Helping Children Understand the War in Ukraine

A significant thought lately, especially after visiting the Valentine, is how to answer questions about today’s biggest current event: the war in Ukraine. I have already experienced these conversations with children as young as 5 who are scared that something will happen to them. Yet, I did not know how to respond because what is okay to say to someone so young?

Woman holding her young son

I understand how important it is to be open with children because many of them can see right through you. This article linked here explains how to talk to children about the war in Ukraine in age-appropriate ways. As educators, our job is to teach our students about the world and what is happening in it. The students I have come in contact with who are aware of what is happening in Europe could be getting that information from home, friends, tv,  anywhere. Our job is to calm any nerves that they might have but still be open with them in an age-appropriate way.

Have you had any similar experiences, whether with the war in Ukraine or something similar? How did you handle it?

Did you find the linked website helpful when thinking about approaching this topic with children?

Lastly, I know that even if it doesn’t turn into WWlll, this war will be in our textbooks someday and will be something that we have to teach. Thinking about that is so scary and sad because it is literally happening right before our eyes. How do you feel experiencing this history when you know what impact it will have on us as we teach our future students? I personally am so sad thinking about it, but it is life, and this is our job. I believe that even if we can’t fix the world, we can prepare our students for it and make them the best humans possible 🙂

 

 

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!

The Danger of a Single Story

 

Hi everyone!

               During class this week, we discussed teaching “hard history” (Learning for Justice), including slavery and American Indians. Within this topic, we explored the history we learned and what is still taught (Columbus, Presidents with enslaved people, etc.); collectively, we felt this was not doing anyone justice. As mentioned in previous posts and classroom discussions, we can not ignore parts of history; although we morally may not want to talk about Columbus, we need to (even if it is just to fulfill the SOL). However, we do our due diligence and tell both sides of the story.

               We watched the first two minutes of The TED Talk by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie: The Danger of a Single Story   (or if you’re in Diverse Learners, the entire talk); I remember in high school also watching it after talking about The Carlisle School. We are always so quick to tell our students and children, “don’t judge a book by its cover,” “give someone more than one chance,” etc., but we are hypocrites by only giving a single story when teaching history. I loved Adichie’s point to start with “secondly,” begin the story of American Indians with their arrows instead of the ships coming in from England; this does not eliminate either storyline but still tells an entirely different story. We can see this too with the book A Fine Dessert; unintentionally, the author tells three different single stories which worked to normalize slavery, the elite whites, and the division of labor. This is a single-story, but it is not the whole story – luckily, Dr. Stohr has shared with us multiple books and resources to utilize when looking for an appropriate and complete story to teach our students.

               Do you all have any single stories that stand out in particular to you? Further, have you given into the single story? Even Adichie, conscious of her thoughts and actions, fell victim to subscribing to a single story. Lastly, any thoughts on her talk? I find it so powerful, and despite seeing it multiple times, I’m always moved and entertained by her words.

Have a great spring break y’all (‘:

Reflection on the Virginia Quality Criteria Review Tool for Performance Assessments Experience

During our last class, Dr. Hunt introduced the Virginia Quality Criteria Review Tool for Performance Assessments and provided us with the Farmers Market plan. In reviewing this plan, we noticed that there were significant strengths and significant weaknesses. I found that grading the content of the plan within categories on a scale from 0-3 was somewhat difficult. Were there any decisions that we  made as a class that you were not particularly in agreement with and, instead, had something else in mind?

I also believe that the time frame given for the activity was unrealistic. As you prepare to complete your own Criteria Review Tool, what are key considerations and other areas of focus that you will present when grading the plan?

Look at the sheets titled “Figure M.11 – Ideas for Performance Tasks ,”  “Figure M.12 – Student Roles and Audiences,” and “Figure M.13 – Possible Products and Performances.” What elements, if any, of these resources do you hope to or plan on using in the assignment and in future teaching.

Overall, what was something that you found to be most helpful from these resources (GRAPS, RAFT, etc.)? Looking at the Principles of Scoring Student Work handout, what two or three principles do you find to be the most important to you?

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?

Who Decides What History We Learn?

         

          Tuesday during class, Dr. Stohr mentioned in passing how difficult it must be to pick which famous figures in history we learn about. This statement sparked my imagination; if I were to create my curriculum from scratch, who would my students learn about? Further, what in general would my students learn about? In a quick google search “deciding what people in history to teach about,” I stumbled upon a WordPress blog from a curriculum creator while reading; this quote struck me. 

“Debates about curriculum content will be fiercer in history than in most other subjects because many people feel their histories are an important part of what makes them who they are, and the range of what can be taught is so broad” (Newmark, 2020).

I couldn’t help but think, “how true” history in a general sense is so broad, and everyone has a different history. If permissible, we would all advocate for our own desired history curriculum. However, each state uses a committee of educators, curriculum specialists, academics, and community members to create its own standards for history (Schwartz, 2021). As we know, politicians too have a say in education and what our students are being taught; I wondered what you all think? Who should have the final say? Personally, I believe teachers/educators should have more say as they are the ones teaching. Further, I think different outside groups that advocate for our populations (i.e., a woman’s rights or Black rights group) can work with committees to adopt a more culturally aware history curriculum. Truthfully, America has had a dark history, but it should not be swept under the rug; instead, we should teach a well-rounded and authentic history. 

 

An interesting extra site to look at:

https://www.theatlantic.com/education/archive/2015/02/who-should-decide-how-students-learn-about-americas-past/385928/

Virginia History and Werowocomoco

I grew up in Michigan. When I moved to Virginia in 7th grade, I found it strange how Social Studies classes focused heavily on Virginia history, particularly Confederate generals. However, as I continue work on my 4th grade Digital Toolbox, I discover new Virginia historical gems. One thing that pleasantly surprised me is Virginia curriculum’s focus on Native Americans. I know shamefully little about Native American history and am looking forward to continually delving in.

Fourth graders learn about Native American tribes in Virginia; specifically, the framework incorporates tribe names, languages, locations, and habitats in addition to farming, hunting, and clothing practices. The curriculum also relays information regarding Powhatan and Pocahontas as well as modern American Indians. Although the framework mentions that Native Americans were forced inland, it does not put much weight on Native American oppression. Of note, students learn about recent archaeological dig sites including Werowocomoco.

In this blog post, I focus on Werowocomoco, a historically important Powhatan Indian town confirmed as an archaeological dig site in 2002. In class, we have discussed in depth the importance of using primary sources for student engagement. Artifacts from Werowocomoco are a great example of potentially useful primary sources. This website provides images and descriptions of American Indian artifacts and historical items. This one provides useful information about the Werowocomoco research project with maps, history, excavation information, and more. Lastly, this resource provides additional information and videos regarding Werowocomoco including an entire page dedicated to teacher resources. This is a great potential field trip opportunity as science topics can also be incorporated. Virtual field trips are even an option.

What are your thoughts on Virginia’s focus on Virginia history? As a teacher, what modifications are you planning on making to ensure history is honest and inclusive? Additionally, did you find these resources helpful? What facets of these resources would you consider utilizing? What resources (primary or otherwise useful) have you come across while working on your digital toolbox?