Glenn Wiebe was digging around the vault over at History Tech looking for some resources centered around the Kansans Can school redesign and ran across this rant written just after the 2013 state standards went live. With those standards currently in the revision process and the state of Kansas deep into conversations about changing how we do school, it seems appropriate to re-post it here. Basically, it boils down to:
How much are we willing to change so that our kids are prepared for their future?
It’s been a fun couple of months since the holiday break. I’ve had the chance to spend time with a variety of folks doing all sorts of cool stuff. A group of us have been struggling to write questions for the social studies state assessment pilot due out this spring.
I’ve spent time with teachers discussing social studies best practices that are aligned to the state’s recently adopted state standards. And I’ve had the opportunity to work with lots of teachers as we shared ideas and discussed ways to integrate technology into instruction.
It’s all part of what is perhaps the best job in the world. I mean, who wouldn’t enjoy themselves spending time with dedicated, amazing people who are literally changing the world?
But . . . sometimes I walk away feeling a little uncomfortable after spending time with teachers. Once in a great while, I leave a group angry. And while I honestly think I do a good job of hiding my feelings, I’m starting to think those feelings need to be a bit more obvious.
Teachers of social studies across the curriculum probably don’t realize that they cover the issue of Social Stratification (social class systems, poverty, Karl Marx, etc) in their classes. Teachers of sociology probably could spend a whole month on the topic! Social Stratification is one of my favorite units in my semester-long sociology course. Last year, I had my students read Animal Farm (it’s not required in English anymore) and compare the animal’s problems with the issues of social class and social mobility.
I may do that again – just because, in my personal opinion, I think students still need to read this classic! But I have two other favorite activities to go with this unit:
First, students watch a few videos and we discuss some important vocabulary with Social Stratification. Then I have the students listen to “Livin’ on a Prayer” (Bon Jovi) and “Fast Car” (Tracy Chapman). They pick out the issues that relate to social stratification after listening to the songs and reading the lyrics. Next I set them free to find their own examples of stratification in music. Obviously there are some ground rules – nothing racially or sexually offensive. You could also make sure that the songs are clean, but I really want the students to look at the music that they like and pick out these issues within the songs they are listening to everyday. And like almost everything else, you’ll have those students who just google “Songs about social stratification” — normally they pick “Allentown” by Billy Joel.
But I do have some kids who really become more aware of social class issues that people write about and how there are SO MANY songs with these issues to choose from! To complete this part of the unit, students view a Slide Mission with videos, notes, and responses embedded. I like this format because they can insert their YouTube videos right into Google Slides without me have to go search for them. A copy of what I used in my class can be found here.
After a class discussion about poverty in the U.S., we watch the ESPN 30 for 30 called “Fantastic Lies“. This is the story of the Duke LaCrosse team rape scandal back in 2006. I show this because it covers individuals from across social classes and their expectations vs. reality. Students who are unfamiliar with the story are always shocked once we get about three-fourths of the way through it! Afterwards, they will write a reflection (usually around 300 words) and they make connections with the episode and the terms we discussed regarding Social Stratification. I purchased this episode of 30 for 30 (Season 3, episode 6) on Amazon Prime Video.
Sociology teachers out there: I’d love to hear what you do in your classes to teach social stratification! Comment below.
On Friday, November 13 my good friend Joe Zlatnik of Basehor-Linwood Middle School and I had the honor of presenting at the NCSS national conference in New Orleans. In addition to taking every possible opportunity to eat Cajun food, we spoke with a group of about 40 teachers from across the country about strategies we have used to utilize our physical classroom wall space for instructional purposes
I am a firm believer in trying to give conference attendees as many practical ideas as possible during a session and this year we offered up four activities I have attempted at both Tonganoxie and Gardner Edgerton high schools. What follows is Part One of this presentation, with parts two through four soon to come.
Strategy I: If These Walls Could Talk: The Aurasma Concept Review
(Please note that I am in no way connected with the Aurasma app, it is simply something that was shown to me by a media specialist that I thought was cool!)
A common problem that all teachers face is the reality that there are many students who need assistance and only one teacher to go around. Worse yet, how often do students need a refresher on a topic they are studying without anyone to ask other than the almighty Google? The Aurasma app provides an innovative way for kids with smartphones to receive that refresher from the teacher him or herself in the comfort of their own home.
Here are some happenings within the social studies department at my school:
About a year ago, my social studies department decided we wanted to step outside of the box. We were tired of sharing our building-wide computer carts and iPad cart with the other departments (especially ELA – what ever happened to hand-writing an essay?). Our administrators were totally on board and willing to support us in any way that they could.
We contemplated many different options before settling on Discovery Education’s new curriculum – the Techbook. No we didn’t spend our summer’s creating our own iBooks – that will come later, at least for me. But we were preparing ourselves for some intense professional training a few weeks before school started from Discovery Education to introduce us to this new curriculum.
However, in true eduction fashion, that training didn’t happen before school started, and our new iPad minis (One cart for every social studies teacher! I feel blessed!) weren’t placed in their new otter boxes and weren’t configured with apps that would enhance our teaching experience, hooked in to the shiny new carts placed in our classrooms, ready for students to use on the first day. Continue reading Integrating Technology in Social Studies Curriculum→
Well, it’s a little scary . . . but the rewards outweigh the scariness, I promise!
Our social studies department has been working for the past year to come up with a new curriculum that replaces textbooks from a publishing company. There has been a lot of discussion at PLC meetings and a lot of attending professional development workshops.
I first heard the term eBooks from Glenn Wiebe when he met with elementary and middle school social studies teachers to discuss the new state standards and strategies we can use in our classroom to go along with them. But it wasn’t until I attended the workshop “Creating Content with Apple’s “iBook Author” with Kendall Warkentine (Derby USD) at the KCSS No Citizen Left Behind conference last fall in Topeka that I really started processing the idea of creating my own content. Continue reading Writing your own textbook isn’t as scary as you think . . .→