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Posts from the ‘school reform’ Category

You need this simple Google Doc of Social Studies skills goodness (and maybe this huge doc of competencies)

We are one day away from the release of the Kansas State Department of Education’s Navigating Change document. The document is currently in the hands of the state board of education for final approval and if they sign off on it, then we’ll all finally get to see it tomorrow.

Okay. Who am I kidding? After a draft version was released last week, I’m pretty sure half the state’s population has a copy. What I should have said is that tomorrow we’ll all get to see the official, final, approved version of the Navigating Change document.

If you’re not from around here, districts and teachers across the state of Kansas have been waiting since May for some direction about what school might look like this fall. The document is designed to go beyond simply providing suggestions for opening schools. It will also provide direction on what actual classroom instruction might look like in an environment that might include both face to face as well as remote learning.

The document is large. As in . . . 1100 pages large. It sounds like a lot. But almost of all it is made up of four different grade bands that contain a list of suggested competencies or skills that each kid should master before moving to the next grade band. And each list contains what are called Priority and Extended Competencies.

So when we look at the social studies / humanities 6-8 grade band section, we’re talking about maybe just three or four pages.

The idea is that as schools experience COVID-19 disruptions they can adapt instruction by focusing just on the Priority Competencies, rather than trying to cover every standard, every benchmark, all the content. The goal is to encourage Read more

What’s your social studies ROI?

ROI was never something I had to worry about back in the day. If I made to 3:30 with nothing getting set on fire and all 135 middle schoolers accounted for, I checked it off as a major success.

Return on Investment? ROI? I’m not even sure the term had been invented yet. And if it had, I would have had no idea what it meant and how the idea might apply to my classroom.

For anyone without the MBA degree, ROI is a basic business concept that measures the efficiency of an investment of time and/or money. The higher the ROI, the more efficient the investment. Spend $10 on lemons, sugar, and the time to craft a cardboard sign. Make $60 selling lemonade. The ROI is $50. Nice job.

Spend $10. Make $5. ROI is negative $5. Time to go back and rethink your business model.

And back in the day, ROI would not have been something that educators would have worried about. The business model of school was different. Kids showed up. Kids sat in rows. Teacher talked. Kids copied down what the teacher said. Kids memorized what they wrote down. On Friday, teacher asked students to write down what they memorized. Teacher assigned a grade. Repeat.

The world of school is different now. We’re not following the traditional model of kids in rows and teacher centered instruction. (At least we shouldn’t be.) And ROI needs to be a part of this new world.

Before you all jump in with Read more

Learning is the end in mind, not fun

Every year, back in my Derby Middle School teaching days, we did Kansas Day. A big Kansas Day. As in . . . invite the newspaper, Board of Education, and parents kind of Kansas Day. I was the social studies guy on a teaching team and my goal was to find a way to integrate my social studies activities with math, language arts, science, and reading.

And a big Kansas Day fit the bill.

We organized all sorts of activities and projects for the day that students rotated through. Kids weaved wheat into hearts and shapes. They punched tin for pioneer lanterns. Sewed quilt pieces. Played frontier games. We had a blacksmith set up shop who demonstrated how to make horseshoes. A storyteller came and entertained.

It was always such a great day. Parents loved it. Made our principal look good when he talked with the newspaper guy. Kids were up and moving around.

It worked out so well that I started doing more projects and activities. I had kids use potatoes and paint to make African Ashanti cloth. We played Oregon Trail. Kids simulated the Constitutional Convention. You get the idea.

I was Project Man.

Because projects are good, right? My job was to engage kids. Have fun. Hook kids into liking social studies? Read more

iPads are the problem, not the solution

At the recent EdTechTeacher iPad Summit held in Atlanta, Greg Kulowiec asked a simple question:

Is the iPad a solution or problem?

It’s a great question. There are tons of people jumping on the iPad bandwagon and I’ve suggested before that many of them are hopping on with their eyes closed. It’s a shiny tool that attracts a lot of attention. But is all of the attention a good thing? Greg says maybe not: Read more

So what’s my job?

An assessment researcher said once that

The role of the learner is not to passively receive information, but to actively participate in the construction of new meaning.

B. L. Shapiro, 1994

I would not disagree with that at all. In fact, much of the recent buzz in the K-12 social studies education movement has focused on the idea that kids need to be doing more and sitting less.

Thinking more. Analyzing more. Evaluating more. Creating more.

But if the role of social studies students is to actively participate in the construction of new knowledge, it sort of raises another question, doesn’t it?

What’s my job?

Complete the following sentence:

The role of the teacher is not to _________ but to __________.

It’s not just jeans. It’s how we teach.

There comes a time in every man’s life when he has to say goodbye.

It’s never easy. We try to be brave but it’s hard. Knowing we’ll never be together again can be rough.

Guys. You know what I’m talking about. The day you have to throw away the t-shirt you won in that 1992 softball championship. Maybe it’s that awesome hoodie you got back when you and your buddies used to go skiing every year. Or it’s your favorite pair of jeans.

That’s me today. I’ve had these jeans for maybe ten years. Comfortable. Broken in. They have been the go to pair of pants for a decade. But at this point, even I have to admit perhaps they’re just a little too broken in.

Read more