Category Archives: graphic organizer

3 reasons why your kids should be using sketchnotes

A few months ago, I spent a few minutes on a quick rant blaming laptops and mobile devices for being the reason for the terrible KC Royals pitching, destroying the rainforest, causing the downfall of the Roman Empire, and ruining your students’ educational experience.

Okay. Mostly just the student educational experience thing.

A brief recap. Research is suggesting that when college students use technology to capture lecture notes, both short and long term learning declines when compared to students who captured lecture notes using the old fashioned paper and pencil method. Tech tools seem to encourage verbatim note-taking that focuses on capturing every word rather than on capturing only information that is important – on copy and pasting rather than evaluating and summarizing. Paper and pencil force the student to make decisions about what’s important and then to transform that information into a personal version of the lecture or video.

It’s this personalizing feature of paper and pencil that improves retention and learning.

And, yes, it’s college kids not K-12. And, no, you don’t lecture all of the time. But I’m gonna suggest that the experiences of middle and high school students would not be that much different from the college kids cited in the research.

So using tech to take notes is bad. Now what? Continue reading 3 reasons why your kids should be using sketchnotes

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

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

Use Crop It tools to help elementary kids think historically

One of the easiest but most effective strategies for having younger kids work with primary sources is called Crop It. In some ways, it’s a lot like my Evidence Analysis Window Frame but I really like the flexibility embedded in the Crop It idea. The idea is pretty simple: students use L-shaped paper “cropping” tools to explore a visual primary source.

One of the problems that we often face is finding ways to help students see details – and to make sense of those details – when viewing a primary source. Photos, paintings, and graphics can contain a ton of specifics that get missed if students don’t take the time to look for them.

Crop It slows the process down so that students scan a source at a deep level and think about what they’re looking at. It gives them a way to find evidence, see multiple viewpoints, and gain a more detailed understanding of a primary source.

This strategy works especially well with elementary and middle school students to help them develop and support historical thinking. And the cool thing is that you can use it with all sorts of visual sources. Continue reading Use Crop It tools to help elementary kids think historically

Economics is everywhere so it’s okay to teach in every class

Angela Howdehell works for the Kansas Council for Economic Education and is based at Wichita State University. She is today’s guest author.


kcee-logoI have been exhibiting at various annual teacher conferences in Kansas over the past fifteen years. Exhibits have included math, business, social studies, school administration, and much more. Countless times, a teacher has told me during a conversation, “I don’t teach economics. They teach that in the math department” or “They should be teaching that in Social Studies.”

Two minutes later, I’ll be speaking with a teacher instructing the same class at a different school and I hear something like “I love teaching economics in my world history class” or “I love bringing economics in my business class.” The longer I work with the Kansas Council for Economic Education, the more I understand why the idea of teaching economics might be confusing to some. Economics is everywhere, so it can and should be easily integrated into almost any K-12 subject. It is very practical and relates directly to the real world. Students get that! It’s a great thing that economic skills are also found in many of different content standards.

While sifting through old resources early on in my career, I found a reference page that would soon become one of my favorite documents. Our network refers to it as The Six Principles of Economic Thinking also know as The Handy Dandy Guide. This guide can be found in many of the resources provided through our national network of councils and centers for economic education.

For example, the Understanding Economics in U.S. History curriculum guide uses the six principles to help students gain a better understanding of events throughout history. Teachers can also find the guide referenced in the first lesson in our Financial Fitness for Life curriculum series.

Below are different versions of the poster for different grade levels: Continue reading Economics is everywhere so it’s okay to teach in every class