If you aren’t familiar with Bruce Lesh, author of the very sweet book titled Why Won’t You Just Tell Us the Answer?, then . . . well, you need to be. The book highlights his experience as a classroom teacher struggling to find ways to get his kids to think historically. More importantly, how best to measure that type of thinking. His stuff is just incredibly practical and useful right away.
So I’m pumped to hear him share some ideas about quick, easy to use, writing assessments to gauge student thinking. Bruce started the session with an audio clip of a Scantron machine scoring multiple choice answer sheets. The more noise it makes, the “worse” teacher you are. Because that means students were missing lots of multiple choice questions. Like many teachers, he used to use that type of test to measure learning.
But at the same time that he was using MC and other traditional types of assessment, he was changing the way he designed his instruction to focus more on the processes of the discipline, on having kids think historically. Bruce continued by suggesting that quality instruction measured by poor assessment does more harm than good. We need to focus on both powerful learning activities with appropriately aligned assessments.
He’s preaching to the choir.
To set the stage for his Quick Write assessment idea, Bruce shared a bit about what he calls his History Lab idea. A History Lab has the following characteristics: Read more
It used to be called “writing across the curriculum.” Years ago, in Derby Middle School, I remember WAC being the latest educational buzzword. And it was a good idea. Literacy – reading, writing, communicating – is something that should be happening in all the content areas. But for a lot of reasons, WAC theory and actual practice never seem to align.
Of course, good teachers have been integrating literacy skills into their instruction both before and after WAC. That practice is now encouraged and supported with the latest trend – literacy standards embedded as part of historical thinking and social studies best practice.
It’s still a good idea.
Our students should be reading, writing, and communicating in the specific social studies disciplines. And I know you’re having kids do it. But finding the right tools to support literacy can be difficult. Using paper and pencil is always available . . . though without options for easy collaboration, editing, and sharing. Google Drive provides options for that sort of stuff but it’s still not available in some districts.
And even if it is available, using Drive and other online writing tools are not always the ideal writing environment. It’s easy to get distracted – Look! A squirrel / Facebook / Flipboard / Social Media / Texts – and lose focus. We know that these distractions make it more difficult to come back to the writing process. And even if we are able to resist the blackhole of YouTube Grumpy Cat videos, we can get distracted by the bells and whistles of word processors, focusing so much on format and editing and process that we have difficulty getting words out.
So today? Some tools to help you and students stay focused on the task of writing. Read more
We want them to be able to make an argument using evidence, logic, and reasoning. And we want them to be able to do this in a variety of ways. But it’s difficult to create any sort of argument without some sort of written version first. So having our kids write is always a good idea. The problem? Sometimes our students just need something simple to get them started.
I recently ran across a pretty basic graphic organizer that has apparently been around for a while but because I’ve been so busy with the whole Wichita State beating University of Kansas then losing to Notre Dame basketball thing, I somehow missed it. If you’ve heard of it, feel free to head back to your bracket. If it’s as new to you as it is to me, hang around.
Called PEEL, the organizer is an easy to use tool that provides your students Read more
With the coming of the Common Core Literacy Standards for History / Government, the NCSS national standards, and the adoption of new social studies standards in Kansas, I’ve seen a ton of classroom teachers get stressed out about the whole reading and writing thing.
I get it.
For a long time, classroom teachers were told that simple memorization of content was good enough. And now? Expectations have changed. It’s can just be lecture, quiz, worksheet, test anymore. We’re being asked to train kids to read, write, and communicate solutions.
And classroom teachers are freaking just a bit:
- My kids won’t ever be able to do this.
- I’m a government teacher, not a reading teacher.
- How are we supposed to grade this?
I get it. It’s new. It can be a bit intimidating.
We all can use a little help now and again. And if we could find some sort of free, online tool that scaffolds the writing process for our students, even better.
If only there were such a tool available, what a Merry Christmas this would be. If only. Read more
This morning, Deb Brown and I presented a workshop on different strategies elementary teachers can use in their classrooms.
We had a great time!
If you’re interested, we put all of the goodies in a Dropbox folder. You can get the Read more
Over the last few months, I’ve written several times about evidence-based terms. Evidence-based terms are words and phrases that can help your kids write stronger and more effective argumentative essays.
These might phrases such as:
- The author stated
- On page five, the text suggested
- From the reading I know that
Using these sorts of words encourages the integration of historical thinking skills into activities focused on meeting ELA literacy standards.
Late last week, I ran across a similar sort of document that I used with both my middle school kids and college students. I called them Magic Words. Magic because using these words in their writing forced students to focus on what they learned in terms of time, cause and effect, spatial and personal relationships, and possible alternative versions of history. Read more