I’ve been on a serious Nathaniel Philbrick kick over the last few months and just finished Mayflower: Voyage, Community, War. It’s an incredibly interesting and detailed exploration of the interactions between the Indigenous nations of what we now call New England and English Pilgrims and Puritans during the 1600s.
Schoolhouse Rock left out some stuff. Seriously. A lot of stuff.
One issue that Philbrick was very open about reminded me of a conversation I had with a group of upper elementary teachers several years ago. I had asked them to read an article titled How Do We Teach With Primary Sources When So Many Voices Are Missing? Published by Education Week, the article highlights the difficulty in telling a complete story when Indigenous voices are hard to find, the same issue that Philbrick struggled with.
Bottom line? We need to train both ourselves and our students to look beyond what the easy to find sources are telling us. (I’m looking at you, Schoolhouse Rock. And our textbooks. And a lot of contemporary trade books.) It’s what Sam Wineburg once called “reading the silences.” We need to be more intentional about finding and using sources that fill in those silences, than let kids listen to the stories that are often untold and left out.
Finding these missing voices is important for a lot of reasons. But one particular quote in the EdWeek article stood out for me:
That can’t be right, can it? A musical about the founding of America that’s better than that tired, old Hamilton thing? I mean, we’re talking about a musical that was Hamilton before there was a Hamilton. Before there was even a Lin-Manuel Miranda.
So I’m guessing it’s a musical that many of you haven’t heard about. I had the chance to see a performance of it back in the day – like, seriously back in the day – at the amazing Wichita Musical Theater. And, of course, then I had to go and find the movie based on the Broadway version.
Cause we know how powerful poetry and music and emotion and pop culture and all the things that make Hamilton so awesome can be to encourage student connections to historical content. So why not go back a bit to the original Founding Fathers musical that ruffled a few feathers of its own?
We had a good run. Over eleven years.
And I’m trying to keep my chin up but . . . you know, it’s hard. Accepting the fact that we’ll never be together again can be rough.
You know what I’m talking about. The day you finally realize that awesome pair of jeans is just isn’t as awesome anymore. Maybe it’s that sweet hoodie you got at the merch table during a concert weekend back in college. Or maybe it’s your favorite, most comfortable tee shirt.
That’s me this morning. Back in the day, I got in the habit of grabbing a tee shirt from each of the campus visits my kids would make during their college searches. This particular shirt has been a favorite since I traveled with my first kid to Seattle 11 years ago. It fit perfectly. It was comfortable. Over the years, it slowly broke into perfection. It’s been the go-to shirt for years. But at this point, even I have to admit perhaps it’s just a little too broken in.
Eventually our favorite stuff wears out and we have to move on. It’s hard but we do it cause, well . . . cause the stuff just doesn’t work anymore.
And if you’ve gotten this for, you’ve got to be asking yourself.
Seattle Pacific tee shirt? Seriously?
Here’s the point.
I’m spending the next several days with some amazing teachers. We’re all part of the Kansas Department of Education’s work on tweaking and revising the rubric used for scoring the state mandated social studies assessment.
We’ve chatted before about the state standards and the very cool state assessment. But in a nutshell? The standards focus on discipline specific skills and process rather than just rote memorization of facts. The state assessment, which the department calls a Classroom-Based Assessment, allows local districts and classroom teachers to design their own inquiry based assessment activity specific to their students and content.
These locally designed assessments are scored with a generic rubric created by KSDE and a select group of teachers. After a year of field testing, we’re coming back together to fix some issues with the rubric that teachers have noticed.
As part of that process, we’ve had the opportunity to look at a wide variety of student created products that address the tasks outlined in the CBAs developed by teachers. And we’ve noticed a few things about these tasks.
The goal of the CBA is simple. Measure how well students can make claims and support those claims using evidence and reasoning. And, well . . . this requires the use of evidence, specifically the use of primary sources. What have we noticed? Not all of the CBA tasks are . . . hmm, high quality. So it’s difficult to determine, using the rubric, whether kids can actually make claims using evidence because the task is poorly designed. A lot of the design issues involve the integration of primary sources.
We figured this would happen and that ongoing professional development would be needed along the way. Teachers across the state (and across the country) are still wrapping their heads around what inquiry-based instruction and assessment can look like. So, in addition to tweaking the rubric, we’ve also started thinking about and planning for next year’s professional learning opportunities around the design of not just the CBA but the integration of evidence in instructional activities.
Part of that planning is providing teachers with primary sources and how to integrate them into a inquiry-based activity. So . . . today? Five hacks for using primary sources as part of your everyday activities. Read more
Current events have always been something that we as social studies teachers are acutely aware of. There are so many ways that we’re able to use them to connect past with present. But the last few weeks have been difficult. Ukrainian people are suffering. And it doesn’t seem like that will be ending anytime soon.
What’s the best way to integrate the events in Ukraine into our classrooms?
We all love Mister Rogers. Something he said once seems to fit here:
“Anything that’s human is mentionable, and anything that is mentionable can be more manageable. When we can talk about our feelings, they become less overwhelming, less upsetting and less scary.”
The more we talk, the manageable things become. Browse through this short list of resources that can help. And while the list is separated by grade level, don’t be afraid to cross-pollinate between the two.
As a founding member of the National Women’s History Project, Mary Ruthsdotter knows the importance of teaching kids about the accomplishments of women.
“As a youngster, I thought I had drawn the short straw being born female. None of the stories I was told of adults actively and effectively engaged in the world had to do with women. How startling it was to learn (after college!) that women have played important roles in every aspect of American life – establishing homes for family life, fighting and spying during every war, establishing social service networks, and dramatically influencing laws and attitudes.”
Students who don’t learn the facts can develop the wrong idea about what women have accomplished.
“If women’s contributions and accomplishments are not mentioned, the omission is not even noticed, but a subtle lesson is learned just as certainly: Women haven’t done anything important. Knowing that teachers cannot pass along what they themselves have not been taught, the NWHP aims to make excellent, user-friendly materials readily available for all areas of the K-12 curriculum. Language arts, social studies, creative arts, the sciences – women have been active in all these areas, and the stories of their accomplishments are fascinating.”
Yes and yes.
But I’m conflicted about the whole Women’s History Month thing – a lot like my hesitation around the idea of a separate Black History Month. Too many of us still use February and March to have kids memorize random Black history and women’s history facts and call it good. (We also seem to have a habit of doing the same thing with Latino history and Asian American history and Native American history and . . . well, you get the idea.)
I’m conflicted because I know many of you may be looking for great Women’s History month resources. And I have a list. But part of me is afraid that it will only get used between now and the end of the month.
So here’s the deal.