Skip to content

Posts from the ‘standards’ Category

Live blog #mcss17: Inspiring Local Learners in a Global Community

Two words that you really don’t want to hear in the same sentence:

            Minnesota / February

As in, “Hey. I can’t wait to travel to Minnesota in the middle of February.”

But when the two involve the Minnesota Council for the Social Studies annual conference, I’ll risk it. Lots of great people in Minnesota doing some awesome things in the social studies and I am honored to be a part of it. (My session on 3D History is later this afternoon – I’ll post a few details from that preso later this evening.)

I’ll be live blogging throughout the day on some of the cool stuff I’m learning. So be sure to refresh.

Opening Keynote
Minnesota Secretary of State Steve Simon

Secretary Simon highlighted the importance of what social studies teachers do every day by sharing examples of how well Minnesota participates in elections

 We are voters. We work hard at building civic engagement.

The state is the number one state in voter turnout nine of the last 10 elections because of “laws and culture.” He highlighted the efforts that Minnesota makes to ensure that voter registration is as easy as possible with same day and online voter registration. Simon also discussed how early and absentee voting is encouraged.

The state also works hard to encourage kids to vote. I like how Simon talked about how getting younger kids to participate takes more than just using idealistic arguments such as “it’s good for the country” and “it’s your patriotic duty.” Simon suggests that we need to also encourage younger voters to participate also based on self interest and “to be part of something.” That kids need to be encouraged to vote and participate because it will make their lives, and the lives of people they know, better. So Minnesota uses a massive outreach program into the school system to support this sort of civic engagement.

He shared the saying on a tee shirt:  “Choosing not to vote isn’t a sign of rebellion, it’s a sign of surrender.” They work very hard to help kids understand that participating is the smarter choice.

And with the highest rate of voter turnout anywhere in the US, Read more

Top Ten Posts of 2016 #7: 300 sample compelling questions for the social studies

I’m sure most of you are doing the same thing I’m doing right now. Spending time with family and friends, watching football, catching up on that book you’ve been dying to read, eating too much, and enjoying the occasional nap.

But if you need a break from all of the holiday cheer, we’ve got you covered. Between now and the first week in January, you’ll get a chance to re-read the top ten History Tech posts of 2016. Enjoy the reruns. See you in a couple of weeks!


sticky student

I had the chance last week to spend a very fun afternoon with an energetic group of elementary teachers. I always enjoy chatting with K-6 folks. (I just don’t know how they get up every morning and keep going back. Because, seriously . . . grade school kids freak me out. They smell funny, they always seem to be sticky for some reason, and they throw up at the most awkward moments. So God bless anyone willing to spend all day, every day, with an large group of people all under the age of 12.)

Part of our conversation centered around planning different units in a year long scope and sequence at various grade levels. And some of the discussion revolved around possible essential / compelling questions that might anchor each of those units. I don’t get the chance to have these kinds of discussions with K-6 people much – when I do, it’s always a good time. Once they start rolling, it’s hard to get them to slow down. We started with the basics: Read more

Okay, Google. Teach my class

I just got off the phone with a former social studies teacher and current building admin. She’s working with several of her teachers as they develop standards-based lessons and units.

Part of the problem that they’re running into, of course, is that the state standards here in Kansas are not your typical standards. Our document does list some suggested people, places, events, and ideas for each grade level. But that list is not mandated or assessed at the state level. The social studies standards in Kansas is made up of a simple bulleted list:

  • Choices have consequences
  • Citizens have rights and responsibilities
  • Societies are shaped by beliefs, ideas, and diversity
  • Societies experience continuity and change over time
  • Relationships among people, places, ideas, and environments are dynamic

The purpose behind this “simple” list is to encourage classroom instruction that ties social studies content to these big ideas. We used the term mental velcro a lot – why teach the aftermath of the Civil War? Why teach about the Army of Amazons in southeast Kansas? Why teach redlining in Chicago during the 1930s?

Because Read more

Argumentative writing prompts, scaffolded tasks, and using evidence

We want our students to grapple more with content, to think historically, and solve problems. One of the ways we can support this behavior is by asking our kids to think and write to support a claim using evidence.

Here in the great state of Kansas basketball, we use the term argumentative writing to describe this process. That term makes it sound a little too much like the recent televised debates but asking kids to create an argument and to support that argument really is a good thing. We want them to be able to look at a problem, gather and organize evidence, and use that evidence to create a well-supported argument.

As many of us move from a content focused instructional model to one that instead asks students to use that content in authentic ways, it can sometimes be difficult knowing how to actually have them write argumentatively. But there are resources available to help with your lesson design. I’ve shared a few of these resources below. Pick and choose the ones that work best for you.

The very excellent website, Read more

HSTRY now with real time collaboration

In Kansas, one of our state standards focuses on the idea that choices have consequences. Our document encourages teachers to use strategies that help kids to “identify and defend a variety of possible causes of events, and the resulting consequences, encourages appropriate decision-making and helps students understand the complexity of the various disciplines.”

And one of the tools I urge teachers to use as part of the learning process is the simple timeline. They might seem like super basic things but timelines truly are powerful strategies for helping kids understand cause and effect and context. They’re also great for building the ability to evaluate and analyze choices.

And there is absolutely nothing wrong with the old fashioned paper and pencil timeline.

But . . . I have been a big fan of the HSTRY timeline tool ever since it came out several years ago.

HSTRY may be one of the best digital learning tools you’ll run across. It is just that cool. Simple description? HSTRY is a web-based service that encourages both teachers and students to create their own interactive timelines that support collaboration and the use of multimedia elements. Read more

PokemonGo: 21st century geocaching, lesson plans, & all around game changer

Maybe you missed this. Maybe you’ve been following the presidential election or the Brexit thing or bemoaning the fact that the 2015 World Series champions have lost seven of their last ten games and are now seven games back of Cleveland. You know, something trivial.

So let me catch you up.

A free mobile phone app just changed the world.

Okay. That may be just a bit of an exaggeration. But it’s not far off. Since last week, more people are using this app than Twitter. During that same period, the market value of the app’s manufacturer bumped up nine billion – that’s billion with a B – dollars. And all over the world, millions have jumped off their couches and are, wait for it Read more