Tuesday, December 9, 2014


“Memorizing facts and faces has failed us.  It’s time to concentrate on thinking and deep understanding.” 
 --S.G. Grant – C3 Contributor, SCDN meeting, 
Albany, NY  Sept 2014. 

Hooray for the C3 Social Studies Standards which concentrate on thinking almost as much as they do on history. They have 65 references to thinking and these are the adjectives they use : 

5 Ways to Foster THINKING in your research assignments:
  • Inspire Curiosity – Compelling minds want to know, understand and use this knowledge
  • Identify the “gold” in your content and get STUDENTS to uncover and discover… (rather than you ‘covering’)
  • Ask questions which cannot be answered by mere facts – Get to the WHY, so what, what if, how….
  • Use the LENSES of understanding: Geography, economics, civics, and historical lenses
  • Require a project to assess understanding... How can students demonstrate this understanding?  
While planning an assignment on “local history” I suggested a teacher package the final product as the creation of a Landmark or Historical Marker to denote the significance of a person, event, or place.  (Build an argument or evident-based claim for a marker) Students could even advocate for a real sign, which gets the students to Civic Action.   

What’s funny is that within the C3 actually note there is “dichotomous” thinking that is required in civics.  That’s what fuels politics, as we know all too well.   So, here’s the dichotomous thinking for Landmarks – Could we fold this into our curriculum?  What a hoot.


Wednesday, November 12, 2014

CCSS Reading for Information…made easy!

The Dummies Guides were especially successful because to some extent…we all prefer easy reading.  We love it when someone pre-digests content for us so that we can absorb it faster.  I remember when I was learning HTML, my honeybee-yellow-and-black Dummies Guide sat by my side to comfort me. 

If you are a teacher in a classroom responsible for achievement, you are needing more than the Dummies Guide, but I have to say:  For parents? -- The Common Core Dummies guide wasn't a bad overview.  That book will effectively frame their understanding and provide helpful hints for helping their children. 

As a teacher-librarian, you will need to understand the Common Core a bit more than this graphic below, but this may "frame" your understanding.  Even without the details, you should take confidence in knowing that there are numerous connections for the library in both the Reading for Information Standards and the Writing for Information Standards!  

Reading for Information Standards: 

Also from an earlier post… Here are the Writing for Information Standards:  

Tuesday, October 28, 2014

Mudslingers, Muckrakers and Research?

Get Your Students Thinking with this fun lesson: 

It's that time of year for mudslinging, dinners interrupted by political robo-calls,  and repulsive TV Commercials...  Welcome to the November Elections! Why not Carpe Diem…and turn this time into an Inquiry Based Learning adventure for your secondary students?

Using this  www.livingroomcandidate.com site as "Primary Media Source Documents" we can ask students to critically evaluate media, messages, and do close examination of candidates to compare, contrast, investigate, synthesize, and draw conclusions.  This is real life in reverse.  In order to answer your essential question, students will have to do some close reading of material during their investigation.  They will likely learn the vocabulary of the discipline and speak intelligently as they present their conclusions.  
(This site provides a historical aggregation of Presidential candidates 
and their commercials back to 1952.) 

With Inquiry-based Learning hitting the Social Studies communities like wildfire, it seems more SS teachers are open to new ideas.  Here's a short lesson suggestion which is student-centered, real-world, Inquiry-based, fun, and sadly…relevant.  

We librarians know there are many "steps" to Inquiry, some methods stating 6, others stating 7 or 8, while our WISE (Wonder, Investigate, Synthesize, Express) model has only 4.  (It's a non-threatening introductory approach user-friendly for new "Inquiry" teachers.)  
When repackaging research, there are a many details to embrace, but let's point out a few imperatives: The first is to agree you want the research to be Inquiry-based.  What question can we ask to compel the students to uncover and discover new knowledge?  What question can we ask that aligns with the standards and the real-world? This lesson is not a "long sustained" Inquiry project, but rather would fit the CCSS thought of "short" research projects.  This helps foster the information-literate paradigm for college and career ready students.
After you've agreed on INQUIRY as a framework, you'll have to insure you have a good EQ to inspire kids to uncover and discover meaning.   For our LIVINGROOM CANDIDATE lesson, let's present an EQ such as one of the following:  

  • How do[did] primary source media products reflect cultural issues? 
  • How has "running for office" changed over the last Century? 
  • If you were running for office, why would you run? What would your platform stand for? Create a slogan for your platform? 

