Humanizing the Classroom Book Review

Humanizing the Classroom by Kristin Stuart Valdes @kpsvaldes shows teachers in all subjects how to use role-plays to teach social emotional learning (SEL) skills in middle and high school classrooms. Written by a New York City Arts educator with 18 years of experience teaching and years of sharing her experiences on Edutopia, this book is a badly needed lifeline for educators struggling to integrate SEL into their daily content instruction.

Organized into six chapters, the author spends the first four chapters acquainting readers with the foundations of Social Emotional Learning. The next two chapters are spent on curriculum organization and laying out over 40 role-playing exercises that are organized by CASEL‘s five SEL competencies. Some of the ones I look forward to testing in my class are: Understanding Bias, Understanding Stereotypes, and Understanding Prejudice. Others on Paraphrasing, Emotional Empathy, and Identifying Underlying Causes look interesting to explore through my lens as a History teacher. Further, I foresee an almost unlimited selection of interesting historical events, people and places to develop role-plays using SEL competencies.

As a teacher, I appreciated the consistent layout of the role-paying lessons. I also agreed with Valdes’ claim that most of the learning from role-playing takes place after the role-play is complete. Meaning don’t shortchange the debriefing and wrap up questions at the end. Personally, I will probably add student reflection pieces too. Teachers who are not familiar with experiential learning may feel uneasy about jumping into role-plays right away, however, Valdes offers tips for preparing actors, staging a classroom, and recommends a refine, revise, and re-do approach that can help anyone gain confidence in running a role-play.

In short, Humanizing the Classroom helps classroom teachers meet all five of the instructional teaching practices that promote SEL. The California Council for Social Studies has made SEL a strand in their 2020 conference this year. They are accepting conference proposals until September 15, 2019.

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I will be sharing this book with my PLN and recommend that my school uses it for teacher Professional Development in the Fall. What books do you use to help teachers integrate Social Emotional Learning into their instructional practices? Please leave your recommendations in the comment section.

Wildflowers Review

Wildflowers

For the past few years, I have been purposefully including Social Emotional Learning (SEL) strategies into my Social Studies content instruction. With that focus in mind, I picked up Wildflowers by Jonathan P. Raymond and found it to be a quick and useful read. It is hard to tell whether the book was written for teachers, administrators, school boards, superintendents, or the author’s personal catharsis, but all educators would benefit from the positive lessons in the book. I found myself nodding my head and vigorously underlining passages that I have returned to again and again in order to clarify my vision for including SEL in my pedagogy.

First and foremost is Raymond’s view that SEL is Whole Child in action and that both of these movements are fundamentally tied to equity. Toward that end, Raymond is unsparing in his belief that America is creeping “toward decline because of the abject neglect of our children.” The consistent message from this edu-leader is that our nation has “one future to build, together, and nothing will shield us from the consequences if we fail those on the lower rungs of our economic ladder.”

SEL-Junior-High

Raymond calls for all school stakeholders to put children first in their decision-making and to focus education policy on continuous improvement and collaboration. He notes that Americans have a tough time thinking through problems involving inequality and that we reach for our pet ideologies before agreeing on facts. Throughout the book, Raymond cautions that ideological battles are the biggest threat to public education.

Another statement that I agreed with was Raymond’s personal rejection of the term “achievement gap” because it blames children who live in poverty for the failures of policy-makers. Who is failing to achieve? The students who are underperforming, or the adults who lack the focus, discipline, moral courage, and belief in these kids to ensure they are supported effectively.

Although Raymond does not recommend specific SEL strategies that teachers can use in their daily instructional practices, his action plan and five keys for reimagining schools will inspire teachers. I repeatedly thought — I would love to work for this guy – as I continued through the book. Wildflowers is bigger than an SEL instruction manual, it is a call to embark on a national effort in reshaping public education after failed national policies aimed at disenfranchising families, communities, and teachers.

I’m interested in learning how other Social Studies teachers are integrating SEL into their routines and procedures, please post your ideas in the comments or share them on Twitter.

#CCSS19 and #CUE19

Four different presentations in four days. CUE19 and CCSS19 have been a blur of learning and sharing. My brain is full. More commentary later, but I wanted to get the decks up for conference participants.

