Category Archives: best practice

Balancing Security: Past, Present and Future

Hopefully you were able to join us at the Kansas Social Studies Conference earlier this month or were fortunate enough to get to attend National Council for the Social Studies annual conference in San Francisco just before Thanksgiving.  If you’re already looking for your next social studies fix or haven’t had the opportunity yet, might I suggest a trip to Kansas City?


Greetings, my fellow Kansans!  With any luck the year has settled in for you.  It has been a beautiful beginning, and the kids are just as wonderful as ever!  My name is Jeff Benes and I am the Past President of the Missouri Council for the Social Studies.  I live in Westwood, Kansas, but work in Gladstone, Missouri (be honest, how many of you had to Google those two locations). This school year, at the end of February, the Missouri Council is hosting our annual conference, and we wanted to reach out to you as neighbors and fellow teachers.  

National_World_War_I_Museum_-_Kansas_City,_MO_-_DSC07446The conference will be held on the Missouri side of Kansas City, at the National World War I Museum and Memorial, the weekend of February 23 and 24 (Friday and Saturday).  If you have never had a chance to visit, this is the time.  The museum itself is worth the weekend to come visit (and if you are a museum buff, you will need more than one day).  On top of that, there will be great presentations in both content and practice, incredible speakers, a great lunch, and the opportunity to network with people just like you:  Passionate teachers looking to hone their craft.   Continue reading Balancing Security: Past, Present and Future

Dressing it up. Cause we’re always advertising

I have been known to walk down the hallways of my school in scrubs, surgical hat, and gloves.

I have also paraded myself around in full-chef-gear – thanks to our culinary arts department.

I have a replica Indiana Jones hat. I wear it. Strutting through the hallway.

But WHY?

Continue reading Dressing it up. Cause we’re always advertising

Save the Last Word for Me discussion strategy

I was browsing through some old History Tech posts and ran across this 2016 entry. It caught my attention as several of us were chatting about ways to encourage student to student conversations. If you’ve been thinking about that issue as well, you might give the Last Word strategy a try.


I spent some some last week with a group sharing strategies around the blended learning concept. It was compelling conversation, I walked away smarter, and had the chance to meet some interesting people.

But one of my biggest walkaways was a strategy that the forum’s facilitator used to jumpstart the discussion.

He called it the Last Word. Others in the group used the term Final Word. No matter what it might be called, I thought it was a perfect fit for strengthen the speaking and listening skills of social studies students. So if you’ve used Last Word, post some comments on changes you’ve made or things you like about it.

New to Last Word? Read on, my friend. Continue reading Save the Last Word for Me discussion strategy

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 graphic organizers you’re probably not using but should be

Most of you are already familiar with the idea of document analysis worksheets. These sorts of tools are perfect for scaffolding historical thinking skills for your kids. Some of the best, created by the Library of Congress and the National Archives, have been around for years. I also really like the stuff created by the Stanford History Education group, especially their Historical Thinking Chart.

We should be using all of those evidence analysis tools with our kids. They can be especially helpful for training elementary and middle school students to gather and organize evidence while solving authentic problems. And for high school kids without a strong background in historical thinking skills, the tools provided by the LOC, NARA, and SHEG are incredibly handy to help guide their thinking.

But what about other types of graphic organizers? Are there some organizers you should be using but aren’t? Spoiler alert. Yes.

Before we jump into the fabulous five, a quick graphic organizer 101 review.

Brain research tells us that mental images are powerful tools that support cognitive tasks and that by creating unique mental pictures, our students deepen their understanding, attach new information to prior knowledge, and create new learning. Graphic organizers are “visual and spatial displays that arrange information graphically so that key concepts and the relationships among the concepts are displayed” (Gunter, Estes, and Mintz 2007).

They can present information textually, with images or symbols, or a combination of both. Graphic organizers give kids a clear strategy to gather, process, organize, and prioritize information. All things that are encouraged by Common Core lit standards, the NCSS national standards, and the Kansas social studies document.

Okay . . . what five graphic organizers should all social studies teachers be using but probably aren’t? Continue reading 5 graphic organizers you’re probably not using but should be