Thursday, June 28, 2007

Who's the boss?

I think this is fascinating but I'm going to refrain from commenting on it, at least for the next two days.

Wednesday, June 27, 2007

The hardest thing ...

... about planning for the upcoming school year is knowing I won't be able to do everything in my first year that I've always wanted to do. I'm sure this is one of those times where I'll look back and laugh at myself for thinking so naively that it's going to be so easy to implement all these grand ideas, that the kids are going to love them, etc.

But for now I'm psyched. Stay tuned and maybe you'll get to see my descent into total cynicism and despair.

Anyway, one of my grand ideas, encouraged by NYU professor Diana Turk, is to base a quarter-long early U.S. history seminar around the study of material culture. The teacher finds a few really, really good artifacts and brings the objects (or good, clear images of them) into the students so that they can hold them, discuss them, write about them, and learn history through them. The idea is that kids will become experts in this particular method and will be psyched about doing the work of "real historians."

What I need to find are some really, really good artifacts. The class will cover the Americas: pre-colonization, colonization, and slavery. The Minnesota Historical Society has an online catalog of its holdings, which include numerous Ojibwe artifacts, but I haven't found anything quite awesome enough. I have a box of cotton bolls that I used in the eighth grade slavery unit, and it would be great to get a hold of some sugar cane. eBay has a lot of historical replicas, but I'm not sure if that will really do it.

So basically, this whole endeavor won't work if I can't find awesome enough items. Any suggestions you might have, any at all, would be extremely welcome!

Monday, June 25, 2007

Live Free or Die Hard

Prediction: this movie is going to keep New Hampshire social studies teachers busy clearing up confusion for decades to come.

Friday, June 15, 2007

It's hard out there ...

I saw a lot of cute and funny things yesterday as I was helping to score the DBQ/essay section of the eighth grade social studies test. The DBQ had to do with the Great Depression, and students did a great job of bringing in outside information. One kid, when discussing remedies to the Depression, repeatedly made reference to an economic strategy called "pimp-pump priming."

Her teacher remembered teaching them about "pump priming," but couldn't guess how the pimp got in there.

Tuesday, June 12, 2007

All opposed, say NAEP

... sorry, that's the best NAEP joke I could come up with at 5 a.m.

Via Eduwonk, this post shows how the NAEP history test prepares students for the real world.

Seriously though, I think it's a bit of a stretch for ED to pat itself on the back for rising NAEP social studies scores. It's clear to anyone who's seen standardized social studies tests that they are 90% a test of literacy skills and 10% a test of social studies skills/content knowledge. But does ED really want to admit that? Also, in this statement Spellings is basically crowing about how social studies scores improved despite NCLB. But doesn't that raise the question of whether reading and math scores are improving despite NCLB as well?

On a related note, I'm going to be spending the day on Thursday helping to score New York State eighth grade social studies tests. I'll let you know how it goes.

Saturday, June 09, 2007

Podcast update

We've spent the past two weeks putting together the WWI podcasts, and I think it has been a really good way to end the school year. Some kids weren't that into pretending to be reporters from the field, but a lot of them really got into it. They loved using Audacity, the (free) audio editing software we used. One student, who struggles in every one of his classes (and will not be moving on to 11th grade next year), shone on this project. Kids who otherwise would not be coming in for the last few days of school said they came in just to record.

Most groups have finished recording, editing, and adding sound effects, and are now working on the self-evaluation component. On Monday they're going to present them to each other.

Friday, June 01, 2007

The Treaty of Versace

... is going to be the title of the book I write someday aout funny ways kids mispronounce things in Global Studies.