Category Archives: strategies

App Up Your Social Studies

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Lori Rice teaches fourth grade at West Elementary in Wamego and is the current Kansas Council for the Social Studies elementary teacher of the year. You can find Lori on Twitter at @MsLRice. She also blogs on all things teaching (not just social studies) at The Educator’s Room.


Albert Einstein said, “It is the supreme art of the teacher to awaken joy in creative Einstein_1921_by_F_Schmutzer_-_restorationexpression and knowledge.”   There is a never ending demand teachers in a classroom; things to change, things to learn, and things to implement.  Mobile devices are a wonderful tool in a teacher’s tool belt of knowledge. Bringing apps into your social studies classroom will enable you to continue with proven teaching strategies while opening the doors to learning for your students.

I recently had a conversation with a friend.  We were discussing high school and remembering funny anecdotes and stories of our past.  I mentioned I had a social studies teacher I did not care for and I struggled in this class.  The struggle was my engagement, not the grade. The class was simply boring. My friend also remembered that social studies was one of his least favorite subjects in school as well.  There is an irony in the fact that a subject full of stories, history and culture would be boring.

Teaching is an art and a science.  There are many proven strategies that can be used to increase student motivation and learning.  As an educator, it is our job to allow for expression and creativity in learning. “App Up Your Social Studies” will bring a connection to proven strategies and apps that allow for creativity.

Using Bloom’s taxonomy in a classroom where students feel connected and safe is a wonderful tool.  We will explore apps that can be used to help students analyze, evaluate and create to demonstrate their understanding of their social studies content. These apps will allow you to expand on what you are already doing in your curriculum.

Along with Bloom’s, we will also explore Marzano’s instructional strategies of summarizing and note taking (having a 34% gain in student learning), nonlinguistic representation (having a 27% gain in student learning), and asking questions (having a 22% gain in student learning).*  We will use apps to allow students to sketch their learning and ask higher level questions. How powerful would our world be if our students had a deep understanding of our social studies standards along with a passion for other cultures and relationships?

Social studies is the stories of our past and our cultures.  This can be personal past and culture, recent past and culture, or ancient past and culture.  Helping students understand their own stories and connections to the stories of others allows for empathy.  Apping up your social studies will allow students to explore, analyze, evaluate and create. So reflect on what you are already doing and join me to explore how to bring apps into your classroom for social studies fun!

Sound interesting? You can see Lori live next Monday at the Kansas Social Studies Conference at 2:10pm!

Starting Social Studies

IMG_9723Lori Rice teaches fourth grade at West Elementary in Wamego and is the current Kansas Council for the Social Studies elementary teacher of the year. You can find Lori on Twitter at @MsLRice. She also blogs on all things teaching (not just social studies) at The Educator’s Room.


green and gray scissors

The beginning of the school year brings excitement and anxiety for teachers and students alike.  It is a year of new possibility, new classmates and new opportunities.

Every school year I start with lists.  I have a list of school supplies I need to buy and hunt down at sales. I have a list of things to do to prepare and organize my classroom for a new set of students and families. Then there is the coveted class list. We get our elementary list in August.

When I receive my class list every year, I look at it with curiosity and a little worry. Who are these children coming into my room?  What experiences do they bring to our room? What experiences are they lacking? How have they been taught in previous years? Where do they go home each night? Will I be able to provide all they need?
Building a classroom community is the most important part of the first weeks of school.

gray swing

It takes time for students to build relationships and trust within the classroom walls we will spend our next nine months. Being a social studies teacher, it is so simple to intertwine my curriculum from the first day into the discussions, activities, and lessons we do from the start. The HGSS standards and social/emotional skills can be taught at every grade level and woven into literature, art, music, and especially classroom management.

There are many great picture books and chapter books to start the year with. I use Absolutely Almost or Wonder as a great read aloud to start discussions about differences and strengths. I have been teaching fourth grade for twelve years and this is my twenty-fourth year in education. We all have our favorite lessons. These are two that I love starting the year with: Continue reading Starting Social Studies

Six Super Sweet Social Studies Strategies for Back to School

(Reposted from History Tech)

first-week-of-school-nailed-it-13993094-e1534537523675Many of you are ready to jump off the end of the pier – sometime in the next few weeks, kids are heading back to your classrooms.

To help energize your first awesome week with kids, here are six great ways to kick off the school year. Use what you can. Adapt what you can’t.

What not to do

But before we get too far along with what we know works, it’s probably a good idea to think about what doesn’t. I’ve mentioned Fourteen Things You Should Never Do on the First Day of School before but it’s still a great reminder of what it looks like when we’re doing it wrong. Mark Barnes suggest that your goal should be a very simple one during the first few days of school:

You have many days to assess students’ strengths and weaknesses. You have months to discuss high stakes testing and standards. You’ll spend weeks probing the textbook.

The first day of school should be dedicated to rapport-building and to joy.

Your goal should be that students go home that night and tell their parents: “I’m going to love history class because my teacher is awesome!”

So what should we be doing the first week?

Kids need to be in groups. They need to be solving problems. They need to get a taste of some social studies and play with some social studies tools. They need to know that it’s okay to fail. Find out more about them. They should practice a few critical thinking skills. Maybe a little tech here and there. Have fun.

Need some specifics? Start with these six: Continue reading Six Super Sweet Social Studies Strategies for Back to School

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.