Category Archives: assessment

Winning the RACE of writing

It’s been that kind of school year for all of us, so here’s a great post on writing from last October by KCSS board member Adam Topliff. Happy parent-teacher conference season everyone!

Doing Social Studies

student-at-computerStudents + writing = frustration . . . sound like familiar?

The growing expectation of integrating writing  in our Social Studies classroom makes us as anxious about the process as our students. Why does this happen? There are a variety of factors that contribute to this fear and frustration but the most common that I hear from other teachers is

I don’t have a solid system to assist my kids with writing.

We teach a topic and then assess students by asking them to write a response or reaction. What do we get back?

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5 Easy Ways to Integrate Writing in the Social Studies

Today’s post is written by Cheney, Kansas middle and high social studies teacher Jill Weber. Jill is the 2016 Gilder Lehrman Kansas History Teacher of the Year.


Gone are the days in which reading novels and writing essays belonged solely in an ELA classroom.  All subjects are now expected to (and should) be integrating and supporting the reading and writing skills that students are taught in Language Arts class.

“But, but . . . I went to college to be a history teacher, not an English teacher. I don’t know HOW to teach ELA!”

That was me. Seriously. I was ready to fight teaching reading and writing skills as long as I could.

Until I learned some simple strategies to help me.  This list is meant to help those who are struggling to add reading and writing skills into their classrooms and possibly give some new ideas to others. Continue reading 5 Easy Ways to Integrate Writing in the Social Studies

Zoom In to history

jill weberJill Weber, 2016 Gilder Lehrman Kansas History Teacher of the Year and teacher at Cheney Middle School, joined the Doing Social Studies writing team last year. The following is a cross-post from her site A View of the Web.

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About 3 years ago I was first introduced to a new web program called Zoom In.  They were financed by the Bill and Linda Gates Foundation and were trying to create an online platform to help students use historical thinking skills, and help teachers learn how to best instruct these skills.  Because, let’s face it.  Most of us were NOT taught this way, and most of us were not instructed on HOW to teach this way.

For me it was love at first sight.

And then I got the bad news.  The program wasn’t completely iPad friendly, and we are 1:1 iPads.

But I was too much in love with this idea to just let it go.  So I did what I do best . . . Continue reading Zoom In to history

Argumentative writing prompts, scaffolded tasks, and using evidence

citation-neededWe want our students to grapple more with content, to think historically, and solve problems. One of the ways we can support this behavior is by asking our kids to think and write to support a claim using evidence.

Here in the great state of Kansas University basketball, our standards and assessment use the term “argumentative writing” to describe the process of supporting claims with evidence. That phrase can sound a little too much like some of last  year’s presidential debates or this month’s childish Twitter wars but . . . asking kids to create an argument and to support that argument really is a good thing. We want them to be able to look at a problem, gather and organize evidence, and use that evidence to create a well-supported argument.

As many of us move from a content focused instructional model to one that instead asks students to use that content in authentic ways, it can sometimes be difficult knowing how to actually have them write argumentatively. But there are resources available to help with your lesson design.

We’ve gone back to an earlier post from our partner blog History Tech to cherry pick some of our favorites. Pick and choose the ones that work best for you. Continue reading Argumentative writing prompts, scaffolded tasks, and using evidence

Civic Engagement & Historical Argumentation

adam-topliff

This week’s author is Adam Topliff: I teach 8th Grade Social Studies & Civics at Wamego Middle School in Wamego, KS.  I love all things Hamilton!

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The Kansas Standards for History, Government, and Social Studies prepare students to be informed, thoughtful, engaged citizens as they enrich their communities, state, nation, world, and themselves.

The mission statement for our HGSS standards in Kansas has pushed educators across disciplines to consider how we are working to get our kids engaged.  This push is part of the greater initiative to deliver the best education in the nation and to produce true 21st Century citizens. One of the main focuses at KSDE is the idea of creating civic engagement for our students. This can be demonstrated through any number of opportunities in which our students engage in community service, leadership initiatives, or simply study how our government works. However, we must consider how to encourage civic engagement as we study history.

One of the staples of the mission statement is “engaging to provide the enrichment to a student’s communities, state, nation, world and THEMSELVES.” To produce deep levels of civic engagement, we need to ask our students to engage in historical conversations based on questions that will also enrich them and challenge them to look at today’s civic, political, and social issues. To simply study the past will not develop these opportunities.  

This fall, as part of my attempt to develop better connections between the study of history and civic engagement, my students completed a long term project that asked them to evaluate the presidential job performance of the “Founding Presidents.”  One of the main curriculum units we study is the Constitution Period but  I relabeled it “Building A Nation” and used that theme to develop the presidential evaluation project.   Continue reading Civic Engagement & Historical Argumentation