Tuesday, October 28, 2014

Strike a Pose: Modeling in Social Studies Class

“Have you ever wondered if there was more to life, other than being really, really, ridiculously good looking?” Derek Zoolander from the movie Zoolander

Do you remember when you were a kid and your parent made you try on new clothes to model them? There are two types of kids in these situations -- the reluctant models and the “working-it” runway strutters.

When it comes to modelling in class, most of us social studies teachers do not strut. We do not swagger. We do not “work it” or own it.  We are reluctant models, if we model at all.

For many of us Social Studies teachers, modeling is one of the weirdest, least comfortable parts of gradual release and the teaching of skills. We understand that we should do an “I do” teacher-directed part before we get to the “y’all do” collaborative part and finally the “you do” independent part.

We understand that we “get” bike riding better after we watch someone ride a bike. We understand how to use a piece of technology after we watch someone show us how to do it. We know that we understand how to bake a cake after we watch someone bake the same cake.  

We get the idea. but what does modeling really look like in a social studies classroom?

Do you mean I’m supposed to GIVE my kids some answers? How will they LEARN anything if I give them all the answers?

Here’s an unexpected observation: kids learn MORE and you will have fewer “how do I do this?” questions when you model well.

So what do I  mean by “model” in a social studies class? It brings to mind modelling songs -- Madonna’s “Vogue” and Rupaul’s “You Better Work” . . . and America’s Top Model and all that fashion model stuff . . . and I am NOT that person...

If we want to see what clothes will look like, we don’t take those new clothes and hang them on a rack or a hanger to see how to wear them. We don’t describe them verbally. We see them on a model.

Same with modeling in social studies. We don’t describe a thing or show them a final product, hanging or projected on a wall. We show them how to “work it”.

Modeling is simply SHOWING your students how to do a thing by doing it yourself, so they can observe you.

We have talked before about gradual release -- and how it can only be used for skills. You can gradually release skills like a type of text marking or a timeline skill or a doc analysis process or a summarizing strategy. You can’t gradually release the causes of the American Revolution or the accomplishments of the Mauryan Empire or the definition of Federalism.

If you can’t gradually release them, you can’t model them.

But you CAN  model how you want the kids to number their paragraphs. You CAN model how they should come in and sit down quietly. You CAN model how you find chronology in a piece of text. You CAN model writing a thesis statement. You CAN model how to complete a graphic organizer. You CAN model how to find a claim and evidence in text. You CAN model your own thinking!

So what does that look like, really? It’s not rocket science.

  1. Describe what you’re going to do
  2. Break it into manageable chunks
  3. Show kids how to do it by ACTUALLY DOING IT in front of them. Your white board, smart board, or even just your screen are best for written work.
  4. Ask questions, make sure kids are with you and paying attention
  5. Think aloud -- verbalize what goes through your head when you do it.

That’s it. It’s really much more simple than you think

You DO the task or skill while you tell the kids HOW and WHAT you’re thinking when you do it.

For example, if i were modelling a Document Analysis sheet, I would put it on the ELMO or screen or whatever. I would read through the document, starting with the sourcing info, and start filling out the sheet on the screen while thinking aloud.

“So the first blank says ‘Document Number or Letter’ and I see the heading “Document B” right up here on my page. So I am going to fill in a letter B on that blank.

Next, the Doc Analysis sheet asks for a title. I can’t find a title here or here, so I guess there isn’t one. I’m going to leave that blank -- you all leave yours blank, too.

Over here it asks for the author. I see here, on the sourcing line that the author is Woodrow Wilson so I am going to write his name here, in the box labeled “author”. No, we can’t abbreviate. Does your paper look like mine so far?

Next, our Doc Analysis asks for a date. Look, I found it up here, in the sourcing line -- 1917. Do you all see where I found that?
Over here, it asks if it is a primary or secondary source. Hmmm. I remember that a primary source was written by someone who was THERE at the time and a secondary source was written by someone who heard about it or read about it. Since this was written by Woodrow Wilson and it was written during the time in which he was in office, I think it’s a primary source. I’m going to check the “primary source” box. Do you all see why I decided this was a primary source document?

Do you see how modeling needs think-alouds? I will leave you with my Ideas for Think-ALouds. Because we, as college-educated people, tend to be good readers, we do a lot of these things unconsciously. Here are some ideas if you need them for helping you through a Think-Aloud. I also have these Think-aloud strategies available digitally formatted for a bookmark, if you would like. Just email and ask me.

·         “I bet this is going to be about …”
·         “I bet that the Mongols are going to lose at some point …”
Ask questions
·         “Why did Mansa Musa do that?”
·         “What is the author talking about?”
·         “What does that word mean?”
·         “Wow! That’s amazing!”
·         “Well that guy just did a stupid thing”
·         “No, Harry Potter! Don’t do that!”
Make connections
·         “That’s like what we read about with Buddhism”
·         “That’s like the movie I saw last summer”
·         “That reminds me of a poem we read in Language Arts class”
Make mental pictures
·         “So the Aztecs are in Mexico, in the map I’m picturing”
·         “I bet those elephants of Hannibal were skinny and cold in those mountains!”
·         “I’m picturing that guy as tall and mean”

Try to model (strut, swagger, and work it!) a skill or strategy with your classes. Then, drop me a line and let me know how it goes! As always, I want to hear! newmantr@pcsb.org

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