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Posts from the ‘lesson plans’ Category

5 inquiry learning and primary source teaching hacks. Cause you know . . . it’s good for kids

I’m spending the next several days with some amazing teachers. We’re all part of the Kansas Department of Education’s work on tweaking and revising the rubric used for scoring the state mandated social studies assessment.

We’ve chatted before about the state standards and the very cool state assessment. But in a nutshell? The standards focus on discipline specific skills and process rather than just rote memorization of facts. The state assessment, which the department calls a Classroom-Based Assessment, allows local districts and classroom teachers to design their own inquiry based assessment activity specific to their students and content.

These locally designed assessments are scored with a generic rubric created by KSDE and a select group of teachers. After a year of field testing, we’re coming back together to fix some issues with the rubric that teachers have noticed.

As part of that process, we’ve had the opportunity to look at a wide variety of student created products that address the tasks outlined in the CBAs developed by teachers. And we’ve noticed a few things about these tasks.

The goal of the CBA is simple. Measure how well students can make claims and support those claims using evidence and reasoning. And, well . . . this requires the use of evidence, specifically the use of primary sources. What have we noticed? Not all of the CBA tasks are . . . hmm, high quality. So it’s difficult to determine, using the rubric, whether kids can actually make claims using evidence because the task is poorly designed. A lot of the design issues involve the integration of primary sources.

We figured this would happen and that ongoing professional development would be needed along the way. Teachers across the state (and across the country) are still wrapping their heads around what inquiry-based instruction and assessment can look like. So, in addition to tweaking the rubric, we’ve also started thinking about and planning for next year’s professional learning opportunities around the design of not just the CBA but the integration of evidence in instructional activities.

Part of that planning is providing teachers with primary sources and how to integrate them into a inquiry-based activity. So . . . today? Five hacks for using primary sources as part of your everyday activities. Read more

Limit voting rights in 3 easy steps. (And how to teach your students about it.) Gerrymandering 101.

It’s as American as apple pie. We’ve been finding ways to re-organize voting districts to our advantage for years. Heck, the Kansas legislature just did it.

But I don’t think we spend enough time having kids explore the whole gerrymandering thing as part of our government / civics engagement instruction. And I don’t think enough of us or our students truly understand the power that redistricting can have on the democratic process.

“As a mapmaker, I can have more impact on an election than a campaign. More of an impact than a candidate. When, I as a mapmaker, have more of an impact on an election than the voters, the system is out of whack.”

David Winston
Republican redistricting consultant following 1990 Census

Quick primer. Gerrymandering is the legislative act of creating voting maps that favor your particular political party. And according to a Wired article from a few years ago, it usually involves one of two different tools:

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Women’s History Month Resources 2022

As a founding member of the National Women’s History Project, Mary Ruthsdotter knows the importance of teaching kids about the accomplishments of women.

“As a youngster, I thought I had drawn the short straw being born female. None of the stories I was told of adults actively and effectively engaged in the world had to do with women. How startling it was to learn (after college!) that women have played important roles in every aspect of American life – establishing homes for family life, fighting and spying during every war, establishing social service networks, and dramatically influencing laws and attitudes.”

Students who don’t learn the facts can develop the wrong idea about what women have accomplished.

Ruthsdotter continued:

“If women’s contributions and accomplishments are not mentioned, the omission is not even noticed, but a subtle lesson is learned just as certainly: Women haven’t done anything important. Knowing that teachers cannot pass along what they themselves have not been taught, the NWHP aims to make excellent, user-friendly materials readily available for all areas of the K-12 curriculum. Language arts, social studies, creative arts, the sciences – women have been active in all these areas, and the stories of their accomplishments are fascinating.”

Yes and yes.

But I’m conflicted about the whole Women’s History Month thing – a lot like my hesitation around the idea of a separate Black History Month. Too many of us still use February and March to have kids memorize random Black history and women’s history facts and call it good. (We also seem to have a habit of doing the same thing with Latino history and Asian American history and Native American history and . . . well, you get the idea.)

I’m conflicted because I know many of you may be looking for great Women’s History month resources. And I have a list. But part of me is afraid that it will only get used between now and the end of the month.

So here’s the deal.

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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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