Back when my youngest was in fourth grade, I asked her to preview the very cool You Are the Historian website. It’s an interactive tool that asks elementary kids to use historical thinking skills while addressing the site’s guiding question: What really happened at the first Thanksgiving?
The site led her through primary sources, to video clips of colonial historians, and to the exploration of different artifacts. After she was finished, I asked her what she learned by “playing” the game:
The past is what really happened. History is what we say happened.
I couldn’t have been prouder. That’s exactly what I hoped to hear. (And good job, BTW, You Are the Historian creators.)
History is our interpretation of evidence.
We have a problem. We look at evidence. And we figure it out. But I’m not always sure that we’re teaching our kids how to do that very well. Part of the problem is bias. We don’t always make it clear enough that everything we have our kids use to solve the problems we give them is biased.
And just as there is no such thing as unbiased primary evidence, there is no such thing as unbiased secondary evidence. All news, photos, media sites, books – it’s all biased.
Need a few examples? Read more
I’m spending the day at the KSDE Impact Institute – loving the learning and connecting with teachers from around the state. This afternoon has been spent nerding out with Kim Wahaus, awesome Olathe South HS government teacher. We talked about a ton of stuff but my walkaway?
That as social studies teachers, we need to be deliberate about connecting our social studies content and process with the lives of our students.
Nothing new for most of you, I know. But it was a good reminder of how important this idea really is.
Real world connections are used to help students see that learning is not confined to the school, allows them to apply knowledge and skills in real world situations, and personalizes learning to increase and sustain student engagement.
Kim shared some ideas of what that sort of conversation might look like. She started by showing a New York Times Learning Network clip highlighting the timeline of the recent Orlando shooting. Ask kids to use this clip and article to collect basic information.
Five W’s and H – who, what, where, when, why, and how.
Then she suggests showing a clip from the TV show Read more
I’m not necessarily fond of politicians but I do love the political process. I love elections and all of the conversations that come with them. The commentary. The analysis. It’s like March Madness bracketology and the NFL playoffs all rolled into one. For a political science nerd like me, a brokered Republican convention? Yes, please.
But even for me, some of what’s taking place during this year’s election season is a bit much. Seriously? Hand size?
So a couple of tips to help you and your students survive the next eight months: Read more
Next week, I’ll be spending time with a group of teachers as we discuss ways to support reading and writing in the social studies. Specifically, strategies for creating formative feedback opportunities that support argumentative and persuasive writing.
And what better way than by using contemporary issues tied to historical events?
A middle school teacher might use the exodus of unemployed from Detroit between 2008 and 2015 as a way to talk about why families moved to the American West during the mid to late 1800s. A high school teacher might use the Nuremberg Laws in 1930s Germany to highlight current immigration conversations. Perhaps a teacher might use laws such as the Kansas Act of 1940 and the House Concurrent Resolution 108 of 1953 to guide student thinking into 21st century discussions on race in the US and around the world.
But it’s always nice to have a little help. So plan to check out these four sites that provide resources and ideas that can help you as you delve into contemporary issues. Read more
I’ve been on a current events kick lately. A recent newsletter from social studies guru Mike Hasley reminded me of another awesome news resource called Newseum. And apparently I’ve never really posted anything about Newseum here at History Tech.
Not sure how I’ve never gotten around to that. The Newseum is a very cool, actual museum located in Washington DC with a powerful online presence. Their mission is to “champion the five freedoms of the First Amendment through exhibits, public programs and education.” And I know that you’ve got one or two other museum choices in DC but if you’re in the area, the Newseum is a very fun place to spend some time. Last time I visited, they had an awesome exhibit highlighting Pulitzer Prize winner photographs and the stories behind them. Amazing.
But the cool thing is that even if you can’t make it across the country for an actual visit, the Newseum has a Read more
Need a place to connect past with present? Need writing prompts? Need hundreds of articles about current events in an easy to access place? Need articles with leveled reading? Need a searchable databases that filter by keyword, grade level, Common Core reading anchors, and articles with machine scored quizzes?
If your answer to even one of those questions is yes, then I’ve got a list of tools just for you. All of them are web-based tools that use current events and contemporary topics to engage kids and all provide the chance for you to to encourage the development of skills required by the ELA literacy standards for History / Government. While at the same aligning to state standards that ask us to connect the past with contemporary events.
So why should we worry about current events? The simple reason is that connecting past and present is good for student retention and encourages critical thinking skills. Not to mention our state standards are asking kids to connect past choices, rights, responsibilities, ideas, beliefs, and relationships to “contemporary events.”
So today you get a few online tools and some helpful strategies that focus on current events: Read more