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Posts tagged ‘assessment’

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

Fave Posts of 2019: Single-point rubrics and Google Keep make your life easier & your kids smarter

I know that most of you are still settled deep into holiday break mode. Getting up a little bit later than normal. Watching football. Eating too much. Catching up on your reading. Trying to decide if The Mandalorian is worth your time. Enjoying family and friends. Not really thinking about the back to school schedule that cranks up in January.

But if you need a break from all of that free time, we’ve got you covered. Between now and the second week in January, you’ll get a chance to re-live five of the most popular History Tech posts from 2019. Enjoy the reruns!


We’ve all been there. You just finished putting together a great instructional lesson or unit. Kids are gonna love it. They’ll be working together. Doing research. Creating stuff, not just consuming it. The historical thinking will be off the charts.

Then you realize . . . you haven’t created the rubric yet.

You know that clear expectations and feedback are critically important to the learning process. You know that rubrics can help you in assessing what students know and are able to do. So you sit back down and eventually decide to use four scoring columns instead of five. Six rows of criteria instead of three. Clear descriptors. Nine point font all crammed into your matrix so that it fits on one page. Definitely tons of feedback gonna happen from this beauty.

But it’s worth it, right?

Mmm . . . using a great rubric Read more

Calculating your Social Studies ROI. Cause it’s #RefreshFriday

It’s #RefreshFriday.

Yup. It’s that time of year when I want to say I’m too busy to write anything new but it probably has more to do with the fact that’s Friday. It’s 103 degrees outside. And I’m just super lazy.

But part of it does have to do with a conversation I had yesterday with some of the marketing geniuses at ESSDACK. We spent an awesome 60 minutes talking about a variety of different topics –  all focused on our ROI. And I started getting flashbacks to this post I wrote several years. If you remember reading it, it’s okay to go back to your cold beverage. If not, welcome to a quick updated post on #RefreshFriday.

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ROI was never something I had to worry about back in the day when I was teaching middle school. If I made to 3:30 with nothing on fire and all 145 middle schoolers accounted for, I checked it off as a major success.

Return on Investment? ROI? I’m not even sure the term had been invented yet. And if it had, I would have had no idea what it meant and how the idea might apply to my classroom.

For anyone without the MBA degree, ROI is Read more

Single-point rubrics and Checkmark make your life easier & your kids smarter

We’ve all been there. You just finished putting together a great instructional lesson or unit. Kids are gonna love it. They’re working together. Doing research. Creating stuff, not just consuming it. The historical thinking will be off the charts.

Then you realize . . . you haven’t created the rubric yet.

You know that clear expectations and feedback are critically important to the learning process. You know that rubrics can help you in assessing what students know and are able to do. So you sit back down and eventually decide to use four scoring columns instead of five. Six rows of criteria instead of three. Clear descriptors. Nine point font all crammed into your matrix so that it fits on one page. Definitely tons of feedback gonna happen from this beauty.

But it’s worth it, right?

Mmm . . . using a great rubric can speed up the grading and assessment process but they can also create other issues besides the amount of time it takes to create them. A student shows creativity way beyond what the rubric asks for in a way that you hadn’t anticipated and your columns and rows aren’t able to reward that. Or a kid spells everything correctly but the grammar and punctuation is terrible. Maybe she nails the document analysis but fails to use evidence in her claims and your rubric has those two things together.

And is there any way – other than individual conferences – to really know whether students actually go deeper into your scored rubric than to look at the final grade circled in the bottom left hand corner?

Yes, analytic rubrics are useful. I’m not saying rubrics shouldn’t be part of your assessment toolkit. They can help you develop and create assignments that are aligned to your end in mind. They can provide clear expectations for students and a way to share feedback. But they can also be difficult to design correctly and may seem so overwhelming to students that the expected feedback we want never really sinks in.

And, sure, holistic versions are much quicker to create and use. So that’s nice. But they fail to provide specific and targeted feedback. You get a kid who wants to know why they got a two instead of a three or worse, he won’t ask at all. Missing the whole point of providing feedback in the first place.

So . . . why not look at a third way to the rubric game? And use some tech to make it even better?

This third way, called Read more

Crowdsourcing the standards: How would you make them better?

It’s been seven years. Seems like yesterday. And now it starts again.

I’m not sure if it’s a law or a regulation. Maybe both. Either way, the Kansas Department of Education is required to review content standards every seven years. 2018 is that year for social studies.

Seven years ago, 30 of us got together for the required review. We sat down and started a process that some of us ended up calling “the Philadelphia.” We had a set of social studies standards but we knew they weren’t doing what we wanted them to do. They emphasized drill and kill teaching. Multiple choice assessments. And clearly failed to encourage critical thinking.

The KSDE mandate was to “review and revise as needed.” We agreed to that. Just like the Founding Fathers who gathered in Philadelphia to review the Articles of Confederation in 1787. They knew going in that they wanted to do more than just review and revise. They wanted something new, effective, and powerful. So they threw out the Articles and walked out a couple of months later with the Constitution.

And no. The Kansas social studies standards are not the Constitution. The 30 educators who met back in 2011 were not the Founding Fathers. But the group did come into the room ready to throw out the old standards, start from scratch, and build something completely new.

What we came up with is a document that Read more