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Posts tagged ‘social studies’

Guest Post: Jill Weber and historical thinking bootcamp

Jill Weber gets it. She’s a middle school teacher honing her craft in Cheney, Kansas and she is rocking it.

Finding the balance between foundational content and process. Problems to solve. Evidence to analyze. No obvious answers. Academic discomfort. Groups to work in. Hands on. Physical movement. Obvious passion for the subject.

She’s one of those teachers that I would have wanted for my own kids to have when they were in middle school. And I’ve had the opportunity to work with her for almost six years.

She jumped in feet first to our second Teaching American History project back in 2010 and then transitioned into the ESSDACK social studies PLC. She was awarded the Kansas Council for the Social Studies 2016 secondary mini-grant and is the 2016 Gilder Lehrman Kansas History Teacher of the Year. And she shares a ton of her stuff on A View of the Web.

One of her recent posts caught my eye and asked if I could re-post it here. I love her idea of starting off the school year with a historical thinking bootcamp. She wants her middle schoolers to understand what they’re getting into and spends six days training her kids in the basics of thinking and reading like historians.

This is the sort of thing that I think all good social studies teachers are doing but I like that Jill has been very intentional about planning for this type of learning to happen. And while her focus is on middle school and Kansas / US history, this is stuff that all of us need to be doing.

So use what you can and adapt where needed but put these ideas into practice. Read more

Tip of the Week: Seven Social Studies Strategies for Back to School

Yup. It’s that time of year already. The annual Back to School Ideas in a Social Studies Classroom post. And I know some are already back in the classroom but most of you crank up this week or next.

So. Here ya go.

Use what you can. Adapt what you can’t. Add your own ideas in the comments.

What not to do

Before we get going with what we know works, it’s probably a good idea to think about what doesn’t. Read more

Teaching in the time of Trump

Several days ago, I wrote a quick post highlighting seven ways to survive a divisive election while making your students smarter. That post generated an interesting conversation – many teachers began asking similar kinds of questions. Specifically . . . how can we teach diversity and tolerance when much of the campaign rhetoric directly challenges these very American values while at the same time maintaining a neutral political stance?

A recent article in the National Council for the Social Studies journal Social Education can help us address this concern. Titled Teaching in the Time of Trump by Benjamin Justice and Jason Stanley, the NCSS article provides context, rationale, and specific suggestions for focusing on American democratic values and process.

The article is an incredibly useful teaching tool but it also provides a powerful reminder of our fundamental task. Head over to get the full text but I’ve pasted some snippets below to provide some flavor of what Justice and Stanley have to say.

Teaching in the time of Trump raises a fundamental pedagogical question: is it permissible for a teacher to adopt a non-neutral political stance in the classroom, either through explicitly addressing the problems with Trump’s rhetoric or, conversely, by remaining silent in the face of it? How can teachers balance the much cherished value of political impartiality (protecting the students’ freedom of expression and autonomous political development) against the much cherished American values threatened by Trumpish demagoguery?

Why should we even worry about this? Read more

Tip of the Week: Best 10 Social Studies Stuffs of 2015

Over the holiday break, it’s a yearly tradition in my family to watch the movies Elf, The Muppet Christmas Carol, and Home Alone. With hot cocoa. While yelling out our favorite lines of dialogue.

“Stuffs” is a bit like that.

It’s become a History Tech tradition. For the last few years, I’ve been listing my personal Top Ten Social Studies Stuffs of the Year.

Yeah. I know. Not an actual word. Though I happen to think it should be. Cause I use the word stuff a lot.

The idea started out with a desire to list my ten favorite books of the year but I quickly realized that there were a lot of other things – websites, apps, movies – that I really liked as well.

So . . . stuffs. The plural of stuff.

I suppose you can call them whatever you want. But here, in no particular order, are the top ten things that I found useful, interesting, or just fun this past year.

Feel free to add your own stuff in the comments. Read more

Social Studies Nerdfest 2015 Day One: Literacy, Technology, & the Inquiry Arc

In my world, there is the winter holiday season. The first weekend of the NCAA basketball tournament. Whenever my kids come home to visit. College football bowl season. The Fourth of July. Opening night of any James Bond movie.

You know. Those special times of the year when the day just isn’t long enough to fit in all the fun.

The cool thing? Today starts another of those annual periods that fit the category of best times of the year. Today is Day One of Social Studies Nerdfest 2015. Yup. Today starts four days of geeking out with thousands of other social studies people at the National Council for the Social Studies annual conference. This year, we’re hanging out downtown New Orleans.

Seriously. How cool is that? It really needs to be an official national holiday.

The actual NCSS conference kicks off tomorrow. Today I get Read more

What’s our job?

Next spring, the Kansas Department of Education will roll out a pilot version of the Social Studies State Assessment. The test is designed to measure how well classroom instruction is aligned to the one-year old state standards by focusing on document analysis and addressing a specific writing prompt. It will be interesting.

For quite some time, the Kansas state standards – like many across the country – focused on the collection and memorization of content. The test aligned to those standards was 60 multiple choice questions that measured the ability of a kid to memorize data. It’s not hard to figure out what happened next.

We know that tests drive instruction and so what happened over time in Kansas – like many states across the country – was that teachers focused on finding the best way to make sure that students could regurgitate specific content knowledge.

So instead of making sure kids could process information and solve realistic problems, the goal in many schools was to find a way to game the system. We knew which specific content indicators were on the test (and because the questions never changed most of us knew what exactly what would be asked) and so class content became focused just on those things. Teachers drilled and killed on specific indicators without context. Kids memorized data in no particular order.

All in the name of test scores and the exalted Standard of Excellence that indicated the majority of your students were at the “proficient” level. And, of course, most schools eventually achieved the Standard of Excellence. Kids and teachers got good at playing the game.

Except we were all playing the wrong game.

We don’t need kids who are able to memorize 60 specific facts about 30 specific content indicators. We need kids who ask good questions. Analyze evidence. Work with others. Make mistakes. Learn from their mistakes. Solve problems. Communicate solutions.

Which brings me to last weekend. Read more

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