Best Practice: Corroboration

Common Core standards require Social Studies teachers to demonstrate how students corroborate historical details with multiple sources of information to develop a coherent understanding of an idea or event, noting discrepancies among sources. I use this presentation when teaching this skill in my high school Social Studies classes. This is a rigorous task that requires close reading and organization skills. My students frequently realize that they need to improve at including page numbers into their notes, otherwise this assignment requires a second or third read in order to find that information. In the examples below, I have italicized student writing and kept my comments in plain text. 

The definition I use for corroboration is the ability to compare information provided by two separate sources and find similarities between them.

corroboration

In the film, The Exception, Captain Brandt is tasked with protecting Kaiser Wilhelm II because of the fear that spies might be watching them. These are reported to the Gestapo.  In Paullina Simons’ novel, The Bronze Horseman, there is also a fear of spies in the Soviet Union, which is why citizens are told to report to the NKVD (1149).

The student below does not use parenthetical citations but instead spells out the page numbers at the beginning of each sentence. This is not consistent in academic writing as it pulls the reader out of the text

Page 19 of With the Old Breed mentions what was considered the first modern head-on amphibious assault of the Battle of Tarawa. Page 603 of The American Vision makes mention of island-hopping in the Pacific and how Tarawa was the Navy’s first target in the Pacific.

This student does not include page numbers, which is a red flag that perhaps they did not read the novel, but instead are relying on internet searches to find connections with other historical events. When I can’t find the French film available on Netflix or Amazon Prime, I really wonder if the student viewed it.

The French film, La Ralfe, was about the Vel’ d’Hiv Roundup of July 1942, in which roughly 13,000 Jews living in Paris (4,501 of them children) were removed from their homes by French police and sent to detention camps in the countryside, before being deported to Auschwitz. In the novel, Sarah’s Key by Tatiana de Rosnay, Sarah and her family were part of the Vel’ d’Hiv just like the people in the movie La Ralfe.

In the book Eva Braun: Life with Hitler, the book states how Hitler signed the Nonaggression Pact with the Soviet Union. “During the preparations for war against Poland, and the signing of the Nonaggression Pact with the Soviet Union which Hitler pursued to that end, Hitler…” (“Heinrich Hoffmann’s Studio.” Eva Braun: Life with Hitler, by Heike B. Görtemaker, Verlag C. H. Beck OHG, 2010, p 20.)In the textbook, it says “In August 1939, Hitler stunned the world by announcing a nonaggression pact with his great enemy-Joseph Stalin, the Soviet dictator.” (“World History The Modern World.” World History The Modern World, by Ellis Esler, Pearson Education, 2007, p. 465.)

This student has gone overboard and used a full works cited reference instead of an in-text parenthetical citation featuring author last name, page number. See below for a student who has done this succinctly.

Ellis states that, “Within a few days, they were herded into ‘shower rooms’ and gassed”(472) which is supported when Keneally says that, “At last the victims were driven down a barbed-wire passage to bunkers which had copper Stars of David on their roofs and were labeled ‘BATHS AND INHALATION ROOMS’ ’’(136).

Explicitly teaching corroboration and citing page numbers in sources helps students reduce the amount of plagiarism in their work. It also teaches them the importance of reading carefully and organizing their notes. This type of work can be down with short readings and the textbook, or with longer book level or article readings that students will encounter in college.

Please note that assignments like this help prevent, but do not totally remove the risk of student cheating. I have found that spot-checking a sample of 5-6 assignments per period often reveals a student’s googling and copying someone else’s work.

For instance, this corroboration “The Japanese invaders treated the Chinese, Filipinos, Malaysians, and other conquered people with great brutality, killing and torturing civilians throughout East and Southeast Asia.” (Ellis,  2005, 473). Iris proved this by writing about the killing contest, live burials, mutilation, death by fire,death by ice, death by dogs and rapes (83-89). There is way more terrible things to explain what happened to these Chinese people, but that was enough to explain how badly they were tortured.” was done by two different students in different class periods, coincidentally reading the same book and using the same source from the internet. What are the odds?

