Category Archives: Glenn Wiebe

Notable Books, Notable Lessons: Finding ways to put social studies back into K-8

notable-books-lesson-coverFull confession.

Elementary kids freak me out. They’re sticky. They smell funny. And they throw up. All the time. Seriously. All the time. Every day.

My wife teaches elementary kids. She. Is. A. Saint.

And she tells me that her kids don’t throw up every day. I want to believe her but I’m not convinced.

The point? I could never teach elementary kids. So I feel a little weird saying this but . . . Continue reading Notable Books, Notable Lessons: Finding ways to put social studies back into K-8

Need a super simple assessment tool? Make a pie.

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.

Steps he took: Continue reading Need a super simple assessment tool? Make a pie.

Using single-point rubrics & Checkmark to make your life easier & your kids smarter

We’ve all been there. You just finished putting together a great instructional lesson or unit. Kids are gonna love it. They’re working together. Doing research. Creating stuff, not just consuming it. The historical thinking will be off the charts.

Then you realize . . . you haven’t created the rubric yet.

You know that clear expectations and feedback are critically important to the learning process. You know that rubrics can help you in assessing what students know and are able to do. So you sit back down and eventually decide to use four scoring columns instead of five. Six rows of criteria instead of three. Clear descriptors. Nine point font all crammed into your matrix so that it fits on one page. Definitely tons of feedback gonna happen from this beauty.

But it’s worth it, right?

Mmm . . . using a great rubric can speed up the grading and assessment process but they can also create other issues besides the amount of time it takes to create them. A student shows creativity way beyond what the rubric asks for in a way that you hadn’t anticipated and your columns and rows aren’t able to reward that. Or a kid spells everything correctly but the grammar and punctuation is terrible. Maybe she nails the document analysis but fails to use evidence in her claims and your rubric has those two things together.

And is there any way – other than individual conferences – to really know whether students actually go deeper into your scored rubric than to look at the final grade circled in the bottom left hand corner?

Yes, analytic rubrics are useful. I’m not saying rubrics shouldn’t be part of your assessment toolkit. They can help you develop and create assignments that are aligned to your end in mind. They can provide clear expectations for students and a way to share feedback. But they can also be difficult to design correctly and may seem so overwhelming to students that the expected feedback we want never really sinks in.

And, sure, holistic versions are much quicker to create and use. So that’s nice. But they fail to provide specific and targeted feedback. You get a kid who wants to know why they got a two instead of a three or worse, he won’t ask at all. Missing the whole point of providing feedback in the first place.

So . . . why not look at a third way to the rubric game? And use some tech to make it even better? Continue reading Using single-point rubrics & Checkmark to make your life easier & your kids smarter

Simple things, really. But with huge impact.

miracleI recently ran into a guy named Michael following a session at a social studies conference. Michael teaches history in a large, urban high school with a ton of low SES and ELL kids. His situation seemed so desperate to me that I had to ask him what strategies he used to convey content and meaning, how he got kids to makes sense of historical information.

He began sharing some of ideas and I realized that his situation wasn’t desperate. The kids in his classes – the low SES kids, the ELL kids – are learning and they’re learning at high levels. And it’s because of Michael.

I’ve read the ton of research out there documenting the importance of quality teachers. But it was fun to actually sit down and talk with someone who knows the content, who understands what works, and spends time honing his craft. To talk with someone whose actions suggest that the research is right.

A few of his ideas? Continue reading Simple things, really. But with huge impact.

“You’re starting to make me cranky.”

Glenn Wiebe was digging around the vault over at History Tech looking for some resources centered around the Kansans Can school redesign and ran across this rant written just after the 2013 state standards went live. With those standards currently in the revision process and the state of Kansas deep into conversations about changing how we do school, it seems appropriate to re-post it here. Basically, it boils down to:

How much are we willing to change so that our kids are prepared for their future?

It’s been a fun couple of months since the holiday break. I’ve had the chance to spend time with a variety of folks doing all sorts of cool stuff. A group of us have been struggling to write questions for the social studies state assessment pilot due out this spring.

I’ve spent time with teachers discussing social studies best practices that are aligned to the state’s recently adopted state standards. And I’ve had the opportunity to work with lots of teachers as we shared ideas and discussed ways to integrate technology into instruction.

It’s all part of what is perhaps the best job in the world. I mean, who wouldn’t enjoy themselves spending time with dedicated, amazing people who are literally changing the world?

But . . . sometimes I walk away feeling a little uncomfortable after spending time with teachers. Once in a great while, I leave a group angry. And while I honestly think I do a good job of hiding my feelings, I’m starting to think those feelings need to be a bit more obvious.

Change is difficult. I understand that. And society already asks teachers to be superheroes. But it still bothers me when I hear teachers say things like: Continue reading “You’re starting to make me cranky.”