A Guide to a New Type of Test

I got to know Jill Weber about five years ago when we started our second Teaching American History grant at ESSDACK. And she’s been great about opening up her classroom in a variety of ways including posting ideas and strategies on her blog A View of the Web.

Jill recently shared a post with our study group that she is allowing us to cross-post. Enjoy!



My 7th graders will be taking their first test for me this week.  I thought this would be a good time to talk about what a Social Studies test in Mrs. Weber’s class looks like.

Social Studies has changed.  Teachers should be implementing activities, lessons, and strategies to help students read and analyze primary sources, think critically, and “do” history.  We should be teaching kids how to become historians.  How to question sources, look at conflicting view points, and draw conclusions based on the evidence that is given to us.

But what does that LOOK LIKE?

And what does it look like on a TEST?

I have spent the last three years developing a method for creating unit tests/assessments that involve more analysis and application as opposed to simple regurgitation of facts.

Here’s a taste of what you will and won’t see on one of my tests. 
Continue reading A Guide to a New Type of Test

‘Hamilton’ Our history fix on Broadway

It’s been getting a lot of press, the hip-hop telling of the man who set up the United State’s financial system. Before this musical most Americans could maybe recall that Alexander Hamilton was the one killed in a duel with Vice President Aaron Burr or figure out that he’s the guy on the $10 bill (for now, at least), but as Hamilton moves to Broadway we might learn to give this founder another look.

Flocabulary has been putting a hip-hop spin on history and other school subjects for years and School House Rock taught through song before that, but there’s something to be said for how deep Lin-Manuel Miranda took the history in this one. If you teach early U.S. history or government I would strongly recommend giving this a listen – it breathes a lot of life into the era and the historical figures who populated it without glossing over their faults (and the language can get a bit salty).

Our high school did an outstanding performance of 1776 last year, their production of Hamilton can’t come soon enough for me.

Check out NPR’s First Listen: Hamilton for the entire audio.

Then and now Google Images, writing prompts, HistoryPin, and other cool stuff

fremont market

Several months ago, I was in beautiful Fremont, Washington, a community north of downtown Seattle. My son had just graduated from Seattle Pacific and we had the opportunity to spend a few days exploring the metro area. We had already done all of the typical Seattle touristy things – Pike’s Market, Space Needle, theicky wall of chewing gum.

While looking for lesser known attractions, Jake suggested Fremont. Every Sunday, Fremont hosts ahuge flea market / delicious food truck / arts and crafts extravaganza that attracts thousands. I went for the food and stayed for the old books and super cool old maps.

While browsing through one particular booth looking for artistic inspiration, my daughter ran across a box full of old photographs. No names. No dates. So we practiced our primary document sourcing skills, deducing that they must have been taken in the late 1940s / early 1950s by American soldiers and their families. Scenes of the Eiffel Tower, festivals complete with lederhosen, and celebrations with uniformed Americans were prominent.

Erin selected a pile of the most interesting images – picking quite a few that seemed to be from the same camera roll and photographer.

Okay. Your daughter found some old photos. And . . . so what?

It took me a while to figure out the so what. The so what started to develop when Continue reading Then and now Google Images, writing prompts, HistoryPin, and other cool stuff

Law Related Education: Celebrating Freedom and the Constitution


For the past several years I have had the privilege of serving on the Law Related Education Committee of the Kansas Bar Association. This committee is made up of law professionals with a passion for providing resources that will improve teacher and student understanding of the law and their rights. I enjoy meeting with this group, not just because they are intelligent and influential people, but because they really do want to help.

State statute requires that schools grades kindergarten through eight use five consecutive school days “to educate students about the sacrifices made for freedom in the founding of this country and the values on which this country was founded.” (Kansas Statutes 72-1129) The federal government has designated September 17th as Constitution Day and that all schools “shall hold an educational program on the United States Constitution.” (Federal Register May 2005)

The Honorable Joseph Pierron and other judges and attorneys have created classroom presentations that they deliver upon request, presentation titles include: “You be the judge” “What is the Constitution?” “What do judges do?,” “The Boston Tea Party” “King George/George Washington” and more. To inquire about the possibility of getting one of these speakers or Celebrate Freedom packets contact your local bar association office or Anne Woods (awoods@ksbar.org) at the Kansas Bar Association

The Kansas Bar Association through the Law Related Education Committee have created some great resources that can be used for these occasions.

  • Law Wise is a newsletter intended to be a fun and informative resource for teachers and their students in elementary school through high school. Sign up for a free Educator account and select Law Wise to receive email notifications
  • For the Record is written primarily for Middle School students and covers a wide variety of issues middle school students might be dealing with.
  • On Your Own is written for high school student and those about to go out “on their own.” This booklet/webpage is intended for general informational purposes only. It does not attempt to provide legal advice. Legal advice should come only from an attorney of your choice who can take into account all of the factors relevant to your particular situation.
  • Law Related Education Resource Center (ESU) is maintained by the Teachers College Resource Center for circulation by Kansas teachers, lawyers, and other law-related educators. DVDs and videos may be checked out for two weeks while most print matter may be used for one month. There is no charge related to the use of these materials.
  • Public Information Pamphlets on Additional Topics are provided by the Bar Association with no charge. Print copies do have associated costs.

In addition every year the Committee selects an educator to scholarship to the Supreme Court Summer Institute in Washington DC if the applicant is accepted the committee will pay expenses for the trip.

As you prepare for September 17th and Celebrate Freedom Week consider using these great resources.

Don Gifford

Truman Library’s Teacher Appreciation Event

Truman Library’s Teacher Appreciation Event
September 10
truman library event

The Harry S. Truman Library and Museum and Nelson-Atkins Museum of Art invite you to the 2015 Teacher Appreciation Night on September 10. This year’s theme is Field Trip Boot Camp – it’s a special night to say “thank you” for all you do, and also to connect you to some of Kansas City’s most engaging and memorable educational experiences available.

Enjoy appetizers and beverages; learn about educational programs at museums and historic sites around the region; get information about available scholarships and transportation grants; enjoy an encore performance by Jay Mehta, Kansas City’s National History Day Gold Medalist; and celebrate the 70th anniversary of the end of WWII with a private viewing of a special document on short-term loan from the National Archives – Emperor Hirohito’s Rescript ordering the Japanese to surrender to the Allies.

Registration is open to educators and exhibitors and includes admission to all permanent and temporary exhibitions at the Harry S. Truman Library and Museum.

Free handouts and giveaways from educational exhibitors!

Get the full info here.