Tag Archives: reading

5 graphic organizers you’re probably not using but should be

Most of you are already familiar with the idea of document analysis worksheets. These sorts of tools are perfect for scaffolding historical thinking skills for your kids. Some of the best, created by the Library of Congress and the National Archives, have been around for years. I also really like the stuff created by the Stanford History Education group, especially their Historical Thinking Chart.

We should be using all of those evidence analysis tools with our kids. They can be especially helpful for training elementary and middle school students to gather and organize evidence while solving authentic problems. And for high school kids without a strong background in historical thinking skills, the tools provided by the LOC, NARA, and SHEG are incredibly handy to help guide their thinking.

But what about other types of graphic organizers? Are there some organizers you should be using but aren’t? Spoiler alert. Yes.

Before we jump into the fabulous five, a quick graphic organizer 101 review.

Brain research tells us that mental images are powerful tools that support cognitive tasks and that by creating unique mental pictures, our students deepen their understanding, attach new information to prior knowledge, and create new learning. Graphic organizers are “visual and spatial displays that arrange information graphically so that key concepts and the relationships among the concepts are displayed” (Gunter, Estes, and Mintz 2007).

They can present information textually, with images or symbols, or a combination of both. Graphic organizers give kids a clear strategy to gather, process, organize, and prioritize information. All things that are encouraged by Common Core lit standards, the NCSS national standards, and the Kansas social studies document.

Okay . . . what five graphic organizers should all social studies teachers be using but probably aren’t? Continue reading 5 graphic organizers you’re probably not using but should be

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

Reading as professional development and capitalism vs. democracy

Welcome to Scott Peavey, high school US and World history teacher at Gardner Edgerton. Scott will be writing regular posts as the newest KCSS board member.

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As social studies teachers we constantly are finding little tidbits of information in our everyday “civilian” lives that create that special spark.  I consider that spark to be the feeling of creativity and insight that educators get whenever they identify an opportunity to cultivate a teachable moment in their classroom.  The source materials for these sparks are diverse; anything from reading the news to watching my one-year old son race across the living room floor.  Over the last week I felt that spark as I was undergoing the most cost-efficient social studies professional development there is . . . reading.

triumphI recently began H.W. Brand’s book American Colossus: The Triumph of Capitalism 1865-1900.  Last school year was my first formally teaching 11th grade US History and I quickly found that the Gilded Age and the rise of the industrialists was a weak point in my content arsenal.  My goal in reading this book Continue reading Reading as professional development and capitalism vs. democracy

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

Trading Cards, ReadWriteThink, and the Common Core

trading card 1We’ve always asked our kids to read. Informational text. Primary sources. Non-fiction. Fiction. Poetry. We’ve always asked our kids to write. Summaries. Research. Reviews. Reaction papers.

At least, that’s been the theory. Good social studies and history instruction has always included these things but I think that sometimes we can forget how critical reading and writing skills are to what we do. The Common Core, for better or worse, has been a good reminder for us. We need to have our kids read, write, and communicate much more.

The problem for many of us?

Uh . . . what does that look like again?

Continue reading Trading Cards, ReadWriteThink, and the Common Core