Guiding Questions for direction as they investigate:
  • Why did candidates choose these issues to spotlight?
  • Were these issues solved or addressed during the "reign" in office? 
  • Did the elected official live up to their "living room message?" 
  • What was going on in the world that compelled the "party" to have this message? 
  • What messages are you hearing today? 
  • What's the cause and effect? 
  • Can we view these messages via our Social Studies "lenses" to make sense of the information? (i.e. synthesize)
  • Would you have voted for either of these candidates?  
  • What other primary source documents can you find, discover that reflect cultural issues of the time?
Ideas and Notes: 
  • This lesson embeds technology for the "transliterate"  or "metaliterate" learner. This Livingroomcandidate.org site provides a great opportunity for "flipped learning."
  • Vocabulary of the discipline "graffiti walls" could be built by the students, as they uncover and discover relevant words within their close reading.  Bulletin board paper provides the perfect tool for students to aggregate vocabulary words critical to understanding political issues, voting, campaigning, and more. 
  • Don't forget about the Inquiry… Knowledge Presentation. Knowledge is meant to be shared.  How will you have the students present their knowledge?  Can we have a discussion or debate over successful advertising or successful campaigns followed by successful Presidential terms? Can we place into perspective the campaign, world history issues and more? These activities support "Evidence Based Claim" arguments that are required in CCSS delivery changes. Create a new political party that embodies what you stand for(?)  
  • Can we follow-up this activity with a "what if" section: If there was "media" available for Presidential Candidates during the 1800's, what would they commercials have contained? This assignment would hit the top of Bloom's taxonomy and require synthesis of history timelines, cultural issues, campaign spotlights, economics, and more.  This requires the students to "create" something.
  • To help students synthesize the information they uncover, or investigate different aspects of the topic, new SS standards want your students to view material through "lenses."  You may want to consider creating a graphic organizer such as this to help them search:

Aligned with new C3 SS “themes” ... Consider using something like this for SS “facts” to  help students synthesize.





Cause & Effect

Global Connections

Have some fun and turn this season of mudslinging into a lesson about Fearmongers, Muckrakers, Freedom of the Press and more!  

Friday, October 3, 2014

News Flash for Teacher-Librarians!

This morning at WLMA Conference, I had to "skip" my last three slides to wrap up in the hour.  However, the message is too poignant not to share!  Here goes:

A couple of weeks ago, I received an invitation from a NYS "Regent Fellow" (i.e. a big dog at the State Education Department) - whom I respect.   He forwarded me an invitation to attend (with them) an upcoming conference in Seattle being held by the Common Core parent organization, Student Achievement Partners (SAP).  

The interesting note was that SAP were REQUIRING  state teams to bring at least 1 librarian with them.  Listen to the language below:

SAP are venturing down the next road of CCSS implementation, and they have devised a new concept of providing "close reading sets" they are calling the "Text Set Project" to meet national standards within Social Studies and Science.  Vendors have jumped all over this movement, as they anticipate a new way to increase their bottom line.  

This "text set" concept I believe was born from Marc Aronson's presentations around the country where he has paired, or grouped together, sets of engaging-appropriately-Lexiled-high-quality books-on a certain curriculum topic...that could be used within a classroom to meet reading requirements of the standards.  A great idea.  

We can do this.  We do, do this.  This should be easy.  Go for it! Stake your territory.  Insure that you are creating "text sets" for your district, and indicate that they do not necessarily HAVE to spend money for what you may already be able to create with existing resources.    

This should be a creative, connection to the classroom -- We can be ahead of the curve!  

Wednesday, September 24, 2014

Looking for a Lesson Plan on Censorship?

I received an email from my Assistant Superintendent  a couple of years ago, asking me how to teach "censorship" at the HS level.  What an invitation.   I immediately said, "it has to be hand's on and real world."   What I brainstormed in a couple of minutes ended up being a huge success as a collaborative librarian-ELA-SS teachers short project.   Here's the outline and you can use this to inspire a couple of real-life scenarios for your school: (A variation of this could easily be done at lower levels also.) 

  • Content:  Bill of Rights, 1st Amendment, Censorship (history), Banned Books, Close reading of content. 
  • Essential questions:  Does the government have the right to tell you what's appropriate? 
  • Texts:  Picture books notoriously "banned."  See images below - and gather your list from sites such as this eplBibliocommons There are many picture books that held "hidden agendas" for which they were banned.  The Lorax was accused of that as well as Green Eggs and Ham.  
  • Prepare a graphic organizer to guide the students in their evaluation 
  • Hold a discussion and debate to active thinking and guide students to understanding.  Here are some guiding questions:
    • What did you find offensive? 
    • What historical reasons are people objecting to this book? 
    • How does the Bill of Rights protect or impede this in our society?  
    • Does the Government hold laws of influence? 
  • A short-term research endeavor is a good follow-up to answer additional questions students will have.   The discuss and debate should follow this and demonstrate a more robust understanding of the topic.  Research questions can be brainstormed by the kids and hopefully will include thoughts such as:  
    • Where in the world does censorship exist today?  
    • Would our Bill of Rights fit within their society? 
    • Has Censorship been historically successful? 
This lesson is a snap-shot of a very Common Core aligned lesson where the students are engaged - discussing, closely reading (the SS teacher should be able to find a primary source on censorship he can use within his class also), and endeavoring in "short-term" research assignments to answer questions.  That's an example of how we can incubate the CCSS Anchor standard:  Research to build and present knowledge.  Kids need a reason to research--questions to answer. 

