It used to be called “writing across the curriculum.” Years ago, in Derby Middle School, I remember WAC being the latest educational buzzword. And it was a good idea. Literacy – reading, writing, communicating – is something that should be happening in all the content areas. But for a lot of reasons, WAC theory and actual practice never seem to align.
Of course, good teachers have been integrating literacy skills into their instruction both before and after WAC. That practice is now encouraged and supported with the latest trend – literacy standards embedded as part of historical thinking and social studies best practice.
It’s still a good idea.
Our students should be reading, writing, and communicating in the specific social studies disciplines. And I know you’re having kids do it. But finding the right tools to support literacy can be difficult. Using paper and pencil is always available . . . though without options for easy collaboration, editing, and sharing. Google Drive provides options for that sort of stuff but it’s still not available in some districts.
And even if it is available, using Drive and other online writing tools are not always the ideal writing environment. It’s easy to get distracted – Look! A squirrel / Facebook / Flipboard / Social Media / Texts – and lose focus. We know that these distractions make it more difficult to come back to the writing process. And even if we are able to resist the blackhole of YouTube Grumpy Cat videos, we can get distracted by the bells and whistles of word processors, focusing so much on format and editing and process that we have difficulty getting words out.
So today? Some tools to help you and students stay focused on the task of writing. Read more
We’re putting the finishing touches on this year’s Kansas state social studies conference. Titled A Capitol Idea: Integrating History and ELA, the conference will focus on ways to support both social studies and language arts folks. We know that this sort of integration is critical to developing the skills our kids need to be successful.
(So . . . shameless propaganda. If you’re anywhere near the Kansas capitol building on November 2, you need to plan on being part of the conversation. And by near, I’m talking five or six hour driving distance. Seriously. It’s gonna be awesome.)
But our planning and discussion about combining literacy skills and historical thinking jogged my memory. I knew Pocketed an article about a month or so ago that highlighted American road trips using some sort of map. A quick search of my Pocket later and yup, there it was.
The Obsessively Detailed Map of American Literature’s Most Epic Road Trips. Read more
It’s official. Zoom In just went live. And you and your kids so need this.
I know that I’ve mentioned Zoom In before. But a year ago, the tool was still in beta. The signup process was a bit clunky and the lessons were still in development. So I was incredibly excited to find out that last month, Zoom In is officially official. The site has been remodeled, signup is a snap, and all 18 lessons are ready to go.
If you missed my earlier excitement about Zoom In, here’s a brief recap. Zoom In is a free, web-based platform that helps students build literacy and historical thinking skills through “deep dives” into primary and secondary sources.
Zoom In’s online learning environment features 18 content-rich U.S. history units that supplement your regular instruction and help you use technology to support students’ mastery of both content and skills required by the most recent state and national social studies standards: Read more
Many of you are already aware of the Stanford History Education Group’s fantastic resources called Reading Like a Historian and Beyond the Bubble. If you’re not, you need to be.
Using his own ideas and research on what historical thinking looks like, Sam Wineburg and his staff created some incredibly useful lessons and assessments and started giving them away for free. Good stuff.
Each lesson starts with a compelling question, provides primary evidence, and asks students to use historical thinking skills to solve the problem. This sort of work is exactly what our state standards and what the National Council for the Social Studies encourages.
As more teachers are using the tools, one thing they’re asking is how the SHEG lessons and assessments fit into specific grade levels and Common Core literacy levels.
And now thanks to the Los Angeles school district, your wish has come true. Read more
I had the chance last week to spend a very fun afternoon with an energetic group of elementary teachers. I always enjoy chatting with K-6 folks. (I just don’t know how they get up every morning and keep going back. Because, seriously . . . grade school kids freak me out. They smell funny, they always seem to be sticky for some reason, and they throw up at the most awkward moments. So God bless anyone willing to spend all day, every day with anybody under the age of 12.) Part of our conversation centered around planning different units in a year long scope and sequence at various grade levels. And some of the discussion revolved around possible essential / compelling questions that might anchor each of those units. I don’t get the chance to have these kinds of discussions with K-6 people much – when I do, it’s always a good time. Once they start rolling, it’s hard to get them to slow down. We started with the basics:
What does a good compelling question look like?
And quickly moved on to the one that they really wanted to know:
Where can we find some already created?
Just a reminder. This is not just K-6. Compelling questions are something all of us need to be incorporating into unit and lesson designs. So . . . what do they look like? A great place to start is with the College, Career, and Civic Life document from the National Council for the Social Studies. The document does a great job of articulating the importance of a robust compelling question: Read more
Need a place to connect past with present? Need writing prompts? Need hundreds of articles about current events in an easy to access place? Need articles with leveled reading? Need a searchable databases that filter by keyword, grade level, Common Core reading anchors, and articles with machine scored quizzes?
If your answer to even one of those questions is yes, then I’ve got a list of tools just for you. All of them are web-based tools that use current events and contemporary topics to engage kids and all provide the chance for you to to encourage the development of skills required by the ELA literacy standards for History / Government. While at the same aligning to state standards that ask us to connect the past with contemporary events.
So why should we worry about current events? The simple reason is that connecting past and present is good for student retention and encourages critical thinking skills. Not to mention our state standards are asking kids to connect past choices, rights, responsibilities, ideas, beliefs, and relationships to “contemporary events.”
So today you get a few online tools and some helpful strategies that focus on current events: Read more