Category Archives: Pedagogy

Teaching the Holocaust

How and when should we teach students about the Holocaust? Here are some answers to these questions with links to helpful resources.

Fundamentals of Teaching the Holocaust includes many helpful resources produced by the US Holocaust Memorial Museum. This excerpt is from the page Age Appropriateness.

“Students in grades six and above demonstrate the ability to empathize with individual eyewitness accounts and to attempt to understand the complexities of Holocaust history, including the scope and scale of the events. While elementary age students are able to empathize with individual accounts, they often have difficulty placing them in a larger historical context.”

Teaching Young Children About the Holocaust (PDF book chapter) addresses the question of when and includes some teaching suggestions.

“… we don’t advocate that you teach about the Holocaust directly until 5th or
6th grade at the earliest. And, even then, we hope you’ll make accommodations by
teaching kids in those grades about the Holocaust’s more redemptive aspects
only—rescue, resistance, and stories that soften the harder blows of this history. We
think that the earliest young people ought to be taught about the Holocaust in depth is when they are older, when as a group, they are mature enough to be appropriately
staggered by its enormity and developed enough to discuss its implications.”

The KidsKonnect article Teaching Kids About the Holocaust: Why You Should and How explains clearly and in some depth why “knowing about the Holocaust can make children more resilient, empathic, and give them the capacity to contribute, over time, to a healthier and safer society. This is because the Holocaust teaches us some valuable lessons.” Those lessons include:

  1. It illustrates the need for tolerance, inclusion, empathy, and respect.
  2. It perfectly captures the dangers of hate speech.
  3. It provides reassurance and makes children resilient.
  4. Remembering and learning from the Holocaust is a form of respect toward the victims.

In Why Teach the History of the Holocaust–And How?, the Montreal Holocaust Museum does a fine job explaining the reasons it is important to teach the history of the Holocaust .

This undergraduate honors thesis entitled How Can We Teach About the Holocaust to Seven to Ten Year Olds? examines the impact of psychological perspectives in relation to this question (among LOTS of other ideas). If you have time, this is a paper worth reading.

The publication Recommendations for Teaching and Learning About the Holocaust, prepared by the International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance (IHRA), addresses many issues about Holocaust teaching, including what we should teach about it.

“Teaching and learning about the Holocaust will vary depending on national and local contexts. These contexts will inform decisions regarding which questions are explored more deeply and which are addressed more concisely. The time allocated for teaching about the Holocaust must, however, be sufficient for learners to be able to answer the following questions in significant rather than superficial ways:

    • What were the historical conditions and key stages in the process of this
      genocide?
    • Why and how did people participate or become complicit in these crimes?
    • How did Jews respond to persecution and mass murder?
    • Why and how did some people resist these crimes?”

Facing History & Ourselves has a wealth of resources for teaching the Holocaust.

The National World War II Museum in New Orleans has a number of helpful Holocaust education resources.

The Learning Network: The New York Times’ Social Studies Resource

Hey class!

I have found a fantastic resource on teaching current events and lessons revolving around relevant topics to social studies instruction. Follow this link to view The New York Times’ Learning Network for Social Studies. This resource uses content from The New York Times to create “Lessons of the Day” surrounding a current or important history topic.  They also post graphs and other visual organizers with interesting and relevant social studies topics. Some of the recent “Lessons of the Day” have been about confederate monuments, black history, the invasion of Ukraine, and redistricting/gerrymandering. These lessons include warm-ups, vocabulary, questions to lead writing and discussion and further learning to dive deeper into the content. They have different tabs for lessons on U.S history, global issues, civics and social studies skills. I thought this website had some fantastic resources for teaching current or important historical events regarding social studies and civics. I think some of the lessons are too complex for elementary students but I think the resources provided by the site surrounding events we teach in the classroom can be great tools to aid our social studies instruction.

Do you think you’ll use this resource to aid your social studies instruction? Have you found any similar resources on your own? Link any others you’ve found below!

Hope everyone has a great week!

To Kneel or Not to Kneel, That is the Question

Composite image - Kneeling football player with American flag background

My Digital Toolbox for this class is focused on Second Grade and specifically the American Symbols.  