In order to prevent copying like this, simply give students shorter readings and make the corroborations due in one class period. This way all of the readings can be done in class and students don’t have time to share their work on classroom backchannels.

CCSS Standards

Integrate and evaluate multiple sources of information presented in diverse formats and media (e.g., visually, quantitatively, as well as in words) in order to address a question or solve a problem.

Evaluate an author’s premises, claims, and evidence by corroborating or challenging them with other information.

Integrate information from diverse sources, both primary and secondary, into a coherent understanding of an idea or event, noting discrepancies among sources.

Summarization Strategy w/Peer Review

It has been a few years since I wrote this primer and I have moved from using SurveyMonkey, PollEverywhere, and Google Forms to Turnitin and PeerGrade. When I speak at conferences and talk to other high school history teachers about using peer review and conferencing with students about their writing, they look at me like I have three heads. On Tuesday night, May 15th at 6 PT, I am hosting a #TeachWriting chat on using peer review. I’m hoping to learn how comfortable secondary teachers are using peer review so their students learn from evaluation.

This post will describe a timed summarization strategy that adapts what John Collins calls the 10% summary.  In this activity, I give students a reading on a historical topic. They have 20-25 minutes to summarize it. Then they swap papers with an elbow partner and have ten minutes to read the partner’s summary and grade it according to a criteria chart. I have found it helpful to include exemplar summaries, or mentor texts that demonstrate superior work.

During the first pass, my 10th-grade students wrote an average of 173 words. Their feedback was perfunctory and not helpful. See Figure 1.

Summarization Strategies

After some direct instruction and modeling, this student was able to improve their feedback using specific language from the criteria chart.  See Figure 2.

Summarization Strategies (1)

These students need guided support when evaluating each others’ summaries. Focusing on simple to evaluate factors help students become more successful. Since I know the word count of the original text I asked them to summarize, after they count the number of words they wrote, they can tell me whether or not they met the 10% rule.  Next, I ask students to evaluate how well the author used their own words instead of copying directly from the text.

SUM

Lastly, we discuss the main ideas from the passage to determine whether or not the author was successful in listing and explaining them. This process can help students engage in content reading, build background knowledge, and learn from each other. It is an easy way for secondary Social Studies teachers to incorporate peer review into their everyday classroom instruction.

Summer 2018 History Movie List

Living in Los Angeles it is difficult to escape the film industry’s love affair with historical drama. Fortunately, this summer will provide a lot of material for History teachers to ponder. I look forward to connecting with my colleagues and rehashing how we could have directed it better.

After Auschwitz

A post-Holocaust documentary that follows six women, who all moved to Los Angeles, married, raised children and became “Americans” but never truly found a place to call home. Now playing.

American Socialist: The Life and Times of Eugene Victor Debs

The word “socialist” has become a political epithet. This doc attempts to further define and contextualize the term, tracing the history of American populism with the man who inspired progressive ideas from the New Deal to Bernie Sanders’ presidential campaign. Now playing.

Jeannette: The Childhood of Joan of Arc

Yes, a musical starring an 8 year old with a small cast and minimalist production values… how can it miss in America. Most likely of limited historical value. I can’t wait to bring the kids. Now playing.

RBG

An award-winning documentary on Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsberg. Now playing.

RBGapril13

The 12th Man

A WWII thriller with the Gestapo hunting a young resistance fighter above the Arctic Circle in Norway. Will he make it to Sweden before the Germans find him? Now playing.

Mary Shelley

The real life story of the Enlightenment author as told by IFC, aka what US English teachers will be doing over Memorial Day weekend.  May 25.

The Catcher was a Spy

Variety calls it a fact-based misfire. This story of a major-league baseball player turned WW2 intelligence agent stars Paul Rudd. I’d rather see it than Ant-Man and the Wasp. June 22.

