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.

Monday, January 29, 2018

Fighting Fake News

Did you know that the Newseum in Washington, D.C., is offering a FREE virtual class, scheduled to coincide with your bell schedule? Bring "Fighting Fake News: How to Outsmart Trolls and Troublemakers" to your classroom via GoToMeeting, Google Hangouts, Skype or WebEx. (If your school uses a different platform, they're willing to look at it to see if it will work.) 

Newseum also has lesson plans and cool anchor charts to display in your classroom--all available for free once you register.

Another source for teaching media literacy--and especially online media literacy--is the Stanford History Education Group (SHEG)'s latest website, "Civic Reasoning Online." You can read my longer summary of the site, and other reasons to love SHEG in this earlier post. Or go directly to their website and register for free access to their material. You won't be sorry.

Thursday, January 25, 2018

Speaking and Listening

A few weeks ago I posted some suggestions in response to a question from a middle school teacher who he was looking for lessons to help students engage in discussions. Today, I came across a new idea (on Facebook, no less): Using Talk Detectives.  Edutopia posted this intriguing one-minute video showing how this practice worked in an elementary classroom.

The teacher divided students into groups to discuss Ancient Greek gods. Then she armed two students, who she designated "Talk Detectives," with clipboards that had a rubric of the class's discussion guidelines--things like:
  • Clarified somebody in their group's ideas.
  • Challenged a group member.
  • Built on someone else's idea.
  • Invite someone else to contribute.
  • Summarized a group member's ideas.
  • Changed their mind.
  • Came to a shared agreement.
The Talk Detectives' job was to circulate and "spy" to see if they could spot anyone using the discussion guidelines. After the discussion, the "detectives" reported on the good things they saw.

According to the teacher featured in the video, using talk detectives helps students "think about their conversations metacognitively" and boosts effective speaking and listening skills.

Monday, January 22, 2018

Dave Walter Research Fellowship

Have you ever wanted to conduct in-depth research on a Montana topic? Consider applying for the Dave Walter Fellowship, which last year was awarded to a teacher whose students were writing a history of their town. 

The 2018 Dave Walter Research Fellowship will be awarded to two Montana residents involved in public history projects focused on exploring local history. The award is intended to help Montanans conduct research on their towns, counties, and regions using resources at the Montana Historical Society. Research can be for any project related to local history, including exhibit development, walking tours, oral history projects, building history or preservation, county or town histories, archaeological research, and class projects. Awards of $1,250 each will be given to two researchers annually. The award really is designed for community historians; there's a separate award, the James Bradley Fellowship, for academic historians.

Recipients will be expected to:
  • travel to the MHS to conduct research
  • spend a minimum of one week in residence conducting research
  • provide a copy of their final product or a report on their completed project to the MHS Research Center
 Applications are evaluated on the:
  • suitability of the research to the Society's collections
  • potential of the project to make a contribution to local history
  • experience in conducting local history research

The application must include the following:
  • project proposal, not to exceed 3 pages, describing the research including the specific MHS Research Center collections you intend to use
  • cover letter
  • 1-2 page resume
  • letter of recommendation
Applications must be sent as one PDF document to mhslibrary@mt.gov no later than March 15, 2018. Announcement of the award will be made in mid-April. Questions should be directed to Molly Kruckenberg at mkruckenberg@mt.gov.

Thursday, January 18, 2018

Literacy and Social Studies

I recently learned about ReWordify.com (thanks, Glenn Wiebe and Larry Ferlazzo.)  The site allows you to use free online software to simplify blocks of text by replacing more difficult vocabulary with easier words. "Enter hard sentences (or whole chapters) into the yellow box at the top of the page. (You can also enter a website URL.) Click Rewordify text and you'll instantly see an easier version, for fast understanding. The reworded words are highlighted— click them to hear and learn the original harder word. You can change how the highlighting works to match the way you learn!"

With an account, you can also edit "ReWordified" documents to select which words ReWordify changes. (For example, when I ran draft text from our new "Symbols of Montana" footlocker through ReWordify, it changed "agate" to "pretty stone." Since agates are one of Montana's state symbols, and a word students needed to learn, that's not a change I wanted to permit.) 

