Category Archives: Things to Think About

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?

Formative Assessment for Students with Disabilities

https://ccsso.org/sites/default/files/2017-12/Formative_Assessment_for_Students_with_Disabilities.pdf

Earlier this evening, I attended my Diverse Learners class (along with a few other of my classmates enrolled in this class), in which we all presented our “Mini-Disability Presentations,” providing information on a specific disability, effective teaching strategies, and signs/symptoms for teachers to look out for. With this and the assessment in mind, it led me to the article listed above and the following question:

What are your thoughts on allowing your students “re-takes” on formative assessments?

During our most recent class meeting, Dr. Stohr provided us examples of assessments for us to critique. I honestly was surprised with how many common errors the examples contained, especially the fact that these assessments continue to be used and sold to other teachers. I understand that we, as lifelong learners, can use these examples to help in developing and designing our own assessments, but how can we respectfully and constructively communicate and promote awareness to teachers about less-effective assessments?

Further, as mentioned in the article, it should be noted that students with disabilities are NOT low-performing students, similarly, students that are low-performing do NOT have disabilities. So if they don’t do well, how will you go about assessing their learning? Would you be willing/prepared to provide a different form of the assessment, for a specific individual, that might produce better results?

With so many personalities and individualized learning needs, how will you best “take notes” on these needs when planning and creating assessments? Have you found resources that have the foundation of “universal design”? How will you keep track of the effectiveness of different items within assessments on an individualized level?

I also wanted to mention that if you visit the https://www.ccss.org/instructionalsupport website, in my personal thoughts, a very helpful resource because it has tools, ideas, and resources regarding history and social studies around a different theme each month.

In closing, did you find this resource helpful, too? Was there a specific video example that you found especially insightful?

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?

Helpful Teaching Practices: The Civil Rights Movement

Civil Rights Movement Timeline - Timeline & Events - HISTORY

In class, we discussed Rosa Parks. The Kohl excerpt (compiled from review of over 20 history textbooks) oversimplifies history while also painting Rosa in an overly emotional light using words such as “tired,” “angry,” and “stubborn.” Important figures including Ann Robinson are not addressed at all, and Rosa’s refusal to stand is inaccurately painted as the beginning of the movement. Thankfully, we used critical thinking skills and interaction with primary sources to poke holes in Kohl’s narrative. We can engage students with primary sources; carefully chosen documents (which can be adapted as needed) paint a significantly more accurate picture of the truth than many textbooks/secondary sources.

After this week’s class’s discussion and as I formulate my Bibliography, go over curriculum frameworks, and read my literature circle novel, I worry about how to approach difficult discussions. Specifically, as teachers, how can we both be honest about history but sensitive to the ages of our students? Also, how do we navigate today’s political climate while still being honest about history and honoring our students first? With a governor who bans Critical Race Theory, I worry about walking the line between educating children, telling the truth, fighting injustice, and losing my job.

I found this resource, which discusses five essential practices for teaching the civil rights movement, really helpful. The practices include educating for empowerment, knowing how to talk about race, capturing the unseen, resisting telling a simple story, and connecting to the present. This resource even makes some suggestions that Dr. Stohr implemented during her model lesson such as encouraging critical thinking when encountering Kohl’s excerpt.

How have you addressed these delicate topics with students or your own children? Did you find this resource helpful? What aspects of this resource could you implement in your classroom? As I mentioned in a previous comment, I also read Raising White Kids by Jennifer Harvey, which gives great tips on approaching race conscious teaching. Are there any additional resources you all recommend?

How would you improve student learning and skills with primary sources?

Hello classmates!

As I reflect on activities that we have completed in class, my mind ponders on what the most effective ways of assessing the proficiency of student primary source analysis skills. As a class we chose objects of our preference and analyzed them in four parts: 1) meet the artifact; 2) observe its parts; 3) try to make sense of it; and 4) use it as historical evidence. Through this process, we made inferences by carefully examining the physical appearance of the object and hypothesizing its purpose.

We also learned how to analyze, especially compare and contrast, between different primary sources, such as an image of King George and an image of George Washington. We carefully examined what objects and symbols were included in the image and why those objects may have been included. This way, we inferred what message the illustrator was trying to deliver.

I have been thinking about how else students could show that they are proficient in their primary source analysis skills, and I thought of something I found pretty interesting and creative. Instead of having the students use primary sources to make inferences and develop and understanding by a repeated “observe and think” process, I think students can benefit from creating their own creative primary sources. By this, I mean students can tackle on writing letters or poems in the eyes of a critical historical figure or a commoner of any status. For example, after learning about Abraham Lincoln and his relevance to the history we learn today, a student could write a letter to a fictional friend and explain his thoughts/feelings on the topic at hand. Not only will students be able to identify and understand what happened, but they will also gain the opportunity to use advanced skills in understanding the emotions/intentions behind primary sources.

My question for you all is can you think of any ways of incorporating primary sources or just building on primary source analysis skills without necessarily providing an actual primary source? Be creative:)

Why Is It So Hard to Pick Those Five Words??

There is so much content to teach but so little time. As we did the “George Washington, Spymaster” activity in class, I had difficulty picking only five words that I THOUGHT should be taught to a fourth-grade class. As Professor Hunt said, some teachers are lucky enough to be placed in a school where they are given the vocabulary that they need to teach. But others, not so much. We were given three paragraphs to pick those five words from. Just think about when we get a whole unit to sort through! Did you also struggle with the activity? How did you decide what words you thought were the most crucial for learning? 

The whole activity got me thinking about the different ways that we as teachers can get those essential vocabulary words remembered by our students. Growing up, I remember learning vocabulary every week by taking a worksheet home full of that week’s vocabulary and a dictionary. I would have to write down each word in my notebook and then find the definition in the dictionary. I would do that every week, which was not beneficial to me! How did you learn vocabulary in elementary school? Is it something you would bring to your classroom, or have you learned a new helpful way to teach vocabulary? 

I found this website done by two social studies teachers, and it has some great ways to teach social studies vocab to your students! Very interesting to read and poke around in. Mr and Mrs Social Studies – Social Studies Vocabulary Activities

Point/Counterpoint – What History Do We Remember?

I read a startling article last week that made me a bit angry and I spent quite a bit of time thinking about how to construct a commentary that described why the study of history needs to be multifaceted. Our founding fathers were not unidimensional, and they were not perfect. We must teach about all sides of our past and tell a more accurate story. I’m grateful that someone much more knowledgeable than me wrote an incredibly thoughtful response.

When you have some time, please read the article and the response.

Will History Only Remember the Founders as Slaveowners?
http://www.theamericanconservative.com/articles/will-history-only-remember-the-founders-as-slaveowners/

An open letter to White people who tire of hearing about slavery when they visit slave plantations: especially Suzanne Sherman.
https://negrosubversive.com/2016/04/22/an-open-letter-to-white-people-who-tire-of-hearing-about-slavery-especially-when-they-are-visiting-plantations-worked-by-slaves-suzanne-sherman-in-particular/

Why “Redskins” is Problematic

Since we talked a bit today about Native Americans, I thought this was appropriate. Here’s what Matt Essert at Mic wrote about this 2014 Super Bowl commercial.

“For years, America has been debating the use of the term “Redskin” by Washington’s NFL team, the Washington Redskins. Though the NFL says they’re listening, nothing has been done. But with this ad, the NCAI has put a human face on the story and shows exactly why the term “Redskin” is so problematic, in compressing an entire people’s rich and varied identity into one stereotype.”