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.
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
Our current state standards have been around since 2013. Centered on five Big Ideas and a balance between content and process, the document is unlike previous standards documents. And after five years, most Kansas teachers are at least aware that we’re asking them and students to approach teaching and learning differently.
That we want students to have both foundational knowledge and historical / critical thinking skills. That social studies classrooms need to be more than drill and kill, lecture, worksheet, quiz on Friday. And that creating engaged, informed, and knowledgable citizens requires more than rote memorization and low level thinking.
While our standards look and feel differently than most other state level documents, teachers across the country – like their colleagues here in Kansas – are also being asked to concentrate on training kids to do social studies. Sam Wineburg is a household name. The teaching of historical thinking skills such as Sourcing, Contextualizing, and Corroborating is becoming commonplace. Bruce Lesh and his History Labs are being duplicated by teachers in all sorts of classrooms. The National Council for the Social Studies has also been a huge part of this pendulum shift with its College, Career, and Civic Life (C3) standards.
Good things are happening.
But . . .
Yup. There’s always a but.
During every standards training I do, every historical thinking conversation I have with teachers, there’s always a but. Read more
I’ve been spending a ton of time this summer working with groups around the country, helping facilitate conversations around reading and writing in the social studies.
It’s always a good day when I get the chance to sit with social studies teachers, sharing ideas and best practice, talking about what works and what doesn’t. And the cool thing is that I always walk away smarter because teachers are super cool about sharing their favorite web site or tool or handy strategy.
This week was no different. I learned about a simple but powerful summarizing strategy called Somebody Wanted But So.
Summarizing is a skill that I think we sometimes take for granted. We ask our kids to read or watch something and expect them to just be able to remember the content and apply it later during other learning activities. We can easily get caught up in the Curse of Knowledge, assuming that because we know how to summarize and organize information, everyone does too.
But our students often need Read more
We want our students to grapple more with content, to think historically, and solve problems. One of the ways we can support this behavior is by asking our kids to think and write to support a claim using evidence.
Here in the great state of Kansas basketball, we use the term argumentative writing to describe this process. That term makes it sound a little too much like the recent televised debates but asking kids to create an argument and to support that argument really is a good thing. We want them to be able to look at a problem, gather and organize evidence, and use that evidence to create a well-supported argument.
As many of us move from a content focused instructional model to one that instead asks students to use that content in authentic ways, it can sometimes be difficult knowing how to actually have them write argumentatively. But there are resources available to help with your lesson design. I’ve shared a few of these resources below. Pick and choose the ones that work best for you.
The very excellent website, Read more
Sarah Tantillo is the author of The Literacy Cookbook: A Practical Guide to Effective Reading, Writing, Speaking, and Listening Instruction. Several years ago, she wrote a useful MiddleWeb post based on her blog The Literacy Cookbook. On the Cookbook, Sarah shares a ton of great ideas about helping students meet the ELA Common Core Standards.
Her original post described a problem she noticed with many of her students:
“One of the things students struggle with the most — and it’s relevant to every grade and subject — is distinguishing between argument and evidence. This problem manifests itself in both reading and writing.
In reading, students often cannot pick topic sentences or thesis arguments out of a lineup; and when writing, they tend to construct paragraphs and essays that lack arguments.”
She went on to describe six steps we can use to move students from “What’s the difference between arguments and evidence?” to “How can I write an effective research paper?”
She outlines six steps that teachers can use to help students create quality, evidence-based arguments. And while the focus is on ELA rather than social studies, the process is one that all of our students need to master: Read more
I spent some some last week with a group sharing strategies around the blended learning concept. It was compelling conversation, I walked away smarter, and had the chance to meet some interesting people.
But one of my biggest walkaways was a strategy that the forum’s facilitator used to jumpstart the discussion.
He called it the Last Word. Others in the group used the term Final Word. No matter what it might be called, I thought it was a perfect fit for strengthen the speaking and listening skills of social studies students. So if you’ve used Last Word, post some comments on changes you’ve made or things you like about it.
New to Last Word? Read on, my friend. Read more