What Do Your Students Think?

One of the best ways to be able to sit back and honestly take a good look at your teaching is to have the students complete an evaluation on you.  So I do.  I use a Google Form to ask them questions such as:
  • What was your favorite activity we did this year?
  • What is your favorite way to receive new information?
  • What do you wish we did more of in class?
  • What was your least favorite activity we did this year?
  • What is one thing you would change about Social Studies if you could?
  • Is this teacher willing to admit his/her mistakes?
  • Do you trust this teacher?
  • List five words to describe this teacher:
    (this is a fun one I ask so I can create a word cloud for the next year)
I don’t want questions that will only give me good feedback.  I want honest feedback from my students so I can see what I’m doing well and where I can make some changes.  And I take it seriously.  Student responses has led to some good changes I have made for my classroom over the years.

My favorite question on the evaluation is, “what advice would you give to new 7th graders on how to be successful in Mrs. Weber’s class?”  This gives me good information to use at the start of the year last year.  For some reasons, students take the advice from other students better than what I suggest. (Even though it ends up being the same thing…Shhh!)

The end of the year is always a good time to reflect on your teaching and look to make changes, what better way to do that, than asking the students you’ve been working for all year?!?

Need a few examples? Try these from Glenn Wiebe and get more rationale for student evals here:

Detecting Bias: Quick and Easy Lesson Applications for Practicing this Essential Skill (Part 1)

In the ongoing battle between serious, fact-based interpretation of current events and the onslaught of “fake news” stories being spread throughout social media (and beyond),debate headlines 21st century social studies teachers face a daunting task.  How can we possibly help students develop the necessary skills in order navigate the confusing blizzard of information they encounter on a daily basis?  Even still, who has enough hours in the day to both cover all the required content and engage in current events activities that encompass more than reading an article and answering a few questions?

As a veteran teacher believe me, I feel your pain.  My colleague Joe Zlatnik and I have spent time the past few years talking with teachers throughout the country about how they address bias in their classrooms.  The consensus we have heard is that most teachers don’t address it since they don’t have time to teach “current events.”  With this in mind we developed a set of simple activities that can help kids practice the skill of detecting bias within the framework of US and World history courses.  I will explain one of these activities in this first part of a three part series.

Continue reading Detecting Bias: Quick and Easy Lesson Applications for Practicing this Essential Skill (Part 1)

New Google Earth. Great! And . . . meh.

It shouldn’t come as a surprise to any of you that I am a huge Google Earth nerd. I love geography. I love maps. I love Google.

It’s a simple formula. A + B = C. Maps + Google = Google Earth nerd.

So when Google pushed out an online version of GE this week, all was right with the world. At least until I started digging into it a little bit. Don’t get me wrong. Any time I can play with an online Google tool, it’s a good day.

The new version does have a few cool features. But I’m just a little disappointed that the online version released this week is missing some of the sweet features of the desktop version. But let’s start with the good stuff. Continue reading New Google Earth. Great! And . . . meh.

Who Has Influenced Mankind? Let Your Students Be The Judge Of That – The Historical Hall Of Fame

adam-topliffThis week’s post comes to you from Adam Topliff: I teach 8th Grade Social Studies & Civics at Wamego Middle School in Wamego, KS.  I love all things Hamilton!

 

 

Spring Break History Nerdfest for the Topliff Family took us to lovely Kansas City and man, it was amazing.  We took in the Negro League Baseball and National World War I Museums, looked out over the city atop the Liberty Memorial, and got our fill of great KC BBQ. (Thanks Arthur Bryant’s!)  As we took in all of the great stories at the museums, my family and I discussed all the powerful stories of people who have impacted the story of us.  So many people of our past never have their story told, primarily because they may not be seen as the big names of history.  

Washington, Lincoln, Kennedy are names that will show up in every text book, but they are not the only influential people that have shaped our history.  The story of us is filled with millions of ordinary people that might not have stories that flash off the page, but they are just as critical.  This important part of telling history became the backbone for a project I created called The Historical Hall of Fame.

A decade ago, in my first year at Wamego Middle School, I was looking for a long term project that would engage my students in one of the most difficult times of the year, after state testing and weeks before the end of the school.  Being a fairly new teacher, I struggled to find something that my students could manage. Continue reading Who Has Influenced Mankind? Let Your Students Be The Judge Of That – The Historical Hall Of Fame

Use Crop It tools to help elementary kids think historically

One of the easiest but most effective strategies for having younger kids work with primary sources is called Crop It. In some ways, it’s a lot like my Evidence Analysis Window Frame but I really like the flexibility embedded in the Crop It idea. The idea is pretty simple: students use L-shaped paper “cropping” tools to explore a visual primary source.

One of the problems that we often face is finding ways to help students see details – and to make sense of those details – when viewing a primary source. Photos, paintings, and graphics can contain a ton of specifics that get missed if students don’t take the time to look for them.

Crop It slows the process down so that students scan a source at a deep level and think about what they’re looking at. It gives them a way to find evidence, see multiple viewpoints, and gain a more detailed understanding of a primary source.

This strategy works especially well with elementary and middle school students to help them develop and support historical thinking. And the cool thing is that you can use it with all sorts of visual sources. Continue reading Use Crop It tools to help elementary kids think historically