One of the advantages of doing what I do is the chance to meet and talk with lots of great social studies teachers. Whether it’s traveling around doing on-site trainings or leading workshops in ESSDACK’s own facility, the opportunities to brainstorm ideas and learn new things are abundant.
Several months ago, I spent the day working with a small group of middle school teachers. The conversation shifted to literacy strategies and what works best to help students read and write in the social studies. Andrew Trent, teacher from Clay Center and colleague on the state assessment writing team, shared a strategy that I had never seen before.
Titled Tic Tac Tell, the strategy is very simple to implement but it has a lot of potential for adapting to different grade levels, content, and complexity. The original focus of Tic Tac Tell was to provide a quick and easy way for kids to interact with vocabulary words. We know that to learn new vocabulary words and phrases, kids need to experience those words or phrases multiple times in a variety of contexts. Tic Tac Tell works great for that, especially with elementary kids.
But I think you could also use this to introduce, review, and assess a wide variety of concepts, ideas, people, places, or events.
So. How to use it?
Way back in the day, there was no access to digital primary sources. There weren’t any online archives. DocsTeach? Nope. Stanford History Education Group? Nope. Library of Congress? Nada.
W all made due with whatever supplementary materials showed up with our textbooks and the assorted primary source Jackdaw kits that were able to track down. But here’s the thing . . . even if I had somehow gotten access to actual digital primary source documents back in the day, I’m not sure what I would have done with them. Like most social studies teachers at the time (and more than just a few today), I really didn’t have a clue of how to use primary sources as part of the learning process.
Even worse, I wasn’t really sure why I should be using this sort of evidence. What was the point? I mean . . . every kid had a textbook. I had a teacher’s version of the textbook. I could lecture. They could copy down my notes. What else did we need?
But with the help of some amazing mentors, I began moving more towards the idea that kids need to be active users of evidence while solving problems. And there is now a clear shift in social studies and history instruction towards this idea of historical thinking, using evidence, and problem solving. More and more teachers are using primary sources as integral pieces of the learning process.
I’ve been spending a ton of time the last few months working with groups around the state, helping facilitate conversations around the upcoming social studies state assessment. One of the questions I get a lot revolves around the issue of helping kids organize and make sense of foundational knowledge while at the same time working on critical thinking skills.
One of my favorite strategies for helping kids make sense of basic content is a simple but powerful summarizing strategy called Somebody Wanted But So.
Summarizing is a skill that I think we sometimes take for granted. We ask our kids to read or watch something and expect them to just be able to remember the content and apply it later during other learning activities. We can easily get caught up in the Curse of Knowledge, assuming that because we know how to summarize and organize information, everyone does too.
But our students often need scaffolding tools to help them see the difference between summarizing and retelling. For many of our students, they are one and the same. Word for word is summarizing and they end up writing way too much.
Or they don’t write enough. Or fail to capture the most important ideas. Or just get frustrated and give up.
Being able to create and organize content is a critical higher order thinking skill that and one of the best things we can do is model for our kids what it can look like. Somebody Wanted But So is a great scaffolding tool that we can use as a model and then hand over to them for individual use.
I still remember how great that day was. I had rocked it in all five sections of my 8th US history class. I spent 55 awesome minutes each period highlighting the causes of the American Revolution. And. I. Killed. It. The kids clearly couldn’t get enough. They were so busy copying down all of the notes I had provided for them that they didn’t have time to ask any questions.
The French and Indian War. Proclamation of 1763. Stamp Act. Some other Act. Maybe two, not positive cause I was on a roll. Something, I think, about the Boston Tea Party. Pretty sure there was something about Crispus Attucks and that guy who kept yelling about liberty or death. Seriously. This lecture was on fire. And I left the building that day convinced that my kids walked out smarter than when they walked in.
Except . . .
they probably weren’t smarter. Maybe better copy downers. Better taker noters. And for sure a whole lot better at not interrupting the teacher when he was talking.
But smarter? Nope.
How do I know? The research says so.
I am a huge fan of Google Jamboard. There are so many cool ways we can use a digital whiteboard software like Jamboard to engage kids in solving problems, for messing around with primary sources, and to capture student thinking.
But I was reminded recently by a middle school teacher that not every classroom has access to digital devices or Google tools. And he shared some great ideas of how he uses the old fashioned dry erase whiteboards – you know, the kind you use markers with and old rags to wipe clean – to do some pretty cool stuff too. So I started asking around and there apparently are a lot of you who love using the old fashioned dry erase whiteboards. There are also apparently a lot of ways to use those whiteboards in a social studies classroom.
So today you get five super simple but powerful activities that all work to encourage critical thinking, gather new information, or activate prior knowledge. And the cool thing is that while they work great with traditional dry erase boards, they can quickly be adapted to those new fangled internet-based whiteboards as well.
First things first.
I’m not sure who decided to discontinue the amazing Expeditions app and the equally amazing Tour Creator tool. But, excuse my French, what the heck random Google decision maker person?
Some of your past decisions to end things made sense. (I’m looking at you Google+) But you seem to make a habit of creating some cool stuff and then kill it not soon after. (I’m looking at you Google URL Shortener.)
Expeditions and Tour Creator? Super cool stuff. I never met any teacher who couldn’t find a way to use these tools – especially when incorporating the associated Cardboard 3D viewer headsets. And now they’re gone because why?
Google threw Jennifer Holland, Google’s director of education program management, under the bus. “We’ve heard and recognize that immersive experiences with VR headsets are not always accessible to all learners,” she said. Thanks Jennifer . . . and now immersive experiences aren’t available for *any* learners. Hmmm.
Okay. Rant over. I’m better now.
But now what? What can you do with that big box of 30 Cardboard headsets? Are there similar 3D VR things available and how can you can access them? Well . . . yes, there are some options out there.