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Posts tagged ‘literacy’

Fave Posts of 2019: “Somebody Wanted But So” makes your kids smarter

Most of you have probably settled deep into holiday break mode. Getting up a little bit later than normal. Watching football. Eating too much. Catching up on your reading. Trying to decide if The Mandalorian is worth your time. Enjoying family and friends. Not really thinking about the back to school schedule that cranks up in January.

But if you need a break from all of the free time, we’ve got you covered. Between now and the first week in January, you’ll get a chance to re-live five of the most popular History Tech posts from 2019. Enjoy the reruns!


I’ve been spending a ton of time this summer working with groups around the country, helping facilitate conversations around reading and writing in the social studies.

It’s always a good day when I get the chance to sit with social studies teachers, sharing ideas and best practice, talking about what works and what doesn’t. And the cool thing is that I always walk away smarter because teachers are super cool about sharing their favorite web site or tool or handy strategy.

This week was no different. I learned about 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.

A summary is higher order thinking 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.

The original version of SWBS is often used with fiction but it works just as well with nonfiction, primary sources, and textbooks. The process is pretty simple:

  • After students read about a historical event, lead a whole group discussion about who they think is the main person causing the events. This could be a person or a group. That person or group becomes the Somebody.
  • Then ask what that person wanted. What’s the goal or motivation? That becomes the Wanted.
  • Ask students what happened to keep the Somebody from achieving the Want – what’s the barrier or conflict? Write that in the But column.
  • Discuss the resolution or outcome of the situation and write that in the So column.

The strategy is great for:

  • seeing main ideas as well as specific details
  • making inferences
  • identifying cause and effect
  • making sense of multiple points of view
  • connecting differences and motivations of different people and characters

As your students get better at the process, they will be able to work in small groups, pairs, or individuals. The basic version of SWBS works really well at the elementary level. Especially if you have kids create a foldable out of it.

But you can ramp up expectations for middle or even high school kids by adding a T for Then and a Summary area. The Then column encourages kids to take the cause / effect idea even further by asking them to predict what might happen or to document further effects of the So column. (Make it even more complex by adding a second B column titled Because after the Wanted.)

The Summary section can be included to support narrative or argumentative writing skills and could also be used to respond to a specific writing prompt that you provide.

You can also add extra rows to the chart, adding additional people or groups. You could then put your own content into that column, forcing students to see different perspectives. The summary portion could then ask students to make connections between the different groups.

This could easily be done using Google Docs and Google Classroom to provide simple paperless access and sharing. Using Google Docs or other word processing tools would allow your kids to color code their charts – highlighting pieces of text as the same colors as the elements in their SWBS charts.

Students could also record a video using a tool such as Adobe Spark video to generate a visual version of their final product.

The cool thing is SWBS strategy can be adapted so that it fits your content and kids. Make it work for you. Your kids will walk out smarter than when they walked in.

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Glenn is a curriculum and tech integration specialist, speaker, and blogger with a passion for technology and social studies. He delivers engaging professional learning across the country with a focus on consulting, presentations, and keynotes. Find out more about Glenn and how you might learn together by going to his Work with Me page.

Fave posts of 2019: Memes. Fun waste of time or incredible literacy integration tool?

Most of you have probably settled deep into holiday break mode. Getting up a little bit later than normal. Watching football. Eating too much. Catching up on your reading. Trying to decide if The Mandalorian is worth your time. Enjoying family and friends. Not really thinking about the back to school schedule that cranks up in January.

But if you need a break from all of the free time, we’ve got you covered. Between now and the first week in January, you’ll get a chance to re-live five of the most popular History Tech posts from 2019. Enjoy the reruns!


We all love a good meme. Visual. Easy to understand. And just the right amount of snark.

But can we use them as part of our instructional designs? Or are they just a questionable way to spend way too much time online? Ask me that question five years ago and I probably would have said waste of time. Fun, sure. But a waste of time.

And now? Read more

Emojis. Cause they’re good for kids and fun to use. What’s not to like?

I always walk away smarter after spending time with classroom teachers. Wednesday was no exception. I got the chance to work with about 35 K-5 teachers and spent the day focused on the Inquiry Design Model – tweaking previous IDMs and developing new ones for next semester. And in addition to finding out about some new ways to integrate primary sources, a teacher shared this little gem:

“Never wear white when teaching Kindergarten.”

