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Tip of the Week: 7 great social studies ideas for back to school

August Fourth!? Seriously? August already?

I had noticed that it had warmed up and that summer was in full swing. But already the start of school?

I spent a few days in Georgia leading some conversations around literacy in the social studies and they started with kids last week. So for them, this post is ten days too late. But I’m hoping that for most of you, there are a few days before your first contact day.

And to help jumpstart your first awesome week, here are seven great ways to kick off the year. Use what you can. Adapt what you can’t. And be sure to add your own ideas in the comments. Read more

Use the big screen to generate a love of history (I’m looking at you Dunkirk)

When you buy your ticket to the Dunkirk – and you know you will – make sure that it’s to an iMax theater.

Because this is the type of movie that will kick you in the butt no matter what kind of screen you see it on so you might as well go all in with the super big surround screen. Christopher Nolan shoot the film with the iMax format in mind and it shows.

Dunkirk is an incredibly visually and emotionally compelling story that highlights an event that we as Americans rarely think about. I’ve always been a fan of using visuals and multimedia to help create emotional connections in the brains of students. Especially a story like Dunkirk that can help kids connect with our content.

So how might you use Dunkirk and other movies as part of your instructional strategy? Read more

5 rewarding reasons to teach (and not) with drama

Using drama, reader’s theater, and role playing has always been a go-to strategy for social studies teachers.

These tools can have a powerful impact on learning but they need to be used wisely and carefully. If we don’t intentionally think about how and why we incorporate these tools into our instruction, things can go quickly askew. The people at the Smithsonian National Museum of American History can help with that.

In a recent post titled How (Not) To Teach With Drama, Naomi Coquillon shares a few guidelines and recommendations for classroom educators on using theater in history teaching. Together Naomi’s suggestions together with the companion post, Teaching with Drama, for full effect.

Get the full details at the O Say Can You See page but get a few spoilers before heading out: 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

It puts kids to sleep. And just so ya know . . . that’s a bad thing. (Plus 18 ways to make it better)

Shocker. Lecturing to students puts them to sleep.

Who could have guessed?

Well . . . I should have. But I didn’t. During my first few years as a middle school teacher and later, during some time I spent teaching in a college social science department, I lectured.

A lot.

Early on, I didn’t know better. I was taught that way in both K-12 and in my college content courses. There were no real alternatives provided in my ed classes. And I started teaching long before established mentor programs. It was just the way things were done.

By the time I had moved on to higher ed, I had figured out – with some occasional PD and lots of help from some great educators – that there are other alternatives to constant direct instruction. But I was subtly and then very overtly encouraged to lecture rather than use some of the methods that I knew worked because “you’re not teaching middle school anymore.”

Those memories came flooding back recently while I was reading an older article focused on higher ed teaching titled 20 Terrible Reasons for Lecturing. Several of the reasons listed are almost word for word to what I heard: Read more

O Say Can You See? Smithsonian’s blog. (And other stuff. Lots and lots of other stuff)

Have you ever had one of those days / weeks / months? I feel ya.

Back in the day, summer was one of the slower times of the year at ESSDACK mission control. But over the last few years, for a variety of reasons, June through the end of August has become a very exciting time. Lots of extended learning opportunities that we facilitate, travel to places outside member school districts, and our own very cool Podstock tech conference.

But I’ve been missing History Tech. It’s nice to be back. And what better way to get back home than to talk up one of my favorite online places. Read more