I’ve had the chance over the last few weeks to spend a lot of time working with both elementary and secondary teachers on effective uses of primary sources. Together, we shared a wide variety of both digital and paper / pencil strategies that support historical thinking.
One of the easiest but most effective strategies is called Crop It. In some ways, it’s a lot like my Evidence Analysis Window Frame but I really like the flexibility embedded in the Crop It idea. The idea is pretty simple: students use L-shaped paper “cropping” tools to explore a visual or textual primary source.
One of the problems that we often face is finding ways to help students see details – and to make sense of the those details – when viewing a primary source. Photos, paintings, and graphics can contain a ton of specifics that get missed if students don’t take the time to look for them.
Crop It slows this process down so that students scan a source at a deep level and think about what they’re looking at. It gives them a way to find evidence, see multiple viewpoints, and gain a more detailed understanding of a primary source.
This strategy works especially well with elementary and middle school students to help them develop and support historical thinking. And the cool thing is that you can use it with all sorts of visual sources.
Several weeks ago, I had the opportunity to chat with Meghan McDermott while we were both attending a Library of Congress gathering. She’s doing some amazing things with her middle schools kids, including having them write a ton.
She’s using a variety of successful strategies (You’re gonna want to check out her 7th graders Seven Themes of History Memes.) but I especially fell in love with her TRAP3 tool. Teachers I work with are always looking for handy tools that can help kids think historically and to write using evidence. And Meghan’s TRAP3 organizer seems like a great way to help students structure historical arguments. I asked if I could share her great ideas with you – not only did she agree but she sent examples, presentation slides, and student work.
The beauty of the TRAP3 is that it provides a powerful structure that makes it easier for kids to develop not just an opening paragraph but a clear outline for their essay.
What is the TRAP3? Read more
Yesterday I spent a few minutes on a quick rant blaming laptops and mobile devices for being the reason for the terrible KC Royals pitching, destroying the rainforest, causing the downfall of the Roman Empire, and ruining your students’ educational experience.
Okay. Mostly just the student educational experience thing.
A brief recap. Research is suggesting that when college students use technology to capture lecture notes, both short and long term learning declines when compared to students who captured lecture notes using the old fashioned paper and pencil method. Tech tools seem to encourage verbatim note-taking that focuses on capturing every word rather than on capturing only information that is important – on copy and pasting rather than evaluating and summarizing. Paper and pencil force the student to make decisions about what’s important and then to transform that information into a personal version of the lecture or video.
It’s this personalizing feature of paper and pencil that improves retention and learning.
And, yes, it’s college kids not K-12. And, no, you don’t lecture all of the time. But I’m gonna suggest that the experiences of middle and high school students would not be that much different from the college kids cited in the research.
So using tech to take notes is bad. Now what? Read more
Three years ago, Mary J. Johnson, an educational consultant to the Library of Congress, created a two part article on the Teaching with the Library of Congress blog highlighting primary source integration strategies. The first post of the two-part series offered ten suggestions for filling your room with engaging primary sources. I’ve adapted her second post highlighting ways that primary sources promote systematic critical thinking and posted it below. These are starting points for you to adapt for your own grade level and content area.
The point? That the Library of Congress needs to be one of your go-tos, must use, constant companion tool of choice.
(And when you’re done here, be sure to head over and bookmark the excellent LOC blog Teaching with the Library of Congress.) Read more