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
When I sit back and think about the changes in social studies instruction and learning that have happened here in Kansas over the last few years, I’m always a wee bit amazed. Good teachers across the state have always asked kids to read and write and use evidence and think historically. But up until two or three years ago, the focus for many had been on simply having kids collect and memorize historical data.
The conversation is changing. Teachers and administrators are now talking more about the process of social studies rather than just the data. Teachers are looking at and using Sam Wineburg’s stuff over at SHEG. They’re using more literacy activities, more fiction and non-fiction, and generally having better discussions about what quality social studies looks like.
A huge hat tip to Don Gifford, social studies consultant at the Kansas Department of Education, for driving all of this forward. He put together a team of educators from across the state to rewrite the Kansas standards, facilitated the writing, and maneuvered the document through the hoops needed to get unanimous approval from the state board. He’s busy at the moment trying to create a state assessment that measures historical thinking while combining it with the ELA writing assessment. And, since this really hasn’t ever been done before, it’s an interesting and complicated process.
All of this to say that there is a lot of transformation happening here in the Sunflower state. And that’s a good thing. But change is never easy and so the struggle as been to find ways to ease people into the idea of teaching process AND content. To find resources and scaffolding to help teachers see what this sort of instruction and learning can look like in practice.
One of the powerful pieces of the state document is the Literacy Expectations and Best Practices section. It highlights those things that students and teachers should be doing in a high-quality classroom.
But what I often hear is that Read more
One of the obvious reasons for attending professional conferences and workshops is the opportunity for checking out new BBQ restaurants. Of course, there is that whole learning new stuff, meeting new people, attending sessions idea too.
And last week’s KCHE / MOCHE Best Practices conference in downtown Kansas City gave me the chance to check off both. Got to eat some great BBQ and do all of that other stuff. I really did walk away smarter (and thanks to Oklahoma Joe’s BBQ, also just a little bit rounder.)
Perhaps the biggest takeaway from my two days? Read more