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Posts from the ‘writing’ Category

History Nerdfest 2017 Day One: Teaching Literacy Through History

I first met Tim Bailey several years ago when he was the Gilder Lehrman master teacher during our Century of Progress TAH project. And he was awesome. Our teachers loved his ideas and resources. During today’s afternoon #NSSSA17 session, I got the chance to learn more from Tim.

Tim highlighted several different ideas from the Gilder Lehrman Teaching Literacy Through History lesson plan database – all immediately useable.

I love a couple of his quotes:

  • Be a guide, not an interpreter.
  • Primary sources are the closest thing to time travel.

Tim started by sharing What we as social studies teachers should be doing: Read more

Where have you been all my life Structure Strips!?

I’ve been spending some serious amounts of time this summer leading conversations around the country focused on the integration of social studies and literacy. And for the last few years, I’ve had the chance to work with the Kansas Department of Education and Kansas teachers as we rolled out our revised state standards and assessments – both of which concentrate on finding ways for kids to read, write, and communicate in the discipline.

So while I am not some super duper ELA expert, I did think that I knew a little something about literacy tools. But last Thursday was a great wakeup call that there is always something new to learn.

Structure strips, where have you been hiding? Read more

“Somebody Wanted But So” makes your kids smarter

I’ve been spending a ton of time this summer working with groups around the country, helping facilitate conversations around reading and writing in the social studies.

It’s always a good day when I get the chance to sit with social studies teachers, sharing ideas and best practice, talking about works and what doesn’t. And the cool thing is that I always walk away smarter because teachers are super cool about sharing their favorite web site or tool or handy strategy.

This week was no different. I learned about a simple but powerful summarizing strategy called Somebody Wanted But So.

Summarizing is a skill that I think we sometimes take for granted. We ask our kids to read or watch something and expect them to just be able to remember the content and apply it later during other learning activities. We can easily get caught up in the Curse of Knowledge, assuming that because we know how to summarize and organize information, everyone does too.

But our students often need Read more

Tip of the Week: TRAP3 equals sweet strategy that encourages argumentative writing

Several weeks ago, I had the opportunity to chat with Meghan McDermott while we were both attending a Library of Congress gathering. She’s doing some amazing things with her middle schools kids, including having them write a ton.

She’s using a variety of successful strategies (You’re gonna want to check out her 7th graders Seven Themes of History Memes.) but I especially fell in love with her TRAP3 tool. Teachers I work with are always looking for handy tools that can help kids think historically and to write using evidence. And Meghan’s TRAP3 organizer seems like a great way to help students structure historical arguments. I asked if I could share her great ideas with you – not only did she agree but she sent examples, presentation slides, and student work.

The beauty of the TRAP3 is that it provides a powerful structure that makes it easier for kids to develop not just an opening paragraph but a clear outline for their essay.

What is the TRAP3? Read more

Argumentative writing prompts, scaffolded tasks, and using evidence

We want our students to grapple more with content, to think historically, and solve problems. One of the ways we can support this behavior is by asking our kids to think and write to support a claim using evidence.

Here in the great state of Kansas basketball, we use the term argumentative writing to describe this process. That term makes it sound a little too much like the recent televised debates but asking kids to create an argument and to support that argument really is a good thing. We want them to be able to look at a problem, gather and organize evidence, and use that evidence to create a well-supported argument.

As many of us move from a content focused instructional model to one that instead asks students to use that content in authentic ways, it can sometimes be difficult knowing how to actually have them write argumentatively. But there are resources available to help with your lesson design. I’ve shared a few of these resources below. Pick and choose the ones that work best for you.

The very excellent website, Read more

Help students find the best evidence, think historically, and become powerful writers

Sarah Tantillo is the author of The Literacy Cookbook: A Practical Guide to Effective Reading, Writing, Speaking, and Listening Instruction. Several years ago, she wrote a useful MiddleWeb post based on her blog The Literacy Cookbook. On the Cookbook, Sarah shares a ton of great ideas about helping students meet the ELA Common Core Standards.

Her original post described a problem she noticed with many of her students:

“One of the things students struggle with the most — and it’s relevant to every grade and subject — is distinguishing between argument and evidence. This problem manifests itself in both reading and writing.

In reading, students often cannot pick topic sentences or thesis arguments out of a lineup; and when writing, they tend to construct paragraphs and essays that lack arguments.”

She went on to describe six steps we can use to move students from “What’s the difference between arguments and evidence?” to “How can I write an effective research paper?”

She outlines six steps that teachers can use to help students create quality, evidence-based arguments. And while the focus is on ELA rather than social studies, the process is one that all of our students need to master: Read more