A Note on Links: When reading back posts, please be aware that links have a short half-life. You can find working links to all of the MHS resources on our Educator Resources Page.

Thursday, December 28, 2017

More Reading for Winter Break

Earlier this week I provided links to the most popular Teaching Montana History posts, in case you missed them. Today, I give you "The Best Ten Social Studies Sites of All Time," according to HistoryTech's Glenn Wiebe.

Check out his blog post and then email me any sites you think he missed, so I can share them with everyone.

Tuesday, December 26, 2017

Reading for Winter Break

Who has time to read all of the blog posts that show up in your inbox? I know I don't. So I thought that some of you might appreciate a roundup of the most popular Teaching Montana History posts of 2017, to peruse over break, in between showings of "It's a Wonderful Life" or "Star Wars: The Last Jedi."

If these posts don't strike your fancy but you still want to troll Teaching Montana History for new ideas, lesson plans, or resources, I suggest visiting the website and scrolling down until you see "Labels" on the righthand side of the page. Then simply click on what interests you--art, contemporary Montana, elementaryIEFA, teaching strategies. ... You get the idea. (I haven't been entirely consistent in how I've tagged entries over the last seven (!) years, but the tags make a good starting point for exploration.)

p.s. Merry Christmas and best wishes for a happy 2018! I'm taking the week off, but the genie in the computer is hard at work. Hence this email.

Thursday, December 21, 2017

Visible Thinking Routines

Last Monday I wrote about Question Starts, a "thinking routine" that I learned about from the folks at Project Zero's Visible Thinking website. I was really impressed by their overall approach and many of the other routines they detail.

The best way to learn more about Visible Thinking is to go to their website (which includes examples of techniques being put into practice in K-5 classrooms), but I decided to offer a teaser to convince you to click through.

According to their website, "Visual Thinking is a broad and flexible framework for enriching classroom learning in the content areas and fostering students' intellectual development at the same time." It is a product of sustained research in which the creators found that "skills and abilities are not enough."
Often, we found, children (and adults) think in shallow ways not for lack of ability to think more deeply but because they simply do not notice the opportunity or do not care. To put it all together, we say that really good thinking involves abilities, attitudes, and alertness, all three at once. 
They believe that "making students' thinking visible to themselves" can help students learn to "manage it better for learning and other purposes."

I was particularly taken with the site's specific "Thinking Routine" suggestions. As the authors explain, just as it is helpful to have routines to manage behavior, it is useful to have routines to encourage thinking.

According to their site, each routine that they recommend:
  • Is goal oriented in that it targets specific types of thinking
  • Gets used over and over again in the classroom
  • Consists of only a few steps
  • Is easy to learn and teach
  • Is easy to support when students are engaged in the routine
  • Can be used across a variety of context
  • Can be used by the group or by the individual.
I'm sure you are already using some of the strategies that they suggest you make into "routines." (They explain that the difference between a strategy and a routine is that a routine is a structure used repeatedly so as to become part of the classroom culture and "the ways in which students go about the process of learning.") I know I have.  "What Makes You Say That" is very much part of Visual Thinking Strategies, a technique we feature in many lessons and I've detailed in other posts. And "Think, Pair, Share" is an oldie but goodie.

But there were some strategies/routines that were new to me, others that I had been introduced to but had never used, and still others that provided a slightly different take on a strategy I have found particularly useful. I was particularly enamored with
Two of them I'd seen in other contexts:  
  • Arlee high school teacher Anna Baldwin introduced me to "I used to think, Now I think," when she led a workshop activity on homesteading and allotment on the Flathead Reservation using a simple graphic organizer called a Four Square. The four squares were labeled: "At first I think," "Now I think," "And now I think," and "Finally." She provided us with four different documents, including short pieces of text, images, and maps, one at a time, giving us time to reflect after examining each one, about to document how the new evidence changed our thinking on the topic. She detailed the technique in her video Inside Anna's Classroom and the accompanying study guide.
  • Project Archaeology introduced me to "Circle of Viewpoints" through their 8-12 lesson plan "Investigating the First Peoples, the Clovis Child Burial," in which they ask students to take on various roles (archaeologist, traditional tribal elder, etc.) and together to wrestle with the question of reburying the 12,5000-year-old Clovis child and the artifacts found in his grave.
The third seemed incredibly obvious (writing headlines)--after I read about it.

Go check out the site and let me know which of the routines they feature have worked for you, which ones you've tried unsuccessfully, or which ones you'd like to try. Note that both Anna Baldwin and Project Archaeology used these strategies in high school lessons, but much of the focus of the Project Zero Visible Thinking website is K-5. Do you have grade level recommendations for any of the Visible Thinking routines, or do you think (as Project Zero seems to) that they work across all grades? Are there any routines you would particularly recommend? Let me know and I'll share out.

Monday, December 18, 2017

Teaching Students to Ask Good Questions

Asking good questions is hard for students.

