10 things you can do this week that will make you a better social studies teacher

Best PracticeOver the last few months, I’ve been working with a variety of different teacher groups in a variety of different places. But all of the conversations have somehow shifted back to the same basic compelling question:

What does an effective teacher look like?

It’s a great question to ask. We’ve always paid lip service to professional development and learning but it seems as if only recently has the question been taken seriously. The Common Core literacy standards for history and the newly revised Kansas history/government standards are demanding more from our kids – and from us.

So I started thinking about things we can do to get better as social studies teachers. Not stuff organized by our administrators. Informal sorts of things that can make us more effective. I came up with ten. There’s gotta be more.

What would you add? Subtract from the list?

1.   Talk more with other teachers.  Find another teacher down the hall, preferably another social studies teacher. It might be a teacher in another building. But you need to intentionally schedule a weekly session to share resources, ask questions, and brainstorm ideas. Remember – this is professional learning, not complaining about parents or administration or whatever. Keep it focused.

Online Twitter chats are offered once or twice a week on a variety of topics. You can participate by sharing your thoughts in 140 characters or less. Start with #sschat but there are lots of topics out there.  Go here for a full list.

You might want to try Google Hangout. Find some teacher friends from outside your building and start your own weekly hangout.  Start here. Or view some Hangouts On Air.

2.  Check your calendar and schedule to attend some conferences. I know there may not be money in the budget to send you off to a conference. But it doesn’t hurt to ask. And don’t be shy about tying your request to “increasing literacy standards and skills as outlined in the Common Core.” Hey. I’m not proud. If it gets me to a conference, I’ll do just about anything. The NCSS has a great national conference in November. Check out their page about regional conferences. Don’t forget the NCHE.

And, I’m assuming of course, that you’ve already registered for the Kansas Social Studies conference scheduled for November 10 – 11.

Looking for a tech conference? ISTE is the biggie but both Texas and Florida have sweet conferences.

3.   Find teacher training presentations online.  Many teachers and presenters post their stuff online. I try and post all of my presos on Slideshare. Find other stuff by searching the Slideshare site with keywords such as

“social studies” “best practices” “historical thinking”

Prezi also has some great teacher created resources.

4.    Take some quizzes. What kind of teacher are you? How does your teaching style impact your students. There are lots of online quizzes that can provide a clearer picture of how you interact with your students here, here, and here.

5. Watch some TED talks. I’ve shared about TED talks before. They are short and easy to view. They provide inspiration and teaching resources. Get a couple of lists just for Social Studies teachers here and the whole shootin’ match here.

6. Go Facebook. So many great groups and pages that can add to your knowledge base.  Make friends with fellow teachers and follow some wonderful pages.

7. Interview yourself.  I love this site! Whohub offers a great tool that we can use to interview ourselves and share our thoughts about teaching. It can help you focus on your teaching habits and because you can see what others have shared, it’s like talking with a whole group of people all at once. Kinda cool!

8. Follow Larry Ferlazzo.  Larry Ferlazzo is the ultimate power in the universe when it comes to creating lists of stuff. And he has awesome social studies lists. Start here. Then go here for even more.

9. Do some reading. As social studies teachers, we can never read enough. About best practice and about content. So commit to reading more. This could be in digital form or good, old fashioned paper. GoodReads is a great place to start. Check out their group pages. Shelfari has a similar setup. If you have tons of time, be sure to check out Amazon’s ListMania. I did a quick search for American History – type in different keywords at the top for different results.

10. Videotape yourself teaching. Yes. It’s a bit scary. Okay . . . a lot scary. But watching yourself teach is a great way to get a sense of how kids see you. You don’t need a lot of equipment. An iPad or your cell phone work great for this. Hoping it doesn’t look anything like this.

image source

About Glenn Wiebe

I work as a social studies specialist at ESSDACK, an educational service center in Hutchinson, Kansas. Before coming to ESSDACK, I taught middle school US History and higher ed social science classes.

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