from the ‘historical thinking’ Category

Wayback Wednesday: These are the 7 most important things our students should be learning. Or maybe not.

I wrote this post about 18 months ago.

Back during the Before Times.

Back when, you know, things were normal and not so fricking . . . not normal. At the time, along with some amazing social studies rock stars, I got the chance to review and update the state standards document. That revised document was approved by the state board just days before all of this fricking . . . not normal stuff started. And I do think this newly approved, just rolled out document is better. It focuses on process while providing flexibility for local districts to decide on specific content.

And in many ways, it’s a fairly radical departure from what many state level standard documents look like. It’s got some suggestions on broad ideas and themes, some ideas on grade level scope and sequence. But no required history minutiae. No specific dates. Or people. Or events. We wanted kids to walk away with critical thinking skills that they can apply in a variety of contexts.

But now I’m curious.

If we had known then what we know now, would we have created something even more revisionist? As in, as the educational system is shifting towards a more blended, hybrid learning environment – one focused on problem-based learning, on a competency-based model rather than seat time – do the standards need to be pared down even more?

What truly is important for social studies students to know and be able to do? And do we even call them social studies students any more? Would Humanities students make more sense?

This Wayback Wednesday post focuses on 2018 Washington Post article that asked seven history gurus a simple question:

What are the most important things young people should be learning in school today?

Your homework is simple. Answer the question: Read more

Wayback Wednesday: It puts kids to sleep. And just so ya know . . . that’s a bad thing. (Plus 18 ways to keep them awake)

School looks different today than it did back in 2017 when I first wrote this. But I think in many ways it applies more now than three years ago.

Why? Because it’s easy right now to revert back to the familiar. To what’s comfortable for us. But the situation teachers and students and families are in right now lends itself to innovation and change and problem based learning. To exploration and virtual reality and primary sources and datasets and all sorts of things that we know are good for kids.

So here it is. A Wayback Wednesday History Tech re-do.

And I know you may not be in the right place for this right now. I get that. If that’s you, I’m good. File this away then for next fall – it’ll still be here.

. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .

Shocker. Lecturing to students puts them to sleep.

Who could have guessed?

Well . . . I should have. But I didn’t. During my first few years as a middle school teacher and later, during some time I spent teaching in a college social science department, I lectured.

A lot.

Early on, I didn’t know better. I was taught that way in both K-12 and in my college content courses. There were no real alternatives provided in my ed classes. And I started teaching long before established mentor programs got cranked up. Lecturing in a social studies class was just the way things were done.

By the time I had moved on to higher ed, Read more

Discussion strategies so good, your kids won’t be able to shut up (And a few that even work long-distance. Cause . . . coronavirus.)

I can’t find it now but I ran across some research a year or so ago that suggested that 70-80% of all conversations in K-12 classrooms is teacher to student. As in . . . we can’t stop talking long enough to let our kids get a word in edgewise.

Since I can’t find the research, I’m not going to include it in this quick post on ways to encourage student conversation and discussion. If I had found it, I would say that teachers talk too much and that we need to find more ways to support student to student and student to teacher and student to content conversations. But I haven’t be able to find that research so I wouldn’t think of suggesting that probably 70% of the time, we talk too much. 70-80%. Can you believe it? It must be hard as a student to sit through a whole class period when the teacher is really the only one who gets to talk and who is the only one who gets to explore the primary sources and to solve the problem that they started the class with and then the bell rings.

So. What can we do to increase student conversation and encourage discussion? There are a few ideas out there. Read more

Becoming US is latest from Smithsonian. And it’s a no-brainer. (Seriously. Go there now.)

I got the chance to attend and present at the very awesome Minnesota Council for the Social Studies conference this weekend. (Thanks @jessellison!) Spending time with hundreds of other social studies teachers is always a good thing. I always walk away smarter.

But some days you don’t just walk away smarter . . . you walk away SMARTER. Today was one of those days. And I know that I just posted something a few days ago about the new cool Smithsonian Open Access tool. But this afternoon, Orlando Serrano from the Smithsonian National Museum of American History highlighted a new website from NMAH that really blew me away. And I gotta share. Read more

Your students are not like you. Accept it. Teach differently.

I had the chance to chat with a high school history teacher yesterday and as teacher conversations often do, we veered into a discussion around instructional best practices. That discussion then veered off into a more specific conversation about Generation Z kids.

The takeaway for me?

Most of us don’t think enough about how different our students are from us.

I mean, we all want to do what’s best for kids. But I think we filter that desire to do what’s best through a Baby Boomer / Generation Y / Millennial teacher’s lens. That’s a nice way of saying we’re old and maybe don’t realize that we view the world very differently than our students do.

Viewing the world differently is not a bad thing. But failing to recognize that fact can be – especially when we fail to design our instruction to meet the needs of our Gen Z students. Holly Clark, over at the Infused Classroom, put together a handy post along with a powerful infographic that highlights a few characteristics of your Gen Z learners: Read more

You got your regular hexagons. You got your visual hexagons. Both are awesome for making connections.

More than several years ago, I asked my daughter, a fourth grader at the time, to work her way through the very cool Plimoth Plantation’s You Are the Historian simulation. It’s a wonderful online tool that asks kids to answer a very simple question – what really happened at the first Thanksgiving. Using evidence and video clips from experts, elementary students learn to make a claim and create a final product using evidence that supports their answer.

And I wanted a product review from a true end user. Used to these sort of requests from her history nerd father, Erin plunged in. During our in-depth debrief over milk and cookies, I asked her a variety of questions about her experience. Much of the conversation is now forgotten but I still remember what she said when I asked her to tell me one thing that she would share with her teacher the next day.

The past is what happened. And history is what we say happened.

I couldn’t have been prouder.

Of course, we still made her wade through the rest of her K-12 experience but doesn’t Erin’s comment pretty much sum up the whole point of teaching social studies? Yes, there was a whole ton of foundational knowledge that she continued to gather. There were specific sorts of skills she continued to perfect. But the core of what we want students like Erin to walk away with is embedded in the simple idea that history is about interpretation and analysis.

About balancing bias and perspective, about collective and individual memory, about investigation and rethinking and keeping an open mind. About making sense of evidence and making a claim using that evidence.

Traditional social studies and history instruction – instruction that focuses on helping kids find the “correct answers” through the use of traditional lecture / take note / fill in the blank / memorize the content is not just poor instruction. It also denies students the opportunity to learn the valuable skills of balancing multiple perspectives and accepting the absence of a single “history” and the co-existence of multiple “histories.”

We too often get caught up in the attempt to “cover” our content. To get to the end of the chapter. To the end of the textbook. And in doing so, we end up pushing process and thinking skills offstage rather than allowing them to share the spotlight with content. We need to go beyond basic foundational knowledge and create a sense of ambiguity and uncertainty in how things are going to work out.

One suggestion?

If our students really are going to learn and master historical thinking skills, it’s essential that they experience for themselves how historians reach their conclusions. (See Sam Wineburg and his Reading Like a Historian, his SHEG website, and . . . well, just about anything that Sam has ever written.)

But what can that look like? Read more