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Posts from the ‘standards’ Category

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 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

Notable Books, Notable Lessons: Putting social studies back into K-8

Full confession.

Elementary kids freak me out. They’re sticky. They smell funny. And they throw up. All the time. Seriously. All the time. Every day.

My wife teaches elementary kids. She. Is. A. Saint. And she tells me that her kids don’t throw up every day. I want to believe her but I’m not convinced.

The point? I could never teach elementary kids. But somebody needs to teach them social studies skills, concepts, and content. Without a strong social studies foundation in the early grades, it becomes more difficult to build strong historical thinking skills and content knowledge in middle and high school.

So if you teach K-8, or know someone who does, this book is designed just for you: Read more

You want kids to have skills. Read Inquire Write can help.

Last week, I got the chance to work with about 25 teachers and educators from around the state as we started the process of revising our state social studies standards. Long time readers will recall a similar process from seven years ago.

At the time, the Kansas state standards were very much the same as other state level standards documents. The focus was on the details of history – people and places and dates. Assessments tried to incorporate critical thinking but since the entire test was multiple choice, it was difficult to measure high levels of thinking and problem solving.

To be successful on this type of high stakes state assessment, teachers shifted to a drill and kill,  memorize specific pieces of content out of context instructional strategies. These strategies increased test scores but lowered student engagement, failed to create critical thinkers, and didn’t prepare kids to become informed citizens.

So we started from scratch.

The 2011 process resulted in a brand new set of standards that shifted instructional focus from memorizing details to one that encouraged analyzing evidence, solving problems, and sharing solutions. We created five big ideas that acted as our standards. We adapted reading, writing, and communication expectations and instruction best practices to guide local curriculum development. And we left the specific content up to each district.

Teachers appreciated the freedom to focus on the doing of social studies rather than asking kids to memorize minutiae. But this “new” style of teaching can be time consuming and difficult. The old standards had trained both our kids and our teachers that drill and kill was acceptable – now we were asking that instruction and assessment look different.

And teachers had questions. What does this sort of teaching look like? How do you assess the learning? How long should it take? If we don’t have to “cover”so much content, what content is important enough to focus on? What resources are available?

Back in 2013, as the revised document rolled out, there weren’t a ton of examples and resources out there that supported this kind of inquiry based teaching model. But around the country, others were having similar conversations:

Things got better.

And now, if you’re looking for examples, resources, lessons, student samples, and rubrics, things are looking even rosier. Read more