Category Archives: standards

Winning the RACE of writing

It’s been that kind of school year for all of us, so here’s a great post on writing from last October by KCSS board member Adam Topliff. Happy parent-teacher conference season everyone!

Doing Social Studies

student-at-computerStudents + writing = frustration . . . sound like familiar?

The growing expectation of integrating writing  in our Social Studies classroom makes us as anxious about the process as our students. Why does this happen? There are a variety of factors that contribute to this fear and frustration but the most common that I hear from other teachers is

I don’t have a solid system to assist my kids with writing.

We teach a topic and then assess students by asking them to write a response or reaction. What do we get back?

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Civic Engagement & Historical Argumentation

adam-topliff

This week’s author is Adam Topliff: I teach 8th Grade Social Studies & Civics at Wamego Middle School in Wamego, KS.  I love all things Hamilton!

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The Kansas Standards for History, Government, and Social Studies prepare students to be informed, thoughtful, engaged citizens as they enrich their communities, state, nation, world, and themselves.

The mission statement for our HGSS standards in Kansas has pushed educators across disciplines to consider how we are working to get our kids engaged.  This push is part of the greater initiative to deliver the best education in the nation and to produce true 21st Century citizens. One of the main focuses at KSDE is the idea of creating civic engagement for our students. This can be demonstrated through any number of opportunities in which our students engage in community service, leadership initiatives, or simply study how our government works. However, we must consider how to encourage civic engagement as we study history.

One of the staples of the mission statement is “engaging to provide the enrichment to a student’s communities, state, nation, world and THEMSELVES.” To produce deep levels of civic engagement, we need to ask our students to engage in historical conversations based on questions that will also enrich them and challenge them to look at today’s civic, political, and social issues. To simply study the past will not develop these opportunities.  

This fall, as part of my attempt to develop better connections between the study of history and civic engagement, my students completed a long term project that asked them to evaluate the presidential job performance of the “Founding Presidents.”  One of the main curriculum units we study is the Constitution Period but  I relabeled it “Building A Nation” and used that theme to develop the presidential evaluation project.   Continue reading Civic Engagement & Historical Argumentation

KCEE and CEE are just the thing for standards aligned lessons

kcee-logoOur state standards here in Kansas are a bit different than most other states. We focus on five big ideas rather than specific content. It’s a great idea based on research but it can be difficult at times for our teachers to align their instruction. And I know that many of you around the country are always on the lookout for quality Econ resources and lesson plans.

The Kansas and national Councils for Economic Education are just the thing!

A quick example. The first Kansas standard is Choices Have Consequences. (And I know that there are similar sorts of standards and benchmarks around the country.) So how might we design instruction that aligns to that? Continue reading KCEE and CEE are just the thing for standards aligned lessons

Literally #FindYourPark with free maps!

nps park mapOn August 26, the National Park Service celebrated its 100th anniversary and as one part of the celebration, we’re asking you to “Find Your Park”. The NPS now has over 400 sites across the nation that offer something for everyone. If you like mountains, the beach, or history, we’ve got a site for you.

There are more than 84 million acres across the U.S., at sites as diverse as national monuments, Civil War battlefields, and historic sites. There’s a big range in size among NPS sites, too: The biggest is Wrangell-St. Elias National Park and Preserve in Alaska, at 13.2 million acres, while the smallest is Thaddeus Kosciuszko National Memorial in Pennsylvania, at 0.02 acre. These sites attract more than 300 million visitors every year.

Shelton Johnson, a park ranger at Yosemite National Park and published author, shared his thoughts on this important milestone: Continue reading Literally #FindYourPark with free maps!

H.I.T. Notebooks: A Different take on Interactive Notebooks

jill weberJill Weber, 2016 Gilder Lehrman Kansas History Teacher of the Year, has joined the Doing Social Studies writing team and will be posting throughout the year. The following is a cross-post from her excellent site A View of the Web.


I used Interactive Notebooks in my social studies class for eight years.  The majority of the students loved them.  But I had a serious love/hate relationship with them.  And after taking a long look at the pros and cons of the books and my current curriculum, I decided not to continue with the interactive notebooks last year.

While I found it a relief not having to keep up with the grading of 60+ notebooks, there was something missing from my class.  I had a number of kids ask me why we weren’t doing them anymore, and others who were disappointed that the “hands on” cutting, pasting, and creativity was replaced with more writing assignments.  I felt guilty that my answer was “because I just couldn’t keep up with all the grading.”

That got me thinking on ways that I could bring the interactive notebooks idea back without having all the copious grading that went with it.  I talked with our language arts teacher, who uses her interactive notebooks as a tool to help organize materials and doesn’t grade it at all.  I liked that idea.

But I wanted more.  I wanted a way to hold kids accountable.  I wanted them to take pride in the organization and appearance of the book.  And, most of all, I wanted it to be used as something more than a storage device.  I want it to be something they will reference throughout the year.

The Idea:
Then an idea started to take form.  An idea to use the notebook more like a detective’s note book when trying to solve a crime.

So this year, we have: the  Historian In Training Notebook or HIT books. (HIT is a cool name for a middle school activity, right? )

The HIT notebook will be designed as sort of a history detective notebook that we’ll use to identify historical thinking techniques, analyze primary sources, keep information over specific historical questions, and refer back to skills learned throughout the year.

A few examples of possible pages  . . .  Continue reading H.I.T. Notebooks: A Different take on Interactive Notebooks