Teaching the Pledge: A Strategy for Using the Pledge of Allegiance to Promote Civic Discussion

The Fourth of July has always been a favorite holiday of mine. The fireworks, the food, the abundance of red, white and blue, the obligatory History Channel marathon of something about the American Revolution; it all is precisely in this history teaching, America loving, BBQ enthusiast’s wheelhouse. The Fourth is the day where nearly all of our nation’s traditions and rituals are put on full display, and I hope that our students (and really all Americans) recognize the significance of this nation and the great responsibility placed in all citizens by the Founders.

During the annual fireworks display I always find myself taking a moment and reflecting with pride the origins of our nation and the principles in which we were founded. This opportunity to reflect is really the purpose of our national traditions, but too often we get so caught up in the hectic nature of 21st century life that the meaning gets lost. In terms of school, my mind immediately goes to the recitation of the Pledge of Allegiance by students of all ages. Those schools where this is a daily or weekly requirement display an admirable dedication to honoring America, but I hope the respective social studies teachers in those buildings take the time to remind their students of the magnitude of those words. The Pledge of Allegiance is a powerful act that strikes at the heart of what it means to be a voluntary, active member of our republic. However, without reflecting upon its meaning it can become an empty gesture that is done without meaning or significance. In my class I took a portion of a 45-minute class period to discuss with my kids the significance of the Pledge and what exactly they were doing as they have been reciting it for years.

Continue reading Teaching the Pledge: A Strategy for Using the Pledge of Allegiance to Promote Civic Discussion

The NPS is 100 and giving away free stuff

every kid in a parkWith the end of the school year arriving, now is the time to plan your summer vacation. The National Park Service can help! The Park Service was established on August 25, 1916 and is celebrating its 100th anniversary by working to get “Every Kid in a Park.”

The program is simple. All fourth grade students and members of their family can get into national park sites for free during the entire year! Students can get their pass and plan their trips at the Every Kid in a Park site.

Visiting national park sites in Kansas is easy and it does not require a pass because there is no fee to get into any of the five national park sites in Kansas. Below is a list of NPS sites in Kansas:

If you are able to travel beyond the borders of Kansas, just take your park pass to any NPS site to gain free entrance into any national park!

You can go to Every Kid in a Park to discover how to get to some of America’s most treasured places, like Yellowstone in Wyoming or the Grand Canyon in Arizona, or some of the hidden gems of the Park Service, such as Rosie the Riveter WWII Home Front in California or the Chesapeake and Ohio Canal National Historic Park in Maryland. Whether you want to experience history, recreation, nature, or solitude, there is a national park for you.

Teachers shouldn’t forget the very cool Teaching with Historic Places that uses properties listed in the National Park Service’s National Register of Historic Places to enliven history, social studies, geography, civics, and other subjects. TwHP has created a variety of  lessons, products, and activities that help teachers bring historic places into the classroom.

So fourth graders, teachers, and parents take advantage of your summer break and visit your national parks through the “Every Kid in a Park” program!

Because no matter who you are, no matter where you live, our parks, our monuments, our lands, our waters — these places are your birthright as Americans.”

President Barack Obama

Enjoy Your Summer!

Nicholas Murray
Education Specialist
Brown v. Board of Education National Historic Site

Don Gifford’s monthly KSDE update and opportunities

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Once a month or so, Don Gifford, social studies consultant at the Kansas Department of Education, shoots out an email with all sorts of updates, resources, and learning opportunities. Pick and choose what best fits your needs!

1. Start by heading to this Google Doc with all sorts of professional learning opportunities.

Then be sure to check out these other PD options: Continue reading Don Gifford’s monthly KSDE update and opportunities

What I wish “they” know

ipad pencilJill Weber is a middle school social studies teacher in Cheney, Kansas. She’s the latest member of the KCSS board and writes at A View of the Web. Pasted below is one of her recent posts.

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In my preparation classes to become a teacher, technology was a factor.  I learned how to set up a website, how to save to a flash drive or floppy disk, and came up with ideas for lessons that incorporate technology for students to use.

I use none of that in the way it was intended.  Everything has changed.

Technology has been a part of my teaching career each one of my 10 years.  Although, I never would have guessed how fast and drastic the changes in technology has occurred in the last three years.  The lengths that technology has advanced in education have shocked me, and I’ve still got a good 20 years left.

In the 10 years I’ve been working as a teacher, I have found myself on both end of the technology spectrum.  I have been completely lost and not excited about new changes while relying on someone else to help me or teach me the new tech.  More recently I have found that my role with technology in school has evolved to more of a leader/instructor on incorporating tech in the classroom.  Never would I have thought 10 years ago that I would have an elective class that focused on using technology to broadcast various media projects created by 7th and 8th grade students.

But here I am.

Over the years, and throughout my role with technology I have found myself muttering “I wish they knew . . . “  When I struggled with technology there were things I just really wanted those who “got it” to know about me and my journey, why it was a struggle, or what caused my hesitation.  Now that I’m more of a teacher in the area, I find I have a whole new set of wishes for the “other side.”

This post is not meant to point out one side as being “better” than the other.  More to raise awareness for all of the teachers behind the front lines.  Those of us who are expected to incorporate the vastly different technology that is placed in the hands of the students in our rooms.

I have reached out to other teachers in my district and PLN for the “wishes” they have.  These come from teachers of all disciplines, ages, subjects, and technology levels.

To the “tech savvy” teacher.  Here’s what those who struggle with technology wish YOU knew:

Continue reading What I wish “they” know

6 C’s for analyzing primary sources

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Over the last few years, we’ve seen the instructional strategy pendulum swing over to encouraging more use of evidence by students to solve authentic problems. And there’s tons of stuff out there to help us and students make sense of primary and secondary sources.

You’ve got the Library of Congress primary source analysis worksheets. You’ve got the awesome stuff bySam Wineburg and Stanford. There’s the DocsTeach site by the National Archives as well as all of their document analysis lessons / worksheets. And lots of things like Historical Thinking Matters and Historical Scene Investigation.

But a lot of people don’t seem to be aware of the excellent work that the History Project at the University of California, Irvine does with helping student evaluate evidence. We have been perhaps overloaded with Wineburg’s stuff so much that we don’t think that we need to go out and look for other types of tools.

Don’t get me wrong, Sam. I absolutely love your stuff. Sourcing, contextulization, corroborating. I am all in. But we always said that it’s okay to date other people. And the History Project has some useful stuff.

I especially like their 6 C’s of Primary Source Analysis graphic organizer. Continue reading 6 C’s for analyzing primary sources