Polski3's View from Here

Quote of some personal revelence: "Is a dream a lie, that don't come true, or is it something worse?"

Monday, July 23, 2007

Some Tips for Teaching History

At this time, History/Social Studies is not targeted by NCLB. However, it is tested here in California. At the junior high where I teach, most students take history in both Grade 7 and 8. They are tested on history standards for Grades 5-6-7-8. Over the years, I have tried many things to try to make history more interesting for my students. Here are a few of the things in my teacher toolbox for teaching history.

Map Work. IMO, too many students don't know where anything is on this planet. At the beginning of each school year, I assign my students to create a map of their route from home to school. I encourage them to be creative and to include important geographical features. These are graded on a simple five point rubric: Excellent, Very Good, Good, Poor and Zero (for not turning it in.) For new teachers, I'd advise you to begin developing map resources such as a collection of black line maps / out line maps for the areas you will be teaching. There are many of these available online, at various web sites.....check out Kathy Schrock's Guide for Educators at Discovery teachers website. There are usually outline maps available at many textbook publishers text support web sites. Use the maps in your textbooks. I write some questions students answer using various maps in their textbook ( for some reason, I usually don't like the map questions that are included in the textbook and support materials....maybe I want more specific answers? Anyhow, For example, I have five to seven questions for students to answer using a "Spread of the Black Death" map found in our textbook when we get to that topic.

Before you spend any of your own money on anything for teaching history, find out which texts you will be using, what support materials are available for you for use with those texts and what stuff other people in your department have and are willing to share. Also, know what other materials you cannot use or may be called on the carpet for using. Even though you may think it is "history" and is part of the current topic, is it appropriate for your students and their culture and parents?

Know what your school/district policy regarding using VHS material you could tape off history channel etc. I bought a set of "high school World History" lectures by Lin Thompson, from the Teaching Company that I use on occasion with my seventh graders. With most of the a/v presentations I show my students, I provide a guided activity for them to do while watching the presentation. Usually, this guided activity is made up of questions with answer choices they can quickly circle or underline as they are viewing the presentation. I always ensure students that their questions are sequential with the presentation. They are to read over their questions and answer choices prior to viewing the presentation so they know what to listen for. Afterwards, we go over the questions and the correct answers. Then, I either ask students to copy the questions and answers together as one statement in the form of Cornell Notes, or they can pick five questions and write the question and answer together as one statement and create a color illustration of the data. This is usually called a "6+6" ( sheet of paper divided into six equal sections, one section is the title and the other five sections contain data and illustrations.)

I've recently learned about "Illustrated Paragraphs" from some of our 8th grade teachers who got some AVID training (Advancement via Individual Determination). Basically, students write a paragraph about "topic A"
and create three or so illustrations to picture their data in the paragraph. I believe research also indicates students learn material better if they can create something for it, and creating an illustration or two of a History/social studies key concept, event or vocabulary term could be a good way to help students learn the standards.

What do your students do at the very beginning of class? Mine typically come in (quietly....yeah, they are junior highers ), sit down in their assigned seat, get out their daily planner and copy the daily planner data posted on the boards, then do an opener activity. I use a variety of opener activities include "DOL's" (Daily Oral Language - short statements about our topic with grammar, spelling, etc errors. Students copy the DOL as written/presented, then we edit it. Students then copy DOL error-free. We do "RAP's" (Review and Preview - Ask students to write down two to three sentences to review what we did yesterday or about our current topic of study, recent readings of homework, OR, "What do you know about....(our new topic)." Sometimes, we have notes to copy as opener activity, or we do a critical thinking type activity such as "IF you were there" ( present historical scenario that students must think about how they'd deal with it if it was happening to them at that time in history.....for example, Muslims conquer Spain; do you convert to Islam or stay a Christian and pay higher taxes? Or, you live in small town on east coast of Britain and hear Viking raiders are nearby....what do you do?

After we do the opener activity, we do one or two activities regarding the standard we are currently learning, and maybe a closing activity (ticket out the door.....one or two sentences about standards data they learned today) and make sure they understand whatever homework they are assigned for the class and that If they don't understand something, come see me after school.

Don't try to cram too much in one class period. It is best for students to learn solid data rather than a mish-mash of stuff.

If you can, go to the professional Social Studies or Grade level conferences. California League of Middle Schools and California State Social Studies Council put on great conferences. And, toward the end of November, 2007, the National Council for Social Studies (NCSS) is holding their National Convention in San Diego at the S.D. Convention Center. If you do go to a professional conference, share interesting things you find with your fellow teachers.

Talk to anyone at your school who has experience and get tips about what works with kids at your school.

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