I had the privilege to meet Shana Crosson from the Minnesota Historical Society face to face earlier this week at the #ISTE2016 conference. And I walked away smarter than I was before. But not just smarter. After several conversations and listening to Shana work her magic at her poster sessions, I left Denver incredibly impressed with what she and others at the MNHS are doing to support historical thinking and technology integration in K-12 classrooms.
Shana’s session, created with help from MNHS Education Outreach Specialist Jessica Ellison, focused on ways to help teachers and kids use primary sources images as part of the learning process. These are skills that we all should be using as social studies teachers.
We live in an increasingly visual world. Students are bombarded with strong visual images all day, in school and out of school. Learning how to read historic images empowers students to learn essential critical thinking skills that can be used on any image, document or other primary source, whether it’s historic or contemporary.
She provided a ton of reasons for using images, sites for finding useful images, and strategies for integrating them into instruction.
Advantages of Images: Read more
One of the cool things that is happening around the country is that more and more elementary classrooms are focusing on integrating history into their instruction. But there are always questions about what this can look like. During this session, Lisa Hutton from California State University, Dominguez Hills shared some ideas of things teachers can do to support historical thinking skills with grade school kids.
The idea? Use foundational knowledge / specific historical events to build the historical thinking and literacy skills. She used the engaging and powerful story of Pacific and Asian immigrants during the early 1900s who transitioned through Angel Island off the coast of California.
Lisa started with her historical inquiry process model: Read more
Sarah Tantillo is the author of The Literacy Cookbook: A Practical Guide to Effective Reading, Writing, Speaking, and Listening Instruction. Several years ago, she wrote a useful MiddleWeb post based on her blog The Literacy Cookbook. On the Cookbook, Sarah shares a ton of great ideas about helping students meet the ELA Common Core Standards.
Her original post described a problem she noticed with many of her students:
“One of the things students struggle with the most — and it’s relevant to every grade and subject — is distinguishing between argument and evidence. This problem manifests itself in both reading and writing.
In reading, students often cannot pick topic sentences or thesis arguments out of a lineup; and when writing, they tend to construct paragraphs and essays that lack arguments.”
She went on to describe six steps we can use to move students from “What’s the difference between arguments and evidence?” to “How can I write an effective research paper?”
She outlines six steps that teachers can use to help students create quality, evidence-based arguments. And while the focus is on ELA rather than social studies, the process is one that all of our students need to master: Read more
Over the last few years, we’ve seen the instructional strategy pendulum swing over to encouraging more use of evidence by students to solve authentic problems. And there’s tons of stuff out there to help us and students make sense of primary and secondary sources.
You’ve got the Library of Congress primary source analysis worksheets. You’ve got the awesome stuff by Sam Wineburg and Stanford. There’s the DocsTeach site by the National Archives as well as all of their document analysis lessons / worksheets. And lots of things like Historical Thinking Matters and Historical Scene Investigation.
But a lot of people don’t seem to be aware of the excellent work that the History Project at the University of California, Irvine does with helping student evaluate evidence. We have been perhaps overloaded with Wineburg’s stuff so much that we don’t think that we need to go out and look for other types of tools.
Don’t get me wrong, Sam. I absolutely love your stuff. Sourcing, contextulization, corroborating. I am all in. But we always said that it’s okay to date other people. And the History Project has some useful stuff.
I especially like their 6 C’s of Primary Source Analysis graphic organizer. Read more
If you’re looking for some personal professional development, need an article for a department meeting, or just looking to generate some brisk social media conversation, look no further than a recent article in The Atlantic. Written by Christine Gross-Loh, A Better Way to Teach History does a great job of explaining how history instruction is changing as well providing specific examples of what that can look like.
The focus is on using the case study idea to teach history at the college level but there is a ton of transfer between higher ed and K-12. If nothing else, the article is great for highlighting what works and what doesn’t work in social studies instruction. The article addresses a basic question that social studies folks have been dealing with for the last few years: Read more
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.