If you are looking to differentiate text--or looking to modify primary sources to make them easier to read--ReWordify can help. (On simplifying primary sources: many historians I respect, including the folks at the Stanford History Education Group and TeachingHistory.org, recommend this practice when necessary to make material more accessible to students. But I confess, it still makes me a little uneasy. Certainly, if you do it, share that information with your students.) 

ReWordify.com has great tutorials and a library of classic literature and other public domain documents. I recommend you check it out.

And speaking of reading: 

My recent post "Social Studies in Elementary Classrooms" received a hearty "amen" from former CRISS trainer, Montana history teacher, and reading instructor Sue Dailey (who also served as a consultant for our textbook Montana: Stories of the Land.) 

The post focused on University of Virginia psychology professor Daniel Willingham's assertion that to create strong readers schools must teach content because reading comprehension requires broad vocabulary and factual knowledge.

In an email to me, Sue wrote that early in her career, her biggest frustration when it came to teach reading/literacy strategies to students was that she didn't have any relevant content to use. "It was a constant search for articles at a relevant reading level to use to teach comprehension skills such as selective underlining and summarizing." Students would have different amounts of background knowledge and interest in the random articles she chose. This "would impact their comprehension."

Things changed once she started teaching Montana history. Teaching Montana history made her literacy instruction stronger because she had "stuff to teach," content that had a real purpose. Sue found that there were several advantages in teaching reading through Montana history, and since I found her list informative and thought-provoking, I'm sharing it with you. 
  • First, I was able to provide the necessary background information (e.g. geographical locations, pertinent vocabulary, general knowledge of the historical period, etc.) before students read a particular chapter or selection.
  • Second, subsequent reading selections built on previous selections provided content continuity rather than random subject matter.
  • Third,  because of my familiarity with the content, it was easier to adjust the instruction to students of differing reading skills.
  • Fourth, as the reading was of the same content and format it was easier to increase the difficulty of the comprehension strategies.
  • Fifth, teaching this content allowed students to read more primary sources because of their increased background knowledge and literary skills. 
  • Sixth, students learned that applying these literacy skills enabled them to be successful in both tests and writing assignments, so they saw a real benefit and therefore took them more seriously.
Sue taught seventh grade--not fourth--and her middle school focus brings another point to the fore. Not only is "literacy is best taught within the context of relevant and meaningful content" but all teachers (not just English teachers) need "to include literacy instruction within their content areas."   

Monday, January 15, 2018

Free Trainings from the Smithsonian American Art Museum

Christy Mock-Stutz, English Language Arts & Literacy Instructional Coordinator, at the Montana Office of Public Instruction sent me information about three live webinars that the Smithsonian American Art Museum (SAAM) has designed specifically for Montana educators. Here's more direct from SAAM:

In this special three-part webinar series Montana teachers will learn how educators at the Smithsonian American Art Museum (SAAM) use inquiry-based approaches with artwork to engage students as thinkers, readers, and writers, while supporting content across multiple disciplines. Gain practical strategies for integrating art effectively into your teaching, and learn to navigate the Smithsonian’s online resources for educators. Webinars are open to all Montana teachers, though they are especially recommended for English/language arts, social studies or history, and art teachers for grades 5-12. Renewal units will be available.

1. Thinking through Art: Landscape and Place
Wednesday, February 21, 2018 (3:30 – 4:30 p.m., MT)
Explore inquiry-based strategies for guiding close looking and analysis with American art, and ways to make students’ thinking visible. Highlighted SAAM artworks for this session center on the theme of Landscape and Place. Join the live online presentation here: https://zoom.us/j/212806679

2. Native American Art & Artists: How Do You Find Artworks to Use in Your Classroom?
Tuesday, March 20, 2018 (3:30 – 4:30 p.m., MT)
You want to try using American art in your teaching, but how do you know where to find the right piece? Learn how to navigate the Museum’s online resources for teachers, with an emphasis on art by and about Native Americans. Join the live online presentation here: https://zoom.us/j/183416399

3. Art as Argument: Contemporary Artists’ Voices
Monday, April 16, 2018 (3:30 – 4:30 p.m., MT)
How do contemporary American artists use visual tools to persuade? How can persuasive artwork be a springboard to help students construct their own arguments?
Join the live online presentation here: https://zoom.us/j/127740159 

If you can't make the live webinars, Christy says that all the sessions will be recorded and eventually be posted on the Teacher Learning Hub. (If you don't know about the Teacher Learning Hub, I highly recommend that you check it out. They have all sorts of free online courses there--including a series of four short (hourlong) courses Deb Mitchell and I created with Colet Bartow on MHS resources.) But that may take a while, so check out the live webinars if you can.

