Saturday, December 29, 2018

Social Studies Shorts

Wanna a quick and easy project for your students, that embeds content and technology, doesn't eat up a ton of time, and has LOTS of options????

Look no further than "Social Studies Shorts."

This isn't a new idea for a project. Our English teacher has done it in her ELA classroom before, and I thought it was cool and filed it away into my "someday I'll try that" folder.

Then I was reminded of it by Adam Topliff, an awesome teacher in my PLN. He did it with his 8th graders over the Articles of Confederation, and I figured it would be a great thing to use as my "semester final project" for my 8th graders over Lewis and Clark. I believe he got the idea from education consultant, Curtis Chandler. (You should follow both on Twitter @mrtopliff and @CurtisChandler6 ) for great ideas.

As I've said before, I don't typically do the same thing year after year. I am always looking to revamp and find new ways for students to work with the content. One thing that does typically stay the same in my history classes is starting with an essential question.

I love to present the question at the start of a lesson and then spend the next few days having the students investigate and prepare to answer the question. It's HOW they answer the question where I'm always looking to shake things up.

This year, I took a lesson over Lewis and Clark that I've done pretty much the same way the last two or three years. The lesson is a good one, a Structured Academic Controversy (SAC). I wrote a blog about it last year...find that post here. That lesson comes from SHEG. I am using the same materials from the SHEG lesson, but the end result isn't a structured debate between students, but a short film created instead referred to as "Social Studies Shorts"

Check out this video example of a Social Studies Short.

When Mr. Topliff tweeted that he was planning one of these for his students, a little light clicked! That would be a fun alternate way to answer our big Lewis and Clark question. So I set to work creating the project.

***I will note, that I may have been VERY specific about requirements and details on the rubric. I find that the first time I do a certain type of technology project the more specific I am helps the kids figure it all out. Later in the year, if this is presented again as an option, students are given more "freedom" for creativity.***

The Essential Question
Were Lewis and Clark respectful to the Native Americans they met on their journey?

STEP 1: Gather Evidence by completing the evidence analysis chart. There will be 5 stations for students to rotate through. Each station has a different document to analyze. This will be done at the student's own pace and can be done with a partner if they choose. (Evidence from SHEG activity… )

Quick image of the document. For full access scroll to the bottom of the page.

Quick image of the document. For full access scroll to the bottom of the page.

STEP 2: Fill out the Persuasive Graphic Organizer Sheet. This will be done individually using the information learned while studying the evidence provided. (I just searched for "Persuasive Essay Graphic Organizer" and picked one that I liked)
STEP 3: Prepare the Social Studies Short
  1. Create a Script of what to say on camera.
  2. Content MUST HAVES:
    1. Introduction: Title, who, what, when, and where (basic information about the expedition.)
    2. Answer the "essential question"
    3. Provide at least THREE pieces of evidence to back up claim.
    4. Acknowledge the counterargument and its weakness
    5. A conclusion Statement.
  3. Visual MUST HAVES
    1. Essential Question Typed and printed.
    2. Locate images and create other text that can be used as you narrate your video.

STEP 4:  Video your short.
  1. Find a video partner.
  2. One videos with the iPad while the other presents
  3. Switch roles
  4. Complete any final editing need and upload final product to Google Classroom.

Here is an example of a finished video from Nolan.

All in all, they enjoyed this project, I was able to integrate technology effectively with my content, students studied primary and secondary sources in order to back up their claim, and work collaboratively to film their videos. Social Studies Shorts will definitely make a repeat appearance in my class this year! 

I love the versatility of this project. So many options... and it can be as long and detailed or short and sweet as you need it to be. Individual or team project...larger project answering an essential question...or explaining a single vocabulary word in context. Lots of options to fit your classroom needs!

I will mention, that when I told the students that this project "used to be done as a small round-table debate" they REALLY wished we would have done that. I found that they were really into the topic and wanted to discuss their opinions. If I do the "Social Studies Shorts" with this topic next year, I will do it as a follow-up to the debates.

Want the resources for this project and not just pictures? Click HERE for my Google Folder!

Friday, December 14, 2018

Reflecting and Making Tough Decisions

I have said this many times, the best teachers are reflective teachers. They make changes based on what went well and what didn't. They listen to the students, because sometimes these "kids" have some pretty great ideas on how they would like to learn. 

And when they're not ready. 

Sometimes, they come right out and tell us. And sometimes they are a afraid to say just what's on their mind. But if you get to know your students as more than just the "kids in your class" you'll start to be able to pick up on what they're NOT telling you... but showing you. 

My 7th graders have been working on a really cool project over our "Bleeding Kansas" unit. I stole the idea from a high school teacher. The project involved the kids researching a person and then "becoming" that person for a press conference style interview.

I LOVE this project idea. I love the depth of knowledge and rigor attached to it. The kids don't just research and regurgitate the information back, they truly have to get to know the person they researched and infer their answers based on their knowledge. Cross-curricular research skills, oral communication skills, and historical thinking. Win - Win - Win. 

For me. 

And then last night, while I was awake and couldn't sleep at 3:00 AM, I started playing little signs over and over in my head. As much as I didn't want to admit 7th graders weren't ready for this.  Some of the signs were...
  • The questions I kept getting... "Is this really in front of the class?" "How long do I have to be up there?" "Can I have my research form while I'm presenting?" 
  • The kids in tears during our "soft deadline" because they were so anxious and nervous. 
  • The emails I got the night before our due date. I NEVER get emails from kids at home. I got three after 9:00
  • The emails from parents giving me a "heads up" about their child's nerves.

And then I started to think more about my classroom and why they may not actually be "ready." 
  • This is their first BIG project with me that involves research, cited sources, and a presentation. 
  • The presentation is not only an individual one, but it also requires some high-level thinking front of their peers.
  • We haven't actually done ANY type of oral presentation in class. Nothing. 
  • They haven't even done any speeches or presentations in their ELA class for me to "piggy back" off of. 

One of the things I love about being a teacher is the amount of control I have in my day. For the most part, my principal trusts me to teach my kids the content I'm required and do it to the best of my ability. HOW I decide to do that is completely up to me. I can make changes as I see fit. Sometimes those changes are easy. Sometimes they're more difficult. 

By 3:30 AM I had made the decision to change it up. The focus of this project wasn't the oral presentation. It was the research skills and content surrounding the important people during the turbulent time period leading up to the Civil War. Instead of orally presenting to in front of their peers, 7th graders would create a Spark Video about their person. Within that video they were still required to make inferences based on what they learned and answer specific content-related questions. 

This was not an easy decision. I LIKE the press conference project, and I am a big advocate for challenging your students and making them step outside their comfort zone. I put A LOT of work into creating it, but it's not about me. This was a HUGE jump outside the comfort zone for some. Creating fear and anxiety was NOT the goal. For the record, I still think this is something middle school students can do, but I think it is more suited for the end of 7th grade (at the earliest) or 8th grade. I will revisit this project again.

Sometimes doing what's best for students means putting aside your own pride and the amount of work that you put in to it, in order to get the quality of work your students are capable of.