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.
And as I’m working with Kansas teachers to prep for next year’s state social studies assessment, these just seem to make more and more sense.
A Structure Strip is a simple but powerful scaffolding tool that can help kids focus on organizing their thinking and written responses to prompts. Kinda like training wheels. Read more
It’s cold. Seriously cold. So even if your building wasn’t already doing the COVID remote dance, the cold and snow probably chased your kids out of the building for at least a few days.
And connecting with your students is always difficult, current conditions are making it even harder.
Loom, a free, ready to use screencast recording tool, can help.
Simple to use. Simple to share. There’s a free version for teachers and kids. And it works great for both face to face classrooms and remote learning environments.
If you’re already using Loom, you may be in the wrong place. This post is for Loom newbies and how we can use the tool as part of effective social studies instruction. So maybe take a few minutes to browse through a list of History Tech posts highlighting historical thinking resources and strategies. (But you’re not gonna hurt my feelings if you skip past the quick Loom introduction and scroll down for the social studies examples.)
So what’s a screencast recording tool? Basically it’s a button you push that records your screen while at the same time recording your face and voice, saving them all together in a downloadable and shareable video format. And it does all of that in a matter of seconds.
Need a quick example? Read more
I know that Google will eventually rule the world. And right now I think I’m okay with that. Because, especially in the last ten months, Google tools have been a life saver.
You’ve got Classroom.
Arts & Culture. MyMaps.
Calendar. Forms. Slides. Browser Extensions. Add-Ons.
All useful tools that can help social studies teachers and students collect, collaborate, create, and communicate in ways that weren’t possible a few years ago. (Though I’m still bitter about that decision to blow off Expeditions. Seriously, Google?)
And, of course, my latest fave . . . Google Jamboard.
Originally created by Google to work with an interactive whiteboard (trust me, your school probably can’t afford the actual hardware), Jamboard software also works on laptops, Chromebooks, and mobile devices. Making it perfect as both a face to face and a remote instructional and learning tool.
It’s actually been around for a few years but I’ve noticed over the last few months as I’ve been using it with teachers that people aren’t that familiar with it. And you should be . . . because whether you’re teaching F2F or some sort of remote learning option, Jamboard needs to be part of your instructional toolkit.
How might you use it? Here are five ways that Jamboard can save your bacon: Read more
Yesterday at the final keynote of the 2020 NCSS national conference, author and actor George Takei shared his experience growing up in what he called an American concentration camp. As a five year old, he and his parents were forced into several different camps during World War II simply because their racial ethnicity.
As he shared his experiences and connected them to contemporary issues such as #BLM and Muslim bans, I flashed back to an earlier History Tech post highlighting the 75th anniversary of Executive Order 9066, FDR’s executive order legalizing the internment of thousands of American citizens like five year old George.
Takei’s session was a good reminder about the power of the Bill of Rights and what can happen when we ignore its principles. As you continue to plan your instruction the rest of the year, don’t shy away from telling the story of America even when it makes you uncomfortable. One way to do that? Lean into using primary sources like Takei’s personal story that document the topic.
Takei shared a bit about his recent graphic memoir titled They Called Us Enemies. It’s a perfect (and powerful) way to begin a conversation around Executive Order 9066. Use the available teaching resources and discussion guides to hook your kids and get them asking the right sorts of questions.
Another way? Use photographs, like the ones taken by Dorothea >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
This morning, I was poking around in the History Tech archives looking for some research on the best way to integrate literature into social studies instruction. And as often happens, I got sucked down a rabbit hole and ran across a different article I wrote five years ago and forgotten all about.
With the uncertainty of the next few months and the changes we’re being asked to make, the message seems appropriate to share today. Simply put, what we’ve always done in the past probably isn’t going to work today. Traditional types of instruction like 45 minute lectures or packets of worksheets asking kids to copy and paste answers from a textbook have never been good for kids. They become even less useful in a hybrid or remote learning environment.
A silver lining in what we’re all experiencing right now is that we have permission to do social studies differently. And not just permission. Depending on where you teach, you’ve got active support and encouragement from the powers on high to really rethink our instruction. (In Kansas, the state ed department published a 1000 page document detailing what that might look like. Feel free to jump in on that.)
Will it be easy? Nope.
Is it something we need to do? Yes . . . absolutely.
I’ve edited the five year old post a bit to update the resources at the end. But the message remains the same. Holding on to what we know won’t work is not doing our kids any favors. Be willing to lean into the hard work ahead, throw out the old, and embrace a situation with literally no walls that allows you the freedom to do all sorts of amazing things.
I knew the day was coming. There is a fairly extensive Read more