Happy learning.

Thursday, January 11, 2018

Nominate a stellar teacher for History Teacher of the Year

Do you know a stellar American history teacher? Consider nominating him or her to become the 2018 Montana History Teacher of the Year.  

The 2018 Montana History Teacher of the Year is open to any full-time K–12 educator who teaches American history (including state and local history) as either an individual subject or as part of other subjects, such as social studies, reading, or language arts, is eligible for the award. We understand that almost all elementary school teachers will be generalists in that they do not always teach history or their curriculum only allows them to teach some history. This should not deter individuals from nominating elementary teachers.

The Montana awardee is then considered for the National History Teacher of the Year Award,  recognizes outstanding American history teachers across the country.  Each state selects a state winner who then will be placed in competition for the National History Teacher of the Year award.  ­
  • State winners receive a $1,000 prize, an archive of classroom resources, and recognition at a ceremony within their state.
  • National winner receives a $10,000 prize presented at an award ceremony in their honor in New York City.
Nominations may be made by clicking the following link or filling out a paper application.:
Important Calendar Dates:
  • Deadline for nominations: March 31, 2018
  • Deadline for nominees to submit supporting materials: April 30, 2018
The Gilder-Lehrman Institute for American History, New York, NY sponsors this competition.  The Montana Council for History and Civics Education (MCHCE) administers the Montana state competition for the Gilder-Lehrman Institute.  Visit the MCHCE at: mchce.net or on Facebook.

Monday, January 8, 2018

Social Studies in Elementary Classrooms

I've had many elementary teachers tell me they'd love to teach more Montana history (or social studies generally) but that their principal insisted the time was better spent on literacy instruction. If this is you, I have an article for you to share with your principal: "How to Get Your Mind to Read," by University of Virginia psychology professor Daniel Willingham.

In a nutshell, Willingham argues that reading comprehension requires broad vocabulary and factual knowledge. Among his examples is an experiment that gave third graders, "some identified by a reading test as good readers, some as poor," a passage about soccer. "The poor readers who knew a lot about soccer were three times as likely to make accurate inferences about the passage as the good readers who didn’t know much about the game." Another experiment "tested 11th graders’ general knowledge with questions from science (“pneumonia affects which part of the body?”), history (“which American president resigned because of the Watergate scandal?”), as well as the arts, civics, geography, athletics and literature. Scores on this general knowledge test were highly associated with reading test scores."

Based on the evidence, he argues that we're teaching reading all wrong. We shouldn't be teaching literacy in a vacuum because the "disproportionate emphasis on literacy" in elementary school "backfires in later grades, when children’s lack of subject matter knowledge impedes comprehension." Instead, he recommends using "high-information texts in early elementary grades." 

We've long taken that idea to heart! We've been slowly redesigning our hands-on history footlockers to include more literacy components, but all of them already have narratives written at about a fourth-grade level as part of the user guides. Most of our other elementary resources (including Neither Empty nor Unknown: Montana at the Time of Lewis and Clark Lesson PlanMontana’s Charlie RussellMontana’s State Flower: A Lesson in Civic EngagementMapping Montana, A to Z, Lesson PlanThe Art of Storytelling: Plains Indian Perspectives, and Montana Biographies) also contain literacy components. And they have CONTENT! 

Three cheers for research! And for content-rich curriculum! And especially for Montana history!

Thursday, January 4, 2018

Beyond Black and White

I want to thank everyone who has taken the time to answer our survey on how Montana history is taught in your district. (You still can!) I've been reviewing comments, and one middle school teacher mentioned that he was looking for lessons to help students engage in discussions without being so black and white about it.