Use Genealogy to Engage Students in Historical Inquiry

https://docs.google.com/presentation/d/1ecbyJBkJAGePF1_mQmHWJd4p6pFMt9_X7h9uartdkm0/edit?usp=sharing

50 Minute Inquiry

https://docs.google.com/presentation/d/1DyGJI9YItnSdbSMf0ZaF8MOwOa8MYbT70BQnvIIeQOI/edit?usp=sharing

LeRoy’s Big Idea

https://docs.google.com/presentation/d/1p1_3IEW7SXET2610u0PDEONsBj8YGE2UyRWdcUveuCQ/edit?usp=sharing

CyberSandwich

https://docs.google.com/presentation/d/1ZjeGTqd1Q7ANksppLlNmyOh9WPVmeu5c3JLtvz57N-o/edit?usp=sharing

Peer Review Reinforces Writing Instruction

For the past few years, I have been experimenting with peer review in my high school History classes. The California Council for the Social Studies recently published my article about this just as I was conducting a peer review activity with my 10th grade World History students. In the article, I detail using a computer program called PeerGrade, which is great, but can add several days to a lesson because students have to type their work, submit it, and then conduct several peer reviews.

This post will showcase some student work in doing a peer review activity on paper in one class period. The essay was an argumentative task where students had to state a position about eugenics and support it with evidence from 15 Minute History and the Eugenics Archive. Before writing the essay, students shared the evidence they had categorized on a Vee Diagram. The peer review worksheet I created can be accessed in this Google Doc.

In two (50 minute) class periods of writing my 10th grade students produced an average of 361 words with 6 explanations of their evidence.

Eugenics - positive or negative

Eugenics - positive or negative (1)

Eugenics - positive or negative (2)

Eugenics - positive or negative (4)

I stole this list from one of my awesome ELA teachers, Mandy Arentoft and will project it when giving students time to practice using transitions in their historical writing. Another great teacher, Keith Hart from Brunswick High School in Maine has a helpful blog post teaching students how to use transitional phrases to present their evidence.

A benefit in using peer review is that I get immediate feedback from my students that tells me who is applying the skills from my mini writing lessons. In this case, I clearly need to go back and re-teach the importance of including a creative title, a complex thesis, and in using transitions. Fortunately, not everyone will need this instruction and I can create more advanced writing lessons for them in my next station rotation activity.  For more information about peer review, please look at this #TeachWriting Twitter archive on the topic. It has a wealth of resources for teachers looking to implement peer review into their classroom writing instruction.

WWI Podcasts

This post will showcase 11th grade US History students’ podcasts on a person, place, or event from the Great War.

WWI Banner

This WWI Podcast assignment was adapted from an NWP article detailing how to conduct a First Person Research Paper  by Cindy Heckenlaible (2008). First students listened to a 15 Minute History lecture to understand why the US joined WWI and then they used the resources provided to brainstorm topics. To see the directions for a previous assignment, look at Vietnam War Narrative. You may listen to three earlier student examples: The Orange Mist Protest Becomes Tragedy, and The Last Moments of Elizabeth Hall.

Decide to work with partners or work solo. Then use this spreadsheet to declare your narrator and story (topic). Each narrative must be at least three minutes for an individual assignment, add 1.5 minutes to your story for each additional person involved in the project. The five components of this project were worth 50 points each.

1) Produce an Annotated Bibliography in MLA format with at least six sources. If a historical detail is not included in your annotation, then you cannot use it in your narrative. 92% of students turned this in on time.

Use the details from your annotated bibliography to write your script. Document the historical details in your story by underlining them and including a (parenthetical citation) immediately after. The theme of your story should be — What is a moment in history that all students should learn about? You may use sound effects and soundscapes, but NO MUSIC!

Tools
BBC Audio http://bbcsfx.acropolis.org.uk/ 
Soundscapes https://city.ambient-mixer.com/

Make sure you study the tips in this presentation as you plan your narrative and 2) use this format to submit your story in writing.  81% of students turned this in on time. 3) Create an Annotated Timeline that includes maps of where your story takes place. 37% of students used their time well enough to complete this on time. 4) Write a 5 question Quizizz to share after your story has been heard by the class. Emphasize the most important historical details in your questions and include facts that you would expect to see in a history book. 74% of students turned this in on time. 5) Submit your narrative recording to get all the points. 44% of students made this deadline. 65% of students were able to complete all components on time.

