Tuesday, August 5, 2014

Back to School (with Common Core, Historical Thinking, RtI, PARCC...)

Yikes. It looks like I have been on a bit of a hiatus and not keeping up with posts about resources...

Anyway, I recently emailed some newer resources with a former student who graduated in 2010 and is now gainfully employed at a great school (congrats again, JG) and though I would share them here as well. In honor of back to school, below is a summary of some of my previous posts with new resources I have been using in professional development seminars and my methods courses but have failed to blog earlier.

As anyone in PK12 education knows, public education is experiencing what I would call a perfect storm. That is, in the past we have always encountered updated curricula, mandates, and the like; however, now it seems like there are major changes happening all at once: Common Core, PARCC, RtI, and Danielson-inspired teacher observation models, to name a few. Granted, there are important debates related to the merit of these changes; however, I will leave that debate aside and focus on resources that can help teachers with the elements of these curricula I find the most welcoming in the social studies classroom. That is, "cite evidence to support a claim" (basically the first 6th grade Common Core standard for ELA-Social Studies) is more flexible and relevant than requiring students to memorize states and capitals or the first five presidents of the U.S. Alas, I digress, so on to the resources:

1) Thinking Like a Historian Gains Ground
Sam Wineburg's Historical Thinking Matters is often cited as a clear alignment with the new Common Core/Illinois Learning standards. The Stanford History Education Group (SHEG) now has over 100 US and World History primary source lessons "ready to use."

Related past posts are here and here.

2)  Seeing it Helps - Classroom Videos
The Teaching Channel has video clips of some of these lessons being used, including teachers discussing how they implement the curriculum. They are very nicely produced and a great free resource. Just search for "Reading Like a Historian," and you will find them.

Related past post is here.

3) Beyond the Bubble--Oh, How True (or False) It Is
There are some major changes happening in assessment. SHEG has another website to support some of these transitions.

4) It's HOW, not WHAT
Of course, it is important to be familiar with the Common Core Standards related to history/social studies, and it is equally helpful to see how these standards are going to be assessed. PARCC (Pearson's Partnership for Assessment of Readiness for College and Careers) is the assessment we are now using in Illinois (and elsewhere), and the released/sample tests are very revealing about how students will be evaluated. Take the 6-8 and/or High School ELA tests to see the Social Studies-ELA relationship and emphasis on non-fiction reading.

Further, above is an example of what I would argue is a subtle but important shift in assessment for middle and high school students. In the 6-8 ELA test, note the question on the second page: "According to 'The Biography of Amelia Earhart,' which events had the most significant impact on Earhart's life?" Students select 4 of the 7 choices. The "catch" is that all 7 events are listed in the source. Students have to identify which 4 are the most significant, according to the source (not their own opinion). That means they are not just reading WHAT the source says but HOW it says it. That is, 3 of the choices are just mentioned in passing; however, 4 of the events are given much more emphasis in the source. (Note that 3 or so of the events are quickly listed in paragraph #3 as opposed to other events that get their own paragraph.) Some students are used to just "hunting and finding" key phrases from the question or multiple choice options to find their answer. Now they have to focus (and likely read, not just skim) on how the author presents information.

Also be sure to see the additional sample PARCC items under "Practice Tests" in the blue banner across the same launch page. I like the science questions that have students corroborate how the same scientific study is presented in a newspaper article, a news video, and excerpts from a professional journal.

5) G.I.D. (Google It, Dammit)
A great way to think of the PARCC assessments is: Students are given the answer; they just have to identify evidence that would support that conclusion. The first Common Core standard in social studies for 6th graders is cite evidence to support a claim. I've given 10th and 8th graders this 1909 cartoon and the claim: "This 1909 political cartoon is AGAINST women getting the right to vote." Then, I have them circle two parts of the image (evidence) that support this claim and explain why. This stumps some students (oddly enough) when they see "Election Day" written across the bottom of the cartoon or "Votes for Women" in the upper right-hand corner, and they want to conclude that the cartoon is in favor of women's suffrage. Even more interesting (and pretty exciting, if you ask me) is that their teachers point out that some of the students who are struggling in their classroom (i.e. have a hard time memorizing information) do better on this exercise than their peers who are "higher-performing students"when it comes to traditional recall tests. Some students can master questions that have them memorize the year women got the right to vote but have been given too few opportunities to actually analyze a source. I would argue that the latter is a more relevant skill for students, and (compared to what we have had in Illinois) it is a stronger focus in the Common Core Standards. The former only requires a Google search and someone who can corroborate, critique, and evaluate the sites where they find the answer(s). These are media literacy skills.

Related posts tagged as Media Literacy are here.

6) One Happy Spiraling (hopefully not too out of control) Curriculum
Finally, to see how this all ties together, I presented this Prezi at a national conference with a high school teacher. In the Prezi, we focus on how the Common Core is a spiraling curriculum (i.e. note how the 5th-grade standards in the first column are reflected--with more sophistication--in the 10th-grade standards). Further, we show how curriculum constructed in this manner (note the matrix/table format) allows teachers to revisit the same skill throughout the semester with different topics. That's an RtI connection that should be explain further at another time.

I hope that you find some helpful resources and here's to a great 2014-2015 school year. Keep up the great work, everyone!


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