Dark Money

What History/Government teacher isn’t already ranting against one of the greatest threats to American democracy: corporate money’s influence on our elections and officials? This doc will make collusion with the Russian’s seem easier to beat. July 27.

The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Society

A movie about a book club becomes what The Hollywood Reporter calls an old-fashioned romance and a detective story trumpeting gender equality. August 10.

A Memoir of War

Drama about a member of the French Resistance who plays psychological games with a Nazi collaborator to learn about her husband’s fate after he’s arrested by the Germans. August 24.

LAUSD’s Supe Hunt

The Los Angeles Unified School District has undertaken a search for a new superintendent. Many view this as an impossible job and others have suggested the process is lacking in public input. This post will look at four candidates that I believe could inspire the District’s teachers to better utilize technology in order to improve student engagement and outcomes. The bios come directly from the candidate’s websites and have been edited for brevity.

Jorge Aguilar, Sacramento City Unified
http://www.scusd.edu/superintendent
@officialSCUSD

Jorge A. Aguilar became the twenty-eighth Superintendent of the Sacramento City Unified School District on July 1, 2017. He leads the thirteenth largest school district in California with 46,843 students, more than 4,200 employees and a budget of more than $566.99 million. Aguilar was selected Superintendent by the Board of Education because of his proven track record using data to improve student outcomes. Superintendent Aguilar has more than twenty years of K-12 and higher education experience with a strong focus and background on issues of equity and student achievement. Superintendent Aguilar has more than twenty years of K-12 and higher education experience with a strong focus and background on issues of equity and student achievement. Prior to his appointment, he served as Associate Superintendent for Equity and Access at Fresno Unified School District. In his career, Superintendent Aguilar has also served as an Associate Vice Chancellor for Educational and Community Partnerships and Special Assistant to the Chancellor at the University of California, Merced; as a Spanish teacher at South Gate High School; and a legislative fellow in the State Capitol. Learn more about Superintendent Aguilar in this interview with Bill Gates.

Devin Vodicka
https://www.altschool.com/about/team
@dvodicka

Over the past 20 years, Devin’s vision for how to drive high-quality student outcomes enabled him to quickly ascend the roles of educator, school principal, district administrator, and superintendent. During his tenure serving Vista Unified’s more than 25,000 students, Devin earned some of the education industry’s most prestigious awards. In 2015, he was named “California Superintendent of the Year” by both the ACSA and Pepperdine University. In 2014, he received Classroom of the Future Foundation’s “Innovative Superintendent of the Year” award. After joining Vista in 2012, he was invited to the White House nine times; both in recognition for district-wide achievements and to partner on national efforts with the U.S. Department of Education Office of Educational Technology and the Digital Promise League of Innovative Schools. As AltSchool’s Chief Impact Officer, Devin guides the design and strategy of the company’s personalized learning platform as it expands into a growing community of private, charter, and public schools.

Tom Vander Ark
http://www.gettingsmart.com/team/tom-vander-ark/
@Tvanderark

Tom Vander Ark is the author of Getting Smart: How Digital Learning is Changing the World, Smart Cities That Work for Everyone: 7 Keys to Education & Employment and Smart Parents: Parenting for Powerful Learning. He is CEO of Getting Smart, a learning design firm and a partner in Learn Capital, an education venture capital firm. Previously he served as the first Executive Director of Education for the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation. Tom served as a public school superintendent in Washington State and has extensive private sector experience including serving as a senior executive for a national public retail chain. A prolific writer and speaker, Tom has published thousands of articles, has written and contributed to twelve published books and co-authored more than 40 white papers. Tom is board chair of Charter Board Partners, and is a director of 4.0 Schools, Bloomboard, Digital Learning Institute, eduInnovation, and Imagination Foundation. Tom is an advisor to New Classrooms.

