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Posts from the ‘standards’ Category

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

Tip of the Week: DocsTeach Redesign Creates Super Tool

Our job as social studies teachers is not to give our students the answers. Our job is to create great questions and then train kids to be able to address those questions. To model and facilitate the practice of reading, writing, and thinking like historians.

Rather than passively receiving information from us or our textbooks, students should be actively engaged in the activities of historians — making sense of the stories, events and ideas of the past through document analysis.

And one of the tools that every history / social studies teacher should be using to help with all of this is the incredible National Archives site DocsTeach. I first wrote about DocsTeach when it debuted six years ago in 2010. The idea of the site at the time?

the project is designed to provide useful document-based lesson plans and activities created by both NARA staff members and classroom teachers.

And it was awesome. Tons of primary sources from the National Archives. Activities that focused on and supported historical thinking skills. The ability to create your own activities, save them, and share them digitally with your students. For 2010, it truly was cutting edge.

But it debuted before mobile devices and iPads. Before national standards such as the NCSS C3 Framework and Common Core Lit standards. Before Wineburg’s Reading Like a Historian and SHEG. Before online primary evidence archives were commonplace. So even though it was an incredible idea put into practice, it was a bit clunky and not super user friendly in 2016.

But not anymore. DocsTeach just got a massive upgrade. And now there is no excuse not to use it. Because not only can you still access thousands of primary sources, borrow from an ever-expanding collection of document-based activities, and create your own online activities, there are some very sweet changes and additions to the site.
Read more