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Posts tagged ‘historical thinking’

Discussion strategies so good, your kids won’t be able to shut up (And a few that even work long-distance. Cause . . . coronavirus.)

I can’t find it now but I ran across some research a year or so ago that suggested that 70-80% of all conversations in K-12 classrooms is teacher to student. As in . . . we can’t stop talking long enough to let our kids get a word in edgewise.

Since I can’t find the research, I’m not going to include it in this quick post on ways to encourage student conversation and discussion. If I had found it, I would say that teachers talk too much and that we need to find more ways to support student to student and student to teacher and student to content conversations. But I haven’t be able to find that research so I wouldn’t think of suggesting that probably 70% of the time, we talk too much. 70-80%. Can you believe it? It must be hard as a student to sit through a whole class period when the teacher is really the only one who gets to talk and who is the only one who gets to explore the primary sources and to solve the problem that they started the class with and then the bell rings.

So. What can we do to increase student conversation and encourage discussion? There are a few ideas out there. Read more

Becoming US is latest from Smithsonian. And it’s a no-brainer. (Seriously. Go there now.)

I got the chance to attend and present at the very awesome Minnesota Council for the Social Studies conference this weekend. (Thanks @jessellison!) Spending time with hundreds of other social studies teachers is always a good thing. I always walk away smarter.

But some days you don’t just walk away smarter . . . you walk away SMARTER. Today was one of those days. And I know that I just posted something a few days ago about the new cool Smithsonian Open Access tool. But this afternoon, Orlando Serrano from the Smithsonian National Museum of American History highlighted a new website from NMAH that really blew me away. And I gotta share. Read more

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

My first social studies superhero and Teaching What Really Happened.

I’ve always had social studies heroes.

The people who made and continue to make National Geographic magazine map inserts. My 7th grade geography teacher. Garden City High School’s Mr. Tomayko. James Clavell and Stephen Ambrose. Sam Wineburg.

But my first real social studies hero . . . the first person who I consciously recognized as someone impacting my career as a social studies teacher?

James Loewen. As in, the author of:

  • Lies My Teacher Told Me: Everything Your American History Textbook Got Wrong
  • Sundown Towns: A Hidden Dimension of Racism
  • Lies Across America: What Our Historic Sites Get Wrong
  • And his latest, Teaching What Really Happened: How to Avoid the Tyranny of Textbooks and Get Students Excited About Doing History

Years after first reading Lies My Teacher Told Me, I’m not even sure now how and where I ran across the book. But for someone who had grown up in western Kansas and Read more

Historypalooza 2019 – Google Arts and Culture is more than just a bazillion pretty pictures

It comes but once a year. The National Social Studies Supervisors Association and National Council for the Social Studies combined conference. For a history nerd, it’s the winter holiday break, the Final Four, and fresh out of the oven chocolate chip cookies all rolled into one event.

For three days, it’s about conversations that focus on social studies, tools, resources, evidence, and best practices. So what did I learn?

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Kelsey Pacer and Laura Israelsen are my people. They may be more nuts about Googley stuff than I am and love sharing their favorite tools and ideas. I sat in on part of their My Maps session earlier in the week and this afternoon, they’re sharing some great ideas for using Google Arts and Culture.

If you never had the chance to visit Arts and Culture, you really need to set time aside to do some serious exploring. The site is dedicated to Read more