Way back in the day, there was no access to digital primary sources. There weren’t any online archives. DocsTeach? Nope. Stanford History Education Group? Nope. Library of Congress? Nada.
W all made due with whatever supplementary materials showed up with our textbooks and the assorted primary source Jackdaw kits that were able to track down. But here’s the thing . . . even if I had somehow gotten access to actual digital primary source documents back in the day, I’m not sure what I would have done with them. Like most social studies teachers at the time (and more than just a few today), I really didn’t have a clue of how to use primary sources as part of the learning process.
Even worse, I wasn’t really sure why I should be using this sort of evidence. What was the point? I mean . . . every kid had a textbook. I had a teacher’s version of the textbook. I could lecture. They could copy down my notes. What else did we need?
But with the help of some amazing mentors, I began moving more towards the idea that kids need to be active users of evidence while solving problems. And there is now a clear shift in social studies and history instruction towards this idea of historical thinking, using evidence, and problem solving. More and more teachers are using primary sources as integral pieces of the learning process.
I still remember how great that day was. I had rocked it in all five sections of my 8th US history class. I spent 55 awesome minutes each period highlighting the causes of the American Revolution. And. I. Killed. It. The kids clearly couldn’t get enough. They were so busy copying down all of the notes I had provided for them that they didn’t have time to ask any questions.
The French and Indian War. Proclamation of 1763. Stamp Act. Some other Act. Maybe two, not positive cause I was on a roll. Something, I think, about the Boston Tea Party. Pretty sure there was something about Crispus Attucks and that guy who kept yelling about liberty or death. Seriously. This lecture was on fire. And I left the building that day convinced that my kids walked out smarter than when they walked in.
Except . . .
they probably weren’t smarter. Maybe better copy downers. Better taker noters. And for sure a whole lot better at not interrupting the teacher when he was talking.
But smarter? Nope.
How do I know? The research says so.
I am a huge fan of Google Jamboard. There are so many cool ways we can use a digital whiteboard software like Jamboard to engage kids in solving problems, for messing around with primary sources, and to capture student thinking.
But I was reminded recently by a middle school teacher that not every classroom has access to digital devices or Google tools. And he shared some great ideas of how he uses the old fashioned dry erase whiteboards – you know, the kind you use markers with and old rags to wipe clean – to do some pretty cool stuff too. So I started asking around and there apparently are a lot of you who love using the old fashioned dry erase whiteboards. There are also apparently a lot of ways to use those whiteboards in a social studies classroom.
So today you get five super simple but powerful activities that all work to encourage critical thinking, gather new information, or activate prior knowledge. And the cool thing is that while they work great with traditional dry erase boards, they can quickly be adapted to those new fangled internet-based whiteboards as well.
First things first.
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.