I spent some some last week with a group sharing strategies around the blended learning concept. It was compelling conversation, I walked away smarter, and had the chance to meet some interesting people.
But one of my biggest walkaways was a strategy that the forum’s facilitator used to jumpstart the discussion.
He called it the Last Word. Others in the group used the term Final Word. No matter what it might be called, I thought it was a perfect fit for strengthen the speaking and listening skills of social studies students. So if you’ve used Last Word, post some comments on changes you’ve made or things you like about it.
New to Last Word? Read on, my friend. Read more
I seriously doubt that anyone will actually read this. It’s the final student contact day for many of you and am pretty sure the last thing you’re thinking about right now is my Tip of the Week.
But I’m going to push this out anyway cause . . . well, it’s my job.
I love the holidays. Turkey. Ham. Chocolate covered coffee beans. And Chex Mix. Lots and lots of Chex Mix. Friends. Family. Christmas lights. It’s all good.
But the best part of the holiday break, of course, is the actual break. The part where I save vacation days and spend the week between Christmas and New Year’s hanging out late and reading. It just seems as if other parts of the year get so busy that there is little time to sit and enjoy a book or two. So much like my summer reading list, I always have a Christmas reading list.
This year? Read more
It’s a Wiebe tradition.
The annual summer reading list.
For as long as I’ve been in education, I’ve had a summer reading list. Several of my early mentors suggested that the summer is a perfect time for personal professional learning. Develop a list of professional and fun books. Commit to reading them. Talk about the content with others. I eventually came around to the idea and learned to love it.
My wife, also an educator, started doing it. Later, we passed on the idea to our kids. The cool thing is that we’re all still committed to it. The best summer was the year my wife and I took a tech naked trip to the beach. Without the internet, there’s was nothing to do but sit in the sand and read. Awesome.
Of course, in all of the years that I’ve been doing it, I’ve never actually finished the original list. Schedules change. Books aren’t as good as I had hoped. It’s easy to get sidetracked. Work. Travel. Family stuff. But the idea is still a good one. It makes us better educators. And isn’t that part of the job?
So even though I’m pretty sure I won’t finish it, I still make the list. Cause one of these years, it’s gonna happen. All the books, all the way through. Really. I’m serious. This year for sure.
The 2015 Summer Reading List
With the coming of the Common Core Literacy Standards for History / Government, the NCSS national standards, and the adoption of new social studies standards in Kansas, I’ve seen a ton of classroom teachers get stressed out about the whole reading and writing thing.
I get it.
For a long time, classroom teachers were told that simple memorization of content was good enough. And now? Expectations have changed. It’s can just be lecture, quiz, worksheet, test anymore. We’re being asked to train kids to read, write, and communicate solutions.
And classroom teachers are freaking just a bit:
- My kids won’t ever be able to do this.
- I’m a government teacher, not a reading teacher.
- How are we supposed to grade this?
I get it. It’s new. It can be a bit intimidating.
We all can use a little help now and again. And if we could find some sort of free, online tool that scaffolds the writing process for our students, even better.
If only there were such a tool available, what a Merry Christmas this would be. If only. Read more
This morning, Deb Brown and I presented a workshop on different strategies elementary teachers can use in their classrooms.
We had a great time!
If you’re interested, we put all of the goodies in a Dropbox folder. You can get the Read more
When I sit back and think about the changes in social studies instruction and learning that have happened here in Kansas over the last few years, I’m always a wee bit amazed. Good teachers across the state have always asked kids to read and write and use evidence and think historically. But up until two or three years ago, the focus for many had been on simply having kids collect and memorize historical data.
The conversation is changing. Teachers and administrators are now talking more about the process of social studies rather than just the data. Teachers are looking at and using Sam Wineburg’s stuff over at SHEG. They’re using more literacy activities, more fiction and non-fiction, and generally having better discussions about what quality social studies looks like.
A huge hat tip to Don Gifford, social studies consultant at the Kansas Department of Education, for driving all of this forward. He put together a team of educators from across the state to rewrite the Kansas standards, facilitated the writing, and maneuvered the document through the hoops needed to get unanimous approval from the state board. He’s busy at the moment trying to create a state assessment that measures historical thinking while combining it with the ELA writing assessment. And, since this really hasn’t ever been done before, it’s an interesting and complicated process.
All of this to say that there is a lot of transformation happening here in the Sunflower state. And that’s a good thing. But change is never easy and so the struggle as been to find ways to ease people into the idea of teaching process AND content. To find resources and scaffolding to help teachers see what this sort of instruction and learning can look like in practice.
One of the powerful pieces of the state document is the Literacy Expectations and Best Practices section. It highlights those things that students and teachers should be doing in a high-quality classroom.
But what I often hear is that Read more