Saturday, September 28, 2013

A Crowd Sourced Doc Listing a Ton of Products

A Crowd Sourced Doc Listing a Ton of Products...

that students can create to express an historical interpretation.

End of Sept. Reflection

As I wrap up Sept., I’d like to spend some time reflecting on some classroom experiences with my ninth graders, as I try to create a history class that focuses on multiple perspectives and rich historical source work, while at the same time prepping them for any common assessments that come their way. As I’ve previously mentioned, these common assessments are weighted heavily and tend to focus on lower levels of Bloom’s taxonomy.

When you teach students that history is complicated and can be looked at from a variety of perspectives, you then need to work really hard to expose them to complexity and multiple perspectives. In the past, I would talk about complexity and perspectives, but I didn’t expose my students to it. Now I am.  In fact, a big part of my planning time now involves me looking for sources and adapting them for classroom use (There is a lot to say about adapting sources. I will blog about that in future posts).

Finding sources that you can ‘package’ into a ‘document set’ is essential.

In the past, I used to expose students to a primary source every once and a while. It was often after we had worked with powerpoint slides, the text, and various worksheets. Whether stated or not, the message to students was that this type of work was on the periphery, somewhat disconnected from real classroom work that occurred on most days at most times.

One of the goals that I set for myself at the start of this school year was to put source work in the forefront of my classroom. I started the year wanting my students to learn the language of historical thinking. So some of the first terms I taught them were the following: perspective, source, sourcing, interpretation, inference, evidence.

At this point, I think my students know that to say anything about the past, you must have some basis for your assertions. This basis, or evidence, is found in the sources.

Here are some handouts I have used with my students to help them to learn how to think more like an historian and less like a sponge. Sponges try to remember and absorb all content. Historians ask questions, analyze, make inferences, construct and defend interpretations.  

Doc 1    Doc 2    Doc 3

Saturday, September 14, 2013

My Students' first Experiences with Source Work (in my class, at least)

Two options, among others I am sure, when working with sources are as follows:
Option 1: Give all students in the room the same sources to examine.
Option 2: Give groups of students different sources to examine.

Regarding option 2, each group works on the sources they were given, eventually sharing the results of their observations and questions with the rest of the class. As each source is discussed, students place big ideas and questions on a graphic organizer, which they will refer to later when they are crafting their response to the lesson's topical question. 

It is important here, I think, for everyone in the room to get a chance to look at any visuals connected to the sources being discussed. I use an overhead projector to do this. It is also important for every student, at some point, to have an opportunity to read the sources individually or with a partner.  

This week I also reminded my students about the differences between primary and secondary sources.
I taught my students that some sources are from the period we are studying, while other sources are about the period we are studying, having been created at a later, more recent period of time.
I need to start training my students to evaluate all sources as soon as they put their hands or eyes on them.
So far, most of the sources I have used have been secondary sources. There is nothing wrong with secondary sources, but a balance of sources is important. 
What are the types of questions I want students to ask themselves when they encounter a source?
I think I need to do a better job structuring this for my students, especially early on as they are first developing the skill of sourcing. 
Stepping back for a second, when students are handed a piece of paper in my class, it is either blank, with text, with a visual or visuals, or a combination of text and visual(s).

Students will often assume, by default, that the next thing they are supposed to do is read/view the source, trying to pull as much content from it as possible.  

The first intervention that needs to be taught to students is to resist the urge to jump right in. They need to take some preliminary steps, so that they can ascertain some basic facts about the source. What is it? Where does it come from? What is the best way to approach it?

Are they reading a source that is designed primarily to provide them with some background knowledge?

Are they reading a source that will help them derive evidence as they work to answer a question we have posed or that they have constructed?

This week my students were definitely focused on reading the sources primarily for content. We did have students work on synthesizing content from three sources about the Catholic Church into a response to a topical question we provided them with:

What role did the Catholic Church play in people's lives during the Middle Ages?

My experiences this week reminded me that even if I were to only focus on teaching students content, I can do so by having students reading and analyzing sources, as opposed to me talking at them via a powerpoint presentation or worksheets. I plan on doing so much more than I did this week, but I could definitely notice a shift in my teaching.

Saturday, September 7, 2013

Questions Drive Learning

First Week

For many of us, blogging in the summer is much easier than during the school year. Though summer blogging is great, I suspect it is nowhere near as powerful as blogging during the school year. 

After all, blogging during the school year offers the best chance for us to reflect on our teaching. Each day presents tons of opportunities to see the impact, both positive and negative, of the choices we make.  It is one thing for me to write a lesson plan in July, that I may or may not ever use, quite another to come up with an idea that I get to try the next day or the next week.

How did my first week go?

We (my co teacher and I) had students for 3 days. Two 60 minute blocks and one 90 min block, for a total of 210 minutes. Our block three, due to lunches, was with us for an additional hour.  
I have yet to try any of the specific lesson ideas that I blogged about this summer, but I can see the influence of my summer reflections in all that I do. 

I am mildly disappointed that I did not manage to work in this lesson; at this point, it may have to wait until next year since I think I may fall behind if I try to work it in this week.

I am adjusting to our new seating arrangement, quads rather than rows.  So far so good.

When students are sitting in clusters/quads, there may be slightly more of a chance that they distract each other if a lesson becomes too teacher centric. But that is ok, since I am purposely trying to avoid spending too much time teaching via direct instruction. 

The positives of this seating arrangement, I am quite sure, outweigh the negatives.

In my AP Government class, I am on the verge of having my students assume more responsibility for their learning. I have yet to ‘lecture’ with powerpoint slides, which is something I am really trying to avoid with this group.
My wiki is setup. For content, students will view short videos that I have found online, often editing them into short 5-10 minute clips.
After viewing a few videos, following Ramsey Musallam's  model, students will fill out a google form that is sent to me, providing me with various information, including a summary of what they think they learned and what they struggled with, as well as answers to a multiple choice question and a free response question that I pose to them. Once I receive this data, I will be able to make informed decisions about my next moves.
I have yet to try this out with students, but I am all set up and ready to go. Will try it this week.    

In Western Civ, we spent some time with students, at least in one of our blocks, talking about how historians might approach a visual, or any source for that matter. We showed students this image of a person being tortured on a rack, talking to them about the concept of sourcing.
Sourcing, we told them, has to do with the types of questions an historian would ask to figure out where something  comes from. In this case, they would ask: Who created this visual? When did they create it? Why did they create it? And, most importantly, what do the answers to these questions tell us about the source we are viewing?
For the visual we showed students,  at this point at least, we do not have many answers to these questions. I am going to see if anyone on Twitter has information about the origins/original context of this particular image, and I will keep looking.
Thanks for taking the time to read. I hope you have an excellent school year!