Michael Horn
https://www.christenseninstitute.org/our-team/michael-b-horn/
@michaelbhorn

Michael Horn is the author of the award-winning book Disrupting Class: How Disruptive Innovation Will Change the Way the World Learns and the Amazon-bestseller Blended: Using Disruptive Innovation to Improve Schools. An expert on disruptive innovation, online learning, blended learning, competency-based learning, and how to transform the education system into a student-centered one, Horn serves on the board and advisory boards of a range of education organizations: Fidelis Education, Education Elements, Global Personalized Academics, the Silicon Schools Fund, the National Association of Independent Schools, and the Minerva Institute. He serves as an advisor to Intellus Learning, Pedago, Knod, Everest Education, AltSchool, Degreed, the Education Innovation Advisory Board at Arizona State University, and the Hechinger Institute on Education and the Media at Teachers College, Columbia University, and he is an executive editor at Education Next. Horn was selected as a 2014 Eisenhower Fellow to study innovation in education in Vietnam and Korea, and Tech&Learning magazine named him to its list of the 100 most important people in the creation and advancement of the use of technology in education. He holds a BA in history from Yale University and an MBA from the Harvard Business School.

Is the LAUSD superintendency guaranteed to a District insider? Or will the Board of Education take a chance on an outsider with a vision for using technology to improve pedagogy? Feel free to add your suggestions to the comment section.

Writing in Social Studies

Integrating Listening, Speaking & Writing in the Social Studies Classroom
Los Angeles County of Education
Day Two: Friday, February 23, 2018

Workshop Slides

8:30 – Reading in Social Studies

  • Loop Writing
  • Bob Bain video
  • Increasing Student Reading in class
  • text sets
  • historical fiction & non-fiction

9:00 – Daily Writing Tasks

  • Calendar Conversations
  • SEL Quickwrites & Student Reflections
  • Summarizing & Paraphrasing
  • Corroborating
  • Annotated Bibliographies (mini-research projs)
  • Self-Regulated Strategy Development (SRSD)

9:45 – 10:00 Break

10:00 – Narrative Writing

  • The Power of Narrative
  • First Person Research Papers
  • Vietnam Veteran Interviews

11:00 – Informative/Explanatory Writing

  • Timeline Transitions
  • Twitter as a pre-writing summarization tool
  • RAFT writing

11:30 – 12:30 Lunch

12:30 – Argumentative Writing

  • LOOP Writing
  • Believing & Doubting Game
  • MEAL paragraphs

1:45 – 2:00 Break

2:00 – Giving Feedback on Student Writing

  • Self-Review
  • Peer Review
  • Rubric Calibration
  • Road test the Robo-readers

Other Resources

Workshop materials posted on www.HistoryRewriter.com Collaborative Notes:  

So Cal Social Science Association events http://www.socalsocialscience.org/events.html

CCSS Spring Conference https://ccss.org/page-1861180

Analyzing Annotated Bibliographies

Recently, my high school students were assigned an inquiry project that required independent research. The first step in this project was teaching students to write an annotated bibliography. Fortunately, I was well supported by my English department colleagues. Each of whom supported our shared students with instruction on writing annotated bibliographies.

Annotation

A common definition was adapted from Purdue OWL’s website. An annotated bibliography includes a summary and/or evaluation of sources for a research project. Annotations may do one or more of the following: Summarize: What is the point of this book or article? What topics does it cover? Assess: Evaluate the source. How will it be useful? Is the information reliable? Is this source biased or objective? Reflect: Ask how this source fits into your research. Was this source helpful to you? How can you use this source in your research project? Has it changed how you think about your topic?

Grading the annotated bibliographies was simple: First, I examined the quality of the annotation. How well did the student summarize, assess and reflect on the content of the source? Then I looked at the overall format of their document. Two minor mistakes knocked them down to a B; 3 mistakes = C; 4 mistakes =  D; and more than 4 mistakes = do not pass go, do not collect $200.

