The following is a guest post written by Bonnie Thomas. Bonnie is the Manager, Education Programs and Resources at the Nelson-Atkins Museum of Art in Kansas City, MO.
“School subjects are like individual rectangles, the teacher explained. And this long, curved line represents the arts and humanities, linking concepts and modes of thinking across disciplines.”
This teacher, speaking in front of a vibrant geometric painting by the artist Robert Mangold, was one of 15 participants in a partnership project dedicated to exploring how art museums can support humanities education in public schools. Her comments emerged during a reflection activity in which teachers chose an artwork to represent their experience in the partnership project. Many other participants made similar comments, pointing out newly recognized connections between classroom subjects and visual art.
These teachers had first gathered several months previously at The Nelson-Atkins Museum of Art, an encyclopedic art museum in Kansas City, Missouri. The Nelson-Atkins, with funding from the National Endowment for the Humanities, was seeking teachers’ input on how its strong collection of American art could be leveraged to strengthen student learning in American history and related social studies topics.
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→
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), 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.
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 andsee 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!
I believe that a key aspect of “doing” social studies is to give kids the opportunity to not only connect prior knowledge to the content being studied, but also allow them the chance to reevaluate their opinion of historical figures using new knowledge that is presented. Teaching high school world history normally involves introducing students to a wide range of individuals, concepts and events. Trying to help students achieve some level of mastery of these concepts can seem daunting, especially if you are not able to tap into that reservoir of knowledge that the kids bring with them into the room. In teaching the French Revolution and its aftermath I attempt to achieve this by bringing in the single historical figure in which kids are the most familiar: George Washington. In the process I also give the students a chance to flex their non-text discipline specific literacy muscles by analyzing two pieces of art work that say an awful lot about the subjects of depicted in each.