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
It’s coming. If you haven’t been paying attention and don’t know what I’m talking about, chat for a few minutes with some of your students. I’m guessing that they can help you out.
Yup. That’s right. The last half of Mockingjay, the third and final Hunger Games movie opens November 20. It’s guaranteed to set records for ticket sales after it opens.
Cause people love the book. Seriously love the book.
I became very aware of the power that Katniss and other Hunger Games characters have on people when my daughter and wife started reading the series several years ago. And the more I talked with them and as they shared more about the story, I began to realize the possibilities for integrating that story into social studies instruction.
Way back in September 2010, I wrote
I’ve heard from some that this sort of thing is too much like “entertaining” students. That we shouldn’t have to use pop culture to teach social studies. I disagree. I will use pretty much whatever it takes to engage kids in content. And if the relationship between Katniss, Peeta and Gale hooks students into a better understanding of civic and geographic concepts, we ought to be all over it.
I still believe that. The Hunger Games series gives us a wonderful hook for teasing out some amazing social studies themes and topics: Read more
As we continue to talk about ways to integrate literacy skills and social studies content, I often get the chance to chat with elementary teachers about the process. It’s always an interesting conversation and always seems to include some sort of comment that questions the ability of grade school students to think historically.
It’s not that K-5 teachers think historical thinking can’t happen. They’re just not sure what it can look like. So if you have questions or know someone who might have questions about what historical thinking looks like at the grade school level, we’ve got you covered.
(And you secondary folks? Don’t be afraid to browse through the list. There’s a lot of crossover.)
I admit it. I’m a little biased. Both my kids have a strong sense of art, of being able to create visually appealing pieces. (The Rowdie effort to the left is not one of their best efforts, though it does accurately convey the family pet personality.) We constantly had crayons, painting supplies, easels, and all sorts of other artsy things in use around the house. So I’ve always been keen to the idea of integrating visual arts and images into social studies instruction.
And I think we often forget how powerful the arts can be in connecting our kids with social studies content and big ideas. Art, in all of its forms, is a great way to create emotion, generate connections, and build relationships. When we fail to intentionally integrate the visual arts, music, sculpture, dance, and theater, we do our kids a disservice.
One of the quickest ways to incorporate the arts is to focus on the visual – paintings, drawings, and images. But what can that look like? Read more
I always enjoy spending time at the Brown v. Board National Historic Site in Topeka, Kansas. Based in the former Monroe Elementary building, the site honors the people and ideas that culminated in the 1954 landmark case declaring state laws establishing separate public schools for black and white students to be unconstitutional.
It’s a history place. And, you know, I like history. So what’s not to like? Brave parents. Courageous students. Hard working lawyers. Landmark court decision. Good vs. evil. It’s a very moving experience.
The side benefit? Great staff. I worked this morning with Thom Rosenblum – site Historian, Nick Murray – Education Specialist, and Linda Rosenblum – National Teacher Ranger Teacher Coordinator as we discussed future teacher training possibilities.
But the conversation and the location got me thinking. Do classroom teachers really know what goes on at the National Park Service? We’re always looking for resources and lesson plans and materials and ideas and field trips and outside experts. Do classroom teachers know that the NPS has all of that stuff?
If they don’t, they really need to head over to their nearest national park or historic site and check out what’s available in their own back yard. Cause there’s tons of sites with tons of stuff. Read more