As the social studies and history disciplines move more to a “doing” model that focuses on developing thinking skills, it becomes even more important to incorporate different sorts of evidence into instruction. But sometimes in the rush to use a variety of evidence, we can get too caught up in the “all primary sources, all the time” school of thought.
Yes. We need to use primary sources as part of the process. But we don’t always think it through completely. We add primary sources without any conversation about how or why we should. How many primary sources? Which ones? Why not these? How do we balance perspectives? Should we balance perspective? Should we modify the documents? Why and how should we modify them?
In the October History Matters newsletter from the NCHE, Lee Eysturlid does a nice job of addressing these sorts of questions in his article title The Top 10 Considerations When Using Primary Sources with Grades 8-12.
I’ve summarized his ideas here but you need to head over there to get the full effect. Read more
If you aren’t familiar with Bruce Lesh, author of the very sweet book titled Why Won’t You Just Tell Us the Answer?, then . . . well, you need to be. The book highlights his experience as a classroom teacher struggling to find ways to get his kids to think historically. More importantly, how best to measure that type of thinking. His stuff is just incredibly practical and useful right away.
So I’m pumped to hear him share some ideas about quick, easy to use, writing assessments to gauge student thinking. Bruce started the session with an audio clip of a Scantron machine scoring multiple choice answer sheets. The more noise it makes, the “worse” teacher you are. Because that means students were missing lots of multiple choice questions. Like many teachers, he used to use that type of test to measure learning.
But at the same time that he was using MC and other traditional types of assessment, he was changing the way he designed his instruction to focus more on the processes of the discipline, on having kids think historically. Bruce continued by suggesting that quality instruction measured by poor assessment does more harm than good. We need to focus on both powerful learning activities with appropriately aligned assessments.
He’s preaching to the choir.
To set the stage for his Quick Write assessment idea, Bruce shared a bit about what he calls his History Lab idea. A History Lab has the following characteristics: Read more
For too long, state standards have encouraged social studies teachers and students to simply focus on the memorization of foundational knowledge. The pendulum is swinging back to quality instruction focused on the development of historical thinking skills.
This is a good thing. But it can also be a bit intimidating and discouraging. I often hear from teachers asking what this sort of instruction should look like. What resources should they use? Where can they find resources? How long should a unit last? How can this type of learning be assessed?
The answers to those questions just got easier thanks to the great state of New York. Over the last few years, teachers in New York have worked to create what they are calling the Toolkit. Made up of 84 different Inquiries across multiple grade levels, the Toolkit provides specifics about what the historical thinking can look like in your classroom.
The Toolkit is designed Read more
There’s been a big push in the last few years to train kids to think historically, to ask better questions, to analyze evidence, to solve problems ala Sam Wineburg.
But what does it look like when kids think like a geographer? The last session of the day yesterday at the NSSSA conference focused at interpreting primary sources with a geographic lens. What sorts of questions can we train kids to ask that helps them think about connections between events and place?
And I love the idea of thinking geographically. I would be the first to admit that I am very US History-centric. Thinking historically – ala Sam Wineburg – has been my life for the last few years as I helped write state standards and train teachers.
So having a conversation about a different lens to think about the past is a great way to end the day. I’ve pasted a few resources below that you really need to go check out but the basics of thinking geographically look like this: Read more
We’re jumping right into this. Ian Anderson, from Nebraska Wesleyan, is sharing info about his program there in Nebraska. His project is all about improving the reading / writing abilities and historical thinking skills of K-12 students in the state.
The problem? Students are struggling with these skills. So they developed a staff development program to help teachers support these skills. They used the framework from Sam Wineburg and SHEG as the basis of of their rationale and programming.
So their purpose? Training teachers to get kids to do and thinking like historians with the following questions:
- What do historians do?
- Why should we study the past?
- Why do our students not always like to study history or succeed at it?
Ian used the Traxoline example to help us understand that being able to close read and comprehend text is not always the same as disciplinary specific skills. Read more