VDOE SOL Civics Unit: 

2.13 The student will understand the symbols and traditional practices that honor and foster patriotism in the United States of America by

  1. a) explaining the meaning behind symbols such as the American flag, bald eagle, Washington Monument, and Statue of Liberty; and
  2. b) learning the words and meaning of the Pledge of Allegiance

Prior to last week’s homework assignment, I had not fully considered how controversial certain symbols like the Statue of Liberty could be.  As a child, I was taught to respect the various symbols of the United States including the Statue of Liberty, Pledge of Allegiance, American Flag and the National Anthem.  In 2016, I was shocked to see sports figure, Colin Kaepernick,  kneel in protest at the beginning of a football game as the National Anthem played. To me, the Anthem was always a beautiful symbol of hope, courage, freedom, liberty, and community. I never stopped to consider that may not be the case for all. 

How should we as educators address this potentially controversial issue in the classroom? Are we able to separate our personal feelings and opinions and simply teach the content standards, or should we attempt to inform, enlighten and educate our young learners that not everyone is treated the same in our country and why that might be?  Should we go the next step and try to explain the controversy? 

I found the following brief article relevant and informative. The article provides context and discusses both the Pros and Cons of kneeling. I would love to hear your thoughts on the topic and how it pertains to social studies education for our children. 

Also, take a look at this longer article providing a bit more background.

The January 2021 Attack on the Capitol, Where We Are Now, and How We Can Prepare Our Students In a Divided Nation

On January 6th 2021, a mob attacked the U.S Capitol and left the nation puzzled, frightened, angry and shocked. Social studies educators put their lesson plans on pause and addressed the fear and confusion many students experienced.  Civics and social studies education is a topic that has been fresh since the election and everything that’s happened since. There is so much going on in just our nation alone; a pandemic, economic hardship, the fight for social justice, teacher walk-outs, BLM protests, police brutality, our role in the war in Ukraine and countless other things. Our job right now as educators in this divided nation is a hard one.

I found an article that really spoke to all of those hardships and emotions students are facing and how we can help them think critically and try to understand what’s going on in the world. The article, titled “A More Perfect Union: Social Studies Educators Tell How To Get There”,  encourages teachers to instruct students to verify facts, decipher between fact and opinion, and learn about media literacy in a world of false information. The article talks about the importance of not squandering debate, but encouraging healthy and constructive debates in the classroom that build community instead of further dividing us. One skill the article discusses that America desperately needs to teach our youth is learning to listen to one another. The article stresses how education is only part of the solution, not a solution itself:

“We can’t play the blame game of laying it at the feet of education,” Tyson said, “because this is a historical multi-pronged problem that is also rooted in anti-blackness and systemic racism. It’s rooted in the ways people feel disenfranchised and are finding themselves becoming more economically fragile. Two pandemics grip this nation and the world: COVID-19 and racism.”

The article uses this quote to encourage us to teach our students to work together, listen to each other, and have those conversations with our students about civics and social studies to prepare them for the future. We must be open about evaluating sources, thinking critically, discussing our viewpoints, and reaching a consensus of community.

There was a lot from this article I didn’t include so please take the time to read it. It felt very relevant to our predicament as social studies teachers in our world today. What was one big take away from the article that really resided with you? How can we foster community in our classrooms when discussing difficult political and civic topics? How has education failed students in the past and how can we do better?

(PS. I hope everyone had a great weekend! Please forgive me for my late blog post, I had my scheduled days confused. Thank you for understanding and I will see everyone in class!)

Book Banning? Really!?! What Year Are We Living In?

It’s 2022 and yet, if you do a quick internet search for book banning, hundreds of articles, interviews, and news stories pop up and they are not just from the past but rather are prominently featured in today’s headlines. Book banning (and book burning sadly), remain current issues.  While banning books has been a practice for years (dating back to at least the 15th century), current events have brought it back to the foreground for significant educational and parental discussion. What books are being banned and why? Who decides?

Book Banning has certainly spanned our country’s history, yielding numerous debates about controversial topics such as religion, politics, gender identification, and race; however, the real debate is over who decides what is and isn’t “appropriate”.

To Kill A Mockingbird, The Hate U Give, Maus, The Bluest Eye, and the entire Harry Potter Series are just a few examples of books that have been banned or are on a “watch list” due to “inappropriate” content. But the bigger question is, who deems book content appropriate? Is it parents? School teachers? School Administrators? School Boards? Librarians? Publishers? Politicians? Who ultimately should decide what is taught in schools? Is there a different standard for public libraries? What about the number of parents who complain about a particular book? What if only one parent is bothered by content in a particular book that is being taught in a public school classroom? Should that teacher be required to change their curriculum to appease one parent? What if more than one parent objects? What about the Mississippi assistant principal who was recently fired for reading a book to a group of second graders that was deemed “inappropriate” by school administrators who merely feared parents would complain? The assistant principal defended the book as just “a funny, silly book that can help teach kids reading can be fun”. How are educators expected to walk the line of appropriate and inappropriate when it’s extremely subjective and based on opinion? The answer seems to be: with extreme caution. 

