Tip of the Week: Powerful Online Tools That Integrate Literacy Skills & Contemporary Events

current-eventsNeed a place to connect past with present? Need writing prompts? Need hundreds of articles about current events in an easy to access place? Need articles with leveled reading? Need a searchable databases that filter by keyword, grade level, Common Core reading anchors, and articles with machine scored quizzes?

If your answer to even one of those questions is yes, then I’ve got a list of tools just for you. All of them are web-based tools that use current events and contemporary topics to engage kids and all provide the chance for you to to encourage the development of skills required by the ELA literacy standards for History / Government. While at the same aligning to state standards that ask us to connect the past with contemporary events.

So why should we worry about current events? The simple reason is that connecting past and present is good for student retention and encourages critical thinking skills. Not to mention our state standards are asking kids to connect past choices, rights, responsibilities, ideas, beliefs, and relationships to “contemporary events.”

So today you get a few online tools and some helpful strategies that focus on current events: read more…

Google Keep – Note taking alternative, cross-platform sharing tool, and all around nice guy

I waded into the shallow end of the Google Apps / GAFE / Chromebook pool last summer. In November, I dove off the high board as my office went all Google – mail, calendar, documents, the works.

I’ve been using Google Docs forever so it’s not like the stuff is completely foreign to me. But going all in . . . with all my stuff, emails, contacts, online? Yeah, there was an adjustment period.

But after a few months, I really am falling in love with the syncing of info and materials between all my different devices. I’ve also had a chance to start playing around with all of the different Google tools buried in my account.

My latest favorite? Google Keep. Basically Keep is Google’s version of

read more…

50 Ways to Teach with Current Events

manreadingnewspaperBack in the day – seriously . . . way back in the day – during my 8th grade US history teaching days, I worked very hard to include at least some sort of current event activity every week. Some days it was me highlighting an interesting event or article that related to our content. Another day might be a student asking a question about a particular topic. On a great day, it was both – connecting past events with current topics that were relevant and engaging for my students.

I think we all agree that connecting past and present is a big deal. Something that we need to be more intentional about doing. More and more standard documents, my state included, require linking instruction and learning to “contemporary issues.”

But it can be difficult at times making those connections. One great way to integrate current events into the classroom is to use the New York Times Learning Network. Great resources, ideas, materials, and suggestions every day.

And a semi-recent article from the Network provides some very specific ideas of what this can look like. read more…

Travel and geography as a political act

Every once in a while, while traveling around the country, I’ll get the chance to meet and chat with one of them. My daughter calls them fanboys. You might call them uberfans. A polite term might be avid followers. But we’ve all met someone like this. People who just can’t get enough of The Avengers or the Kansas Jayhawks or House of Cards or whatever they’ve decided is the thing around which their world rotates.

And whenever I run into this particular type of fanboy, I have to smile. Because they are so passionate and fun to be around.

I’m talking, of course, about the people who just can’t get enough of Rick Steves. And if you’ve never heard of Rick Steves, well . . . you just haven’t had the chance to spend time with one of his uberfans. Because if you had, you would have definitely heard all about him. They take their love of Rick to a whole new level.

I get it. Rick Steves is the ultimate in travel advice. He has books, TV shows, radio, podcasts, websites, articles, and blog posts – all talking about and sharing information about travel. Where to go. What to take with you. The best places to eat. To stay. The best museums. Suggestions for planes, trains, and automobiles. He does it all and he’s been doing it for a long time.

All of this to say that Rick Steves knows travel. And he has a ton of followers who know he knows travel. So when he shares his ideas about the whys and hows of travel, it’s probably a good idea to listen to what he has to say.

And while I’m not a Steves uberfan, there is one message he shares that I really like. read more…

Tip of the Week: Sourcing Overlay Strategy

First things first. If you haven’t hung out at Russell Tarr’s Toolbox, you need to head over there when we’re finished here. Russell has been creating and sharing cool tools for social studies teachers forever and it’s all incredibly handy stuff. (You might have run across Russell’s ideas before on his Active History or ClassTools.net sites.)

About a month ago, I was on his site and ran across something that I thought was very cool. I’d been searching for ideas on how to help elementary kids source evidence. You know – author, date created, audience, intent, the sort of questions that are the foundation of historical thinking.

My goto strategy has been one shared by the Library of Congress that helps kids all the way down to kindergarten start the process of historical thinking – by training them to ask questions about primary sources. The LOC example focuses on the idea of read more…

Fellowship of the Brick – Using Minecraft to recreate history

The more I talk with elementary and middle school social studies teachers, the more I realize that a ton of their kids are playing Minecraft. My question to the teachers is pretty simple. How can you leverage the interest in this tool and begin to incorporate Minecraft into the learning that happens in your classroom?

And the response has been fairly positive. A number of teachers are working to find ways to use Minecraft as part of their instruction. Yesterday, I wrote a quick post about my own experience of being the type of teacher that focused instruction around the memorization of content knowledge, rather than the authentic use of that knowledge.

It was Trivia Crack instruction – random facts that mean nothing without context.

Over time, I moved away from that and begin to realize that there are a ton of ways for kids to learn and for me to teach. One of those methods is to integrate the use of games and simulations into the learning process. The cool thing about games and sims is that to be successful while playing often requires “non-traditional” types of classroom learning: non-fiction and technical reading / writing, research, teamwork, cross-curricular content, emotional connections to content, cause and effect, and the use of lots and lots of evidence.

Another cool thing about the use of Minecraft is the fairly easy ability to mod – modify – the game. Many current games have this feature built in but Minecraft software is basic enough so that even elementary kids are doing it.

And several weeks ago, read more…

Glenn Wiebe > educator, consultant, tech guy

Glenn Wiebe

Thanks for dropping by! As a curriculum specialist and consultant for ESSDACK, an educational service center in Hutchinson, Kansas, I get the opportunity to chat all day long about social studies and technology. Feel free to poke around!

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