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See Think Wonder and Jamboard. It’s like they were meant for each other. (Oh . . . and Project Zero)

We want our students to make sense of content, be engaged, and see connections to contemporary issues. That’s why we’re so bought into the idea of using primary sources. But we also know that using primary sources can be difficult. So we’re always on the lookout for handy primary source analysis tools.

Based on work done by the Project Zero people over at Harvard Grad School of Education, the See Think Wonder strategy is one of those all purpose thinking routines that can be use across grade levels and content areas. And it’s perfect for helping kids break down primary sources, especially images, artwork, and political cartoons.

So . . . if you’re not already using it, hang around. Some ideas and free resources coming up.

If you already are using See Think Wonder, hang around. Cause Google Jamboard and STW were made for each other.

The beauty of STW is that it encourages students to make careful observations and thoughtful interpretations. And when paired with Jamboard, it can stimulate curiosity and help set the stage for more inquiry.

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It’s okay. Sam Wineburg says kids can hate your class.

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 more than just a few 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 way back in 2008 has stuck with me:

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Wayback Wednesday: RealClearHistory – Right there in plain sight. (With maps. Lots of maps.)

I’ve been messing with maps this week. And why not? Maps are awesome. As part of my messing around, I ran across this older post about a great site that I had sort of forgotten. So . . . welcome back to Wayback Wednesday and RealClearHistory.


For a while now, I’ve hung around over at RealClearPolitics. For a poly sci junkie, it’s a great place to spend a few minutes or a hundred, digging into polls, commentary, and election gossip. But it wasn’t until a few weeks ago that realized that the RealClear network of sites also has a History version.


At RealClearHistory, you get the same sort of article aggregation from a variety of places in a variety of topics. We can all use a little more content knowledge and RealClearHistory is pretty decent place to find interesting resources and insight. And what better time than summer? To take full advantage, be sure to use the search feature in the top right to find articles, resources, and maps.

Yup. Maps. We all love a great map. Robert Louis Stevenson once observed:

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The Fab Five of Primary Source Archives

All is not yet right with the world. But the NCAA basketball tournament is doing a lot, at least in my little corner piece, to help make things just a little bit better.

I love the upsets. The underdogs. The last second shots. It’s a great way to spend a couple of weekends.

So when I was messing around with a long list of primary source archives this morning and needed a way to organize them, I figured, why not just sort them by five starters and bench players? My starting five are my favorite archives- the ones I know I can always count on, that have easy search features, that let me save and tag stuff, and that are designed for teachers to use.

And there are others, that while super important to the success of the team, come off the bench just when I need them. Maybe their interface is a bit wonky or it can be difficult to find things at times. Maybe their database is a bit small. Or I can’t save what primary sources I find. Still good. Just not part of the starting five.

So if you’re looking for some great primary source archives – look no further. This is the list that takes the championship.

And if you’re looking for a few great ideas for using primary sources in the classroom, try some of these.

5 anti-resolutions for social studies teachers that you should break immediately

I’ve never been a New Year’s resolution kind of guy. New Year’s Day has always been too full of football, Chex Mix, drink, more football, family, friends, traditional Menno New Year’s cookies with blueberries instead of raisins, and then maybe a couple more games of college football. I’ve got no time for resolutions.

But anti-resolutions? Statements designed to be broken immediately? Heck, yeah. I’ve got time for those. Anti-resolutions are perfect for kicking off 2021.

Here’s the deal. I don’t think we sit down often enough and reflect on our practice. And I know January 2021 might not seem like a good time for that. Nine months of pandemic impacted schedules has put all of us in a bit of a cranky mood. I get that.

But in a lot of ways, this is the perfect time to think about the hidden culture and unwritten rules that are part of our classrooms. What’s working? What’s not? When it all gets back to “normal,” what sorts of things really aren’t that important any more (and might even be detrimental?)

I’m convinced that no teacher wants to be ineffective. But I’m also convinced that we sometimes allow things to just happen in the middle of the year because we’ve got so much going on . . . especially this school year. The silver lining of all the Covid scheduling, multiple lesson planning, student attendance issues, missing resources, and clunky tech has been that we have literally been given permission to do things differently. To try stuff we haven’t tried before. Assess learning in alternative ways. Use a variety of resources and materials. To redesign how we do school.

And I know it’s hard to see right now. But your classroom will and should look different a year from now.

So make a few anti-resolutions yourself. Then make plans for breaking them. Need some ideas? Browse five of my anti-resolutions: Read more

Tip of the Week: How to Find & Use Trade Books to Change the World (and some lists to get you started)

If you aren’t a member, it’s time. Seriously.

If you’re teaching social studies K-12 and not a member of the National Council for the Social Studies, it’s time. Professional organizations in general are a good thing – they support the discipline, provide resources, offer avenues for advocacy, and promote high level conversations between members.

And because the NCSS focuses specifically on social studies, it’s perfect for folks like you and me. There are multiple memberships options available including a digital version. One of the biggest things I get out of my membership are the NCSS journals that arrive in my inbox and mailbox throughout the year. Social Education, Middle Level Learning, and Social Studies and the Young Learner provide a wealth of ready to use resources and teaching strategies.

I’m always finding great ideas to use and share and one of my favorites just showed up. The May / June issue includes their Notable Trade Books pullout and it’s always chock full of hundreds of the latest fiction and non-fiction books perfect for K-8 classrooms. (If you’re High School and are ready to check out seeing that K-8 tag, hang on. Feel free to scroll to the bottom for lists you can use.) Read more