Several years ago, I had the chance to be part of a learning community facilitated by Bruce Lesh. At the time, Bruce was teaching high school in Maryland and traveled to Kansas for a week as part of our Century of Progress TAH grant.
He shared a ton of great stuff including his idea of History Labs and the process of historical thinking. Like many of us, part of his social studies world view included ideas from Sam Wineburg. Wineburg uses the semantics of sourcing, contextualizing, and corroborating. He also talks quite a bit about kids working to “read between the lines” as part of that analysis process.
Bruce altered that language a bit and used the words text, context, and subtext to describe student thinking skills. The basic idea is the same but I like the alliteration / re-use of the word “text” and how that can help kids remember what their task is when making sense of evidence. Since then, teachers in the group have continued to use his vocabulary.
Many of the TAH project participants continue to meet four times a year to share ideas and hone their skills. Yesterday was day four of the year and among other things, we celebrated the birthday of Thomas Jefferson and hosted a historical political campaign t-shirt design contest. Read more
If you aren’t familiar with Bruce Lesh, author of the very sweet book titled Why Won’t You Just Tell Us the Answer?, then . . . well, you need to be. The book highlights his experience as a classroom teacher struggling to find ways to get his kids to think historically. More importantly, how best to measure that type of thinking. His stuff is just incredibly practical and useful right away.
So I’m pumped to hear him share some ideas about quick, easy to use, writing assessments to gauge student thinking. Bruce started the session with an audio clip of a Scantron machine scoring multiple choice answer sheets. The more noise it makes, the “worse” teacher you are. Because that means students were missing lots of multiple choice questions. Like many teachers, he used to use that type of test to measure learning.
But at the same time that he was using MC and other traditional types of assessment, he was changing the way he designed his instruction to focus more on the processes of the discipline, on having kids think historically. Bruce continued by suggesting that quality instruction measured by poor assessment does more harm than good. We need to focus on both powerful learning activities with appropriately aligned assessments.
He’s preaching to the choir.
To set the stage for his Quick Write assessment idea, Bruce shared a bit about what he calls his History Lab idea. A History Lab has the following characteristics: Read more
Nope. Not a baseball cap. Not a visor. Not a bowler, beanie, beret, or bucket hat.
As in History Assessments of Thinking.
I know you’ve been over to both of the Stanford History Education Group’s sites – Reading Like a Historian as well as their Beyond the Bubble page. Both are incredibly powerful examples of what instruction and assessment can look like when we focus on historical thinking processes rather than just foundational knowledge.
At Reading Like a Historian, you can find lessons in both US and World history that support the use of evidence and literacy skills. Beyond the Bubble has a whole series of short, easy to deliver, and easy to measure assessments of historical thinking.
History Assessments of Thinking.
It’s okay if you’ve been using them without knowing what they were actually called. Cause they’re still awesome. But they’re arranged by the historical thinking skill they measure – Sourcing, Contextualization, Corroboration, Use of Evidence, and Background Knowledge, And so because they’re organized by skill rather than chronologically, it can be difficult to find just the right HAT that fits your instructional needs.
Until now. Read more
Several years ago, I posted a quick story about Charles Francis Adams. With many of you trying to keep your heads above water, finishing state assessments, planning end of the year activities, perhaps now is a good time for a gentle reminder of sorts.
It’s a story many of you already know. I was reminded of the story while browsing through an old teaching strategy article from the Organization of American Historians.
Charles Francis Adams, grandson of John Adams and son of John Quincy Adams, served as a Massachusetts state senator, a US Congressman and ambassador to Great Britain under Abraham Lincoln. He was also very conscientious about keeping a daily journal and encouraged his own children to do the same.
Henry Brooks, fourth of seven Adams children, followed his advice and began journaling at a young age. A particular entry written when Brooks was eight has continued to catch our attention. Following a day spent with his father, he wrote
Went fishing with my father today, the most glorious day of my life.
The day was so glorious, in fact, that Brooks continued to talk and write about that particular day for the next thirty years. It was then that Brooks thought to compare journal entries with his father.
For that day’s entry, Charles had written: Read more
Last month at the AESA conference, Curtis Chandler and I had the opportunity to do a presentation on gamification in education. I always have fun working with Curtis and when we get the chance to talk about games, even better.
One of the things we talked about was how game design and instructional design are very similar. How game developers use brain research to create engaging, profitable games. And how we as educators should be using similar research to plan lesson and unit design but often don’t.
As early educational game researcher James Paul Gee says
Better theories of learning are embedded in the video games many children play than in the schools they attend.
One of the conversations that we especially enjoyed was asking teachers to describe what an effective learning environment looks like. The list ended up looking like this:
- students make choices
- students become experts
- solving problems is required
- immediate feedback is key
- there’s always an answer
- working with others – in and out of the classroom – is allowed
- failure can be a good thing
We then asked teachers to think about characteristics of engaging games. It ended up looking like this: Read more