Here are some techniques I have come across that may help:

1. Structured Academic Controversy (SAC), the goal of which is “discussion that moves students beyond either/or debates to a more nuanced historical synthesis.” Here's how it works (Excerpted from "Structured Academic Controversy" on Teachinghistory.org):

    • Choose a historical question that lends itself to contrasting viewpoints. 
    • Find and select two or three documents (primary or secondary sources) that embody each side. (Remember that you can pull these from existing document collections on the web or in print.)
    • Consider timing, make copies of handouts, and plan grouping strategies. 
    In the Classroom
    • Organize students into four-person teams comprised of two dyads. Together they review materials that represent different positions on a charged issue.
    • Dyads then come together as a four-person team and present their views to one other, one dyad acting as the presenters, the others as the listeners.
    • Rather than refuting the other position, the listening dyad repeats back to the presenters what they understood. Listeners do not become presenters until the original presenters are fully satisfied that they have been heard and understood.
    • After the sides switch, the dyads abandon their original assignments and work toward reaching consensus. If consensus proves unattainable, the team clarifies where their differences lie.
    Read more (and find handouts to use this technique) here. The website "Deliberating in a Democracy in the Americas" offers a slightly different version of SAC, but to a similar purpose. I really like their "brief lesson plan", which explicitly teaches the difference between "Debate, Discussion, and Deliberation." Government teachers may also like their lesson plans, which use the technique.

    2. Socratic Seminars. Many teachers I respect swear by this technique, which "Facing History and Ourselves" describes as an activity in which "students help one another understand the ideas, issues, and values reflected in a text through a group discussion format."
    • Select an Appropriate Text
    • Give Students Time to Prepare
    • Develop a Classroom Contract. Typical rules include: 
      • Talk to each other, not just to the discussion leader or teacher.
      • Refer to evidence from the text to support your ideas.
      • Ask questions if you do not understand what someone has said, or you can paraphrase what another student has said for clarification (“I think you said this; is that right?”).
      • You do not need to raise your hand to speak, but please pay attention to your “airtime”—how much you have spoken in relation to other students.
      • Don’t interrupt.
      • Don’t “put down” the ideas of another student. Without judging the student you disagree with, state your alternate interpretation or ask a follow-up question to help probe or clarify an idea.
    • Remind students that the purpose of the seminar is not to debate or prove a point but to more deeply understand what the author was trying to express in the text.
    • Have the discussion leader, a student or the teacher, ask an open-ended question. 
    • Sometimes teachers organize a Socratic Seminar activity like a Fishbowl activity, with some students participating in the discussion and the rest of the class having specific jobs as observers. 
    • Reflect and Evaluate
    You can read more about this practice here. (And credit where credit is due: Arlee teacher Anna Baldwin first introduced me to this technique. You can find her version in the accompanying Inside Anna's Classroom study guide.) 

    3. “Circle of Viewpoints.” I talked a little about this recently, in the post discussing the Visible Thinking Routines from Project Zero's Visible Thinking site.  The goal of this technique is to get students to "consider different and diverse perspectives involved in and around a topic." It "works especially well when students are having a hard time seeing other perspectives or when things seem black and white."

    • Ask students to brainstorm various viewpoints on the topic.
    • Ask each student to choose one of these viewpoints. Give them time to prepare to speak about the topic from that perspective.
    • Go around the circle and act out their various perspectives. 
    • Wrap up by asking "what new ideas do you have about the topic that you didn't have before? What new questions do you have?"

    4. Arbitration. One of my favorite history teacher bloggers, Russell Tarr, suggests this approach to avoid some of the pitfalls of debate and to help students reach more sophisticated conclusions.

    • Create teams of three (or 5), which consist of prosecution, defense and an arbitrator (choose your best students for this role). While the prosecution and defense gather evidence and prepare their arguments, the arbitrator is responsible for anticipating the arguments on each side and working toward a synthesis. 
    • Have all the teams conduct a debate in front of their own arbitrator at separate tables. After the debate, have the arbitrator work with the prosecution and defense to design a synthesis statement that both sides are happy to accept.
    • Gather all the arbitrators in front of the class to present their judgments.

