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Posts tagged ‘tip of the week’

Focus on the doing of social studies, not just the model

Back in the day, Madeline Hunter ruled.

I never actually met Madeline but for a time, it was like we were joined at the hip. College of Ed professors loved her. Principals loved her. Teacher observation and evaluation tools loved her even more. And so all of my early teaching years were focused on her theories and lesson plan designs.

For the non-Boomers in the room, a quick review of Madeline’s design:

  • Anticipatory set
    Do something that introduces the lesson, hooks kids into wanting to learn the lesson, and establish your objectives for the lesson.
  • Direct instruction
    Foundational knowledge – the facts, ideas, and skills – is delivered to the students. Usually some sort of lecture, video, or reading.
  • Guided practice and application
    The teacher helps students apply what they have just been taught.
  • Independent practice and application
    Students apply the learning on their own.
  • Assessment
    The teacher measures how well students have met the objectives.

It’s not like this is terrible instruction. Making it clear to kids what our expectations are is good. Finding ways for them to collect and organize foundation knowledge? Good. Independent application? Absolutely. Done right? Pretty darn good.

But like a lot of things, Madeline’s best intentions rarely made it into actual practice. Back in the day, I was usually okay with step one. I could hook kids into content. But after that? Not so much.

I ended up teaching like I had been taught. How the teachers down the hallway were teaching. Direct instruction to me meant lecture, the occasional video, and a lot of assigned readings. If there was any guided practice and independent practice, it usually involved lots of homework and worksheets.

I got better. I started doing more hands on projects and cooperative learning. But there was still a lot of direct instruction. And while the projects were engaging and kids enjoyed them, I didn’t work super hard at making them relevant or tying them to big ideas. So I had a fun class but I’m not really sure students walked any out any smarter than when they walked in.

As my own kids entered and left social studies classrooms throughout their 13 school years, it became clear that they were having similar experiences. There were some hands on projects and occasional awesomeness (thanks Mr. Robb.)  But they still experienced a lot of direct instruction and “independent” practice in the form of study guides and worksheet packets.

So.

Is it possible to take the best parts of Madeline’s model and adapt it to a world that needs our students to be engaged, informed, and knowledgable citizens? Read more

Emojis. Cause they’re good for kids and fun to use. What’s not to like?

I always walk away smarter after spending time with classroom teachers. Wednesday was no exception. I got the chance to work with about 35 K-5 teachers and spent the day focused on the Inquiry Design Model – tweaking previous IDMs and developing new ones for next semester. And in addition to finding out about some new ways to integrate primary sources, a teacher shared this little gem:

“Never wear white when teaching Kindergarten.”

 If you teach K-3, you already knew this. But for secondary folks like me? Good tip.

I’m not sure that there is any sort of measurement tool able to document the level of respect I have for elementary teachers. But that’s it, right there in a nutshell. Teaching five year olds is hard enough, what with all the reading, writing, arithmetic, social emotional, classroom management stuff. But now I find out that my wardrobe choices are also impacted. (And you really don’t want to hear the reasons why white is a bad choice. Trust me. Seriously . . .  just walk away.)

Once we got past the never wear white idea, we had the chance to jump into our work on their IDMs. Including some conversation about effective teaching strategies and activities. One of my fave conversations centered on the idea of using emojis as a way to help kids make sense of social studies and incorporating them as part of a quality lesson that can help improve student thinking and literacy skills.

And yes, I can hear you. You’re saying that integrating little graphic images used by millions of Instagram tweeners instead of more traditional tools is no way to teach historical thinking and literacy. But I’m convinced that these little graphic images have tremendous potential to help kids makes sense of evidence, increase literacy skills, and demonstrate learning.

We started our day on Wednesday introducing the idea by using a fun web tool called Emoji Scavenger Hunt. We got into groups and raced around the building, collecting actual objects that matched emojis provided by the game. It was a great way to kickstart the conversation.

You can get an idea of the emoji potential by taking a look at Read more

The inquiry method, dinosaur teachers, and Social Studiesball

Six years ago, almost to the day, I uploaded a post titled New standards, the C3, dinosaurs, and Social Studiesball. The state of Kansas was in its very first year of implementing a new set of social studies standards – a set of standards that focused on creating a balance of content and historical thinking skills. A lot less memorizing and a whole lot more application and process.

It freaked some people out.

Okay.

It freaked a lot of people out.

It was a different way of doing social studies. More student centered. More skills based. More problem solving. More use of evidence to support claims. Less focus on specific content and recall of basic facts. Heck . . . the state department of education basically said “within these rough scope and sequence parameters, teach whatever you want.” No check boxes of required test items. No multiple choice state assessment.

