It really is a noble goal.
I start each June with the idea of working my way through 4-6 books before September that can help me grow professionally and personally. It’s a habit that started way back during my middle school teaching days and it makes a lot of sense – focus intentionally on finding ways to improve my content knowledge and teaching chops.
Of course, it never really happens. I set aside a pile of books – both print and digital – with the best of intentions. But . . . something always sidetracks me from my original list. One year, I got sucked away into a Civil War blackhole. Some years, it’s just that I was too ambitious with my list. Other times, my list turned out to be less than interesting than I thought they would be and I moved onto other titles.
This year? Pretty much the same result – I went four for seven. The theme this summer, of course, was politics and presidential elections. I did actually get through: Read more
Three years ago, Mary J. Johnson, an educational consultant to the Library of Congress, created a two part article on the Teaching with the Library of Congress blog highlighting primary source integration strategies. The first post of the two-part series offered ten suggestions for filling your room with engaging primary sources. I’ve adapted her second post highlighting ways that primary sources promote systematic critical thinking and posted it below. These are starting points for you to adapt for your own grade level and content area.
The point? That the Library of Congress needs to be one of your go-tos, must use, constant companion tool of choice.
(And when you’re done here, be sure to head over and bookmark the excellent LOC blog Teaching with the Library of Congress.) Read more
Three years ago, Mary J. Johnson, an educational consultant to the Library of Congress, created a two part article on the Teaching with the Library of Congress blog highlighting primary source integration strategies. I’ve adapted and posted Part One below.
As a teacher, you can saturate your classroom with primary sources from the Library of Congress to promote critical thinking and inquiry. Think of every surface, including computer screens, as potential display spaces for primary sources – photographs, cartoons, music, films, maps, historic newspapers, artifacts, and more. Add document analysis sheets and critical thinking prompts from the Library’s page for teachers, and you’ll have a constant source of primary source conversation starters at your fingertips.
But what are some specific strategies for introducing primary sources to students? Let’s start with these ten: Read more
If the Library of Congress Chronicling America: Historic American Newspapers website is not already part of your go-to primary sources toolkit, put your coffee down and bookmark it already. Chronicling America is a huge collection of digitized newspapers from around the United States published between 1836 and 1925. There are a variety of ways to search the database but no matter how you search, you get visual reproductions of complete newspaper pages that contain your search terms.
Say you want your students to compare and contrast contemporary accounts of the Battle of Gettysburg. Head over to the Chronicling America site, adjust the dates to limit the search to 1863, and type in your keywords of “battle gettysburg.” Over 800 results appear.
I will often filter the results by clicking the “Show only front pages” box and now I’m down to around 200. I also usually select the List view rather than the gallery view to start – I can scan more quickly through the list. (Though the gallery view does Read more
Last fall, the Library of Congress hosted its first online conference. Education experts and subject matter specialists presented 15 different sessions discussing resources and teaching strategies for using primary sources in the classroom.
And it was awesome. But I have to admit . . . I didn’t actually attend the thing. I didn’t have time during the actual day to sit through the different webinars. So I missed it.
But it was still awesome.
Because the LOC posted all of the webinars online. Meaning I could pick and choose, listening to the presentations when I had time. And I’ve slowly worked my way through them. The cool thing is that you as well. If you missed the conference or perhaps hadn’t even heard about the goodness that was the first ever LOC online conference, it’s not too late. Read more
Several years ago, at the 2013 NCSS conference in St, Louis, I had the opportunity to sit in a session by Mark Hofer and Kathy Swan. Mark teaches at the College of William and Mary, Kathy at the University of Kentucky. During their 2013 session, they suggested that student created documentaries are a great way to engage learners, align instruction to standards, and build foundational knowledge.
But they also admitted that using documentaries as teaching and learning tools can be difficult. They warned about serving a green pancake. Eating a green pancake will get someone’s attention but the pancake doesn’t taste any different or provide any more nutrition. It’s just green. But we can get very excited about it because, well . . . it’s green. So it must be really good. Technology can be like this.
It’s the shiny object idea I’ve talked about before. Technology, while important, is not necessary in every step of the documentary creation process. Make sure that kids are focused on the gathering of social studies content, on answering big ideas and rich questions, and on creating original solutions. Then you can begin to incorporate technology.
They also talked about the very practical problem of how much time it can take to use this sort of learning tool in the classroom.
Mark shared his idea of using Evidence-Based Arguments as a starting point. Every historical investigation needs to begin with a great question. Then they asked kids to do research and create videos. But what they got was disappointing. What they got was basically text with pictures, a script with a background. It wasn’t a story, it wasn’t engaging, and it often didn’t really answer the question. They begin to realize that they needed to learn more about how to create high-quality documentaries, how to use images and video to actually tell a story.
Mark and Kathy have continued to develop their ideas of integrating digital documentaries into instruction. And I recently learned about their latest project. Read more