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Posts tagged ‘best practice’

5 strategies for integrating primary source documents

When I firsted started teaching 8th grade American History, there was no access to primary sources. There weren’t any online archives. DocsTeach? Nope. Stanford History Education Group? Nope. Library of Congress? Nada.

I made due with whatever supplementary materials showed up with my textbook and the few Jackdaw kits that I was able to track down and order. But here’s the thing . . . even if I had somehow gotten access to primary source documents, I’m not sure what I would have done with them. Like most social studies teachers at the time (and more than just a few today), I really didn’t have a clue of how to use primary sources as part of the learning process.

Even worse, I wasn’t really sure why I should be using this sort of evidence. What was the point? Every kid had a textbook. I had a teacher’s version of the textbook. I could lecture. I was set.

But with the help of some amazing mentors, I began moving more towards the idea that kids need to be active users of evidence while solving problems. And there is now a clear shift in social studies and history instruction towards this idea of historical thinking, using evidence, and problem solving. More and more teachers are using primary sources as integral pieces of the learning process.

There has been a cool supply and demand process happening over the last few years. Teachers want and need more primary sources. The internet has made those sources more available and accessible. More availability and accessibility means more teachers are using those sources. More teachers used to this availability of sources demand even more sources.

But there will always be questions about how to best use primary sources. A recent article by Discovery Ed’s  does a nice job of highlighting five effective integration strategies. I’ve pasted a quick summary of Joe’s thinking but be sure to head over to Discovery Ed to get the full meal deal: Read more

Tip of the Week: 5 things every social studies teacher needs to know about Twitter

I joined Twitter about nine years ago in late 2007. As a social studies guy trying to learn more about how tech could be used in instruction and learning tool, I was a bit underwhelmed during my first few months with the tool.

Most posts fit the stereotypical – I learned a lot about what people did the night before, what they ate the night before, and how disappointed they were about the third Pirates of the Caribbean movie. But it got better. And I am becoming more and more convinced that Twitter is now one of the those non-negotiable things that we all should have in our tool belts.

It’s not the silver bullet that will solve all of your problems (And I will admit it may create some.) But it does do some pretty handy things – we can connect with experts, connect our students with experts, connect with each other, find and share content, ask questions, help others, and apparently save the world at the international, national, state, and local levels.

So today five things I think all of us need to know about Twitter. (New to Twitter? Get set up here. And remember that you can have multiple Twitter accounts – so think about creating both personal and professional versions.) Read more

15 reasons for not using technology


My life pretty much revolves around technology. I just spent 15 minutes helping a colleague set up Messages on her Macbook. My family of four is constantly connected via a text group. (Latest conversation? Dogs during college finals.) I Skype and Google Hangout. I play video games – console and mobile.

I currently have six different types of smart devices within arm’s reach. I travel all over the country helping teachers integrate games and iPads and Chromebooks and web tools and GAFE into their instruction. I’ve got enough SAMR model examples to last for months.

So perhaps the title of today’s post seems a bit out of place.

But a recent article in InformEd has got me thinking. Titled  Read more

History Nerd Fest 2013 – Energize your elementary social studies classroom

I need some energy here. Caffeine is wearing off. But Barb Knighton is on fire. Barb is the NCSS 2013 elementary teacher of the year and rocking it. So I should be good.

barb knighton

She will not be sharing lessons but strategies that can be adapted to just about  any grade level or content. She’s got six: Read more

My class used to be an air museum

Okay. Not an actual air museum. That would have been so incredibly cool but . . . no. Sadly, my classroom was an air museum in the metaphorical sense.

A little background might help here.

I’ve had the opportunity over the last several months to spend time in Liberal, Kansas working with the 7-12 social studies team on the creation of aligned unit curriculum maps. Lots of great conversations about historical thinking skills and big ideas and instructional strategies and well . . . lots of cool social studies stuff.

But until recently, it’s been in and out, one day at a time. Earlier this month? Multiple days back to back. And I know you know what that means. That’s right.

Enough free time for a visit to the Mid-America Air Museum. During World War II, Liberal hosted one of the largest B-24 training bases in the US and rightfully takes great pride in that fact. A museum was started. Planes were donated and according to the propaganda, it’s the largest aviation museum in the state and fifth largest in the country. Over 100 planes on display. And not just any planes. Some very cool planes:

  • B-25 Mitchell
  • F4 Phantom
  • F-4 Tomcat
  • Bell Huey helicopter
  • F8 Crusader

I love planes. Especially military planes. So I was a bit giddy at the chance to spend some time at the museum.

But I walked away a bit disappointed. Read more

Eat your own dog food

In a recent article in Wired magazine, author Clive Thompson suggests 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.

They don’t really understand what happens in the rest of the country when they pass (or don’t pass) legislation. They don’t eat their own dog food.


Step back a minute. What does this have to do with social studies teachers? I’ll wait. Think this through a bit. Read more