 If you teach K-3, you already knew this. But for secondary folks like me? Good tip.

I’m not sure that there is any sort of measurement tool able to document the level of respect I have for elementary teachers. But that’s it, right there in a nutshell. Teaching five year olds is hard enough, what with all the reading, writing, arithmetic, social emotional, classroom management stuff. But now I find out that my wardrobe choices are also impacted. (And you really don’t want to hear the reasons why white is a bad choice. Trust me. Seriously . . .  just walk away.)

Once we got past the never wear white idea, we had the chance to jump into our work on their IDMs. Including some conversation about effective teaching strategies and activities. One of my fave conversations centered on the idea of using emojis as a way to help kids make sense of social studies and incorporating them as part of a quality lesson that can help improve student thinking and literacy skills.

And yes, I can hear you. You’re saying that integrating little graphic images used by millions of Instagram tweeners instead of more traditional tools is no way to teach historical thinking and literacy. But I’m convinced that these little graphic images have tremendous potential to help kids makes sense of evidence, increase literacy skills, and demonstrate learning.

We started our day on Wednesday introducing the idea by using a fun web tool called Emoji Scavenger Hunt. We got into groups and raced around the building, collecting actual objects that matched emojis provided by the game. It was a great way to kickstart the conversation.

You can get an idea of the emoji potential by taking a look at Read more

ESSDACK PLC meets Russel Tarr & ClassTools. Everyone gets smarter.

We had just spent an hour or so using Russel Tarr’s simple but powerful Breaking News Generator. I wanted to talk a bit about online civic literacy and combating fake news. So I had asked our ESSDACK social studies PLC that had gotten together to use Russel’s tool to create two different stories – a factual Breaking News story and one that was biased or fake.

And, of course, the group came through in typical fashion.

The activity led to a great conversation around effective tools and resources that teachers and students can use while accessing and organizing online information. But it also led to another discussion about all of the tools available at Russel’s awesome ClassTools.net site.

Most of the group hadn’t heard of or used ClassTools.net before. So we explored some other tools including Headline Generator:

Read more

Hot chocolate. The Columbian Exchange. And pirates.

She says that it’s been both a blessing and a curse.

My daughter is in Washington DC waiting to start an internship at the Smithsonian Museum of American History. The position was scheduled to begin on January 14. But . . . mmm, yeah. She’s had a couple of weeks of free time due to the inability of grownups to get along and do important things such as paying people and funding the government. And like 100s of thousands of others, she’s looking forward to getting in to work over the next few days.

The silver lining, of course, is that she’s had a few days to act like a tourist – touring monuments, exploring great little eateries, and visiting museums that have remained open. One of her new faves is the Folger Shakespeare Library. And to be honest, it’s a site I haven’t spent a ton of time exploring until she started texting photos and links to it.

One of the most interesting images for me as a history nerd? Read more

History Nerdfest 2018: Encouraging Historical Thinking Through Picture Books

It ranks right up there with the Holiday season, KC Chiefs football, and the first weekend of the college basketball tournament. It’s National Council for the Social Studies conference week. I’m lucky enough to get front row seats and am trying to live blog my way through it.

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I’ve always been a fan of Dr. Dan Krutka. While in the Kansas area and now at the University of North Texas, Dan has always been a huge supporter of social studies and integrating tech. And the cool thing is he’s here at #ncss18 talking about how to use picture books to support elementary social studies best practices. Even better? My new friend Dr. Michelle Bauml from Texas Christian University is here as co-presenter.

I’m smarter just being in the same room.

They start with the basics. Why should we be using picture books to help teach social studies?

  • emphasis on math and reading so very little for social studies specific instruction
  • textbooks are old and boring
  • need for teaching introducing historical thinking to kids
  • lots of children’s lit already being used as teaching tools

We moved on to a brand new site for me called the Historical Thinking Project. Created by the Canadian government, the project highlight six historical thinking concepts and a ton of resources. The concepts are especially useful because we can use them to help develop essential questions around the content in picture books.

  • Establish historical significance
  • Use primary source evidence
  • Identify continuity and change
  • Analyze cause and consequence
  • Take historical perspectives, and
  • Understand the ethical dimension of historical interpretations.

Dan and Michelle simple steps to designing a lesson using the concepts and book content: Read more