It really is the ultimate question, isn’t it?
What do our kids need to know and be able to do? Our Kansas state social studies standards and the NCSS national framework provide some great guidelines. Both of those documents emphasize a balance between process and content, trying to move people away from a simple checklist of people, places, and dates.
But our state ed guy continues to use the phrase:
We don’t care what you teach. Your kids will not be tested on specific content. Your kids will be tested on their ability to make sense of and use evidence. You and your district need to decide the content.
He does qualify that by saying that the content needs to fit the state’s broad K-12 scope and sequence. So an US History 8th grade class needs to focus on the period between 1800 – 1900, for example. But within that 100 years? Do what you want. But that can sometimes be a bit scary for classroom teachers.
We’ve trained our teachers over the last ten years or so to focus on very specific bits of social studies data. So when we tell them that they can teach whatever they want with a focus on social studies process skills, they start to freak out:
Just tell me what I’m supposed to teach!
If I could teach whatever I wanted to 8th graders? I’d ditch the War of 1812 to spend more time on Reconstruction and Populism.
I spent some some last week with a group sharing strategies around the blended learning concept. It was compelling conversation, I walked away smarter, and had the chance to meet some interesting people.
But one of my biggest walkaways was a strategy that the forum’s facilitator used to jumpstart the discussion.
He called it the Last Word. Others in the group used the term Final Word. No matter what it might be called, I thought it was a perfect fit for strengthen the speaking and listening skills of social studies students. So if you’ve used Last Word, post some comments on changes you’ve made or things you like about it.
New to Last Word? Read on, my friend. Read more
I’m sure most of you are doing the same thing I’m doing right now. Spending time with family and friends, watching football, catching up on that book you’ve been dying to read, eating too much, and enjoying the occasional nap.
Between now and the first week in January, you’ll get a chance to re-read the top ten posts of 2015. Enjoy the reruns. See you in January!
There’s a cool buzz running through the history education world.
Primary sources. Documents. Using evidence. Solving problems. Historical thinking. And that’s a good thing. But I know that it can be difficult sometimes trying to figure out how to use primary sources.
First piece of advice?
Don’t worry so much about primary vs. secondary sources. Start thinking about evidence, about data, instead of focusing just on one sort of document over another. Because if we’re asking great questions, kids will be using all sorts of documents and sources to solve the problem.
I’ve always tried to preach the idea of having kids answer great questions and using a variety of evidence to help them answer those questions. So it’s not just primary sources. It needs to be all sorts of evidence – so kids might need to be using secondary sources. That might be tertiary sources such as a textbook or Wikipedia.
But kids are still using evidence and data to solve the problem. We need to be training our kids how to use that evidence – evaluating, sourcing, and asking questions about audience and purpose. So it’s not really about training them so that they can read primary sources after they graduate – it’s about the long term . . . training them to make better decisions because they now have the ability to evaluate evidence and ask good questions about all sorts of things: Read more
Next week, I’ll be spending time with a group of teachers as we discuss ways to support reading and writing in the social studies. Specifically, strategies for creating formative feedback opportunities that support argumentative and persuasive writing.
And what better way than by using contemporary issues tied to historical events?
A middle school teacher might use the exodus of unemployed from Detroit between 2008 and 2015 as a way to talk about why families moved to the American West during the mid to late 1800s. A high school teacher might use the Nuremberg Laws in 1930s Germany to highlight current immigration conversations. Perhaps a teacher might use laws such as the Kansas Act of 1940 and the House Concurrent Resolution 108 of 1953 to guide student thinking into 21st century discussions on race in the US and around the world.
But it’s always nice to have a little help. So plan to check out these four sites that provide resources and ideas that can help you as you delve into contemporary issues. Read more
As the discipline continues to shift its practice towards asking kids to solve problems using evidence and encouraging the development of historical thinking skills, more and more social studies teachers are integrating the use of primary sources into their instructional designs. Several days ago, I posted a quick overview that highlighted 10 things to think about while using primary sources.
And if you’ve been reading History Tech for any amount of time, you know that I love the use of evidence – especially the use of primary sources.
But what if we’re wrong?
What if using primary sources is so difficult that many of our students just aren’t able to do it? Could we just be wasting a bunch of time that would be better used with direct instruction? Read more
It was the best of times. It was the worst of times. As a long suffering Kansas City Royals fan, it was frustrating watching them yesterday as they lost Game 5 of the ALCS. Seriously. One run? Come on, boys.
But that disappointment was balanced out by an incredibly powerful learning opportunity – spending the day with a group of educators in the Library of Congress Teaching with Primary Sources program. One of the cool parts of the day was chatting with Mara Grujanac, director of the Barat Educational Foundation.
If you haven’t spent at least a few hours at the TPS-Barat blog site, you’re missing out. They’ve got some amazing resources designed specifically to support historical thinking. Using funds and support from the Library of Congress, the Barat Educational Foundation created a site focused on the effective use of primary sources in the classroom. Titled TPS-Barat Primary Source Nexus, the site has themed sets of primary sources, teaching strategies, online and face to face professional development, and tech integration tips.
Seriously. Be prepared to spend some time there. Plus you know it’s all good cause the LOC is involved.
And my conversation with Mara uncovered a specific piece of goodness that seems like a no-brainer. Read more