I hope that everyone is enjoying summer vacation now that nearly all are in the full swing. Surely you are recharging those batteries and gaining great insights for next year mixed in with some good family time and relaxation. This week I gave my notice to my employer that I trading in my slippers and I am leaving my virtual curriculum world to get back on the beat. Yes, my friends, back to the brick and mortar classroom! I miss time with students face to face and need to get back on a more traditional teacher schedule for my own little ones. It was a tough decision marked with a pay decrease but I think that in the end it will be a good decision for my family. The kids are growing fast and I would love to have summers and vacations with them. I am excited for my return and have been inspired by #sschat to try out some new teaching ideas! Flat classroom, flipped, BYOT…ah, so much to think about! My current job also offered to have me stay on as a reviewer/consultant for a new social media course so I truly am getting the best of both worlds. Within the next weeks the final two modules of a World History course I have been working on are set to release so I am also looking forward to the completion of the project. The coming weeks will be a time of great reflection for me which I really welcome. I hope to see some of you at the AP Annual Conference this week in Orlando!
Part A (Please respond to one of the following questions):
1. I think that I will hit a sore spot here but here goes--on page 72 Willingham discusses “shallow knowledge” and how this sort of surface knowledge typically does not stick to the “old ideas” in our heads. As teachers, this is not a very surprising bit of information however we continue to be pushed in this direction with standardized testing—got to cover the benchmarks, “no more, no less” (as my state professes). How do we make sure that as teachers we are doing more than just scratching the surface while still preparing students for high stakes testing?
2. On page 79 there are a few paragraphs on spoken and unspoken emphasis. In my personal experience, I have recognized that seasoned teachers are more tuned into unspoken emphasis in their delivery. If you are a seasoned teacher, what advice can you offer to new teachers on unspoken emphasis? If you a newer teacher, how might you use the advice from seasoned teachers in your planning and delivery?
Part B (All respond)
3. What is a literacy tool or technique that you have been successful with in your attempt to build deeper knowledge? Who was your intended audience? Why did it work?
As I read this chapter, one phrase kept coming back into my mind: Jack of all trades, master of none. I frequently have this problem with the Bill of Rights. Most of them have that "shallow knowledge," in that they know how they works, but they struggle taking them and applying them in appropriate situations without some severe prompting. Your thought, Shauna, about benchmarks means that I don't get an opportunity to spend a great deal of time working on them as I would like, yet clearly these 10 items are perhaps the most important that I discuss all year.
One thing that I have tried is to "gamify" the process, in this case using icivics.org. Be having students work with the Amendments as office managers in a law firm, they have to use them in "real life situations" and, hopefully from there, they begin to see them not as "dead documents," but as living, breathing items that impact their lives. What I need to do a better job is "checking in" on this process more formally, and take those scenarios and make them the questions on an exam/test, rather than the "shallow" "which amendment" type of question.
The other thing that I am going to try next year that should provide some "deep thinking" is the ed cafe idea that I first saw from @katrinakennett this past May. The basic idea of would seem to be that students generate the topics, research and present the information, other students take notes on the presentations, and then create some kind of assessment of the work. The difference between this and a typical group presentation is that there are 4 presentations going on at the same time and students can choose which of the topics they would like to learn more about. My first attempt at this is going to be with the First Amendment and the five freedoms that are a part of it. I think that this would go to that "unspoken emphasis" of which Willingham speaks. Here is a link to the overview of the edcafe: http://edcafe.posterous.com/edcafes-an-overview-from-edcampss
I have found that anything that forces students to use information in a new way or forces them to think about in some way helps bring that together. Teaching an integrated American Studies class with ELA makes this a little bit easier. We had our students blog (first every night, and then once a week) about what went on in both classes (a paragraph for each) and then a paragraph in which they made a connection from one class to the next or from one of the classes to the "outside" world. For those that took it seriously (which seemed to be many of them), I believe that reflection made a difference in their "learning."
Don't be too hard on your students, Dan; reading Supreme Court first amendment decisions and dissents, it seems that our Justices have a difficult time applying the 45 words that make up that amendment also. In case you might find it helpful, and if you don't already know about it, take a look at the First Amendment Center web site - http://www.firstamendmentcenter.org/
Thank you, Bill. I appreciate those words. I was just using that as an example of what Willingham is trying to discuss. That they can know the concrete information, but taking it outside of that context to the abstract is difficult for them, which is exactly what we need them to do as students. They'll be fine. Thank you for the link. I will be sure to check it out.
