I’m so lucky. Four times a year with the Essdack SS PLC, I get the chance to sit around, drink as much Diet Pepsi as I want, talk to super smart social studies teachers, and walk away smarter.
We started meeting after our last Teaching American History grant ended because we couldn’t imagine not getting together anymore. Over the last ten years or so, the group has changed but the goal is still the same:
sit around, drink Diet Pepsi, talk to super smart social studies teachers, walk away smarter.
Last week was no different. Jill Weber shared some claim / evidence / reasoning magic. We explored the brand new African Americans in the Midwest website, and Laura McFarren walked us through something she calls Masterpiece Matchup.
Laura teaches middle school US History in Derby and is always on the lookout for ways to engage her kids with primary sources. Cause . . . like for most of us, that’s always a struggle. But in a perfect example of teachers helping teachers, Laura ran across an idea from Amanda Sandoval called Masterpiece Matchup. (FYI – Amanda is amazing. And, yes, you should be following her. If for no other reason than to see how she has her learning environment arranged.)
Laura took Amanda’s original idea, mashed it up with a SHEG Structured Academic Controversy that focuses on the Lewis and Clark expedition, tried it in her 8th grade classroom, and shared it with the group. And it was awesome. As the A-Team’s Hannibal Smith used to say:
Art is hard. It’s not that I don’t like it. It’s that sometimes I just don’t get it. Maybe it’s modern art that causes me trouble. Maybe I’m just too literal. The piece to the left hanging in Seattle’s art museum? I got nothing.
But with the help of an older sister and a daughter, both strong with the art force, I’ve gotten better at making sense of color, shape, perspective, of context and hidden messages. And with the help of a lot of bright people at places like the Smithsonian and Library of Congress, I’m also getting better at looking at art as a form of primary source information, as another way to understand place and time,
For the last few months, I’ve been highlighting the very cool way that teachers are using Norman Rockwell’s Four Freedoms to help students think about the Bill of Rights and contemporary issues. I love using interpretations of the Boston Massacre by Paul Revere and Alonzo Chappel to talk about historical accuracy and encourage historical thinking. The National Portrait Gallery has been huge in showing me ways that we can use portraits such as the Lansdowne image of George Washington by Gilbert Stuart and John Brown in his US Army blanket by Ole Peter Hansen Balling. And who hasn’t used images such as John Gast’s American Progress to lead conversations about Manifest Destiny and the interactions between settlers and American Indians?
But I’m starting to believe even more in the power of artwork as story and primary source. So it’s always great to find another site and set of tools that help integrate art into instruction and learning. I recently ran across SmartHistory and am loving it.
Smarthistory believes that: Read more
Both my kids have always had a strong sense of art, of being able to create visually appealing pieces. (The Rowdie effort to the left by the oldest is not one of his best efforts, though it does accurately convey the family pet’s personality.) We constantly had crayons, painting supplies, easels, and all sorts of other artsy things in use around the house.
I wasn’t much help. My art skills have been described as “creative” and “abstract.”
Both kids continue to share their love for the medium and to help me think about art and artists. And today, a quick conversation with a high school US history teacher meandered down a path that focused on ways to integrate art into our instruction.
So it got me thinking a bit.
We often forget how powerful the arts can be in connecting our kids with social studies content and big ideas. Art, in all of its forms, is a great way to create emotion, generate connections, and build relationships. Whether viewing landscapes, portraits, or historical events through the eyes of contemporary artists, students can get a sense of time, of place, of interpretation that would be impossible using other forms of primary sources.
One of the quickest ways to incorporate the arts is to focus on the visual – paintings, drawings, and images. But I often notice it missing from the toolkits of many social studies teachers. And I’m not exactly sure why. Maybe we’re just not aware of the resources available or the kinds of questions to ask. If we’ve never thought too much about using artwork as an instructional tools, it can be hard finding a jumping off point.
So what can it look like when we intentionally integrate visual art into our classrooms? Try some of these ideas and resources: Read more
How great is the Smithsonian? Seriously. Take a few minutes to think about all the teaching goodness that they provide. Learning Lab. History Explorer. Lesson plans. Podcasts. Webcasts. It goes on and on.
But there’s always been a bit of old school in me. So I still subscribe to the print version of the Smithsonian magazine. Yes. You can get many of the print articles at the online version but I like turning pages.
The problem, of course, is between online versions of things and print versions of things, I’m always playing catch-up with my reading schedule. The March Smithsonian just now just made it to the top of the pile and I was blown away by an article by Abigail Tucker.
Titled A 21st-Century Reimagining of Norman Rockwell’s Four Freedoms, the article focuses on the question: Read more
I never really thought much about using art as a social studies instructional tool. It was never something mentioned during my methods classes. We never studied it during my history content courses. And I never had much experience actualy creating art.
I mean . . . sure, I finger painted with the best of them. But it just didn’t occur to me to find ways to integrate art as part of my social studies instruction.
Then my kids came along. They loved creating all sorts of art. (The whale to the left is from my son’s primitive stage.) So I learned more about past and present art, I began thinking about the context of the artists, and I started seeing how art in all of its forms are great examples of primary sources.
The Smithsonian and the National Portrait Gallery strategies and lessons helped. I also fell in love with Google’s Arts and Culture site. So much goodness.
And now Google is making it even easier to find and view artwork for your lessons and units. Read more
I flew into Washington yesterday afternoon and had a few hours to kill before the Nerdfest kicked off and so had the chance to visit a couple of the DC museums – I spent a few hours at the International Spy Museum and a couple of hours at the Smithsonian National Portrait Gallery. Never been to the Spy Museum, a little cheesy but still interesting. (To give you an idea, if you’ve never had the chance, it has a whole floor dedicated just to James Bond villians.)
The National Portrait Gallery? So cool. Seriously. Three huge floors of . . . well, mostly portraits. But other artwork and photographs and famous people and Civil War images and basically America from start to the present through the eyes of artists. (To give you an idea, the famous painting of Alexander Hamilton is. Right. Over. There.)
I’ve been before to the NPG before and stood there looking at all of this history, thinking to myself
How can social studies teachers use this?
Thanks to the last session of Day One and Briana White, now I know. As the manager of Teacher Programs at the National Portrait Gallery, Briana knows how social studies teachers can use all of that history.
She started by sharing the mission of the NPG: Read more