Consider the following articles and news video attached below.

The History (and Present) of Banning Books in America ‹ Literary Hub

To Ban or Not To Ban? Virginia’s Schools Caught in a Battlefield – Dogwood.

 Austin Public Library condemns book banning in Texas

When you were in school, were you required to read any of the books that are now banned? Did you think about any controversial issues as you were reading them? Did any of the content give you pause, where you thought to yourself, hmmm, maybe this isn’t appropriate for me to be reading? As educators, are there any books you’ve recently come across that you now think you’d shy away from in terms of teaching? I’d love to hear your thoughts.

Teaching Sensitive History Through Primary Sources

One of the recurring topics this semester has been surrounding the question, “How do we teach sensitive material to young students?” Topics like World Wars, Egyptian afterlife, slavery, the Holocaust and controversial historical figures are just a few examples of topics that are touchy for both students and teachers.  I found a great article that discusses how primary sources and artifacts can help teach sensitive topics in a variety of ways. The article talks about how images, artifacts and objects can provide a soft transition into a hard, sensitive or possibly controversial conversation. These kinds of visual aids can also make the material easier for students to understand and digest if shown rather than simply explained. The article follows this up with some great suggestions to consider before teaching sensitive subjects:

  1. Consider your audience and take your students backgrounds and experiences into account
  2. Consider your role as a teacher in this conversation (to challenge preconceptions, remain neutral, etc.)
  3. Consider whether it is appropriate or necessary to share your own view or opinion. (This can help a conversation or hurt it)

As educators, I believe teaching sensitive subjects should go hand in hand with our efforts to teach about bias, diversity and social justice. History repeats itself, which means the hard conversations have to go hand in hand with the right response. Dr. Stohr has mentioned in class about bias free teaching and literature and how to recognize bias from a historical perspective. Another great article on Edutopia discusses this topic and explains the importance of teaching young students about bias and social justice. The article provides strategies elementary teachers can use, such as anti-bias lessons, news stories and children’s literature, to start the conversation. The article also points out how we can use a child’s viewpoint on fairness to our advantage when teaching history. These are all great suggestions on how to teach history and lead our kids with truth,  knowing that our students are worthy and capable of knowing and understanding it.

What are some sensitive topics that you are interested in finding resources to help you teach? What strategies from the articles stuck out to you that you think you may use in your classroom? What are some other ways you think we can approach sensitive subjects?

 

 

 

Current Events in the Elementary Classroom

https://www.edweek.org/teaching-learning/opinion-seven-ways-to-bring-current-events-into-the-classroom/2020/01

During class discussion this past Tuesday, we talked about the negative and inaccurate portrayal of American Indians in children’s literature, both in writing and in illustration. It should be noted that Dr. Stohr provided us with an authentic connection between American Indian history and a current event occurring in Ukraine. Moreover, Dr. Stohr said (not in these exact words), regarding American Indians and colonists, “How would you feel or what would you do if someone tried taking something away that belonged to you? Then Dr. Stohr connected this question to the statement, “We’ve been seeing this happening to the people of Ukraine.”

Our class discussion regarding current events continued as Aiden mentioned the topic of immigration status in the media. Further, how do we address this with students who may be exposed to the images and videos of “migrant children in cages” at the United States southern border in an appropriate manner?

With the goal of creating a positive and welcoming classroom climate, teachers must provide a safe space for their students to ask questions about current events. How can we best support students who are might be affected or knows of a friend/family member that is directly affected by a current event? How can we effectively and appropriately connect current events to what we are teaching in the classroom? Which grade level, within the elementary school, do you believe teachers should start including current event topics into their teachings?

As I thought about these questions, I came across an article titled “Seven Ways to Bring Current Events into the Classroom” (link posted at the top of the post). This article provides examples of different ways to get students engaged in their learning, so they make connections between academics and what is happening in the world around them. Although most of the examples of learning opportunities involve secondary level students, there are links within the article that could be useful for primary school teachers. One resource mentioned is “Project Look Sharp,” which provides K-12 resources for building media literacy. Another resource, that focuses on positive human interactions, is the “Good News” page in the Huffington Post.