Results

I used this presentation to debrief with my students. I’m happy to report that over 75% of my students were able to complete an annotated bibliography in two class periods. Unfortunately, only 32% of the work that was turned in met my definition of proficiency as having fewer than 2 or more minor mistakes. The fifteen students who got A’s averaged five correct citations containing informative annotations.

Moving forward, I could see this activity becoming an end of unit exam or even a department final that accurately measures student research skills. How do you assign and evaluate annotated bibliographies? How can we break the research process down so that students are able to practice these skills in our daily classroom practices?

Improving School Culture & Climate

California has been experimenting with an accountability model called the School Quality Improvement Index which uses academic, social-emotional learning, and school culture and climate factors to measure how well public schools are performing.

CORE Model

This new system has an enormous number of variables, which makes it difficult for educational leaders to consistently focus on problem areas where teachers have a direct influence on student performance. As a staff, we examined our culture and climate factors because we felt that our teachers directly support risk-taking and independent thinking while providing multiple measures to show student mastery. Our teachers are also able to directly intervene and help students feel safe on campus.

Climate

Unfortunately, we scored below the District average on items B & F from our 2016 School Climate Survey. The student and staff survey items were developed by WestEd for the California Department of Education. The results from these items were published on our School Accountability Report Card (Goal 4). Our teachers want guidance on how we can improve these scores.

2016 Climate Results

We wondered what do students need to “see” from teachers to improve positive response rates on the following: B) “My teachers work hard to help me with my school work when I need it”; and F) “Teachers go out of their way to help students” How do you think your students would interpret/answer these items?

In order to gain some perspective, I asked my 10th and 11th-grade students the following: Can you tell me a story of a teacher who worked hard to help you with your school work? (Don’t use real names, refer to Mr. Math or Mrs. English instead.) How do you think I could help you do better in this class? Here are the responses from (N=74) students. Four comments that I found insightful are italicized below.

Students value one-on-one assistance

Mrs. English has helped me prepare for tests by giving us easy ways to memorize the things that were going to be on the test in 9th grade. Whenever I didn’t understand something, I would go up to her and ask her for help and she was more than welcome to help me with anything I needed. I think the way you can help me do better in this class is to talk to me 1 on 1 and help me understand the concept better and help me with whatever I need.

Students want more group/collaborative projects

Mrs. Chemistry helped me with her class when I was really struggling. I would go to her class during lunch to get help on my homework so she would give me examples. And when I asked for more work for what I was failing to understand, she gave me another worksheet for practice before the day of my next test. I struggle with tests in history. I try to manage my time with all my other classes, but it is overwhelming sometimes. I would prefer to do more group projects to help each other. If we did group work maybe I might know something my group members don’t and vice versa.

Students want to be challenged by their teachers

I had a teacher that I thought she didn’t like me but she actually did she helped me pass her class with an A. She pushed herself to help me out because I was going to fail her class because I was gone for 3 weeks and I was really behind. I think you can help us by being on top of us when we don’t turn in our work, check in with us why didn’t we do it.

Students want teachers to be more accessible

Most teachers don’t really take time out of their day besides the class period to help their students. You go looking for them at lunch and they aren’t there or they don’t get to school early or when you look for them after school they have already left. This is the case with most teachers, but Ms. English tends to be available whenever you go looking for her and she spends her own time besides class time helping students individually with their work. I think working with students one on one with whatever they are working on will help them do better in this class.

I wish we had the PD time to have the entire faculty read and reflect on these responses. Thirteen pages of student statements are a lot to go through, but each time I re-read them I make more connections that will help me improve my classroom practices. I now have a better understanding of what factors students are thinking about when they address school climate survey items like “Teachers work hard to help me with my school work?” and “Teachers go out of their way to help students?” I hope that each teacher will ask their students these questions and adjust their instruction so that our students will feel as though their voices have been heard over the course of the school year.