The Google pool is deep and very wide. There seems like there’s never an end to the tools, handy extensions, and online resources available from the Googleplex. You’ve got search, maps, notes, docs, spreadsheets, drawings, videos, photos, bookmarks, email, calendars, html, news, books, blogs, online classrooms, digital conversations, research, language translation. Heck, there was even a movie a few years ago.
So, yes, I get it when I see teachers struggle with learning the Googles. It can a bit overwhelming. There’s just so much to figure out.
What to do?
Use Google, of course. 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:
Children and adolescents are naturally curious, and they are especially curious about the complex and multifaceted world they inhabit. Whether they articulate them to adults or not, they harbor an almost bottomless well of questions about how to understand that world. Sometimes children’s and adolescents’ silence around the questions in their heads leads adults to assume that they are empty vessels waiting passively for adults to fill them with their knowledge. This assumption could not be more mistaken.
Children’s and adolescents’ curiosity is deeply rooted in an unceasing desire to make sense of what goes on around them—through their language development; in their social interactions with parents, siblings, friends, and community members; and through what they see on television, in the movie theater, on YouTube, or on the Internet. Perhaps little signals the intensity of this socio-cultural curiosity so much as the wild popularity of social networking sites such as Facebook.
And the NCSS’s handy Inquiry Arc outlines a structure for how to embed great questions into the instructional process.
Bruce Lesh, of Why Won’t You Just Tell Us the Answers fame and one of my biggest social studies heroes, provides some help by outlining the criteria for a great compelling question:
- Does the question represent an important issue to historical and contemporary times?
- Is the question debatable?
- Does the question represent a reasonable amount of content?
- Will the question hold the sustained interest of students?
- Is the question suitable given the resources available?
- Is the question challenging for the grade level and developmentally appropriate?
- Does the question require discipline specific thinking skills?
But it’s not easy developing a good question. We all eventually run out of good ideas. The helpful news is that lots of people have been thinking about this for while and don’t mind sharing.
Head first to the Kansas standards document. For each grade and each unit in that grade are five sample compelling questions. I’m not big fans of all of them but they’re a nice place to get some ideas aligned to our big ideas.
The Gilder Lehrman people have some good stuff. Their latest list of 177 sample questions is behind their firewall. So you’ll need to log in or create a free account. Totally worth it. You should be able to get an older list without the account.
Orange County Public Schools published a nice list for different content and grade levels. Lots of good ideas. The Connecticut Department of Education has a similar list embedded in its standards document.
We all know that best practice requires great questions to anchor learning. We just aren’t always great at coming up with them. So don’t be shy. It’s okay to borrow and adapt. Dig in and start adding some of these to what you already do. Your kids, sticky or otherwise, will walk away smarter because of it.
During an extensive spring cleaning binge over the weekend, I had the chance to sort through a ton of memories and personal primary sources. And I ran across some ancient artifacts. Yup. Five and quarter floppy disks.
Actual floppy disks.
Yes, I am that old.
I know many of you have never seen such a thing. So a quick overview. Think of an app that you install on your phone. Same basic idea. Except the size of the file on the floppy is smaller than most of the images in your phone’s camera roll, it has minimal graphics or none at all, you have to reinstall it every time you want to use it, and you need a special disk drive attached to your computer to access the software.
I’m not sure why I saved them. Obviously I can’t use them. Even if I could find a 5 1/4 disk drive, there’s not an operating system around that would run the program. Part of it, I’m sure, is that the history nerd in me wanted to save them for . . . I don’t know. It’s just cool saving old stuff.
But the teacher in me flashed back to a couple of classrooms when those floppies did some pretty amazing things. Read more
The Google folks have been busy – and it seems as if they’ve been listening to teachers. Today, a few handy updates to Google Classroom were announced. If you’re not using Classroom, you really need to take a few minutes, perhaps, to come to your senses. It is a handy time saver and teaching tool that’s free, accessible anywhere, easy to use, and did you know it’s free? The biggest update is the ability to now Read more
You know what I’m talking about. It’s one or the other. You go to the theater expecting a great movie with a great story and you get the Phantom Menace. You love the special effects, visuals, and pacing but the story is . . . meh.
Or you get the opposite experience. An incredibly powerful story but the actual movie? So so.
Woman in Gold is like that. The movie itself? Not so much. But the story it highlights is powerful, interesting, and one that seems like a great fit for starting an exploration of the 1933-1945 Jewish Holocaust.
Quick synopsis – Young Austrian woman named Maria Altman grows up in art loving family during the 1920s and 30s. Marries in 1937. Forced to flee the country after the 1938 German Anschluss because she and family are Jewish. Property and valuable artwork stolen by Nazis and Austrian government. She makes her way to California.
Though I’m sure you’ve already figured out how this all ends . . . spoiler alert. Read more
What does it look like when we combine inquiry learning with geography? What resources are available? Check out some ideas and materials below:
Inquiry lesson examples:
Geography: Read more