Woo Hoo! We are out of the Box!

Sunday night's chat brought together some great ideas from across the state.  When I was asked to do this blog post, I had no idea what I was going to talk about. Suggestions were that I could discuss my views on CCSS or just talk about some resources.  Man, someone giving me an open call to discuss what I think about CCSS?!  That could take a while!  I won't do that to you though.

I love that our most recent #OklaEd chat (Common Core Crowd Source) focused on the benefits of the new standards.  We all know that there are issues, but since a) nothing is perfect and b) we have to teach regardless of any imperfections, conversations like this are necessary.  If you want to see some of the benefits, check out the archive linked above for tweets marked A2.  

Personally, I don't mind the CCSS.  They just tell me what to teach.  We'll work out the bugs in the long run.  The thing that I am really excited about is that (if done properly), it opens up our classrooms to creativity, innovation, excitement and inquiry in a way that has in recent years been pushed aside in favor of multiple choice questions dictated by textbooks.  That change has nothing to do with the standards themselves, but with the way we are being instructed to teach them and (hopefully) the way they will be assessed.  There you go - my views on CCSS in a nutshell.

Louisiana Believes Educator Toolbox
One of the things this chat topic brought out is that not everyone feels prepared for CC and the new teaching methods.  Another is that Project/Problem Based Learning is gaining steam as the go-to method of teaching cross-curricular lessons with multiple standards integrated across disciplines.  Uh oh...that sounds complicated!  Not so much if we work together like we are.  One of the things we are going to need is a resource base.  So, now I can get to the fun part!  Resources!  Another topic that could go on forever, but at least it is interesting.  :D 

Here is a collection from @MrsBeck25, with articles on CC for Social Studies teachers.  Many historical sites have education activities that fit with what we are trying to do.  This is one from Mt. Vernon, and they have tons more.  Sign up for their e-mails, and you don't even have to go looking for them!  Colonial Williamsburg also has some tremendous resources and they have just started a new teacher community.  I haven't even started looking at this one, but it has a ton of CC resources - implementation, curriculum, alignment, professional development, supplemental materials.  You name it, it has it.

Primary sources are going to be a big part of CC teaching in any subject, and there are all kinds of places to find those.  Library of Congress, the Oklahoma History Center Research Room, and the Daily Oklahoman Archives (free to teachers) are some I use.  @SaintsWife0 shared this one with links to resources for all subjects, which lead me to this (which I really want to look at more!).  @MrsBeck25 sent us the link to Smithsonian Quests, which looks fun.  But, I've saved my favorite for last.  I love, love, love the National Archives Digital Vault!

You can start by shuffling images until you find one that you like, or you can search for a specific topic.
Once you choose an artifact, it brings up tons of connected items.

If you hover over the tags on the left, it will highlight items connected by that link.
Once you click on a link, it will enlarge to show you things like this homestead filing by Almanzo Wilder.

Or this image of a family claiming land through The Homestead Act of 1862....
Or this page from the Final Rolls of Citizens and Freedmen of the Five Civilized Tribes in Indian Territory...
Or even these notes from the eulogy delivered by President Clinton after the Murrah Building bombing.

If just looking at and/or printing resources isn't enough, you can do Pathways Challenges and link primary sources.  Use theirs or create your own!
Finally, if even that isn't enough, your students can create posters and now even videos using these primary sources!

 Do you see why I love the Digital Vaults?!  Who knew primary sources could be so fun?!  There is so much more to talk about when thinking about PBL and inquiry based lessons, but I'm pretty sure I've used up my space/time.  A good resource base is a place to start.  Now, who is going to take on the challenge of talking about PBL?


A (Mostly) True Tale of Homework and Rigor

Peeking into my senior daughter's bedroom, "Minden, what are you up to?"

"Working on homework, as usual," she replied with resignation. She didn't even look up from the 28 pound American Government textbook. "I have at least two hours of work to do tonight."

"What the heck?" I exploded. "This is the third night this week you have been camped out in your room with homework. What exactly do you do in class? There is no way you can be working on your work if you have this much left!"

Minden looked up at me with a flash of anger in her eyes. "Seriously? In our block we spend all 100 minutes taking notes and listening to lecture. Then just before it is time to leave we get hammered with this work."

"Does he not get that he isn't the only teacher at school?" I groan. "Does he think you are only taking one class this year?"

"Because this is an advanced placement class, he says that he has to teach it like a college class. He said it has to be more rigorous because it is an upper level class." She explains. "He also says that if he doesn't cram all of this in, we won't be able to pass the advanced placement test."

"That guy has a real problem, doesn't he realize that in that same college class you would only be in his room for three hours a week tops, not four to six like you have at the high school?" I responded. "Of course you need to spend more time working outside of the classroom. When I was taking classes I was only in class fifteen to twenty hours a week. That left plenty of time for the homework. Does he think 'rigor' means hours of homework after an long lecture with PowerPoints?"

Minden grimaced, "Actually I think that is exactly what he thinks the word means."

"This is ridiculous, why don't you get out of this class and take the regular government class? Trust me, you will find the college class will be much easier to pass." I continued. "You are having to spend way too much time on this stuff. You're a senior, you should be enjoying the year and not be a slave to all of this crappy homework."

"I can't Dad, it is too late to switch and if I pass the test I won't have to take it in college," Minden sighed.

"I hate homework," I mutter as I push close her door.

While this is not a verbatim conversation I had with my daughter Minden last year, it is an honest amalgam of conversations that I had over her last two years of high school.