This may sound out of touch with contemporary realities, but I don't believe it is our job as teachers to prepare students for high stakes testing. If I were still teaching, and was told that was my job, I'd quit on the spot. I always saw my job as a social studies teacher to be a designer of lessons to prepare students for their roles as thoughtful, engaged citizens. That said, if I did that job properly, and if high stakes tests actually tested what they purport to test, then my students would be ready to take and do well on them with no other prep needed. Unfortunately, the tests don't do that. If they did, then we wouldn't have the situation we do in California where 50% of students who enter the California State University System as freshmen are not prepared to do University work, and must be given remedial instruction in reading and math skills. These are students from the top of their classes, who presumably passed all state and federal testing as well as received good grades in their courses. The emphasis on high stakes testing clearly failed them, even though they passed. And by extension, it has failed the rest of us too; for we depend on our grads to maintain the society we've inherited and are passing on to them.
You may be out of touch with the contemporary realities, but I don't think that you are out of touch with your contemporaries. Just remember, one of the political parties in Texas made it part of their state platform to eliminate critical thinking from schools.
Great discussion fellas. I worry for young people entering the field today. Florida has eliminated tenure and as we know young teachers do not always have cake classes. Sadly a large chunk of their evaluations will be based solely on standardized test scores. I worry for the day the we cannot filled classrooms with teachers--never mind good teachers.
Whenever I find myself in despair over this possibility, I turn back to Jonathan Kozol's books and talks. He restores my faith. I realize that as long as there are voices like his still speaking out, all is not lost.
I was floored when I read a report about that a few weeks ago, Dan. I almost wrote that I found it unbelievable, but I've seen so much like it over the past 30 years (and especially the last 10 or so), that I think I am no longer capable of being shocked.
"That said, if I did that job properly, and if high stakes tests actually tested what they purport to test, then my students would be ready to take and do well on them with no other prep needed."
This is the exact sentiment I've been trying to instill in SS teachers in PD and with our curriculum. Fortunately (or unfortunately, depending on how you look at it) the state SS tests are painfully fact based and simple. A few years ago the state removed the writing portion so now its just a bunch of MC questions.
I get two reactions to this thought though:
1. Sweet, if the test is so stinking simple I just keep doing what I always did and screw this curriculum stuff with all this thinking and writing.
2. Sweet, I can do all this awesome thinking and writing and deep content.
the first is far more common...
Thanks for your continuing efforts in this area Kimberly. I take comfort in knowing that you are out there fighting the good fight. Even though reaction number two may be in the minority, it is still important to those who have it to get the support you provide.
Shauna and Dan, I happened to re-watch this 2005 book talk by Jonathan Kozol last night. It was recorded in Portland while he was on his Shame of the Nation book tour. In it, he not only shines light on the re-establishment of apartheid in US schools, but makes an impassioned plea for equity, and takes down the push for ever more high stakes testing. I've seen it several times over the past few years (indeed, I saw him live when he spoke in Berkeley as part of the tour), and this talk gets better each time I hear it. If you get the chance to watch it (58 minutes), I'll be really interested to hear what you think.
As I prepare to teach social studies for the first time, I am going through a lot of the material from my teacher education classes that I took seven years ago. One book that I knew I wanted to re-read was "Do I Really Have to Teach Reading?" by Cris Tovani. It is a book geared toward reading strategies for content area reading. My biggest take away from the book then and now is her first chapter that discusses a student who always said "Who cares?" So in looking at questions 2 and 3 above, answering the "Who cares?" question with our students may help. I am trying to keep this in mind as I plan my first units and doing so has helped me come up with some good questions for myself and them. For example, who cares if maps have a scale? Who uses that anymore? When I can answer that question first, I seem to start finding more authentic reasons/activities to teach the material.
In regards to literacy, whatever method we use to help students, we should answer the "Who cares?" question. The author happened to be using sticky notes to make connections and the students couldn't figure out why that mattered until she explicitly showed them where the train of thought could take them in understanding what is going on in the reading.