Okay. I don’t want kids to hate social studies. Let’s be clear about that from the get go. But . . . I also think that we sometimes fall off the wagon on the other end by working way too hard trying to find activities that our kids will enjoy or projects that are “engaging.”
It’s been almost ten years since I first heard Sam Wineburg speak. I had read his book Thinking Historically and Other Unnatural Acts. Read some of his early articles on historical thinking skills and loved his ideas about how we needed to re-think our approach to teaching history. But it wasn’t until a combined Kansas / Missouri Council for History Education conference way back in 2008 that I first heard him speak. He opened the conference with a keynote highlighting the main ideas in his book.
And now, of course, he’s a future social studies Hall of Famer having helped to swing the pendulum of social studies instruction over to something more focused on a balance of both content and process.
But something he said back in 2008 has stuck with me: Read more
It was part three of the four part 2017-2018 ESSDACK social studies PLC. We get together throughout the year to share ideas, ask questions, discover new resources, and eat some awesome food.
Last Wednesday it was more of the same. Valentine’s Day cupcakes. 3-D glasses. And comics. Lots and lots of comics.
I’ve always loved comics. I lean a bit more to things like Calvin & Hobbes and Doonesbury rather than the Marvel and DC universes that my kids love. But no matter what I was reading – growing up or now – I’ve always been intrigued with the idea of visual storytelling.
So it shouldn’t be a surprise that I’ve also intrigued with the idea of using comics and graphic novels as part of social studies instructional design. And Wednesday, the group nerded out with some great conversation about what that can look like.
We started by doing Read more
It’s February. Black History Month.
And I gotta be honest. I’m always a bit conflicted about the idea. The concept of a month specifically set aside for the study of Black History started back in 1926 when historian Carter G. Woodson and the Association for the Study of Negro Life and History announced the second week of February to be “Negro History Week.” That particular week was chosen because it marked the birthday of both Abraham Lincoln and Frederick Douglass.
In 1976, the federal government followed the lead of the Black United Students at Kent State and established the entire month of February as Black History Month. President Ford urged Americans, and especially teachers and schools, to “seize the opportunity to honor the too-often neglected accomplishments of black Americans in every area of endeavor throughout our history.”
The hope was that Black History Month would provide a very intentional time for all of us to remember together the struggles of African Americans to obtain the basic civil rights afforded to others, the challenges African Americans have faced for centuries, and the contributions of African Americans to who we are. But . . . the real hope was that the story of essential people, events, and places, routinely ignored, would be incorporated throughout the school year.
Recent movies such as Selma and Marshall and books such as Hidden Figures do a great job of creating a sense of a specific time period, of overt racism and violence, the need for supporting the right to vote, the courage of everyday individuals, and of the thought process behind events. The message of Black History Month remains – that the quest for equality and dignity in the United States was difficult and dangerous. And that the extraordinary work of ordinary folks such as John Lewis, Jimmie Lee Jackson, and Amelia Boynton Robinson still isn’t finished.
But I’m still a bit conflicted.
Jose Vilson, teacher and activist, Read more
Back when my youngest was in fourth grade, I asked her to preview the very cool You Are the Historian website. It’s an interactive tool that asks elementary kids to use historical thinking skills while addressing the site’s guiding question: What really happened at the first Thanksgiving?
The site led her through primary sources, to video clips of colonial historians, and to the exploration of different artifacts. After she was finished, I asked her what she learned by “playing” the game:
The past is what really happened. History is what we say happened.
I couldn’t have been prouder. That’s exactly what I hoped to hear. (And good job, BTW, You Are the Historian creators.)
History is our interpretation of evidence.
We have a problem. We look at evidence. And we figure it out. But I’m not always sure that we’re teaching our kids how to do that very well. Part of the problem is bias. We don’t always make it clear enough that everything we have our kids use to solve the problems we give them is biased.
And just as there is no such thing as unbiased primary evidence, there is no such thing as unbiased secondary evidence. All news, photos, media sites, books – it’s all biased.
Need a few examples? Read more
As a poly sci junkie, I’m torn.
The 2018 government shutdown is bad for just about everybody. And it seems like it happened over something that most Americans want to see happen – protection for Dreamers. A Fox News poll says 86% of us support DACA. A CBS poll reports 87% supporting the idea.
But the shutdown does create an opportunity to jump into all sorts of conversations involving civics and procedure and policy and elections and checks and balances and three branches and media bias . . . well, you get the idea. If you haven’t already, this week might be a good time to jump ship on your scheduled curriculum and spend some time making connections to the government side of the social studies.
Need a few quick resources? Read more