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Posts from the ‘tip of the week’ Category

It’s okay to throw stuff out. Now’s a good time to rethink a lot of what we’re doing.

This morning, I was poking around in the History Tech archives looking for some research on the best way to integrate literature into social studies instruction. And as often happens, I got sucked down a rabbit hole and ran across a different article I wrote five years ago and forgotten all about.

With the uncertainty of the next few months and the changes we’re being asked to make, the message seems appropriate to share today. Simply put, what we’ve always done in the past probably isn’t going to work today. Traditional types of instruction like 45 minute lectures or packets of worksheets asking kids to copy and paste answers from a textbook have never been good for kids. They become even less useful in a hybrid or remote learning environment.

A silver lining in what we’re all experiencing right now is that we have permission to do social studies differently. And not just permission. Depending on where you teach, you’ve got active support and encouragement from the powers on high to really rethink our instruction. (In Kansas, the state ed department published a 1000 page document detailing what that might look like. Feel free to jump in on that.)

Will it be easy? Nope.

Is it something we need to do? Yes . . . absolutely.

I’ve edited the five year old post a bit to update the resources at the end. But the message remains the same. Holding on to what we know won’t work is not doing our kids any favors. Be willing to lean into the hard work ahead, throw out the old, and embrace a situation with literally no walls that allows you the freedom to do all sorts of amazing things.

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I knew the day was coming. There is a fairly extensive Read more

7 sites with ready to use lesson plans and 9 perfect primary source icebreakers

Today you get a two for one.

I recently got a question from a teacher that I’m pretty sure most of us are asking right about now.

“Where can I find quality history and social studies lessons that I can use either face to face or remotely?

I’ve got my quick favorites. SHEG. Library of Congress. National Archives. All can be adapted to a remote learning environment. But a few minutes of brainstorming and the list quickly grew.

So the first part of the twofer? Seven sites with tons of lessons you can use right away: Read more

Protests are as American as . . . well, America. And, sadly, so is racism. Resources for teaching about both

“. . . it is not enough to be non-racist, we must be anti-racist.”
Angela Davis

Let’s be clear.

I really have no idea what I’m talking about. As a middle aged white guy born and raised in Western Kansas, who taught 8th graders in a suburban school district and higher ed at a small liberal arts college, I’m probably the last person who might have some answers to the issues of racial injustice and systemic racism in the United States.

But I do know that I need to take responsibility for trying to figure it out. How to start? By acknowledging the privileges I enjoy because of who and what I am.

I’ve never enslaved others or transported kidnapped Africans to North America or passed Jim Crow legislation or attacked civil rights workers. But I can acknowledge that the world I live in was built by people who did, as part of a system specifically designed to benefit me and others like me. Uncomfortable as it is to admit, some of my actions in this world have directly or indirectly contributed to further divisions. And I need to continue learning how best to work alongside others to correct the flaws in that system.

As a history teacher, it’s easy for me to think of America in the abstract. But we need to recognize and admit that there has always been two Americas. The abstract one – the one we aspire to, a place of equality and freedom and idealism and democracy. You know, the America we teach our kids.

And then there’s that other America, the actual one we all live in. For many of us – especially those of us living and teaching in small, rural, mostly white communities – life can seem like the one we teach. So it’s easy to forget how big and diverse and ugly and difficult the real America is for many around the country – and if we’re honest, how difficult it is for some in the small, rural, mostly white communities as well. The disconnect between those two realities has always existed but events this spring have made that disconnect more obvious for many of us.

There is no amount of 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

Doing more than just treading water . . . three success stories

Resist. Accept. Embrace.

A few days ago, I wrote about the different ways we can choose to respond to the “normal normal” of what school looks like in the spring of 2020.

We can resist the changes that are happening in our schools. We can accept them. Or we can embrace them.

And I understand that every situation is different. Student population. Community demographics. Number of kids. School resources. Tech support.

But when we embrace the current situation, actively look for ways to support our students, and remain focused on quality instruction even when it seems like the circumstances are stacked against us and our kids, it is possible for some truly wonderful learning to happen. Need a few examples of how teachers and educators are embracing the normal normal?

I’ve got some. Read more

7 virtual resources and a few iCivics distance learning suggestions

(An earlier version highlighted NARA in the title rather than iCivics. Not sure what I was thinking, I corrected it March 27.  Sorry iCivics. You’re doing awesome stuff!)

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The new normal is fast becoming the normal normal. But it’s always nice to hear what others are doing and using.

And I love Jenifer Hitchcock’s suggestions about structuring our normal normal distance learning instruction. It’s part of a handy toolkit that she and other folks over at iCivics have put together. I’ve summarized Jenifer’s list but you need to head over and check it out all of the details as well as their Toolkit.

Further down, I’ve also posted 11 resources that are perfect for your distance learning normal normal. So if you’re already in a normal normal teaching situation, all of this is super useful.

But if you’re still in some sort of traditional face to face setting, skip Jenifer’s tips and bounce down to the resources – still useful for you because, well . . . they’re awesome sauce for any sort of learning environment.

Here’s a quick list of some of Jenifer’s suggestions:  Read more