Tag Archives: strategies

Notable Books, Notable Lessons: Finding ways to put social studies back into K-8

notable-books-lesson-coverFull confession.

Elementary kids freak me out. They’re sticky. They smell funny. And they throw up. All the time. Seriously. All the time. Every day.

My wife teaches elementary kids. She. Is. A. Saint.

And she tells me that her kids don’t throw up every day. I want to believe her but I’m not convinced.

The point? I could never teach elementary kids. So I feel a little weird saying this but . . . Continue reading Notable Books, Notable Lessons: Finding ways to put social studies back into K-8

Simple things, really. But with huge impact.

miracleI recently ran into a guy named Michael following a session at a social studies conference. Michael teaches history in a large, urban high school with a ton of low SES and ELL kids. His situation seemed so desperate to me that I had to ask him what strategies he used to convey content and meaning, how he got kids to makes sense of historical information.

He began sharing some of ideas and I realized that his situation wasn’t desperate. The kids in his classes – the low SES kids, the ELL kids – are learning and they’re learning at high levels. And it’s because of Michael.

I’ve read the ton of research out there documenting the importance of quality teachers. But it was fun to actually sit down and talk with someone who knows the content, who understands what works, and spends time honing his craft. To talk with someone whose actions suggest that the research is right.

A few of his ideas? Continue reading Simple things, really. But with huge impact.

Blackout Poetry: Worth Waiting For

Jill Weber teaches US History at Cheney Middle School and high schoolers in the Teaching Career Pathway. Today she shares how she incorporates the Blackout Poetry literacy and writing activity into her instruction.


Sometimes great ideas come to us, and we’re so excited to try them, BUT the pace of the year come crashing in on us and we have to put those ideas on hold. I’ve had this idea on hold the the last three years, and we are FINALLY getting to it. Blackout Poetry.

Blackout Poetry is using text that has been printed (books, newspapers, magazines, etc…) and manipulating the text to convey a new poetic meaning. By selecting words from the text and then blacking out the remaining words.

Take a minute to Google it and check out the images. So cool!

I first ran across using this in the social studies classroom when Continue reading Blackout Poetry: Worth Waiting For

Yup, I’m smarter. Thanks Smithsonian!

A couple of months ago, I felt smart. I had just finished a full day with some of the best social studies teachers around. We had talked about hyperdocs, completed a BreakoutEdu, identified photos as either real or fake, learned about a variety of graphic organizers, and participated in an awesome video conference focused on the Smithsonian Learning Lab with Darren Milligan and Kate Harris.

I felt smart. I had learned some stuff. I had taught some stuff. My brain was feeling good.

I should have stopped while I was ahead.

But after learning more about the Learning Lab, I decided to dig in a bit and see what all might be available online from the Smithsonian. And that’s where I got into trouble. About an hour later, I dug my way out of the incredible amount of goodness that Smithsonian folks have made available for educators. I felt smarter but not smarter all at the same time.

Smarter because I learned about some sites and resources that were new to me. Not smarter because . . . seriously, how I have I not known about these things before?

Just so you know, there is a ton of materials, lesson plans, and resources that the Smithsonian has put online. Seriously . . . a ton. Darren told us that the Smithsonian isn’t really sure how much stuff they have – he rounded it up to around 160 million objects. And that’s just the stuff in their collections, not the lesson plans and online exhibitions.

So just to share some of what I learned, here a few places that you need to pencil into your schedule to visit: Continue reading Yup, I’m smarter. Thanks Smithsonian!

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