Tag Archives: best practice

The Syllabus Can Wait! A Day One Strategy for Fostering Student Ownership

Despite the best efforts of teachers nation-wide to freeze their calendars and squeeze in as much family and pool time as they can, the school year is fast approaching.  As we begin to transition back into educator mode the plan for the first day of school begins to crystallize in our minds.  For the past several years I have utilized this activity to get my students communicating with each other, receiving invaluable guidance for myself, modelling a skill we utilize repeatedly, and setting the tone for our entire course..

After a standard intro and icebreaker I write the following prompt on the board:

“Describe an effective teacher.”

Since I have taught freshmen four of my six years in the classroom, I am keenly aware of the importance of explaining EVERYTHING.  As much fun as it is to hear a student say “no homework” as if they are the first to come up with the joke, I immediately ask students what the mission of a teacher is.  

As they come to their consensus I break up the class into groups of three.  I task each group to collaborate and develop four criteria to judge whether a teacher is effective or not, keeping in mind the mission of a teacher.  After 3-5 minutes of conversation, each group shares out their list of four.  As they share I write down every response on the board.  Normally we end up with a list of between 10-15 characteristics, since I do not write down repeat suggestions. Continue reading The Syllabus Can Wait! A Day One Strategy for Fostering Student Ownership

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)

Dueling Timelines: Combining “Big Events” and “Big Ideas”

As we are currently in the midst of coaching clinic, teacher workshop, and summer institute application season, time always seems to be lacking.  That is partly why I am taking the easy way out by showing the slides of a portion of a presentation I gave in New Orleans in 2015 on innovative uses of classroom space.

This section of that presentation presents an option for using two timelines, uniformly color-coded based on unit, to help students simultaneously grasp the chronological progression of events and see how the relationship between ideas and historical agents are dynamic and ever evolving.

Please leave a comment if you have any questions or thoughts, or if you would like more information on this lesson application!

Continue reading Dueling Timelines: Combining “Big Events” and “Big Ideas”

What I wish “they” know

ipad pencilJill Weber is a middle school social studies teacher in Cheney, Kansas. She’s the latest member of the KCSS board and writes at A View of the Web. Pasted below is one of her recent posts.

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In my preparation classes to become a teacher, technology was a factor.  I learned how to set up a website, how to save to a flash drive or floppy disk, and came up with ideas for lessons that incorporate technology for students to use.

I use none of that in the way it was intended.  Everything has changed.

Technology has been a part of my teaching career each one of my 10 years.  Although, I never would have guessed how fast and drastic the changes in technology has occurred in the last three years.  The lengths that technology has advanced in education have shocked me, and I’ve still got a good 20 years left.

In the 10 years I’ve been working as a teacher, I have found myself on both end of the technology spectrum.  I have been completely lost and not excited about new changes while relying on someone else to help me or teach me the new tech.  More recently I have found that my role with technology in school has evolved to more of a leader/instructor on incorporating tech in the classroom.  Never would I have thought 10 years ago that I would have an elective class that focused on using technology to broadcast various media projects created by 7th and 8th grade students.

But here I am.

Over the years, and throughout my role with technology I have found myself muttering “I wish they knew . . . “  When I struggled with technology there were things I just really wanted those who “got it” to know about me and my journey, why it was a struggle, or what caused my hesitation.  Now that I’m more of a teacher in the area, I find I have a whole new set of wishes for the “other side.”

This post is not meant to point out one side as being “better” than the other.  More to raise awareness for all of the teachers behind the front lines.  Those of us who are expected to incorporate the vastly different technology that is placed in the hands of the students in our rooms.

I have reached out to other teachers in my district and PLN for the “wishes” they have.  These come from teachers of all disciplines, ages, subjects, and technology levels.

To the “tech savvy” teacher.  Here’s what those who struggle with technology wish YOU knew:

Continue reading What I wish “they” know

It’s a Google World and I’m Just Teaching In It (Part 2)

Flubaroo_small_promo_440x280Building off of my last post about Google Forms, I want to introduce you to an add-on called Flubaroo which can turn your form into a self-graded quiz (yay for efficiency!).  The steps are very quick and simple, like most things in the Google universe, and is a great way to save some trees and implement technology in your classroom.

Continue reading It’s a Google World and I’m Just Teaching In It (Part 2)