Happy Monday! Anyone have a countdown to the end of school? As we near the final stretch of another crazy school year we once again face the challenge of keeping kids excited and engaged. I thought I would share something that I discussed at the end of last school year to give you a couple of ideas to keep those creative juices flowing.
So, it’s April . . . track meets, warm weather, field trips, crazy schedules, finals, and we’re supposed to keep kids engaged? Maybe one of the greatest challenges in education is the end of the year. How do we find creative ways to keep kids interested in learning?
One popular survival mechanism is plugging in a movie that is connected to your curriculum. Do you really think the kids will find it much fun to watch Gettysburg and complete a worksheet connected to the movie? Sometimes we are required to give a semester final but to ask the kids to take a long drawn out test that you may not be interested in grading when the school year is done lacks a lot of appeal. Frankly, the last month of a school year can be a real struggle and make you feel like our friend pictured above, but it doesn’t have to be that way. You just need to inject a little creativity into your year-end routine.
This week’s poster is our very own KCSS President, Thomas Fulbright: I have been teaching history at Hope Street Academy, a public charter school, in Topeka since 2008. My wife and I have three daughters, Claire, Nora, and Meredith. I intend to spend my entire life convincing them how exciting and important history is! My bio picture is of Claire and I meeting President Lincoln!
I will start this post with an apology. Last March I made another post advocating for a different approach to teaching history. It seems unreasonable for me to now suggest that approach could be improved. Here is the thing though, even if you are doing something in your classroom that you believe is working well, you can’t help but notice things (some little, some large) that can improve your approach. Good teachers are always searching to find ways to improve their pedagogy, which I assume is why you (I will venture another assumption: you are a good teacher because you use this site!) are reading this blog.
In my last post I discussed teaching history through the use of a simulation of Congress. I gave students a bill from the past, then had them “cast a vote” on the bill by writing an argumentative essay using evidence from the time period (speeches delivered in Congress, newspaper articles, editorial cartoons, etc.) to justify their “vote”. The last part of the process was I had students make a “Contemporary Connection” by reading an NPR article about a similar policy debate being had today in Washington. Students then had to decide if they support or oppose today’s policy. Lastly, they then had to make a comparison to their opinion on the past policy debate with their opinion on the policy debate today. For example; students would have to account for why they had “voted” in favor of H.R.5804 (which became the “Chinese Exclusion Act”), but were then opposed to restrictive immigration policies today?Continue reading Why does what happened in 1890 still matter (Version 2.0)→
In 1953, Emporia, Kansas native Alvin J. King proposed that Armistice Day be changed to Veterans Day to recognize and honor all veterans from all wars and conflicts. The first Veterans Day was organized and celebrated in Emporia later that year. Kansas representative Ed Rees, also from Emporia, took King’s proposal to Congress and President Dwight D. Eisenhower (also from Kansas) signed the bill proclaiming November 11 as Veterans Day.
The first nationwide observance of Veterans Day was on November 11, 1954. Every year since, the President of the United States urges all Americans to honor the commitment of our Veterans through appropriate public ceremonies (from the Emporia Visitors Bureau).
Below are resources and lesson plans that can be used in your classroom to help teach your students about Veterans Day:
You might recognize Lori from her previous posts here on Doing Social Studies.
And now you’ll be able to greet her as the KCSS Excellence in Teaching Award winner.
The award is named in honor of Judy Cromwell, a social studies teacher in the Topeka area for over 38 years. Intended to reward and encourage high quality instruction in the social studies, KCSS selects one winner at the elementary and secondary levels.
Not only is Lori our elementary winner but she also won the Kansas Department of Education Social Studies Teacher of the Year. Needless to say, she’s a fantastic educator and we’re so happy to have her here in Kansas.
Lori Rice currently works at West Elementary in Wamego as a fourth grade teacher. While she is responsible for teaching all content areas, it has been her goal to “teach social studies standards even when these are often neglected due to mathematics and reading instruction taking priority.”
Teachers of social studies across the curriculum probably don’t realize that they cover the issue of Social Stratification (social class systems, poverty, Karl Marx, etc) in their classes. Teachers of sociology probably could spend a whole month on the topic! Social Stratification is one of my favorite units in my semester-long sociology course. Last year, I had my students read Animal Farm (it’s not required in English anymore) and compare the animal’s problems with the issues of social class and social mobility.
I may do that again – just because, in my personal opinion, I think students still need to read this classic! But I have two other favorite activities to go with this unit:
First, students watch a few videos and we discuss some important vocabulary with Social Stratification. Then I have the students listen to “Livin’ on a Prayer” (Bon Jovi) and “Fast Car” (Tracy Chapman). They pick out the issues that relate to social stratification after listening to the songs and reading the lyrics. Next I set them free to find their own examples of stratification in music. Obviously there are some ground rules – nothing racially or sexually offensive. You could also make sure that the songs are clean, but I really want the students to look at the music that they like and pick out these issues within the songs they are listening to everyday. And like almost everything else, you’ll have those students who just google “Songs about social stratification” — normally they pick “Allentown” by Billy Joel.
But I do have some kids who really become more aware of social class issues that people write about and how there are SO MANY songs with these issues to choose from! To complete this part of the unit, students view a Slide Mission with videos, notes, and responses embedded. I like this format because they can insert their YouTube videos right into Google Slides without me have to go search for them. A copy of what I used in my class can be found here.
After a class discussion about poverty in the U.S., we watch the ESPN 30 for 30 called “Fantastic Lies“. This is the story of the Duke LaCrosse team rape scandal back in 2006. I show this because it covers individuals from across social classes and their expectations vs. reality. Students who are unfamiliar with the story are always shocked once we get about three-fourths of the way through it! Afterwards, they will write a reflection (usually around 300 words) and they make connections with the episode and the terms we discussed regarding Social Stratification. I purchased this episode of 30 for 30 (Season 3, episode 6) on Amazon Prime Video.
Sociology teachers out there: I’d love to hear what you do in your classes to teach social stratification! Comment below.