    Monday, January 1, 2018

    Looking back

    Happy New Year! 

    I decided to greet 2018 by featuring some of the older lessons we've created at the Montana Historical Society that I think have stood the test of time. If you have a favorite I've missed, let me know! If you've used one of these in your classroom and it didn't work well for you, I'd love to know that too!

    If you only have a day or two, I'd recommend trying on of these lessons/activities:  

    Women at Work Lesson Plan: Clothesline Timeline (Grades 4-12). This primary-source based lesson asks students to analyze historic photographs to draw conclusions about women and work from the 1870s through the 2010s. Students will discover that Montana women have always worked, but that discrimination, cultural expectations, and changing technology have influenced the types of work women undertook. 

    Learning from Historical Documents (Grades 6-12) The Montana Historical Society posted primary sources relating to almost every era in Montana history when they created the Montana: Stories of the Land Companion Website. They are aggregated on this page. A typed excerpt, a link to the original , a brief context, and a copy of the National Archives Document Analysis Worksheet is posted for each document. 

    Digitized Montana Newspapers Online (Grades 4-12) Give your students an hour to immerse themselves in the time period your studying. Have them go shopping. Ask them to find something to do for entertainment. Have them select a headline or article that disturbed, surprised or amused them to share with the class. 

    Montana's Charlie Russell (Grades K-8) Choose just one of the ELA lesson plans designed to accompany this packet--for example, "Painting into Poetry" or "Living with Animals."

    If you can afford to dedicate a week or more to a deep dive, here are some lessons I'd recommend:

    Women and Sports: Tracking Change Over Time (Designed for grades 4-8) In this lesson aligned to both Common Core ELA and Math standards, students learn about how Title IX (a federal civil rights law enacted in 1972 that prohibits sex discrimination in education) changed girls’ opportunities to participate in school sports by collecting and analyzing the data to look at change in women’s sports participation over time.
    Girl from the Gulches: The Story of Mary Ronan Study Guide (Designed for students 6-10). This study guide includes lesson plans, vocabulary, chapter summaries and questions, alignment to the Common Core, and other information to facilitate classroom use of Girl from the Gulches: The Story of Mary Ronan, as told to Margaret Ronan, edited by Ellen Baumler. Set in the second half of the nineteenth century, this highly readable 222-page memoir details Mary Sheehan Ronan’s journey across the Great Plains, her childhood on the Colorado and Montana mining frontiers, her ascent to young womanhood in Southern California, her return to Montana as a young bride, and her life on the Flathead Indian Reservation as the wife of an Indian agent. Book One, which provides a child’s-eye view of the mining frontier, is available to download as a PDF (Lexile Level 1180L). Classroom sets of Girl from the Gulches can be purchased from the Montana Historical Society Museum Store by calling toll free 1-800-243-9900. 
    "Montana's Landless Indians and the Assimilation Era of Federal Indian Policy: A Case of Contradiction" (Grades 10-12) This week-long primary-source based unit designed to introduce high school students to the history of the landless M├ętis, Cree, and Chippewa Indians in Montana between 1889 and 1916, while giving them an opportunity to do their own guided analysis of historical and primary source materials. In this Common Core-aligned unit, students will wrestle with issues of perspective, power, ideology, and prejudice and will closely examine the role Montana newspapers played in shaping public opinion toward the tribes’ attempts to maintain economic independence and gain a land base and political recognition.

    Ordinary People Do Extraordinary Things! Connecting Biography to Larger Social Themes Lesson Plan (Grades 8-12) This lesson uses essays published on the Women’s History Matters website to help students explore how ordinary people’s lives intersect with larger historical events and trends and to investigate how people’s choices impact their communities. After analyzing two essays on American Indian women from the Women’s History Matters website, students are asked to conduct interviews with people in their own community to learn about how that person has chosen to shape the world around him or her.

    Hazel Hunkins, Billings Suffragist: A Primary Source Investigation (Grades 7-12) In this lesson, student historians will analyze photos, letters, newspaper articles, and other sources to learn more about the suffrage movement as experienced by Billings, Montana, native and National Woman's Party activist Hazel Hunkins.