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Is it possible to love the Library of Congress too much? No. No, it is not.

Is it possible to fall more deeply in love with a library?

I mean . . . I’m already in love with the Library of Congress. That’s a given. But I had the chance to attend a remote meeting yesterday with a few of LOC’s amazing staff and I’m pretty sure that I’m more in love with the LOC now than I was before.

And it’s all because of three things. Three things that I kind of knew the Library had but forgot they had or they were moved and I wasn’t sure how to find them.

So . . . if you’re looking for more reasons to love the Library, you need to spend some time exploring these three awesome digital resources.

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Super Dave and Connect, Extend, Challenge

I had the opportunity this spring to spend time learning together with about 35 middle school ELA and social studies teachers as part of a Library of Congress TPS mini-grant project. We’ve spent multiple sessions over the last few months exploring the connection between literature and social studies content. (As Ferris Bueller once said, “. . . I highly recommend you picking one up.”)

The project was awesome for a lot of reasons but one of the main reasons was middle school teacher and social studies rock star Dave McIntire. It was last summer that I asked Dave to act as a master teacher for the project, sharing his experience and expertise with the group. And so ever since we kicked the project off in January, I’ve had the chance to soak up all the goodness that is Mr. McIntire and have learned so much.

Last Monday, as he shared a sample lesson with the group, I was able to pick up one final nugget before we broke for the summer.

A simple but powerful strategy called Connect Extend Challenge.

Now I’ve had the chance to learn about all sorts of primary source and evidence graphic organizers, thinking strategies, and summary activities. So while there are always new things to learn, running across something I haven’t seen before doesn’t just happen every day of the week.

And when Dave threw out the Connect Extend Challenge tool, it just reinforced his reputation as a social studies guru. If you’ve heard of this activity, love it, and use it already . . . feel free to go about your business. But if you’re like me and Connect Extend Challenge is something new, hang around.

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2021 Summer Reading List: Books that’ll make me a better person

Maybe it’s the heat. Or maybe it’s too much AC.

Either way, it’s been hard to get started on the annual History Tech Summer Reading List. It’s been a tradition for as long as I’ve been in education. Back in the day, Mike Ortmann, a social studies rock star who taught down the hall from me in Derby Middle School, encouraged me to do something besides be a life guard during the summer.

“Read some books.” Mike said. “Talk to some people. Do some research. Get off your butt and become a better teacher,” he said.

So I did. And Mike was right. We need to keep learning, keep asking questions, keep moving forward. And what better time for that than between now and September? So every summer, I make a list of books I plan to read June, July, and August. Long time History Tech readers already know this.

They also know that not once, not ever, a couple of times I came close but never ever, have I actually finished the list.

I’m getting less and less optimistic that it will ever happen. It’s always something. I get distracted. This summer, we’ve got the Olympics and Euro 2020. And my wife and I are in the middle of a move. Don’t hold your breath.

But I am loving my 2021 list. So maybe, just maybe, this is the summer.

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How much do I love Google Arts & Culture?

A lot.

Seriously.

A ton.

Google Arts and Culture might just the most underutilized Google tool of all time. There is so much stuff that we as social studies teachers can use from the site. And if you haven’t been over there to poke around lately, youneed to get off the couch and head over.https://artsandculture.google.com/

First known as the Google Art Project, the site was launched just over ten years ago as an online platform that highlighted high-resolution images and videos of artworks and cultural artifacts from partner organizations and museums from around the world. So for history and humanities teachers, the site was super powerful from the get-go.

Basically it’s a database of artwork, objects, artifacts, and documents from thousands of museum collections and historical sites from around the world. Much of this content comes from Arts and Culture partners – public museums, galleries, and cultural institutions. These partners also provide such things as 3D tour views and street-view maps that allow you to “walk” through their actual brick and mortar sites.

So what kinds of things can you find at Arts & Culture? At the basic level, you can find artwork, history, and geographic places. But within that structure, there is so much more. Seriously. It is incredibly easy to stop in for a quick search and surface an hour later, having gotten sucked into whatever cool thing lead to the next cool thing that lead to a 3D tour of some cool place.

But recent changes and additions make it even more useful.

Need some great history, geography, or literature lesson plans? Start with their new 3 Tips for Teachers – a tutorial for using all of the goodness that is Arts and Culture. Then head over to the updated Learn With Google Arts & Culture page. You’ll find ready to use lesson plans, links to virtual field trips, and a wide variety of interactive activities.

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Structure Strips: Training wheels for making claims with evidence

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.

And as I’m working with Kansas teachers to prep for next year’s state social studies assessment, these just seem to make more and more sense.

A Structure Strip is a simple but powerful scaffolding tool that can help kids focus on organizing their thinking and written responses to prompts. Kinda like training wheels.

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