Back in the day, Madeline Hunter ruled.
I never actually met Madeline but for a time, it was like we were joined at the hip. College of Ed professors loved her. Principals loved her. Teacher observation and evaluation tools loved her even more. And so all of my early teaching years were focused on her theories and lesson plan designs.
For the non-Boomers in the room, a quick review of Madeline’s design:
- Anticipatory set
Do something that introduces the lesson, hooks kids into wanting to learn the lesson, and establish your objectives for the lesson.
- Direct instruction
Foundational knowledge – the facts, ideas, and skills – is delivered to the students. Usually some sort of lecture, video, or reading.
- Guided practice and application
The teacher helps students apply what they have just been taught.
- Independent practice and application
Students apply the learning on their own.
The teacher measures how well students have met the objectives.
It’s not like this is terrible instruction. Making it clear to kids what our expectations are is good. Finding ways for them to collect and organize foundation knowledge? Good. Independent application? Absolutely. Done right? Pretty darn good.
But like a lot of things, Madeline’s best intentions rarely made it into actual practice. Back in the day, I was usually okay with step one. I could hook kids into content. But after that? Not so much.
I ended up teaching like I had been taught. How the teachers down the hallway were teaching. Direct instruction to me meant lecture, the occasional video, and a lot of assigned readings. If there was any guided practice and independent practice, it usually involved lots of homework and worksheets.
I got better. I started doing more hands on projects and cooperative learning. But there was still a lot of direct instruction. And while the projects were engaging and kids enjoyed them, I didn’t work super hard at making them relevant or tying them to big ideas. So I had a fun class but I’m not really sure students walked any out any smarter than when they walked in.
As my own kids entered and left social studies classrooms throughout their 13 school years, it became clear that they were having similar experiences. There were some hands on projects and occasional awesomeness (thanks Mr. Robb.) But they still experienced a lot of direct instruction and “independent” practice in the form of study guides and worksheet packets.
Is it possible to take the best parts of Madeline’s model and adapt it to a world that needs our students to be engaged, informed, and knowledgable citizens? Read more
Art is hard. It’s not that I don’t like it. It’s that sometimes I just don’t get it. Maybe it’s modern art that causes me trouble. Maybe I’m just too literal. The piece to the left hanging in Seattle’s art museum? I got nothing.
But with the help of an older sister and a daughter, both strong with the art force, I’ve gotten better at making sense of color, shape, perspective, of context and hidden messages. And with the help of a lot of bright people at places like the Smithsonian and Library of Congress, I’m also getting better at looking at art as a form of primary source information, as another way to understand place and time,
For the last few months, I’ve been highlighting the very cool way that teachers are using Norman Rockwell’s Four Freedoms to help students think about the Bill of Rights and contemporary issues. I love using interpretations of the Boston Massacre by Paul Revere and Alonzo Chappel to talk about historical accuracy and encourage historical thinking. The National Portrait Gallery has been huge in showing me ways that we can use portraits such as the Lansdowne image of George Washington by Gilbert Stuart and John Brown in his US Army blanket by Ole Peter Hansen Balling. And who hasn’t used images such as John Gast’s American Progress to lead conversations about Manifest Destiny and the interactions between settlers and American Indians?
But I’m starting to believe even more in the power of artwork as story and primary source. So it’s always great to find another site and set of tools that help integrate art into instruction and learning. I recently ran across SmartHistory and am loving it.
Smarthistory believes that: Read more
I’ll be honest. I’m having trouble processing the recent hate inspired events in El Paso, Texas and Dayton, Ohio.
But one thing that has become clear to me over the last few years is that the more we talk about racism and discrimination – starting with the fact that they exist – the better chance we have of combating their effects.
To ignore these shootings and the shooting attack on Oslo’s al-Noor Islamic Center four days ago and the June arson fires of three African American churches in Louisiana and the May arson attack on a mosque in New Haven, Connecticut and the March attacks on New Zealand mosques and last year’s attack on a Pittsburg synagogue and the 2017 demonstrations in Charlottesville and the 2015 African American church shooting in Charleston and all of the other too numerous to mention incidents . . . to ignore as teachers this pattern of violence – not to mention what is happening online – seems like educational malpractice.
Maybe I’m wrong. Maybe we shouldn’t teach our kids about what has and is happening in this country and around the world.
But I don’t think I am.
I think we have a responsibility as social studies teachers to give our kids the tools they need to make the world a better place. And part of that skill set has to include conversations about past and present intolerance. Is it easy? No. Can it be done. Yes. (You might try this, or this, maybe this, and I love this.)
Another way to create that skill set is to do a better job of focusing on the human stories of the Holocaust. I know that many of you teach the Holocaust and teach it well. But as you’re planning your nine month scope and sequence to include these sorts of conversations, would you mind if I share a few semi-random thoughts? Read more
Sure. There are probably some of you bike riding savants who had no need for them. You just hopped on and started riding, jumping ramps, and weaving through traffic, no problem.
But most of us needed them to get started.
They let us get on our itty bitty bikes and tootle around town like we knew what we were doing. We could do basic stuff like steering around the dog and brake at the corner. But doing all of that while keeping our balance? Not yet.
Writing argumentative essays and making claims using evidence is a lot like that. You’ve got some kids that can jump on and just take off, no problem.
But most of your kids are going to need a little help. Especially elementary and middle school. And there are lots of things you can do to help them keep their balance while doing that.
But I’m really starting to like the idea of something called Structure Strips. I ran across them a few years ago while I was working with some elementary ELA teachers. They were using them to help students create descriptive paragraphs. A little more research highlighted how others were also using Structure Strips in a variety of ways, including in social studies.
A Structure Strip is a Read more