One way or the other, things will probably get a bit more . . . hmm, interactive in your classrooms over the next few weeks. As final results from today’s election trickle in this week and mail-in ballots are counted, you will most likely have some students who will question the results. Making class discussions difficult and uncomfortable.
But that sort of learning can be difficult. I get that. Throw the pandemic into the mix and I can’t think of a tougher time to be a classroom teacher. And you’re not alone in being concerned about taking on controversial topics.
Education Week survey data gathered back in 2017 suggested that many teachers find it difficult to talk about race, politics, and other controversial topics. Almost 30 percent expressly avoid it completely. Part of the problem is that many of us – 44 percent – don’t feel prepared to lead conversations that will probably get emotional.
So should you even try? And if you do decide to take on that challenge, what’s the best way to deal with those conversations?
Answer to the first question? Read more
I thought I knew the Smithsonian History Explorer. I’ve been using it and recommending it for years. But I was wrong. I don’t know the Smithsonian History Explorer.
Not like I should know it. Cause they’ve changed and updated it.
So if you teach US history (or even world), you seriously need to head over and do some poking around. The staff from the Smithsonian Museum of American History has added so many new resources, lessons, activities, and themes, I guarantee you’ll walk away with all sorts of stuff you can incorporate into your instruction tomorrow.
Start by using the Read more
Back in the Before Times, I was traveling constantly. A lot of that involved hours of drive time. And so I did what many of you did. I listened to audio books.
Well . . . I tried to. I never seemed to get the hang of it. You know, cause listening is hard.
I would lose focus. I would need to pass a semi or make a stop for gas or look, a squirrel! And the book would just keep on going as if I wasn’t even there. Then I’d rewind. Then fast forward because I went back too far. Then another squirrel. Yes, definitely first world problems. But it became a deal breaker.
Now, of course, not as much driving. But even in the Before Times, I had switched over to podcasts. Not sure why there’s a difference between those and audio books but I don’t seem to have trouble following podcasts. Maybe because they’re shorter and more focused. Some research is telling us that podcasts feel more conversational than books and make them easier to digest. Part of it, I’m sure, is that podcasts are free. For whatever reason, podcasts for the win.
And for us as social studies teachers, podcasts can go beyond just a way to kill time in the car. They can also be great teaching and learning tools. For personal professional growth, the right sort of podcast is perfect for building content knowledge. For instruction, podcasts can be perfect for doing the same for your kids.
What are some other reasons to use podcasts? Read more
A year or so ago, I sat with a group of upper elementary teachers and asked them to read an article titled How Do We Teach With Primary Sources When So Many Voices Are Missing? Published by Education Week, the article highlights the difficulty in telling a complete story when Native American voices are hard to find.
Bottom line? We need to train both ourselves and our students to look beyond what the easy to find sources are telling us. It’s what Sam Wineburg once called “reading the silences.” We need to be more intentional about finding and using sources that fill in those silences, that let kids listen to the stories that are often untold and left out.
Finding these missing voices is important for a lot of reasons. But one particular quote in the EdWeek article stood out for me:
The nice little progressive American story is boring. Once students realize it’s complicated, it’s interesting.
We want our kids to go beyond just hearing and memorizing the story. When students get the chance to hear the nuance and connections and people and interactions and relationships and context and motivations and emotion and similarities to contemporary issues, you don’t have to work very hard to keep them engaged.
No one likes a boring story. No one sits through a crappy movie on Netflix. No one finishes a book with poorly written and unimaginative characters.
So why should a student have to sit through a tedious and dull history class that tells a story without subtlety or interesting individuals? Read more
The election is getting serious. We’re already collecting votes.
So if you haven’t yet jumped into teaching about the election, now’s the perfect time. Today, we’ve got seven handy online resources that’ll provide lessons, information, maps, graphs, and all sorts of other election goodness.
- Start with the Election Collection curated by PBS Learning Media. You’ll find seven different sections that will help you and students keep up with election news, study the history and process of presidential elections, explore voting rights, and engage in classroom debates with videos, activities, and lesson plans. You want to spend some time with their interactive Electoral Decoder to explore electoral college results from previous elections, and predict the outcome of the upcoming election. Participate in their Youth Media Challenge: Let’s Talk About Election 2020. Empower your students to share their take on issues that matter to them and learn how they can create and publish audio or video commentaries for a national audience.
- 270toWin has a similar Electoral Vote Calculator but they also delve deep into Senate and House races, state races, and governor races. You can find tons of historical data, the latest polls, and pundit predictions.
- Schools need to be places that champion civility, equal rights, safety, and civic action for social change and kids need opportunities to practice how to engage with people and ideas across differences.. So Teaching Tolerance offers a range of resources for engaging students on some of our most pressing societal issues.
- The Anti-Defamation League put together a series of resources that they’ve titled Teaching Tools: Before, During & After Elections.
- I love the work that the League of Women Voters does to increase voter turnout and provide information. Their Vote411 site is a perfect place to get voter registration information, candidate guides, and actual ballets from every election in the country.
- I’m still upset with Newsela and their move to lock down so much of their online stuff but they are offering a pretty sweet free set of election resources. (Though you will need to create an account or log-in to access the page.)
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Glenn is a curriculum and tech integration specialist, speaker, and blogger with a passion for technology and social studies. He delivers engaging professional learning across the country with a focus on consulting, presentations, and keynotes. Find out more about Glenn and how you might learn together by going to his Work with Me page.
Well, it’s been a while.
Between some unplanned family obligations and a variety of work related stuff, History Tech got pushed off the front burner, then the back burner, and eventually ended up somewhere into one of those cabinets where you store Tupperware bowls that are missing a lid.
This week we’re crawling out of the cabinet and onto the back burner at least. But . . . we missed sharing start of school resources. Missed National Women’s Suffrage Month. Missed the kickoff of the very awesome Kansas state social studies virtual PD series that is replacing the equally awesome but Covid-19 canceled F2F state conference. Missed the kickoff of the election. Missed a bunch of stuff.
So we’re gonna start small today. Just a quick website recommendation designed especially for K-5 teachers who are looking for resources and ideas for helping their kids understand historical inquiry. Read more