Debrief/Reflection

Describe how you managed your time and completed each component of this project? Which of the resources provided did you find most helpful? What does this piece reveal about you as a learner? What would you change if you had a chance to do this project over again?

CA USH Standard: 11.4.5: Analyze the political, economic, and social ramifications of World War I on the home front. CCSS: Write narratives to develop real or imagined experiences or events using effective technique, well-chosen details and well-structured event sequences.

 

Seven History Reads

Due to my participation in an exciting teacher strike, I failed a friend who challenged me to post seven books in seven days. To make amends I have turned the challenge into a blog post. Thanks to my mother, I love to read. Thanks to being a teacher, I love to talk about what I am reading and share the best titles with my students. Many of my favorites (First They Killed My Father, The Harlem Hellfighters, Hellhound on His Trail, and The Things They Carried) have become mandatory reading in my World and US History classes.  Here are seven of my favorite reads from the past year.

The Audacity of Inez Burns by Sephen G. Bloom

The Audacity of Inez Burns: Dreams, Desire, Treachery & Ruin in the City of Gold by [Bloom, Stephen G.]

Black Hearts by Jim Frederick

Black Hearts
Recommended by a student. This book is not for the faint of heart and probably not appropriate for high school students.

Origin Story by David Christian

Image result for origin story david christian
I have fallen under the influence of the Big History Project and would like to see their course taught in my school. I read this to better understand Christian’s work and find intersections between History and the other subjects taught in high school. Some inspiration for interdisciplinary education.

The Congress of Vienna and Its Legacy by Mark Jarrett

Image result for the congress of vienna by mark jarrett
Warning: This book contains 379 pages of bonafide historical research and scholarship. As someone with learning gaps in this subject, this was a difficult read and it made me feel like a big boy History teacher.

The Professor and The Madman by Simon Winchester

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My work spouse, promance partner, and English teacher extraordinaire Holly Avdul recommended that we team teach this book. I read it the first time and was lukewarm on it, but then I read it a second time and fell in love. This is a great read for students struggling with the academic vocabulary.

Devil In The White City by Erik Larson
Image result for devil in the white city

This was highly recommended by my English teacher colleague @scrymscrym. My 11th grade US History students read it and did Ignite Talks on figures from The Gilded Age and Imperialism.

On Desperate Ground by Hampton Sides

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Patriots From The Barrio by Dave Gutierrez

Honorable Mention – Some YA historical fiction that I read with my 14 year old daughter. A great story about a real female espionage network spanning two wars.

The Alice Network by Kate Quinn

Homework: Menial or Meaningful?

In my World and US History classes, 135 students averaged a 56 percent homework completion rate after they were assigned 10 Listenwise assignments and 11 CommonLit assignments that complemented my history instruction over the Fall 2018 semester. These stories and texts were specifically chosen to improve academic vocabulary and understanding of Social Studies content. The titles and results can be seen in this spreadsheet.

Because I teach gifted and high-achieving students that take all Honors or Advanced Placement classes, I understand that time management is their biggest challenge. I set up my homework deadlines to be consistent, each Listenwise assignment took approximately 15-20 minutes was due on Wednesday and each CommonLit assignment took approximately 30-40 minutes was due on Friday. This gave students choice in setting their priorities and planning their work schedule. Each assignment was worth ten points, representing 210 points out of the 2,000 points students could have earned over the course of the semester.  My district recommends that homework should not exceed 15% of a student’s grade. These assignments represented about 11% of a student’s grade.

Five of my students chose to write about homework for their final exam. Do you see any themes in their work? The performance task prompt follows below.

In your analysis, define what effective, high-quality homework is, include your homework completion rates, and thoughtfully assess how homework contributes to your education. Support your suggestions with research and data.

homework debate

While some research advocates eliminating homework, other scholarship makes a case for quality homework. In addition to the negative effects on students’ overall wellness, parents are concerned that homework may cause their children to lose a love of learning. Write your own History of Homework based on your educational experiences at JFK’s Medical Magnet and use evidence from the three research articles to help your teachers design a productive homework policy that helps gifted and high achieving students thrive.

Can you describe assignments that have challenged you to demonstrate what you have learned in class, inspired you to try something another way, or helped you achieve proficiency/mastery with a certain skill or topic?

Helping History Teachers Become Writing Teachers