As the social studies and history disciplines move more to a “doing” model that focuses on developing thinking skills, it becomes even more important to incorporate different sorts of evidence into instruction. But sometimes in the rush to use a variety of evidence, we can get too caught up in the “all primary sources, all the time” school of thought.
Yes. We need to use primary sources as part of the process. But we don’t always think it through completely. We add primary sources without any conversation about how or why we should. How many primary sources? Which ones? Why not these? How do we balance perspectives? Should we balance perspective? Should we modify the documents? Why and how should we modify them?
In the October History Matters newsletter from the NCHE, Lee Eysturlid does a nice job of addressing these sorts of questions in his article title The Top 10 Considerations When Using Primary Sources with Grades 8-12.
I’ve summarized his ideas here but you need to head over there to get the full effect. 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
Need some free PD on using primary sources? Need some awesome PD on using primary sources? Want to get smarter? Be a better teacher?
Then you need to join the first Library of Congress online conference for educators on October 27-28 from 4-8 ET. You can pick and choose when you attend and what specifically looking to learn. Titled The Library of Congress and Teachers Unlocking the Power of Primary Sources, the conference has some incredible speakers and sessions. So pick and choose your favorites from below and be prepared to learn a ton.
The keynote speaker will be the distinguished photographer Carol Highsmith, who will discuss her decades-long project of documenting the United States in a one-hour conversation with Helena Zinkham, chief of the Library’s Prints and Photographs Division.
Over the course of those two days, there will be 15 one-hour sessions facilitated by Library specialists, instructional experts from the Library’s Teaching with Primary Sources Consortium, and other recognized K-12 leaders. Highlights include: Read more
October 30, 2015
You might find this YouTube video useful as you and your kids conduct your interviews. Steve Inskeep, host of NPR’s Morning Edition, provides some specific interviewing tips. It’s a great resource!
I’ve been on the road quite a bit over the last few months and staying alert during long car rides was becoming a problem. Enter the technology. Both my kids suggested I check out the NPR RadioLab podcast, an incredibly interesting collection of incredibly eclectic topics. I listened to stories about the history of football with a focus on the Indian school in Carlisle PA to using forest fires as a way of increasing bird populations to POW camps holding captured Germans in the US to how Mel Blanc was brought out of a coma by an impression of Bugs Bunny.
Seriously. RadioLab is awesome stuff.
But that got me looking around for other things to listen to. Which led my to another excellent NPR audio program called StoryCorps. Read more