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Posts from the ‘literacy’ Category

The humanities are “useless.” (Unless you want a job. Or to change the world.).

As my two kids weaved their way through middle and high school, they experienced the first waves of STEM, Career Pathways, and the focus by school districts on specific technical skills. As students who were also interested in art, music, and journalism, it became difficult for them to find room in their schedules for these “non-essential” courses.

The reasoning? We need to get kids ready for high paying jobs after graduation. Get them ready for engineering majors in college. For careers in computer science or coding cause that’s where the money is.

Not that STEAM and tech and career tracks and coding for 8th graders is necessarily a bad thing. I truly believe that we need to provide all types of learning experiences and opportunities for our students. But it seemed at times as if all of those things were added at the expense of things like art, history, and music.

It’s gotten better as Read more

Tip of the Week: How to Find & Use Trade Books to Change the World (and some lists to get you started)

If you aren’t a member, it’s time. Seriously.

If you’re teaching social studies K-12 and not a member of the National Council for the Social Studies, it’s time. Professional organizations in general are a good thing – they support the discipline, provide resources, offer avenues for advocacy, and promote high level conversations between members.

And because the NCSS focuses specifically on social studies, it’s perfect for folks like you and me. There are multiple memberships options available including a digital version. One of the biggest things I get out of my membership are the NCSS journals that arrive in my inbox and mailbox throughout the year. Social Education, Middle Level Learning, and Social Studies and the Young Learner provide a wealth of ready to use resources and teaching strategies.

I’m always finding great ideas to use and share and one of my favorites just showed up. The May / June issue includes their Notable Trade Books pullout and it’s always chock full of hundreds of the latest fiction and non-fiction books perfect for K-8 classrooms. (If you’re High School and are ready to check out seeing that K-8 tag, hang on. Feel free to scroll to the bottom for lists you can use.) Read more

Hot chocolate. The Columbian Exchange. And pirates.

She says that it’s been both a blessing and a curse.

My daughter is in Washington DC waiting to start an internship at the Smithsonian Museum of American History. The position was scheduled to begin on January 14. But . . . mmm, yeah. She’s had a couple of weeks of free time due to the inability of grownups to get along and do important things such as paying people and funding the government. And like 100s of thousands of others, she’s looking forward to getting in to work over the next few days.

The silver lining, of course, is that she’s had a few days to act like a tourist – touring monuments, exploring great little eateries, and visiting museums that have remained open. One of her new faves is the Folger Shakespeare Library. And to be honest, it’s a site I haven’t spent a ton of time exploring until she started texting photos and links to it.

One of the most interesting images for me as a history nerd? Read more

History Nerdfest 2018: Encouraging Historical Thinking Through Picture Books

It ranks right up there with the Holiday season, KC Chiefs football, and the first weekend of the college basketball tournament. It’s National Council for the Social Studies conference week. I’m lucky enough to get front row seats and am trying to live blog my way through it.

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I’ve always been a fan of Dr. Dan Krutka. While in the Kansas area and now at the University of North Texas, Dan has always been a huge supporter of social studies and integrating tech. And the cool thing is he’s here at #ncss18 talking about how to use picture books to support elementary social studies best practices. Even better? My new friend Dr. Michelle Bauml from Texas Christian University is here as co-presenter.

I’m smarter just being in the same room.

They start with the basics. Why should we be using picture books to help teach social studies?

  • emphasis on math and reading so very little for social studies specific instruction
  • textbooks are old and boring
  • need for teaching introducing historical thinking to kids
  • lots of children’s lit already being used as teaching tools

We moved on to a brand new site for me called the Historical Thinking Project. Created by the Canadian government, the project highlight six historical thinking concepts and a ton of resources. The concepts are especially useful because we can use them to help develop essential questions around the content in picture books.

  • Establish historical significance
  • Use primary source evidence
  • Identify continuity and change
  • Analyze cause and consequence
  • Take historical perspectives, and
  • Understand the ethical dimension of historical interpretations.

Dan and Michelle simple steps to designing a lesson using the concepts and book content: Read more

Notable Books, Notable Lessons: Putting social studies back into K-8

Full confession.

Elementary kids freak me out. They’re sticky. They smell funny. And they throw up. All the time. Seriously. All the time. Every day.

My wife teaches elementary kids. She. Is. A. Saint. And she tells me that her kids don’t throw up every day. I want to believe her but I’m not convinced.

The point? I could never teach elementary kids. But somebody needs to teach them social studies skills, concepts, and content. Without a strong social studies foundation in the early grades, it becomes more difficult to build strong historical thinking skills and content knowledge in middle and high school.

So if you teach K-8, or know someone who does, this book is designed just for you: Read more