All posts by scottmpetri

Scott Petri has taught social studies for five years at the middle school level and six years at the high school level. He has also served as a coordinator and small school principal in the Los Angeles Unified School District. He holds a Doctorate in Educational Leadership and a Masters in Educational Administration from California State University Northridge, and a B.A. in Political Science from the University of San Diego.

#NotatCUE but Not for Long

For several years, I have heard the buzz about CUE’s annual conference in Palm Springs. Many of my teacher friends have gone. I have heard that 15,000 teachers attend. Instead of going to CUE, I have been doggedly close-minded about only attending “History conferences” to increase my content knowledge and get better at my craft of being a history teacher. I have enjoyed attending and presenting at conferences sponsored by The California Council for Social Studies, The National Council for Social Studies, The Southern California Social Science Association, the UC History-Social Science Project, and The World History Association, but I have realized that the speakers work the circuit and can be repetitive. Over my teaching career, my pedagogy has shifted from delivering content to increasing historical thinking.

CUE History Teacher

The influence of common core and college readiness standards have honed my focus on using historical content to teach skills. I have examined listening skills, writing skills, speaking skills, collaboration skills, basically, anything that is difficult, if not impossible to measure with a standardized test. From what I understand about CUE, their mission is to inspire innovative thinkers and bring them together. This aligns nicely with my philosophy that great teaching is teams of teachers working together, not individual teachers working alone.

For those who have never experienced a CUE Rockstar camp, this video explains their program.

Later this spring, I will attend the CUE Rockstar – History Teacher Edition on the USS Hornet. I want to shred a session on speaking and listening instruction because I have not spent enough time improving these skills in my academic program. I hope that many History teachers will sign up and join the CUE Rockstars in Nor Cal for a memorable and powerful learning experience as we host a sleepover on the USS Hornet.

Teaching The Harlem Hellfighters

I am preparing to bring my US and World History students to meet Max Brooks, author of The Harlem Hellfighters at an event at the Autry Museum on February 25th. This lecture is open to the public, you can get tickets at the Southern California Social Studies Association web page.

Many literacy experts have been espousing the use of graphic novels or comics in the classroom because they are high-interest and engage students (Yang, 2008). I was inspired by a colleague from the National Council for the Social Studies, Tim Smyth (on Twitter @HistoryComics) and his story of using comic books in the classroom, which was covered by PBS.

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This post shares some of my students’ work and how I used the graphic novel to engage history students in the study of World War I. Although much has been written about The Harlem Hellfighters, surprisingly they are not even mentioned in my District supplied (2006) US or World History textbooks.
Most of my high school students finished the graphic novel in five, 53 minute class periods. I tracked their page numbers each day to monitor effort. They struggled to annotate double entry journals in order to keep track of the individual characters and events in the story. After conversations with the English teachers at my school, we have tried to design activities that teach students how to paraphrase and cite textual evidence. So one of my post-reading activities was to have students corroborate the WWI information in the graphic novel with information their textbook with parenthetical citations.

I found a set of discussion questions posted online that may guide students through the reading (although I think this disrupts the joy of reading a good story). I am also willing to share my “final exam” on the graphic novel. I hope to see you at the Max Brooks event at the Autry.

Using Listening to Improve Historical Understanding

This school year, two colleagues and I have been conducting some research on speaking and listening skills in our classrooms. Part of this work was funded by an ASCD Teacher Impact Grant and will be presented at their Empower 17 conference in Anaheim on March 25, 2017. Thanks to the Constitutional Rights Foundation and WestEd some of this work will continue for the next two years due to an additional grant focused on expanding teacher practice networks.   

As part of this work, we piloted some listening assessments with Listenwise, a company that aligns National Public Radio content with content standards in ELA, Social Studies and Science. I assigned 11 listening quizzes to my students. On average, students were able to answer 72.8% of the questions correctly. This represents a substantial improvement on a Stauffer, Frost & Rybolt (1983) national study, which found that people, on average, only remember 17.2% of what they hear on the TV news. To increase comprehension, Listenwise offers a variety of supports: academic vocabulary, EL scaffolding, transcripts, and the ability to slow down the audio.

After the semester was over, I asked students to voluntarily fill out the following survey. What follows is my brief analysis of the results. Please note, this is not an empirically validated survey. Further, it is a very small (N=35) population of high school students’ opinions to really generalize about. Nonetheless, these students viewed these listening activities in an overwhelmingly positive light. Read on for the actual details and my interpretations.

More than 70% of my students thought the Listenwise content they heard in class increased their understanding of the historical event under study.lw-q1

Approximately two-thirds of my students felt that hearing Listenwise stories before reading the textbook helped them understand the events better. This finding is contradicted by another question where only 8% of students would prefer to use Listenwise as a preview to a new historical unit, as opposed to test review, homework, or classwork. lw-q2

About 53% of my students would prefer to hear Listenwise content during class, so they could discuss the stories with their fellow students. Interestingly, only 30% of students selected this option on a similar question later in the survey. lw-q3

Half of my students felt that Listenwise stories helped them understand academic vocabulary better.lw-q4

Slightly less than half of my students would prefer to hear Listenwise content at home, so they could think about the story before answering questions about it. Only 20% of students selected the Listenwise as homework option on a subsequent survey question.lw-q5

A two-thirds majority of my students felt that Listenwise stories help them understand the importance of historical events. lw-10

More than 60% of my students felt they understand more academic vocabulary from hearing it on Listenwise than they do from reading the academic vocabulary in our textbook. Research by Nonie Lesaux suggests that students need to know 50,000 words before they leave high school to be successful in college.lw-q6

The most popular reasons for hearing Listenwise stories were to review before exams, for classwork, and as homework. I was surprised that using Listenwise to preview a new historical topic was not as popular because that is mainly how I have used the content. I would be interested in learning how other teachers are using Listenwise and look forward to hearing their results from the teachers who took part in their pilot.lw-q7

Almost three-quarters of my students responded that hearing Listenwise stories makes them more confident when speaking about the Social Studies topic. This is consistent with research that suggests students can “hear” 3-4 grades above their reading comprehension levels. lw-q8

About 64% of my students reported that hearing Listenwise stories after reading the textbook gives them a greater understanding or perspective of the historical events. This is consistent with research that suggests students see a vivid, full color picture in their mind when listening versus students note trouble empathizing with what is going on in a grainy, black & white historical video. Please see (Colby, 2010) for more on the importance of using historical empathy to help students contextualize events from the past.

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Whenever schools and districts spend money on new programs, there should be some evaluation and cost benefit analysis. Because good listening skills are highly correlated with historical thinking, building empathy, and many other social emotional learning skills, I feel that Listenwise is worth the investment. If you would be interested in seeing how your students perceive their learning with Listenwise, feel free to make a copy of this Google Form and customize it for use in your class. Please post a link to your results in my comments section and let me know what you find out.

Reference

Colby, S. (2010). Contextualization and historical empathy: Seventh-graders’ interpretations of primary documents.Curriculum and Teaching Dialogue, 12 (1), 71-85.