The 2013 post used the Michael Lewis book & Brad Pitt movie Moneyball as an example of how a shift in thinking can impact current practice.

And now, after six years, we’re revising the document and the state assessment with an even stronger focus on the inquiry model and historical thinking processes. It seems appropriate to revisit the 2013 post with a few updates.

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A few years back, I picked up a book called Moneyball: The Art of Winning an Unfair Game by Michael Lewis. It focused on the Oakland Athletics major league baseball team and their general manager, Billy Beane. Burdened by a lack of funds, Beane was constantly struggling to win games against teams with way more money to pay their players than he did. But by 2002, during a season that saw his team set a century old record for consecutive wins, Beane had found a way to beat those teams.

The answer?

Sabermetrics.

Sabermetrics is the application of statistical analysis in order to evaluate and compare the performance of individual players. But not the traditional statistics. Beane and the A’s looked at a completely different set of statistics in ways that hadn’t been done before. This different way of thinking about baseball gave them a competitive advantage – they could now find solid players that had been ignored by everyone else. And because these players were being ignored by everyone else, the A’s could pay them less and win games while staying within their budget.

Win / win. A sweet team for less money.

The problem? Read more

Tip of the Week: 13 history podcasts that you actually want to listen to

Maybe it’s just me. But I have a hard time listening to fiction audio books. It’s a little better with non-fiction but it’s gotten to the point that I don’t even try.

But listening to history podcasts? Absolutely, yes please.

If you haven’t noticed, there’s been an absolute podcast explosion in the last few years. And with that huge spike in available podcasts, it makes sense that there would be more history casts available. The problem, of course, is trying to figure out which podcasts you should spend your time listening to.

I’m here to help.

Today we’ve got 13 top-notch history and social studies related podcasts perfect for making you and your kids smarter. But realize that by top-notch, I mean podcasts that I enjoy – your mileage may vary. There should be  something here for just about everybody. Try them all and then head back to your favorites. Read more

Tip of the Week: Six Super Sweet Social Studies Strategies for Back to School

It’s been an awesome week! Jump started it on Monday working with a small group of middle school and elementary teachers in the great state of Arizona. And am bookending it today and tomorrow with the fantastic staff at Rockdale County schools outside Atlanta. It doesn’t get much better than working with social studies folks who are passionate about their work.

And the super crazy thing?

They all start with kids next Monday. Next. Monday. As in, four days from today. Seriously? I would be so freaked out – worried about all the different things that need to get down to kick off the school year. But both groups have jumped in with both feet – learning new things, sharing their ideas, playing with tech tools.

But it got me thinking. Maybe you’re in the same boat, ready to shove off with kids already next week. If you are, this post is probably a few days too late. But I’m hoping that for most of you, you’ve got at least one or two more weekends before your first student contact day.

To help energize your first awesome week with kids, here are six great ways to kick off the school year. Use what you can. Adapt what you can’t.

What not to do

But before we get too far along with what we know works, it’s probably a good idea to think about what doesn’t. I’ve mentioned Fourteen Things You Should Never Do on the First Day of School before but it’s still a great reminder of what it looks like when we’re doing it wrong. Mark Barnes suggest that your goal should be a very simple one during the first few days of school:

You have many days to assess students’ strengths and weaknesses. You have months to discuss high stakes testing and standards. You’ll spend weeks probing the textbook.

The first day of school should be dedicated to rapport-building and to joy.

Your goal should be that students go home that night and tell their parents: “I’m going to love history class because my teacher is awesome!”

So what should we be doing the first week?

Read more

Structure Strips: Making a claim using training wheels

Sure. There are probably some of you bike riding savants who had no need for them. You just hopped on and started riding, jumping ramps, and weaving through traffic, no problem.

But most of us needed them to get started.

Training wheels.

They let us get on our itty bitty bikes and tootle around town like we knew what we were doing. We could do basic stuff like steering around the dog and brake at the corner. But doing all of that while keeping our balance? Not yet.

Writing argumentative essays and making claims using evidence is a lot like that. You’ve got some kids that can jump on and just take off, no problem.

But most of your kids are going to need a little help. Especially elementary and middle school. And there are lots of things you can do to help them keep their balance while doing that.

But I’m really starting to like the idea of something called Structure Strips. I ran across them a few years ago while I was working with some elementary ELA teachers. They were using them to help students create descriptive paragraphs. A little more research highlighted how others were also using Structure Strips in a variety of ways, including in social studies.

A Structure Strip is a Read more