In a one-to-one device classroom, research is easily supported and should include your Point of View databases.  The Common Core would want the students to create an EBC (evidence-based claim) to support their view on Censorship.   Vocabulary of the discipline should be required in all knowledge products.  Students could create PSA's cautioning about : Censorship;  Cautioning about violations of censorship world-wide; caution to travelers headed to foreign lands, or any other "claim" they can support with evidence from their research.  

We all have a moral compass and the intelligence to choose with what we fill our brains,  but should be thankful that the government hasn't defined that for us! 

Thursday, September 18, 2014

Standards Tsunami?

As the standards-change tsunami sweeps the nation, we now see the National Council of Social Studies teachers post new standards.  Yes.  So, lest you think that new standards in ELA, Math, Science weren't enough, we also have changes in Social Studies Standards that are intended to rock the history world.  Awaken to viewing SS through the lenses of: Chronology, Economics, Geography, Civics and more.   

Author  of the C3 Standards, S.G. Grant spoke today at our SCDN meeting in Albany and shared, "Social Studies has too long been about facts and dates.  It's now time to think." 

New C3 Social Studies Standards are operating under an "Arc of Inquiry" and want teachers to frame their lessons around questions which engage the learner.  The official site puts it this way: 
      "The Four Dimensions highlighted below center on the use of questions to spark     
        curiosity, guide instructiondeepen investigations, acquire rigorous content, and 
        apply knowledge and ideas in real world settings to become active and engaged 
        citizens in the 21st century." 

The four new SS dimensions shout…"'Want to come to the library for an Inquiry Investigation?


Sounds a bit like the Common Core to me….
[Read more at:  http://www.socialstudies.org/c3/c3framework}

Be sure to investigate your own state's SS Standards to see whether they were recently updated to embrace national C3 new standards. 

Sunday, September 14, 2014

MASHABLE Synthesis!

This weekend I was in the was in the car with my "hotspot," my husband driving along Interstate 87, when a virtual friend posted a  "FriendMatrix.com" collage  on Facebook.   I commented,  "Wow.  You could use that for Revolutionary War characters and then upload it to ThingLink and add comments." Someone replied, "How would you do that?"  Here's the answer and I challenge any reader to add a "thing link" dot to a character and comment--just as though you were on my collaborative team of 5th graders!

We could do this in education for many uses such as Biographies, Presidents, or Imperialists.  Let's use this American Revolution idea to model.

  • Below is a photo collage created at collage.com  This is free and only requiring an account based upon email.  (Yay!)  
  • The photo collage can be downloaded to your desktop, shared on a webpage, Smore, or as here on a blog.  
  • The photo can be then uploaded at Thinglink.com -- named -- shared -- and tagged with comments as modeled below.  The comments represent the "thinking" or synthesis required of research that has been previously done.  
  • The only information literacy issue is that when collage.com searches the Internet for photos, it does not give you the URL for attribution.  Therefore, this has to be back-filled when you add a Thinglink.  Luckily, when using "old" images and documents, most are within public domain. 

This sample below is what I'm calling "mashable synthesis."  That is, I've used more than one web tool, and the knowledge product intention requires more than fact-fetching.  I am asking students to synthesize facts they have found and draw conclusions.  The essential question for this below would be something such as:  If you were building Wall of Fame for the American Revolution, who would be on it and why?  Tell me in the first person voice of the hero.

It is interesting to note that the new National C3 SS standards really require the students thinking to investigate way beyond merely characters and their roles in the American Revolution and want students to get to deep understanding of conflict and change.   As noted below, they are asking ...as early as 5th grade, for kids to consider the impact of the Revolution upon culture, economics, governance, and the other "lenses" of Social Studies.    

Your state may not have "adopted" these standards verbatim, so it's best to check your local STATE standards, rather than these national ones.  NYS, for example, reformed their SS "Frameworks" aligning generally with national recommendations but not verbatim.

(A piece of) Washington State Fifth Grade SS Standards, for example, looks like this: 

Although our example was cool, it was not rigorous.  It may have required that students synthesize the facts-found, but it did not necessarily meet the new SS standards in Washington, for example. To tweak the this for alignment, we could ask students essential questions such as these below:   

  • How did the culture, governance, economic conditions, compel you to join the  Revolutionary War? 
  • Why did you want to be free? Why did you fight in the American War? 
  • What were the causes of the Revolution from your first-hand perspective?
  • How does the Declaration of Independence reflect the cultural, economic, and governance issues of the time?  
For all these questions, students could still write in the first person voice of the hero, colonist, or activist. This also helps meet CCSS ELA standards and the shift of integrating literacy across the disciplines.  

I trust you get the moral of the story -- When choosing technology for "knowledge products"  insure that what you are planning to do, is aligned with the standards.  We are after all, teaching to the standards…not just having a good idea that is "close".