Did you find this article to be informative and helpful? Were there any Project-Based Learning experiences within this article that you might consider using in your classroom – and in which grade level would you provide these learning experiences? Are there other learning structures that you might use to introduce current events? Have you found any resources related to integrating current events into student learning within the elementary classroom? Have you come across resources that provided you with insightful information on what to avoid when introducing current events into the classroom?

I look forward to reading your comments!

Universal Design for Learning

Universal Design for Learning (UDL) | William G. Jackson Center for Teaching and Learning | Michigan Technological University

In Morgan’s blog post last week, the formative assessment resource addressed the Universal Design for Learning (UDL). Additionally, the assigned “Show Me!” article discussed using a UDL approach. Criterion 6 of the Virginia Quality Criteria Review Tool for Performance Assessments is “Accessibility” and also references the UDL. Specifically, criterion 6B states “The performance assessment is accessible and allows for differentiating the ways that students demonstrate their knowledge such as through the application of principles of Universal Design for Learning (UDL).” The rubric then provides a link to the Center for Applied Special Technology.

Since in this week’s assignment (and in our future teaching careers), we will be looking for assessments that meet the UDL, I figured we should review the website and its associated resources. The UDL website provides a helpful graphic organizer emphasizing ways the teacher can ensure accessibility and provide differentiation. According to UDL, the teacher should provide multiple means of engagement, representation, and action/expression. Each of the three categories then has sub-categories below. You can click each link to read further information. I find this resource helpful for designing lessons and choosing assessments.

What did you find helpful about this resource? Did you find anything new? Anything you will keep in mind while going over this week’s assessment assignment? Any differentiation or accessibility strategy you had not considered and plan to implement?

Teaching Inspo: Fieldwork and In-Person Testimonies

Hi all,

I recently came across this segment from PBS News Hour about Polaris Charter Academy, a largely low-income charter school committed to social justice. If you’re looking for examples of innovative social studies lesson plans, this video is definitely worth a watch. The way the school’s teachers tie together fieldwork, primary source document analysis, and first-person testimonies in a unit about the Civil Rights Movement is really inspiring. I loved that the project culminated with an actual trip to Birmingham for fieldwork, and I was also struck by how, before that trip, the teachers arranged for people who lived through Jim Crow segregation to come into the classroom and give their first-hand accounts. Inviting people who experienced the era first-hand to speak about their lives is not something I had ever really thought about doing, but listening to the students’ reactions, I can’t help but think this kind of an interaction would be an incredibly powerful teaching tool.

After watching the video, I also began to reflect on my own experience with field trips and guest speakers. To be honest, I couldn’t think of a single experience that left a lasting impression on me. We did make the requisite trip to Jamestown in 4th grade, but I don’t really remember much about it — it was certainly not an educational experience like the one described in the PBS News Hour segment. How about you? Did you take social studies field trips or do field work as a K-12 student? Did you hear a speaker that made a lasting impact? How do you feel about making use of fieldwork and/or classroom speakers in your social studies teaching today?

Teaching Columbus: Mythbusting

Hi all,

During our last class I was chatting with Bethany and Emily about the challenge of teaching  problematic historical figures to the younger grades. Bethany pointed out that the SOL for grade 2 specifically asks teachers to “describe the contributions” of Christopher Columbus. The first time I encountered the Columbus section of the The People’s History of the United States, I had to literally put the book down and walk away. It was that upsetting. Knowing what I know about Columbus, I was more than surprised to see him included on the agenda for second grade.

So how do you teach terrible history to young children? Do we sugarcoat figures like Columbus and hope to bust the myth later, when they’re old enough to learn about slavery, genocide, and caging women and children in pens? Or do we give them the tools to think critically about the towering historical figures that our country still celebrates?

In search of an answer, I went to Google and found some great resources that might help us begin to bust the myth of Columbus at an early age. Teaching History has a great post on different approaches to teaching Columbus from K-12. I especially liked the recommendation for the book Discovering Christopher Columbus: How History is Invented. The book includes primary source documents appropriate for young learners (as early as second grade, I would say); I firmly believe that primary source work can help teach students to think critically about original documentation, to consider multiple and differing perspectives (including colonized cultures), and moreover, to understand that history is itself constructed. I think books that work with primary sources are a good, age-appropriate start to teaching students how to think critically about the past (the lesson that history is a construct is huge, I think) and are a good way to start grappling with problematic figures like Columbus.

Anyhow, this is all just my two cents. How would you teach Columbus or other figures like him, especially to young children (K-2)? Should we remove Columbus from the SOLs, or should we be forced to reckon with a fuller account of our history?