Today’s guest is Megan Neiman, a high school social studies teacher at McPherson High School in McPherson, Kansas and the current secretary for the Kansas Council for the Social Studies.
You know those big orange SOCIAL STUDIES SCHOOL SERVICE catalogs that social studies teachers around the country receive a few times a year? The ones that we always thumb through and think “oh, that looks nice,” and “that looks like an interesting video!”
You know the ones I’m talking about. Well, I actually tried something from it! The curriculum is called Interact and I’ve had some wonderful experiences over the past few years implementing it in my classrooms.
What is Interact?
Interact is a curriculum designed to let students learn through experiences. It’s written by teachers for teachers and closely follows the old proverb, “Tell me and I’ll forget; show me and I may remember; involve me and I’ll understand.” In a series of different units, students compete in challenges, follow simulations, and participate in assessments that help them develop skills across the curriculum and enhance the use of cooperative learning.
Each unit comes in a different book and contains anywhere from three to 20 class periods of activities. Interact supplements learning so students actually remember content because they are involved in their learning. Each book contains a teacher’s guide, purpose and overview, daily lesson plans, student materials, time management guidelines, and support materials. Interact activities require students to analyze tasks and evaluate how to apply their knowledge to create the assigned product. Most units also have activities that can be enhanced by participation from parents, administrators, or community members. This is great for promoting civic engagement and a connection to the community.
I come from the world of middle schoolers. I spent six years teaching ancient history to 6th graders and American history to 8th graders. So it was a shock to many of my colleagues when I decided to make the jump from tweens to teens last year.
After going through a mixture of emotions about my content change, I was so excited when I received my course load. American history (Yay! I can pick up where I left off!) and an elective – Sociology. I feel that Sociology is a dream class for social studies nerds. It literally incorporates everything and anything you can imagine: American history, world history, geography, psychology, science, current events, ethics, morals, values, beliefs, culture, religion. I could keep going and going. What I wasn’t prepared for, however, was my department head to tell me that there is no real curriculum in place for this semester-long course. I was starting with basically nothing.
Enter Pinterest and Teachers Pay Teachers! I was able to find some amazing resources online. The ones that stood out the most revolved around the popular podcast, Serial. I had never listened to it but had heard that it was extremely addictive. So when I found these incredible materials created by Mike Godsey on TeachersPayTeachers, I dove in headfirst with my students.
Something I like to do with my sixth graders is start each unit off with a vocabulary activity. There are several different things I’ve done, sometimes I take about 30 words from the unit and have the kids put them in categories before I tell them what the words mean. I let them choose the categories as long as they have at least 4 or 5. Kids work in groups then share with the class. We compare categories and see which ones are similar – it’s a great way to introduce words that kids have never heard of before. Continue reading Vocab: A great place to start!→
A few years ago, I was introduced to “Discrepant Event Inquiry” from Glenn Wiebe. (Here is another post about it from his History Tech blog). The idea is that you take an image and only reveal a little bit at a time. As I reveal a little bit of the picture, the students must guess Who is in the picture, What is happening, When was the photograph taken, and Where is this taking place. This encourages students to think outside the box and it also does WONDERS with questioning and how to ask the right questions. Naturally, I turned this into a competition. Continue reading How I use “Discrepant Event Inquiry” in my classroom→
Here are some happenings within the social studies department at my school:
About a year ago, my social studies department decided we wanted to step outside of the box. We were tired of sharing our building-wide computer carts and iPad cart with the other departments (especially ELA – what ever happened to hand-writing an essay?). Our administrators were totally on board and willing to support us in any way that they could.
We contemplated many different options before settling on Discovery Education’s new curriculum – the Techbook. No we didn’t spend our summer’s creating our own iBooks – that will come later, at least for me. But we were preparing ourselves for some intense professional training a few weeks before school started from Discovery Education to introduce us to this new curriculum.
However, in true eduction fashion, that training didn’t happen before school started, and our new iPad minis (One cart for every social studies teacher! I feel blessed!) weren’t placed in their new otter boxes and weren’t configured with apps that would enhance our teaching experience, hooked in to the shiny new carts placed in our classrooms, ready for students to use on the first day. Continue reading Integrating Technology in Social Studies Curriculum→