Wednesday, August 27, 2014

The Final Countdown: Ranking the Docs

You may know that I love a good countdown. Or the Final Countdown song. (Is it playing in your head now? You’re welcome...) Who wore the best dresses at the Emmys? Count me in! What were the best hip-hop songs of the 90s? Heck, yeah! What are the top novels of the 2014? I’ll read a good handful! What are fifteen fun facts about Amelia Earhart? I’ll click on that!

Our world (particularly our digital media) is full of lists and rankings. Kids spend a lot of time online and are constantly seeing the best songs of the week, the top celebrity news stories of the day, or the coolest apps this month. They know how to debate and argue and rank items in their personal lives. It’s time to use that skill-set for Social Studies

You may have noticed from our discussions about assessment at DWT  that there are a lot of documents on the EOCs, both state EOCs (7th & HS US) and many of the district assessments (everything else).

A. Lot. Of documents.

Our EOCs (and many of our district-assessments) are supposed to be 65%-75% stimulus-based. That means 2/3 - 3/4 of EOCs and district assessments will have a document, an image, a cartoon, a map, a graph, a chart, an artwork, or something on which a question will be based.

Which means that this is NOT a trivia test. Kids need more than just facts and content to be successful.

It’s a skill test. Often, it’s a reading test.

One great strategy for helping kids practice analyzing and thinking critically about documents is Primary Source Stations.

Hear me out if you already do something like this -- I hope I’m putting a new spin on the way you do it.:)

I borrowed the format of the lesson from the super-great Glenn Wiebe from History Tech and his C4 Strategy Cards

Primary Source Stations

  1. Choose a good Essential Question for the lesson.
    1. Such as -- “What was the impact of the Triangular Trade in Europe, Africa, and the Americas?” or “What internal and external factors led to the fall of the empires of Ghana, Mali, and Songhai?” or “What effects did Social Darwinism and the Gospel of Wealth have on society?”
  2. Collect several documents that support your Essential Question -- images, letters, court documents, infographics, obituaries, paintings, editorials, ads,whatever.
  3. Place those documents around the room. If you’re feeling fancy, you can post them on construction paper or posterboard. If you’re not feeling fancy, just stick them on various desks around the room. The number and length of these documents will vary depending on your Essential Question, your time frame, your kids,and your resources.
  4. Give kids a common document analysis tool to use for each document. Here are a few suggestions. Use your favorite --
    1. The DBQ Doc Analysis sheet (this might make them easier to do when you get to your DBQ)
    2. Keep it short -- try “I See/I Think/I Wonder”
  5. Divide your kids into groups of two and three and have them rotate through the stations, using the same document analysis tool for each document.
  6. THEN, after the kids have analyzed all the documents (here’s my favorite part -- the “top ten” style listing!) have them rank those documents in order in which they best helped answer the question and give them to you as a countdown..  For example -- a document that shows a large impact of the Triangular Trade would rank higher than one that shows a small impact of the Triangular Trade. A document that that is better evidence of Social Darwinism would rank higher than a document that shows so-so evidence of Social Darwinism.
  7. Lead a whole-class discussion that tries to have the class come to a consensus about the value of the documents. This makes them use that evidence (Hello? Common Core/Literacy Standards?) to support their positions.
  8. Finally, have your kids close out the lesson with a short response to the question, using the documents to support their answers.

BAM! You just helped your kids analyze documents, prioritize those documents, and look at their value. They just rocked the practice of stimulus analysis for the EOC and/or district assessment. They looked at the value of various pieces of evidence. They answered the Essential Question in a real-world way, used our literacy standards (formerly known as the Common Core), and thought critically.

Woo-hoo! Great lesson! Super-adaptable!  All you need to prepare is a great essential question (check your curriculum guide) and some good documents (check your favorite social studies websites). Maybe some tape, if you’re feeling fancy.

Do you love a good countdown or ranking? Will you try this in your class? As always, I love to hear how it goes! Email me

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