Our current state standards have been around since 2013. Centered on five Big Ideas and a balance between content and process, the document is unlike previous standards documents. And after five years, most Kansas teachers are at least aware that we’re asking them and students to approach teaching and learning differently.
That we want students to have both foundational knowledge and historical / critical thinking skills. That social studies classrooms need to be more than drill and kill, lecture, worksheet, quiz on Friday. And that creating engaged, informed, and knowledgable citizens requires more than rote memorization and low level thinking.
While our standards look and feel differently than most other state level documents, teachers across the country – like their colleagues here in Kansas – are also being asked to concentrate on training kids to do social studies. Sam Wineburg is a household name. The teaching of historical thinking skills such as Sourcing, Contextualizing, and Corroborating is becoming commonplace. Bruce Lesh and his History Labs are being duplicated by teachers in all sorts of classrooms. The National Council for the Social Studies has also been a huge part of this pendulum shift with its College, Career, and Civic Life (C3) standards.
Good things are happening.
But . . .
Yup. There’s always a but.
During every standards training I do, every historical thinking conversation I have with teachers, there’s always a but. Read more
The Smithsonian is not the only collection of museums in the country. There are others. But I am gonna argue that the collection of 19 Smithsonian museums and galleries is the largest and most awesome and coolest and most educational and easiest to use of them all. I mean, between the 19, they’ve got over 155 million artifacts, documents, resources, and specimens. If you can find what you need in all of that, you’re just not trying.
One of the newest and awesomest Smithsonian museums is the National Museum of the American Indian. And they just updated their education section to make your trying just a little easier.
Why is that a big deal? Read more
Just finished a great two days with Rich Cairn from the Collaborative for Educational Services. Together with a small group of middle and high school teachers, we spent the time working to figure out effective ways to engage English Language Learners with social studies inquiry methods. Rich is in charge of Emerging America, a Library of Congress Teaching with Primary Sources project.
Part of what he does is to help teachers across Massachusetts – and now Kansas – use Library of Congress resources to make inquiry learning accessible to all learners. During our time together, we addressed a wide variety of topics – challenges faced by English Language Learners, challenges faced by teachers of EL students, ways to use graphic organizers to support language acquisition, using the LOC website, researching the history of immigration policies and court cases, and generally have an awesome time.
A small part of our conversation focused on the use of essential and compelling questions. Here in Kansas, we’ve been pushing compelling questions for a while. They play an important part in our current standards and are the key to a great inquiry-based lesson.
Question. Evidence. Solution. Communicate the solution. It all starts with a great problem to solve.
And during our conversation Rich shared a sweet definition of what a great historical inquiry-based question should look like in that process. He was happy to share it.
So . . . if you’re looking for a list of characteristics of what a compelling / essential / overarching / inquiry-based question should look like, here ya go: Read more
Some of the best days of the school year are when I get the chance to spend time with the #ESSDACK social studies PLC. Yesterday was one of those days. We talked about a ton of things including the idea of Twitter chats as a professional learning tool. Most of the group already have Twitter accounts and some like , , , and are more serious users. But it was fun working together with the whole group to do a sample online chat with everyone in the room at the same time, exploring the power of scheduled chats. Lots of learning and discussion.
But I’m always amazed at the rabbit hole that you can fall into once you start with the Twitters. And yesterday was no different. As several of us were exploring different social studies hashtags, I ran across something called the World’s Largest Lesson.
The goal of the WLL is simple – support and foster the idea of Sustainable Development Goals.
Several years ago, a ton of world leadership folks got together and finalized 17 different things that will make the world a better place. They titled them the Sustainable Development Goals.
Basic stuff like zero hunger, quality education, reduced inequalities, peace and justice. Yeah. The biggies. Saving the world kinds of things.
The cool thing is that they also developed a plan for actually finding ways to make it happen. To follow through and find solutions.
Another cool thing? Read more
The Kansas state social studies standards are designed to “prepare students to be informed, thoughtful, engaged citizens as they enrich their communities, state, nation, world, and themselves.” Different benchmarks under each of the standards require that students make connections between the past and contemporary issues.
The recent Kansans Can Vision developed by the Department of Ed is pushing schools throughout the state to focus on authentic civic engagement and integrate it across grades and content areas.
I’m sure that you have similar sorts of standards and expectations where you teach.
It’s pretty simple really. When kids are informed and thoughtful, when they understand the necessity for being civically engaged, and when they actually put into practice the ideas outlined in the founding documents, our communities and our country are a better place.
And now . . . we have the recent events in Charlottesville.
Your task as a social studies teacher has never been easy. Connecting past to present can make it harder. Conversations about race and violence harder still. It can be easy to just wait for things to blow over. But if we truly believe that what we do makes a difference, those conversations need to happen.
What can that sort of conversation look like?
The words of US Secretary of State Rex Tillerson are a good place to start: Read more