Just finished a great two days with Rich Cairn from the Collaborative for Educational Services. Together with a small group of middle and high school teachers, we spent the time working to figure out effective ways to engage English Language Learners with social studies inquiry methods. Rich is in charge of Emerging America, a Library of Congress Teaching with Primary Sources project.
Part of what he does is to help teachers across Massachusetts – and now Kansas – use Library of Congress resources to make inquiry learning accessible to all learners. During our time together, we addressed a wide variety of topics – challenges faced by English Language Learners, challenges faced by teachers of EL students, ways to use graphic organizers to support language acquisition, using the LOC website, researching the history of immigration policies and court cases, and generally have an awesome time.
A small part of our conversation focused on the use of essential and compelling questions. Here in Kansas, we’ve been pushing compelling questions for a while. They play an important part in our current standards and are the key to a great inquiry-based lesson.
Question. Evidence. Solution. Communicate the solution. It all starts with a great problem to solve.
And during our conversation Rich shared a sweet definition of what a great historical inquiry-based question should look like in that process. He was happy to share it.
So . . . if you’re looking for a list of characteristics of what a compelling / essential / overarching / inquiry-based question should look like, here ya go: 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
Primary sources are the raw materials of history — original documents and objects which were created at the time under study. They are different from secondary sources, accounts or interpretations of events created by someone without firsthand experience.
Examining primary sources gives students a powerful sense of history and the complexity of the past. Helping students analyze primary sources can also guide them toward higher-order thinking and better critical thinking and analysis skills.
But maybe you’re not sure what to do with them or how to use them in your classroom.
The Library of Congress Teaching with Primary Sources program provides primary source-based, independent study professional learning. Earn a certificate of completion by taking the Library’s self-paced interactive modules. Each multimedia-rich program delivers approximately one hour of staff development.
Head over to get the full details or click a link below to jump in with both feet: Read more