Category Archives: graphic organizer

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.

Blackout Poetry: Worth Waiting For

Jill Weber teaches US History at Cheney Middle School and high schoolers in the Teaching Career Pathway. Today she shares how she incorporates the Blackout Poetry literacy and writing activity into her instruction.


Sometimes great ideas come to us, and we’re so excited to try them, BUT the pace of the year come crashing in on us and we have to put those ideas on hold. I’ve had this idea on hold the the last three years, and we are FINALLY getting to it. Blackout Poetry.

Blackout Poetry is using text that has been printed (books, newspapers, magazines, etc…) and manipulating the text to convey a new poetic meaning. By selecting words from the text and then blacking out the remaining words.

Take a minute to Google it and check out the images. So cool!

I first ran across using this in the social studies classroom when Continue reading Blackout Poetry: Worth Waiting For

Structured Academic Controversy – Lewis and Clark Edition!  

Today’s post is written by Cheney, Kansas middle and high social studies teacher Jill Weber. Jill is the 2016 Gilder Lehrman Kansas History Teacher of the Year.


Sometimes it all goes right. Thursday morning I didn’t think the day was going to turn out. It was just one of those rough mornings. Bad news and frustrations everywhere I looked. Before class started, I thought

Man, I’m gonna really have to fake-it-to-make-it today.

But then class started, and we got rolling with our topic and activity. By the end of my first block I knew I wasn’t gonna have to “fake it.” Today was AWESOME!

And it was made possible by the Structured Academic Controversy (SAC) activity I found using Stanford History Education Group. If you aren’t using SHEG in your classes . . . get on it! Seriously one of the best resources out there for incorporating and teaching with primary sources.

The SAC provides a controversial questions, documents for research, and the procedure for students to participate in small group debates. Students learn how to argue with evidence! And middle school students LOVE to argue!

The entire activity took two full class periods (we are on a block schedule, so two 75 min. classes) Here’s how it went down . . . Continue reading Structured Academic Controversy – Lewis and Clark Edition!  

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