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Posts from the ‘standards’ 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

Wayback Wednesday: These are the 7 most important things our students should be learning. Or maybe not.

I wrote this post about 18 months ago.

Back during the Before Times.

Back when, you know, things were normal and not so fricking . . . not normal. At the time, along with some amazing social studies rock stars, I got the chance to review and update the state standards document. That revised document was approved by the state board just days before all of this fricking . . . not normal stuff started. And I do think this newly approved, just rolled out document is better. It focuses on process while providing flexibility for local districts to decide on specific content.

And in many ways, it’s a fairly radical departure from what many state level standard documents look like. It’s got some suggestions on broad ideas and themes, some ideas on grade level scope and sequence. But no required history minutiae. No specific dates. Or people. Or events. We wanted kids to walk away with critical thinking skills that they can apply in a variety of contexts.

But now I’m curious.

If we had known then what we know now, would we have created something even more revisionist? As in, as the educational system is shifting towards a more blended, hybrid learning environment – one focused on problem-based learning, on a competency-based model rather than seat time – do the standards need to be pared down even more?

What truly is important for social studies students to know and be able to do? And do we even call them social studies students any more? Would Humanities students make more sense?

This Wayback Wednesday post focuses on 2018 Washington Post article that asked seven history gurus a simple question:

What are the most important things young people should be learning in school today?

Your homework is simple. Answer the question: Read more

So many engaging activities for a blended social studies classroom. So, so many.

We’re getting close.

For many of us, the end of the school year is just a few weeks away. It hasn’t been easy. But perhaps you can see the end of the tunnel approaching.

So couple of things. First thing, hang in there. You need to continue finding ways to engage your kids through to the end.

Second? Making it to the end this spring doesn’t necessarily mean this Continuous Learning Plan / virtual learning / distance learning / online learning / I never see my kids except in a Brandy Bunch looking Zoom call learning is over.

Maybe you’ve already heard this. If you haven’t, take a deep breath. Let it out. Sit down. Take another deep breath. Let it out. Okay . . . here it is:

School in the fall of 2020 isn’t going to look like school in the fall of 2019.

Chances are good that most of you will be back together somehow when we kick off the school year next fall. But chances are also good that some of that will be online, blended, staggered starts, late starts, students split into pods that attend on different days, relaxed attendance policies, a mix of both paper/pencil and tech tools, or longer school days that allow different grades to attend at different times.

Chances are good that it will be . . . well, different.

So what should we be learning about and doing this spring, this summer, and next fall to help our kids as best we can in situations that aren’t anything like what we’ve been in before?

The same sort of stuff we’ve been talking about at History Tech for a while now:

  • authentic problems for kids to solve
  • resources and tools to solve those problems
  • encouraging choice, collaboration, and creation options
  • providing a way for them to share their solutions

For Kansas social studies teachers, some of the best news is that our state standards seem designed specifically for a blended learning environment. With its focus on problem solving, effective instructional practices, historical thinking skills, use of evidence, and communicating solutions rather than rote memorization of basic knowledge, the document should be one of the first places you go.

(And if you’re not from Kansas, it’s okay. We’ll sneak you in. Head over here, then scroll down to the Table of Contents, click on Appendices, find your grade level, explore the sample compelling questions, and browse through the grade level competency lists. And be sure to poke around the Effective Classroom practices section.)

Need a few practical ideas? Read more

Focus on the doing of social studies, not just the model

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.
  • Assessment
    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.

So.

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