I discovered this for myself when I went into an eleventh-grade classroom to help students working on National History Day research papers formulate research questions. Because I'd always rather "borrow" than reinvent the wheel,  I took inspiration from John Schmidt and Jeff Treppa (authors of The Research Paper: Developing Historical Questions), and I brought in handouts they created: Guidelines for Forming Historical Questions and Practice: Developing a Historical Question. And the kids *really* struggled.

I've written before about K-12 appropriate techniques to work this skill including Question Cubes and the Question Formulation Technique. I recently came across another one, one of the many interesting "Visible Thinking Routines" featured on Project Zero's website. It's called Question StartsA Routine for Creating Thought-provoking Questions. Like most good routines, it is deceptively simple. Visit the Project Zero website to get all the details, but in brief, here's how it works: 

1. Brainstorm a list of at least 12 questions about the topic, concept or object. Use these question-starts to help you think of interesting questions:
  • Why…? How would it be different if…?
  • What are the reasons...? Suppose that…?
  • What if…? What if we knew…?
  • What is the purpose of…? What would change if…?
2. Review the brainstormed list and star the questions that seem most
interesting. Then, select one or more of the starred questions to discuss
for a few moments.

3. Reflect: What new ideas do you have about the topic, concept or object
that you didn’t have before?

Do you actively teach asking good questions in your classroom? Why and how? Or why not? I'd love to hear from you.

Thursday, December 14, 2017

Testing, Testing...

Deb Mitchell and I have been working hard, revamping the footlocker "Treasure Chest: A Look at the Montana State Symbols" and are looking for fourth-grade teachers to test the new lessons we've written. 

If you are interested, let me know by email which lesson you are interested in testing. Below are brief descriptions of the lessons and estimates of how long they will take. (Note: timing is one of the things we won't know until after these lessons are classroom-tested--so take the estimates with a grain or two of salt.)

"Treasure Chest" is just one of twenty-two different hands-on history footlockers we send to schools. Our footlockers are among our most popular educational resources. Designed for fourth grade—but used successfully in both lower elementary, middle school, and high school classrooms—these thematic "traveling trunks" focus on a wide variety of topics, ranging from the fur-trading and mining industries, to Indian life during the reservation period and today. The only cost associated with using this resource is the cost of shipping the footlocker on to the next school. (This varies by weight and distance but usually averages around $30.) Learn more about the footlocker program here. 

Teachers think our footlockers are an incredibly valuable resource, but that doesn't mean that they couldn't be updated and made even more valuable. Which brings us back to Treasure Chest! Here are the new lessons that need to be tested. If you teach fourth grade and would like to test one of these in your classroom during the spring semester, please let me know.

Lesson 1: I Have, Who Has… (30 minutes)*
Students will gain a quick introduction to Montana’s state symbols by playing “I have, who has.”
Lesson 3: State Seal and Flag (two 50-minute class periods)*
Students will learn about Montana’s state seal and flag by reading an article. They will learn about principles of flag design. They will think about how they would symbolize the essence of Montana by designing their own versions of the flag and writing about their process.
Lesson 4: Montana’s State Songs (two 50-minute class periods)*
Students will learn to sing the state song, listen to the state lullaby and state ballad and then write their own song celebrating Montana.
Lesson 5: Montana’s State Animal (two to three 50-minute class periods)*

Students will learn to identify grizzly bears and how to be safe around all bears. They will learn how the grizzly became our state symbol. They also read short pieces that reveal two historical figures’ attitudes toward grizzlies: Chief Plenty Coups and Captain Meriwether Lewis and, after reading, contrast their perspectives. Finally, they write informally about whether they agree that grizzlies are the best state animal for Montana. 
Lesson 7: Gift of the Bitterroot (one to two 50-minute class periods)*
Students will listen to a traditional story, learn about the importance of bitterroot to the Salish and Pend d’Oreille people historically and today and create a Venn diagram comparing past and present.
Lesson 8: The Montana State Fossil (one to two 50-minute class periods).**
Students will learn what life was like for some of the Montana dinosaurs that lived 80 million years ago and 65 million years ago, during the late Cretaceous period, by listening to the book Maia: A Dinosaur Grows Up. They will learn about comparative morphology by comparing their own bodies to the body of a Maiasaura. 
Lesson 9: Learning about Sapphires (one 50-minute class period)***
Students will read and share information about Montana sapphires with their classmates, complete a KWL chart on sapphires, and learn more about sapphires through a PowerPoint and the sapphire exhibit included in the footlocker.
Lesson 10: Creating a Museum of Montana Symbols (three-five 50-minute class periods)***

Students will use the artifacts images from the footlocker to create a classroom museum. They will write interpretive labels and then invite other classes and/or parents and community members to view their displays.
*These lessons are ready to test anytime after January 3.
**This lesson is ready to test anytime after January 3, but you must have access to the book Maia: A Dinosaur Grows Up. (Check your library.)
***This lesson needs to be tested by a class in Helena or within a short drive. It will be ready to test in March (fingers crossed.)

