Category Archives: reading

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

Sociology Spotlight: Teaching Social Stratification with Music and Fantastic Lies

animal farmTeachers 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:

  • Music
  • Fantastic Lies

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 mv5bmjqwmtcymdg2n15bml5banbnxkftztgwmtcxnjg0ode-_v1_uy1200_cr8906301200_al_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.

-Megan

5 Easy Ways to Integrate Writing in the Social Studies

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.


Gone are the days in which reading novels and writing essays belonged solely in an ELA classroom.  All subjects are now expected to (and should) be integrating and supporting the reading and writing skills that students are taught in Language Arts class.

“But, but . . . I went to college to be a history teacher, not an English teacher. I don’t know HOW to teach ELA!”

That was me. Seriously. I was ready to fight teaching reading and writing skills as long as I could.

Until I learned some simple strategies to help me.  This list is meant to help those who are struggling to add reading and writing skills into their classrooms and possibly give some new ideas to others. Continue reading 5 Easy Ways to Integrate Writing in the Social Studies

Summer reading list 2015

beach reading

It’s a Wiebe tradition.

The annual summer reading list.

For as long as I’ve been in education, I’ve had a summer reading list. Several of my early mentors suggested that the summer is a perfect time for personal professional learning.Develop a list of professional and fun books. Commit to reading them. Talk about the content with others. I eventually came around to the idea and learned to love it.

My wife, also an educator, started doing it. Later, we passed on the idea to our kids. The cool thing is that we’re all still committed to it. The best summer was the year my wife and I took a tech naked trip to the beach. Without the internet, there’s was nothing to do but sit in the sand and read. Awesome.

Of course, in all of the years that I’ve been doing it, I’ve never actually finished the original list. Schedules change. Books aren’t as good as I had hoped. It’s easy to get sidetracked. Work. Travel. Family stuff. But the idea is still a good one. It makes us better educators. And isn’t that part of the job?

So even though I’m pretty sure I won’t finish it, I still make the list. Cause one of these years, it’s gonna happen. All the books, all the way through. Really. I’m serious. This year for sure.

The 2015 Summer Reading List

Continue reading Summer reading list 2015

Socrates, Plato, and Noble Puppies

We are fortunate to have another guest post from our KSDE Social Studies Consultant, Mr. Don Gifford.  Enjoy!

(And don’t forget to comment on the Flags post to win your own classroom flag.)

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When I was young, I really couldn’t read philosophy partly because they used really old language, really big words, and mostly because I knew so little about the world and of thinking about it. But recently I have returned to reading some of the classic works of political philosophy and ran across the description of Socrates’ ideas about education in Plato’s Republic.

In my role as an educational program consultant for the Kansas State Department of Education, I was intrigued with the education of what Socrates calls the “guardian class.”

Continue reading Socrates, Plato, and Noble Puppies