Monday, October 29, 2012

Reader Responses: More on Timelines, National History Day, and Common Core

I love this blog because of the connections it has given me with amazing teachers across the state and I’m always excited when I get responses to a post.

I received three emails about the post on National History Day and Common Core standards. The first was from Lynde Roberts, whose daughter Abigail participated in National History Day last year as an 8th grader as part on her social studies classwork for Lewis and Clark Middle School in Billings. Abigail won the state competition  and represented Montana at the National History Day Competition in Washington D.C.  Lynde said she would be willing to talk to anyone who has questions about the experience.  “It was great and Abigail grew so much with her confidence and public speaking ability.  She was the winner of the Salute to Freedom award and we will be going to New Orleans in January to celebrate the opening of the WWII museum there.” Email mkohl@mt.gov for contact information.

The second was from Billings high school history teacher Bruce Wendt (and the 2012 Gilder Lehrman Montana state National History Teacher of the Year—Congratulations, Bruce!) He pointed out that social studies will soon have its own Common Core standards. Draft text is being unveiled at the National Council of Social Studies annual conference in Seattle, November 16-18. By the way, the program for that conference looks amazing. Just wishing I could attend.

Finally, Ruth Ferris wrote to let me know that the Library of Congress has unveiled a “massive common core resource center” and shared a link from Edudemic.com that describes the new resource in glowing terms.

 There was also great response to the timeline post. Thanks so much to all of you who took time to respond. Of the twenty-three people who completed the short survey, 18 said that they *would* like a Montana history timeline to hang on their classroom wall. But the teachers who emailed me directly put in strong plugs for student created timelines.  Two correspondents had additional timeline resources to recommend and one had a very interesting approach to teaching with timelines. Their comments are below.

Bryan Pechtl, Scobey Schools, wrote: “I think timelines are a great teaching tool, but I like having my students create them.  If something is just hanging on a wall, they will look at it, but they don't have any reason to really know or understand the material.  By creating the timelines in class, students get involved in deciding the most important events to include and defend why they picked those events.  It can be surprising to see why students pick something that I might not have chosen.  Students also benefit by gaining a deeper understanding of what they are studying because they are forced to research their topics in-depth.  Finally, students generally seem to have fun making them, and they can be a fun break from the routine that we all fall into from time to time.”

Billings high school teacher Bruce Wendt echoes the importance of having students create timelines: “To me this is the type of active history that the kids should do, not the teacher.  They learn by doing the activity, not passively looking at a series of dates and putting those on a worksheet.  I would encourage students to not only mark dates of events, but also significance and other higher order thinking skills.”

Julie Saylor at the Indian Education Division of the Office of Public Instruction pointed out that Montana Tribal Histories: Educators Resource Guide, which was donated to all public school libraries and is available online, includes some timeline activities (see Chapter 10, p. 160). In addition, the author, Julie Cajune, created tribal history timelines for each Montana reservation.

MSU education professor Mike Scarlett recommended another online timeline tool: “One website I share in class for making timelines is  http://www.tiki-toki.com.  It is free—at least the basic version is—and pretty easy to use.”

Missoula teacher Gary Stein talked about what he’s trying to teach when he teaches with timelines. He particularly focuses on the bias and perspective of the timeline maker, who gets to decide which events are included and which ones are left out. His full comment is here: “As a history teacher and citizen, I’m no longer shocked or surprised that many (most?) fellow citizens cannot sequence events in American history, much less put them on an accurate timeline. I think in part this is because many adults have rejected their schooldays history lessons for being irrelevant; after all, does knowing when the Constitution was ratified, or was Custer wiped out before or after the Nez Perce War, really matter in our daily lives? Probably not, and I say this as a person who believes that this information is critically  important in our lives. So, for over 20 years, while I’ve provided and helped students create timelines and chronologies, I have tried to focus on the value and application of the timeline. Why is it important to know when things happened? And who gets to make the timeline, and what is their bias, what does the “timeline maker” want people to know/learn? Simply, yes, I do use the timeline provided by mt.gov, as well as multiple timelines, (some of which I’ve created), to get students to focus on bias and perspective. In other words, what is left off a timeline is sometimes more important than what is included.”

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