Our current state standards have been around since 2013. Centered on five Big Ideas and a balance between content and process, the document is unlike previous standards documents. And after five years, most Kansas teachers are at least aware that we’re asking them and students to approach teaching and learning differently.
That we want students to have both foundational knowledge and historical / critical thinking skills. That social studies classrooms need to be more than drill and kill, lecture, worksheet, quiz on Friday. And that creating engaged, informed, and knowledgable citizens requires more than rote memorization and low level thinking.
While our standards look and feel differently than most other state level documents, teachers across the country – like their colleagues here in Kansas – are also being asked to concentrate on training kids to do social studies. Sam Wineburg is a household name. The teaching of historical thinking skills such as Sourcing, Contextualizing, and Corroborating is becoming commonplace. Bruce Lesh and his History Labs are being duplicated by teachers in all sorts of classrooms. The National Council for the Social Studies has also been a huge part of this pendulum shift with its College, Career, and Civic Life (C3) standards.
Good things are happening.
But . . .
Yup. There’s always a but.
During every standards training I do, every historical thinking conversation I have with teachers, there’s always a but. Read more
I know that many of you are just trying to survive the next few weeks so something short and sweet. Browse through this quick list of lessons and activities that might make your life a little easier:
Good luck and have fun!
If you haven’t been over to the Barat Education Foundation and their Primary Sources Nexus site . . . well, you need to. Cause they’ve been doing awesome stuff since 2000 supporting education and social justice that empower teachers and students.
And now, thanks to a grant from the Library of Congress Teaching with Primary Sources program, BEF is focused on integrating civics across the curriculum. Collaborating with the Constitutional Rights Foundation and DePaul University, BEF created the Citizen U curriculum. These grades 3-12 inquiry-based lessons are designed to encourage and instill skills vital for civic literacy and success in the 21st century, including collaboration, communication, creativity, critical thinking, information literacy, problem-solving, leadership, and social responsibility.
They’re all aligned to standards, use primary sources from the Library of Congress, and are designed to develop and activate students’ civic knowledge, skills, and dispositions.
What they need is you. They’re looking for Read more
I’m in snowy and snowing Minnesota at its annual Council for the Social Studies conference. We’re sheltered inside the state History Center – what better place for a bunch of social studies teachers?
First session is right up my alley. Strengthening democracy by training kids to be better users of social media and online tools. Jennifer Bloom from the Learning Law and Democracy Foundation is helping us create socially responsible and informed citizens. The Foundation hosts the Teaching Civics website – a cool place with over 800 lesson plans. They also have some handy ed resources.
As we get better at training kids to be engaged and informed citizens, she says Read more
It’s February. Black History Month.
And I gotta be honest. I’m always a bit conflicted about the idea. The concept of a month specifically set aside for the study of Black History started back in 1926 when historian Carter G. Woodson and the Association for the Study of Negro Life and History announced the second week of February to be “Negro History Week.” That particular week was chosen because it marked the birthday of both Abraham Lincoln and Frederick Douglass.
In 1976, the federal government followed the lead of the Black United Students at Kent State and established the entire month of February as Black History Month. President Ford urged Americans, and especially teachers and schools, to “seize the opportunity to honor the too-often neglected accomplishments of black Americans in every area of endeavor throughout our history.”
The hope was that Black History Month would provide a very intentional time for all of us to remember together the struggles of African Americans to obtain the basic civil rights afforded to others, the challenges African Americans have faced for centuries, and the contributions of African Americans to who we are. But . . . the real hope was that the story of essential people, events, and places, routinely ignored, would be incorporated throughout the school year.
Recent movies such as Selma and Marshall and books such as Hidden Figures do a great job of creating a sense of a specific time period, of overt racism and violence, the need for supporting the right to vote, the courage of everyday individuals, and of the thought process behind events. The message of Black History Month remains – that the quest for equality and dignity in the United States was difficult and dangerous. And that the extraordinary work of ordinary folks such as John Lewis, Jimmie Lee Jackson, and Amelia Boynton Robinson still isn’t finished.
But I’m still a bit conflicted.
Jose Vilson, teacher and activist, Read more
January 27th marks the liberation of Auschwitz-Birkenau, the largest Nazi death camp. In 2005, the United Nations established International Holocaust Remembrance Day commemorating the tragedy of the Holocaust that occurred during the Second World War.
And while you may not be teaching a class that specifically focuses on the events of 1941-1945 and earlier persecution under the Nazi government, it does provide a chance to connect those events to similar genocides both past and present. And to other acts of discrimination and persecution happening around the world and in the United States.
By remembering the Holocaust, we can honor survivors and challenge ourselves to use the lessons of their experience to inform our lives today.
There are many resources available. You might start with these: Read more