The 2015 Kansas Social Studies Conference began with an opening assembly hosted by Don Gifford and Suzy Myers from the Kansas Department of Education to fit with the theme of Integrating History and ELA. Don started his presentation by introducing us to his self proclaimed “man crush” Alexander Hamilton.
Don suggested that “Hamilton wrote himself out of poverty and into the history books.” He continued by suggesting that we need to encourage reading and writing skills in our classrooms. Suzy then asked us to consider what prevents us from making literacy, especially writing, a central activity in our daily lessons. Research shows that colleges and employers are able to identify reading and writing deficiencies in the classroom and the job place, so why are we not doing more to prevent this?
As educators we should redefine what we consider writing, use meaningful collaboration between social studies and English teachers, and model for our students the transfer of knowledge between content areas by applying grammar in the social studies classroom and content in the English classroom.
The first breakout session of the conference gave teachers a chance to group by grade level to discuss the Multidisciplinary Performance Task and how they can prepare students for this assessment in the classroom. The MDPT will always focus on Benchmark 4 of one of the five standards, which challenge students to create and communicate solutions and products. Students are required to respond to primary sources using either informative, narrative, or argumentative writing styles.
Presenters at the conference provided teachers with places to start when implementing MDPT strategies in the classroom and where to find resources that are available. The Kansas Assessment Program is a great place for teachers to start – even if they teach out of state. Sample questions, writing prompts, and primary documents are provided by grade level. MDPT grading rubrics can also be found on the KSDE ELA Assessment page.
The afternoon was full of great information from educators across the state on different ways to integrate history and ELA including current events, National History Day, Google Tools, Teaching Literacy through History, literature and literacy skills. Don Gifford wrapped the day up with information about the latest standards and what students are expected to know in our classrooms. An explanation of the standards is in the process of being written to identify the significant characteristics of the 10 standard components (choices, consequences, rights, responsibilities, beliefs, ideas, diversity, continuity, change, and dynamic relationships) and the critical things that students need to be able to understand about each. Look for this document to appear on the KSDE website in the coming months.
Conference staff hopes to upload presentations and resources from yesterday onto the conference website. Check back often for the latest.