Skip to content

Posts tagged ‘PBL’

Clark Griswold would have loved Google My Maps. So will your kids

I spent the morning at Slate Creek Elementary in Newton, observing just a few of the cool things going on there. Lots of PBL. Lots of inquiry. Lots of great student questions.

And one of my favorite hook activities ever.

Tenae Alfaro, Slate Creek principal, is planning a summer trip and so she asked fourth grade kids to do some in-depth research and plan a trip for her. Now . . . I’m not sure she’s actually going go take the trip kids come up with. But what a cool essential and authentic question to ask nine year olds.:

Where should I go on my summer vacation?

So there’s a crowd of fourth grade kids over in Newton doing research on states and monuments and museums and all the kinds of things you might typically do on a cross-country family trip. And one of the tools that would be ideal as part of that final product is Google My Maps.

I’m still surprised by the number of teachers who aren’t aware of this piece of Google’s G Suite. If you’re still not sure what it is, think Google Docs in map form. My Maps supports collaborative editing and sharing, it’s easy to use, and it integrates with all the other G Suite apps. It’s a great tool for helping kids see connections between events, people, and place.

And for the kids over at Slate Creek (or your students,) it’s a perfect way to create rich, deep, and multi-layered visual representations of trips. So use it for planning a principal’s summer trip, as a Google Lit Trip that highlights events and travel in fictional stories, or to chronicle actual trips and events such as Lewis & Clarks Corps of Discovery.

What are some other reasons why I love My Maps so much?

Read more

History is a bunch of grass. And we need to let our kids play on it.

Bob Edens had been blind since birth. Fifty-one years of darkness, sounds, smells, and touch followed. But after a remarkable laser surgery, Bob can now see. For 51 years, Bob had imagined what things looked like based mainly on the descriptions of others and what he could feel.

I never would have dreamed that yellow is so . . . yellow. But red is my favorite color. I just can’t believe red.

He’s now seeing for himself what he had only imagined.

Grass is something I had to get used to. I always thought it was just fuzz.  But to see each individual green stalk . . . it’s like starting a whole new life.  It’s the most amazing thing in the world to see things you never thought you’d see.

Sometimes I think we do this with kids. We tell them about history and have them read about history but we never let them experience history. They never get to actually “see” the individual people and events and details – students rely on us to describe those things for them. We can forget that history is supposed to be a verb, not a noun – especially at this time of the school year when we’re trying to make sure to “cover” everything.

So . . . how can we help our kids see history? Read more

5 ways to make history “fun”

It was several years ago that I first heard Sam Wineburg. He was speaking at a combined Kansas / Missouri Council for History Education conference almost six years ago. I had read his stuff, agreeing with his ideas about how we needed to re-think our approach to teaching history.

And his presentation didn’t disappoint.

I’ve been in love ever since.

Much of our work on the recently approved Kansas state standards revolved around the sorts of things that Wineburg is pushing and the websites he’s created – thinking historically, using evidence, communicating solutions. But something he said back in 2008 has stuck with me:

 I don’t think that a history class should be about things such as History Alive or about making cute posters, or about making history “engaging.” It’s about getting students to thinking rigorously about the evidence. Fun is okay, but I would rather have them hate the class and come out of the class having the skills needed to be good citizens than having them enjoy themselves.

I used to do a lot of “project-based” learning back in the day. It was fun and kids were engaged but I know now that not much high-level thinking was going on. You know the kinds of stuff I’m talking about – three fold brochures highlighting Civil War battles, oral presentations that required historical costumes, and lots of coloring.

Nothing wrong with fun projects . . . unless kids can do all of it without actually doing some sort of historical thinking.

But I recently ran across a cool article that reminded me that it is possible to teach high-quality social studies while still having fun. Written by Tim Grove, Chief of Museum Learning at the Smithsonian National Air and Space Museum in Washington, D.C. and author of A Grizzly in the Mail and Other Adventures in American History, suggests five concepts that we should incorporate into our instructional designs.

Read more

History Detectives

I’ve been preaching the idea of history as mystery, of engaging questions for kids, of problem-based learning for a while now. Which makes it a bit weird that I haven’t heard of the PBS History Detectives series before now.

I guess I need to move out of the ESPN football channel range a bit more down to where PBS lives. (But in my defense, the KC Chiefs are leading their division so . . . )

But I am falling in love with the TV show and their very extensive website.

The show is devoted to exploring the complexities of historical mysteries, searching out the facts, myths and conundrums that connect local folklore, family legends and interesting objects.

Traditional investigative techniques, modern technologies, and plenty of legwork are the tools the History Detectives team of experts uses to give new – and sometimes shocking – insights into our national history.

Each hour-long episode of History Detectives features three investigations that delve into family legends, local folklore and stories behind potentially extraordinary objects in everyday American homes, cities and small towns. Follow the twists and turns of each investigation and find out more about the historical events that shaped America.

The viewer is included in each aspect of the detectives’ decision-making process, with explanations and rationales for each evaluative method. The viewers themselves get the chance to become armchair experts as the detectives describe in detail the purpose and method for each test.

Explore all the video, including full episodes and web exclusives, behind the scenes videos and tutorials on how to conduct your own investigations such as dating a house or spotting a fake artifact. So you don’t have record or DVR stuff to share with your kids.

If you need more help with your own investigations, visit Detective Techniques, with guides on how to research a WWII military record and more information on art and photo evaluation. You can also find a step-by-step guide to genealogy, researching buildings, document evaluation and much more.

The site also provides resources for use in the classroom. For Educators includes lesson plans and other tools to reinforce concepts from the programs, and develop student interest in the study of history and other core subjects.

History Detectives is a great way to engage kids in content at the same time as creating great questions for them to solve.

SocialTwist Tell-a-Friend