Several years ago, I had the chance to be part of a learning community facilitated by Bruce Lesh. At the time, Bruce was teaching high school in Maryland and traveled to Kansas for a week as part of our Century of Progress TAH grant.
He shared a ton of great stuff including his idea of History Labs and the process of historical thinking. Like many of us, part of his social studies world view included ideas from Sam Wineburg. Wineburg uses the semantics of sourcing, contextualizing, and corroborating. He also talks quite a bit about kids working to “read between the lines” as part of that analysis process.
Bruce altered that language a bit and used the words text, context, and subtext to describe student thinking skills. The basic idea is the same but I like the alliteration / re-use of the word “text” and how that can help kids remember what their task is when making sense of evidence. Since then, teachers in the group have continued to use his vocabulary.
Many of the TAH project participants continue to meet four times a year to share ideas and hone their skills. Yesterday was day four of the year and among other things, we celebrated the birthday of Thomas Jefferson and hosted a historical political campaign t-shirt design contest. Read more
On occasion, I have been accused of being too US history centric at the expense of world history, civics, and econ. And it’s possible.
Yeah, okay. It’s true. But seriously . . . come on. It’s the Civil War. Lewis and Clark. Teddy Roosevelt. Gordon Parks. The Amazon Army in southeast Kansas. Freedom Riders. Who doesn’t love those stories?
But I am working to get better at finding stuff that is useful across the disciplines. So I was excited to get a press release from the Chicago Field Museum about what looks like some very cool and useful Chinese history and cultural instructional resources. If you teach middle or high school world history, this is definitely worth a look.
If you’re looking for some personal professional development, need an article for a department meeting, or just looking to generate some brisk social media conversation, look no further than a recent article in The Atlantic. Written by Christine Gross-Loh, A Better Way to Teach History does a great job of explaining how history instruction is changing as well providing specific examples of what that can look like.
The focus is on using the case study idea to teach history at the college level but there is a ton of transfer between higher ed and K-12. If nothing else, the article is great for highlighting what works and what doesn’t work in social studies instruction. The article addresses a basic question that social studies folks have been dealing with for the last few years: Read more
It really is the ultimate question, isn’t it?
What do our kids need to know and be able to do? Our Kansas state social studies standards and the NCSS national framework provide some great guidelines. Both of those documents emphasize a balance between process and content, trying to move people away from a simple checklist of people, places, and dates.
But our state ed guy continues to use the phrase:
We don’t care what you teach. Your kids will not be tested on specific content. Your kids will be tested on their ability to make sense of and use evidence. You and your district need to decide the content.
He does qualify that by saying that the content needs to fit the state’s broad K-12 scope and sequence. So an US History 8th grade class needs to focus on the period between 1800 – 1900, for example. But within that 100 years? Do what you want. But that can sometimes be a bit scary for classroom teachers.
We’ve trained our teachers over the last ten years or so to focus on very specific bits of social studies data. So when we tell them that they can teach whatever they want with a focus on social studies process skills, they start to freak out:
Just tell me what I’m supposed to teach!
If I could teach whatever I wanted to 8th graders? I’d ditch the War of 1812 to spend more time on Reconstruction and Populism.
For too long, state standards have encouraged social studies teachers and students to simply focus on the memorization of foundational knowledge. The pendulum is swinging back to quality instruction focused on the development of historical thinking skills.
This is a good thing. But it can also be a bit intimidating and discouraging. I often hear from teachers asking what this sort of instruction should look like. What resources should they use? Where can they find resources? How long should a unit last? How can this type of learning be assessed?
The answers to those questions just got easier thanks to the great state of New York. Over the last few years, teachers in New York have worked to create what they are calling the Toolkit. Made up of 84 different Inquiries across multiple grade levels, the Toolkit provides specifics about what the historical thinking can look like in your classroom.
The Toolkit is designed Read more
Okay. Let’s be honest. Sitting through most live webinars is almost never a good time. Usually stuff you might find somewhere else. Simple talking heads. Poor production quality. Sitting through an archived webinar is only marginally better – for no other reason than you can fast forward through it.
But . . . there are some that are useful and practical – even if some of those other things are present. The NCSS C3 Framework webinar series is one of those.
The College, Career, and Civic Life Framework for Social Studies State Standards was developed to serve two audiences: for states to upgrade their state social studies standards and for practitioners — local school districts, schools, teachers and curriculum writers — to strengthen their social studies programs.
The objectives of the Framework are to: Read more