Lori Rice teaches fourth grade at West Elementary in Wamego and is the current Kansas Council for the Social Studies elementary teacher of the year. You can find Lori on Twitter at @MsLRice. She also blogs on all things teaching (not just social studies) at The Educator’s Room.
The beginning of the school year brings excitement and anxiety for teachers and students alike. It is a year of new possibility, new classmates and new opportunities.
Every school year I start with lists. I have a list of school supplies I need to buy and hunt down at sales. I have a list of things to do to prepare and organize my classroom for a new set of students and families. Then there is the coveted class list. We get our elementary list in August.
When I receive my class list every year, I look at it with curiosity and a little worry. Who are these children coming into my room? What experiences do they bring to our room? What experiences are they lacking? How have they been taught in previous years? Where do they go home each night? Will I be able to provide all they need?
Building a classroom community is the most important part of the first weeks of school.
It takes time for students to build relationships and trust within the classroom walls we will spend our next nine months. Being a social studies teacher, it is so simple to intertwine my curriculum from the first day into the discussions, activities, and lessons we do from the start. The HGSS standards and social/emotional skills can be taught at every grade level and woven into literature, art, music, and especially classroom management.
There are many great picture books and chapter books to start the year with. I use Absolutely Almost or Wonder as a great read aloud to start discussions about differences and strengths. I have been teaching fourth grade for twelve years and this is my twenty-fourth year in education. We all have our favorite lessons. These are two that I love starting the year with: Continue reading Starting Social Studies→
Many of you are ready to jump off the end of the pier – sometime in the next few weeks, kids are heading back to your classrooms.
To help energize your first awesome week with kids, here are six great ways to kick off the school year. Use what you can. Adapt what you can’t.
What not to do
But before we get too far along with what we know works, it’s probably a good idea to think about what doesn’t. I’ve mentioned Fourteen Things You Should Never Do on the First Day of School before but it’s still a great reminder of what it looks like when we’re doing it wrong. Mark Barnes suggest that your goal should be a very simple one during the first few days of school:
You have many days to assess students’ strengths and weaknesses. You have months to discuss high stakes testing and standards. You’ll spend weeks probing the textbook.
The first day of school should be dedicated to rapport-building and to joy.
Your goal should be that students go home that night and tell their parents: “I’m going to love history class because my teacher is awesome!”
So what should we be doing the first week?
Kids need to be in groups. They need to be solving problems. They need to get a taste of some social studies and play with some social studies tools. They need to know that it’s okay to fail. Find out more about them. They should practice a few critical thinking skills. Maybe a little tech here and there. Have fun.
Planning is underway for the 2019 Kansas Social Studies Conference!
We hope that social studies teachers currently part of the profession, pre-service teachers planning to enter the profession, and vendors passionate about supporting the profession will all join us at Newman University October 20-21 for two exciting days of networking, collaborating, and learning from one another.
This year we will be joined by keynote speaker Dr. John Fea, Professor of American History at Messiah College in Mechanicsburg, Pennsylvania. Fea will be speaking about his 2013 book Why Study History? and sharing how reflecting on contemporary life from a historical perspective helps us better understand ourselves and the world around us.
Have something that would be great to share with other educators? Please submit a proposal for a breakout session! The deadline has been extended to make sure we don’t miss any great opportunities to see what you’re doing in the classroom.
Find out more and register for the conference here.
Several weeks ago, I had the chance to work with a group of high school teachers as we brainstormed new Inquiry Design Models. Any time I get the chance to spend time with a bunch of other social studies teachers, not much can ruin the day. Seriously . . . a whole day talking, sharing, playing with, and exploring the best social studies tools, resources, and strategies?
And during our time together we messed around with a tool that I had almost forgotten about.
The Pie Chart.
The Pie Chart is a powerful graphic organizer / writing scaffold / assessment tool / Swiss army knife. It does it all and is drop dead simple. I first learned about the Pie almost a decade ago from social studies super star Nathan McAlister.
Nate was part of our Teaching American History grant as the summer seminar master teacher and used the Pie Chart as a hook activity to kick start a conversation about the causes of the Civil War.