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Posts tagged ‘assessment’

It’s not just your tee shirt. It’s your favorite teaching strategy . . . uh, tee shirt.

We had a good run. Over eleven years.

And I’m trying to keep my chin up but . . . you know, it’s hard. Accepting the fact that we’ll never be together again can be rough.

You know what I’m talking about. The day you finally realize that awesome pair of jeans is just isn’t as awesome anymore. Maybe it’s that sweet hoodie you got at the merch table during a concert weekend back in college. Or maybe it’s your favorite, most comfortable tee shirt.

That’s me this morning. Back in the day, I got in the habit of grabbing a tee shirt from each of the campus visits my kids would make during their college searches. This particular shirt has been a favorite since I traveled with my first kid to Seattle 11 years ago. It fit perfectly. It was comfortable. Over the years, it slowly broke into perfection. It’s been the go-to shirt for years. But at this point, even I have to admit perhaps it’s just a little too broken in.

Eventually our favorite stuff wears out and we have to move on. It’s hard but we do it cause, well . . . cause the stuff just doesn’t work anymore.

And if you’ve gotten this for, you’ve got to be asking yourself.

Seattle Pacific tee shirt? Seriously?

Here’s the point.

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5 inquiry learning and primary source teaching hacks. Cause you know . . . it’s good for kids

I’m spending the next several days with some amazing teachers. We’re all part of the Kansas Department of Education’s work on tweaking and revising the rubric used for scoring the state mandated social studies assessment.

We’ve chatted before about the state standards and the very cool state assessment. But in a nutshell? The standards focus on discipline specific skills and process rather than just rote memorization of facts. The state assessment, which the department calls a Classroom-Based Assessment, allows local districts and classroom teachers to design their own inquiry based assessment activity specific to their students and content.

These locally designed assessments are scored with a generic rubric created by KSDE and a select group of teachers. After a year of field testing, we’re coming back together to fix some issues with the rubric that teachers have noticed.

As part of that process, we’ve had the opportunity to look at a wide variety of student created products that address the tasks outlined in the CBAs developed by teachers. And we’ve noticed a few things about these tasks.

The goal of the CBA is simple. Measure how well students can make claims and support those claims using evidence and reasoning. And, well . . . this requires the use of evidence, specifically the use of primary sources. What have we noticed? Not all of the CBA tasks are . . . hmm, high quality. So it’s difficult to determine, using the rubric, whether kids can actually make claims using evidence because the task is poorly designed. A lot of the design issues involve the integration of primary sources.

We figured this would happen and that ongoing professional development would be needed along the way. Teachers across the state (and across the country) are still wrapping their heads around what inquiry-based instruction and assessment can look like. So, in addition to tweaking the rubric, we’ve also started thinking about and planning for next year’s professional learning opportunities around the design of not just the CBA but the integration of evidence in instructional activities.

Part of that planning is providing teachers with primary sources and how to integrate them into a inquiry-based activity. So . . . today? Five hacks for using primary sources as part of your everyday activities. Read more

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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Your kids are screwing up their summative assessments. 5 ways to fix it

I’m spending a lot of time recently around the soon to be required Kansas state assessment.

A lot of those conversations has focused on ways to prepare our kids for the assessment. Bottom line? Have kids practice critical and historical thinking skills. Done.

At its most basic level, the assessment will ask kids to solve a problem using evidence and communicate the solution. This assumes, obviously, that the kid will have acquired a few historical and critical thinking skills somewhere along the way.

And the more I get the chance to work with our current standards and the planned assessment, I’m starting to realize that we need to do more than just train students to start thinking in certain ways. We also need to train them to stop thinking in other ways. We want them to be able to source and contextualize evidence. We want them to read and write effectively. These are useful skills.

But there are also ways of thinking that can slow that process down and even grow into habits that can lead to ineffective (and perhaps dangerous – I’m looking at you, January 6) citizens.

