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Posts from the ‘strategies’ Category

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

History is like a pig. A few valuable tools that can help catch it

Five years ago, the Kansas State Board of Education approved the adoption of a new set of state social studies standards. Next week, I get the chance to work with 30 social studies teachers as we start a process of revising them.

If you weren’t around the first time, here’s the Cliff Notes version. Previous to 2013, the standards focused almost entirely on discrete facts and the 60 question multiple choice state assessment encouraged teachers to focus on training students to memorize those facts.

Nothing wrong with memorizing facts . . . if you actually apply those facts while solving problems, becoming an engaged citizen, and working to make the world a better place. But that rarely happen in most classrooms. Schools across the state were re-arranging curriculum so that only the tested indicators were taught, often without context.

But in 2011, the winds shifted. The work of Sam Wineburg and others suggested that traditional social studies curriculum and instruction needed a do-over. So some thirty-plus educators came together and spent 18 months creating a standards document that encouraged process as well as content. Historical thinking skills along with facts. Contextual and authentic problem solving using evidence.

And now? Read more

Tip of the Week: Six sweet social studies activities for back to school

I spent a few days in Texas last week leading some conversation around the ideas of online civic literacy, fake news, and the power of the 1st Amendment and enjoyed every minute. This week? They’re jumping into the deep end of the pool with kids. So for them, this post is a few days too late. You might be in the same pool.

But I’m hoping that for most of you, you’ve got one more weekend before your first contact day.

And to help jumpstart your first awesome week, here are six great ways to kick off the year. Use what you can. Adapt what you can’t.

What not to do

But before we get too far along with what we know works, it’s probably a good idea to think about what doesn’t. I’ve mentioned Fourteen Things You Should Never Do on the First Day of School before but it’s still a great reminder of what it looks like when we’re doing it wrong. Mark Barnes suggest that your goal should be a very simple one during the first few days of school:

You have many days to assess students’ strengths and weaknesses. You have months to discuss high stakes testing and standards. You’ll spend weeks probing the textbook.

The first day of school should be dedicated to rapport-building and to joy.

Your goal should be that students go home that night and tell their parents: “I’m going to love history class because my teacher is awesome!”

So what should we be doing the first week?

Kids need to be in groups. They need to be solving problems. They need to get a taste of some social studies and play with some social studies tools. They need to know that it’s okay to fail. They should practice a few critical thinking skills. Maybe a little tech here and there. Have fun.

Need some specifics? Start with these six: Read more

Flipgrid is free. No, seriously. Not like before. Totally, completely free for ALL the features

I really like Flipgrid. It’s easy to use. It’s collaborative. It’s visual. It works across all platforms.

And now?

Now it’s free.

Yup. It’s free. And not in the lower tier, fewer options, not as powerful or cool, I can’t afford the Paid version so I’m using the crappy version kind of free. Free as in . . . totally free to access all of the cool, up until a week ago it used to cost money features.

So now I really like Flipgrid.

Here’s the deal. There used to be several versions of Flipgrid. A free version and two expensive versions. And while you could do some really cool stuff with the free, less featured version, the paid versions were so much cooler. As in: you got unlimited grids, unlimited topics, more choices on video length, responses to videos, and replies to those responses. You could move and duplicate grid structure and content. Embed fully-functional grids into other environments such as an LMS or class websites. Assess, document, and provide quantitative and qualitative feedback to individual students in a private, simple way.

You know . . . all the cool stuff. But it cost money.

But several weeks ago, Read more