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Posts from the ‘writing’ Category

Historypalooza 2019 – Inquiry Design Models for the elementary

It comes but once a year. The National Social Studies Supervisors Association and National Council for the Social Studies combined conference. For a history nerd, it’s the winter holiday break, the Final Four, and fresh out of the oven chocolate chip cookies all rolled into one event.

For three days, it’s about conversations that focus on social studies, tools, resources, evidence, and best practices. So what did I learn?

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In the last session of Saturday morning, Brent Tozer is sharing how to use the C3 Teachers Inquiry Design Model structure to integrate more social studies into elementary level instruction.

Get more information about the IDM structure by Read more

Emojis. Cause they’re good for kids and fun to use. What’s not to like?

I always walk away smarter after spending time with classroom teachers. Wednesday was no exception. I got the chance to work with about 35 K-5 teachers and spent the day focused on the Inquiry Design Model – tweaking previous IDMs and developing new ones for next semester. And in addition to finding out about some new ways to integrate primary sources, a teacher shared this little gem:

“Never wear white when teaching Kindergarten.”

 If you teach K-3, you already knew this. But for secondary folks like me? Good tip.

I’m not sure that there is any sort of measurement tool able to document the level of respect I have for elementary teachers. But that’s it, right there in a nutshell. Teaching five year olds is hard enough, what with all the reading, writing, arithmetic, social emotional, classroom management stuff. But now I find out that my wardrobe choices are also impacted. (And you really don’t want to hear the reasons why white is a bad choice. Trust me. Seriously . . .  just walk away.)

Once we got past the never wear white idea, we had the chance to jump into our work on their IDMs. Including some conversation about effective teaching strategies and activities. One of my fave conversations centered on the idea of using emojis as a way to help kids make sense of social studies and incorporating them as part of a quality lesson that can help improve student thinking and literacy skills.

And yes, I can hear you. You’re saying that integrating little graphic images used by millions of Instagram tweeners instead of more traditional tools is no way to teach historical thinking and literacy. But I’m convinced that these little graphic images have tremendous potential to help kids makes sense of evidence, increase literacy skills, and demonstrate learning.

We started our day on Wednesday introducing the idea by using a fun web tool called Emoji Scavenger Hunt. We got into groups and raced around the building, collecting actual objects that matched emojis provided by the game. It was a great way to kickstart the conversation.

You can get an idea of the emoji potential by taking a look at Read more

Structure Strips: Making a claim using training wheels

Sure. There are probably some of you bike riding savants who had no need for them. You just hopped on and started riding, jumping ramps, and weaving through traffic, no problem.

But most of us needed them to get started.

Training wheels.

They let us get on our itty bitty bikes and tootle around town like we knew what we were doing. We could do basic stuff like steering around the dog and brake at the corner. But doing all of that while keeping our balance? Not yet.

Writing argumentative essays and making claims using evidence is a lot like that. You’ve got some kids that can jump on and just take off, no problem.

But most of your kids are going to need a little help. Especially elementary and middle school. And there are lots of things you can do to help them keep their balance while doing that.

But I’m really starting to like the idea of something called Structure Strips. I ran across them a few years ago while I was working with some elementary ELA teachers. They were using them to help students create descriptive paragraphs. A little more research highlighted how others were also using Structure Strips in a variety of ways, including in social studies.

A Structure Strip is a Read more

Tip of the Week: Questions, tasks, and resources. Oh, my! Covering content using the C3 IDM

Our current state standards have been around since 2013. Centered on five Big Ideas and a balance between content and process, the document is unlike previous standards documents. And after five years, most Kansas teachers are at least aware that we’re asking them and students to approach teaching and learning differently.

That we want students to have both foundational knowledge and historical / critical thinking skills. That social studies classrooms need to be more than drill and kill, lecture, worksheet, quiz on Friday. And that creating engaged, informed, and knowledgable citizens requires more than rote memorization and low level thinking.

While our standards look and feel differently than most other state level documents, teachers across the country – like their colleagues here in Kansas – are also being asked to concentrate on training kids to do social studies. Sam Wineburg is a household name. The teaching of historical thinking skills such as Sourcing, Contextualizing, and Corroborating is becoming commonplace. Bruce Lesh and his History Labs are being duplicated by teachers in all sorts of classrooms. The National Council for the Social Studies has also been a huge part of this pendulum shift with its College, Career, and Civic Life (C3) standards.

Good things are happening.

But . . .

Yup. There’s always a but.

During every standards training I do, every historical thinking conversation I have with teachers, there’s always a but.  Read more

Best posts 2017: Jill Weber and historical thinking bootcamp

I’m sure most of you are doing the same thing I’m doing right now. Spending time with family and friends, watching football, catching up on that book you’ve been dying to read, eating too much Chex Mix, and enjoying the occasional nap.

But if you need a break from all of the holiday cheer, we’ve got you covered. Between now and the first week in January, you’ll get a chance to re-read seven of the most popular History Tech posts from 2017. Enjoy the reruns. See you in a couple of weeks!


Jill Weber gets it. She’s a middle school teacher honing her craft in Cheney, Kansas and she is rocking it.

Finding the balance between foundational content and process. Problems to solve. Evidence to analyze. No obvious answers. Academic discomfort. Groups to work in. Hands on. Physical movement. Obvious passion for the subject.

She’s one of those teachers that I would have wanted for my own kids to have when they were in middle school. And I’ve had the opportunity to work with her for almost six years.

She jumped in feet first to our second Teaching American History project back in 2010 and then transitioned into the ESSDACK social studies PLC. She was awarded the Kansas Council for the Social Studies 2016 secondary mini-grant and is the 2016 Gilder Lehrman Kansas History Teacher of the Year. And she shares a ton of her stuff on A View of the Web.

One of her recent posts caught my eye and Read more

Best posts 2017: Where have you been all my life Structure Strips!?

I’m sure most of you are doing the same thing I’m doing right now. Spending time with family and friends, watching football, catching up on that book you’ve been dying to read, eating too much Chex Mix, and enjoying the occasional nap.

But if you need a break from all of the holiday cheer, we’ve got you covered. Between now and the first week in January, you’ll get a chance to re-read seven of the most popular History Tech posts from 2017. Enjoy the reruns. See you in a couple of weeks!


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?

I was doing some internet browsing for literacy activities and ran across references to something I had never heard of before. And it looks like an Read more