I recently ran across an older article on my Flipboard feed that specifically addresses these ineffective and potentially dangerous habits. Posted by Lee Watanabe-Crockett over at the Global Digital Citizen, the article highlights both the problems and their solutions. You’ll want to head over there to get the full meal deal but because Lee focuses more on generalities than things specific to social studies and history, I’ve given you just a little taste below:

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Eating your own social studies dog food

In a 2013 article in Wired magazine, written following one of the government shutdowns of the time, author Clive Thompson suggested that members of Congress should eat their own dog food. Thompson describes the “hardships” Congressmen had to endure as they waited in long airport security lines, rushing out of town on their way to hit up potential donors. Long lines they created by failing to solve federal budget issues, a failure that kicked in the ridiculous sequester idea.

“Critics warned that the sequester would cause hardship throughout the country, but congress-folk didn’t care — until they had to share in the pain. When they discovered that the sequester was eating into their vacation time, they rushed back to the Capitol and passed a law restoring funding to airports, working so fast that part of the bill was handwritten. Congress, it turns out, isn’t paralyzed. It’s just not motivated. In this spirit, there’s one simple way to get our do-nothing legislators off the dime: Have them eat their own dog food.”

Thompson goes on to describe a term I had never heard of before. In the world of software coding, “dogfooding” describes the habit of programmers actually using their own products, “day in and day out.” Invented in the early 1980s, the term – and the practice – continues because it works. Forced to live with their own code, programmers can quickly see what works and what doesn’t work. And just as quickly fix it.

Thompson suggests that Washington would be a bit more successful if Congress actually experienced life as they code it. They don’t live like . . . well, like you and me. Incredibly cheap and well run health insurance. Private schools for their kids. Great pensions. People throwing money at them left and right.

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You got your regular hexagons. You got your visual hexagons. Both are awesome for making connections.

More than several years ago, I asked my daughter, a fourth grader at the time, to work her way through the very cool Plimoth Plantation’s You Are the Historian simulation. It’s a wonderful online tool that asks kids to answer a very simple question – what really happened at the first Thanksgiving. Using evidence and video clips from experts, elementary students learn to make a claim and create a final product using evidence that supports their answer.

And I wanted a product review from a true end user. Used to these sort of requests from her history nerd father, Erin plunged in. During our in-depth debrief over milk and cookies, I asked her a variety of questions about her experience. Much of the conversation is now forgotten but I still remember what she said when I asked her to tell me one thing that she would share with her teacher the next day.

The past is what happened. And history is what we say happened.

I couldn’t have been prouder.

Of course, we still made her wade through the rest of her K-12 experience but doesn’t Erin’s comment pretty much sum up the whole point of teaching social studies? Yes, there was a whole ton of foundational knowledge that she continued to gather. There were specific sorts of skills she continued to perfect. But the core of what we want students like Erin to walk away with is embedded in the simple idea that history is about interpretation and analysis.

About balancing bias and perspective, about collective and individual memory, about investigation and rethinking and keeping an open mind. About making sense of evidence and making a claim using that evidence.

Traditional social studies and history instruction – instruction that focuses on helping kids find the “correct answers” through the use of traditional lecture / take note / fill in the blank / memorize the content is not just poor instruction. It also denies students the opportunity to learn the valuable skills of balancing multiple perspectives and accepting the absence of a single “history” and the co-existence of multiple “histories.”

We too often get caught up in the attempt to “cover” our content. To get to the end of the chapter. To the end of the textbook. And in doing so, we end up pushing process and thinking skills offstage rather than allowing them to share the spotlight with content. We need to go beyond basic foundational knowledge and create a sense of ambiguity and uncertainty in how things are going to work out.

One suggestion?

If our students really are going to learn and master historical thinking skills, it’s essential that they experience for themselves how historians reach their conclusions. (See Sam Wineburg and his Reading Like a Historian, his SHEG website, and . . . well, just about anything that Sam has ever written.)

But what can that look like? Read more