Monday, December 11, 2017

Is it too early to start dreaming of summer?

National Geographic has launched a new interactive geography education program: The Geo-Inquiry Process. Last school year, Montana Geographic Alliance (MGA) sent two of their alliance members – James Sigl and Jon Milligan – to the National Geographic Headquarters in Washington, D.C. to learn how to implement the Geo-Inquiry process in their classrooms. To learn more about the Geo-Inquiry process, click here.

During this upcoming summer 2018, MGA will offer a Geo-Inquiry Institute to Montana middle school teachers. MGA is partnering with UM’s Flathead Lake Biological Station at Yellow Bay to implement the institute from June 20-22, 2018 at the BioStation. MGA will cover the costs of lodging, food, and travel stipends, as well as unique interactive and engaging science-based activities. Teachers can earn OPI renewal units through their participation in this institute. We will also take teachers on a scenic boat ride on Flathead Lake.
MGA is actively recruiting teachers to participate in this institute. To participate, you must meet the following guidelines: (1) Apply as a pair of middle school teachers from the same school; (2) One teacher must be a media/technology educator, and; (3) One science/social studies educator.
If you are part of a teacher pair that is interested in attending this institute, please fill out this form.

I am not typically jealous of middle-school teachers because, frankly, I'm a bit intimidated by middle-school students, but today I am. Just for today, I wish I were a middle-school classroom teacher so I could attend this institute!

Thursday, December 7, 2017

IEFA Online Book Club Course

I spent Tuesday previewing the responses to our survey on how Montana history is taught in your district. The information is extremely helpful and will shape what we do. If you haven't yet contributed your thoughts, I hope you will find a moment to do so now. 

In answer to the question "what trainings would you find useful," many of you expressed a desire for more IEFA trainings; others of you requested more courses for which you could earn graduate credit. 

"Montana Tribal Histories," the online Moodle book club course, offered by WMPLC/RESA Region V, meets both these needs. The course will explore the Montana Tribal Histories Educators' Resource Guide developed by Julie Cajune and The Framework: A Practical Guide for Montana Teachers and Administrators Implementing Indian Education for All by Tammy Elser.  Here are the details:
  •  Registration fee: $155
  • Dates: January 8-March 4, 2018
  • Format: The course is divided into weekly modules, and participants will have a week to complete each consecutive module. The course will also include weekly live chat sessions.
  • Credit: 30 OPI Renewal Units or 2 Semester Credits (semester credit is offered through the University of Montana and is an additional fee of $155. The course instructor will provide a separate registration form and instructions for submitting payment)
For more information, visit https://www.wmplc.org/iefa-montana-tribal-histories-1818.htmlTo register, click https://goo.gl/forms/l1wBlRrASiRUbslR2

Another great opportunity to learn more about IEFA is OPI's IEFA Best Practices Conference, which will be held March 4-6, 2018, at Carroll College in Helena. (No graduate credits for this one, though).

Monday, December 4, 2017

Do You Know an IEFA Champion?

Do you know an educator who has gone above and beyond in promoting and supporting Indian Education for All? Consider nominating him or her for 7th Advocacy Award for Excellence in Indian Education for All.

Begin the nomination process by opening the  ADVOCACY AWARD NOMINATION by clicking here

All nominations INCLUDING supporting documentation must be received by WEDNESDAY, JANUARY 3, 2018 at NOON.

Here's a little more information: 

The Indian Education Division at the Office of Public Instruction is soliciting nominations for an important opportunity – the 7th Advocacy Award for Excellence in Indian Education for All, in honor of one of Montana’s finest educators, Teresa Veltkamp. Teresa was a classroom teacher and Indian Education Specialist at the Office of Public Instruction who was passionate and inspirational in her efforts to ensure and support the highest levels of implementation of Indian Education for All in Montana.

Please give consideration to this opportunity to acknowledge and honor an outstanding educator’s efforts in the promotion of and steadfast support for Indian Education for All. The nominee should be an exceptionally skillful, dedicated teacher who has earned the respect of students and colleagues.

The award will be presented during the 12th Annual Indian Education for All Best Practices Conference Welcoming, Monday, March 5, 2018, at Carroll College, Helena.

By the way: registration for the IEFA Best Practices Conference is now open. I always learn a tremendous amount at this conference. The conference will be held March 4-6, 2018, at Carroll College in Helena. The cost is $20 for Sunday Mini-Institutes only, $40 for Monday and Tuesday conference only, or $60 for all three days. You can register here. Contact Jennifer Stadum at (406) 444-0725 or Joan Franke at (406) 444-3694 if you have any questions.

P.S. If you haven't yet completed our survey on how Montana history is being taught in your district, I hope you'll donate a few minutes to the cause and do so now.