Inspiration from American Colossus Part Two: The Ascendancy Cycle

brands bookIn my previous post I wrote of the inspiration I gained from H.W. Brands’ book American Colossus: The Triumph of Capitalism 1865-1900; specifically how Brands discussion of the dueling natures of capitalism and democracy could lead to a solid classroom discussion in an 11th grade US History course.

This post is regarding another aspect of Brands’ thesis, something that Brands calls the ascendancy cycle in American history.  What follows is far from a polished lesson, but instead the beginnings of an idea that hopefully will result in something beneficial for my students.

In the book, Brands claims that the competition between the forces of pure capitalism and pure democracy can be used to characterize the last 200 years of American history.  This competition has resulted in the proponents of each of these founding principles consolidating power, furthering their beliefs, losing that power to the opposing group as they create policy furthering their agenda, so on and so forth.  I believe that looking at US history through this lens provides students a concrete example of the ebbs and flows of American politics and how these elections can fundamentally alter the course of the nation. Continue reading Inspiration from American Colossus Part Two: The Ascendancy Cycle

Reading as professional development and capitalism vs. democracy

Welcome to Scott Peavey, high school US and World history teacher at Gardner Edgerton. Scott will be writing regular posts as the newest KCSS board member.

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As social studies teachers we constantly are finding little tidbits of information in our everyday “civilian” lives that create that special spark.  I consider that spark to be the feeling of creativity and insight that educators get whenever they identify an opportunity to cultivate a teachable moment in their classroom.  The source materials for these sparks are diverse; anything from reading the news to watching my one-year old son race across the living room floor.  Over the last week I felt that spark as I was undergoing the most cost-efficient social studies professional development there is . . . reading.

triumphI recently began H.W. Brand’s book American Colossus: The Triumph of Capitalism 1865-1900.  Last school year was my first formally teaching 11th grade US History and I quickly found that the Gilded Age and the rise of the industrialists was a weak point in my content arsenal.  My goal in reading this book Continue reading Reading as professional development and capitalism vs. democracy

Historical TV, videos, and history teachers

16 mm projector

We’re all very aware of the stereotypical social studies teacher. Former jock. Current coach. Always busy with game plans and practice schedules. Hands out worksheet packets on Monday with a test on Friday. Constantly interspersed with movies and videos along the way.

We also know that the stereotype very seldom rings true. I was a coach for years. We all know great social studies teachers who teach and coach. I get the chance to wander the world working with all sorts of excellent social studies teachers. Keil Hileman in the Kansas City metro area district of De Soto uses 25,000 historical artifacts as part of instruction. He was the Kansas teacher of the year several years ago. Nathan Mcalister in Royal Valley MS simulates Civil War surgery with original medical tools, hosts a yearly history fair with kids hacking out canoes and building sod houses. His kids pushed an actual bill through both houses of the Kansas legislature. He was selected as the Gilder Lehrman national teacher of the year.

Kori Green routinely connects her students with kids around the world in live chats as they solve authentic problems. Jon Bauer teaches in one of the most isolated places in the state of Kansas while implementing all sorts of powerful learning activities. Activities such as having 8th graders rank historical events and developing a March Madness tournament as an end of year summative assessment. Jill Weber uses a variety of technologies to encourage high levels of learning including a TV Reality Show Pitch.

And yes. There are some teachers who perhaps could work a bit harder on their instructional design. I’ve seen those as well. But here’s the thing. Continue reading Historical TV, videos, and history teachers

Summer reading list 2015

beach reading

It’s a Wiebe tradition.

The annual summer reading list.

For as long as I’ve been in education, I’ve had a summer reading list. Several of my early mentors suggested that the summer is a perfect time for personal professional learning.Develop a list of professional and fun books. Commit to reading them. Talk about the content with others. I eventually came around to the idea and learned to love it.

My wife, also an educator, started doing it. Later, we passed on the idea to our kids. The cool thing is that we’re all still committed to it. The best summer was the year my wife and I took a tech naked trip to the beach. Without the internet, there’s was nothing to do but sit in the sand and read. Awesome.

Of course, in all of the years that I’ve been doing it, I’ve never actually finished the original list. Schedules change. Books aren’t as good as I had hoped. It’s easy to get sidetracked. Work. Travel. Family stuff. But the idea is still a good one. It makes us better educators. And isn’t that part of the job?

So even though I’m pretty sure I won’t finish it, I still make the list. Cause one of these years, it’s gonna happen. All the books, all the way through. Really. I’m serious. This year for sure.

The 2015 Summer Reading List

Continue reading Summer reading list 2015

The end is near! Letters to next year’s students

Can you tell it is May?  Are your students acting as crazy as mine?  Don’t worry, the end is near. We just need to get them to hang on for a couple more weeks!

Throughout the year I have students keep all of their work in binders within my classroom and at the end of each unit we empty most of the material out.  What remains in the binder for the entire school year are the maps from each unit and a vocab log that my students have kept through the year as a resource when common vocabulary words are addressed in multiple units.  As I was working to wrap-up my content and start emptying student supplies out of my classroom, I wanted to come up with a way to check  student vocab logs without having to go through and grade each individual binder (80 students x 50+ words, no thanks!).

So, I had my students write a letter to the 6th graders that I will have next year as 7th graders, using the words from their vocab log to explain what the 6th graders would be learning in my class. Continue reading The end is near! Letters to next year’s students