Monday, July 23, 2012

Advanced Placement Scores in Social Studies Show Continued Success!

In the 1989-90 school year Roger Dodd, the Senior High Principal, and myself attended an AP workshop at CESA 9 in Tomahawk , WI.   The presenter was Jim Bokern, a Marshfield, WI AP teacher who has subsequently become a good friend.  Both Dr. Dodd and I were sold on the concept of challenging our students with rigorous course work that would prepare them for college.  Since the 1990-91 school-year the D. C. Everest social studies AP program has grown from one section of AP U.S. History to multiple sections of seven different AP social studies and history courses that include: AP Human Geography, AP U.S. History, AP European History, AP World History, AP American Government, AP Economics, and AP Psychology.  Within social studies alone, we have grown from 23 students in 1991 to approximately 300 students taking one or more exams in 2012.

Steady growth over the past decade greatly improved our student’s chances of success in college. Students in 2012 at DCE took 341 social studies/history exams and 262 passed with a 3, 4, or 5 score.  That is a passing rate of 77%.  This passing rate is up from 55% in 2003 and 70% in 2008. This compares with a national passing rate of 55% and a state passing rate of 65%. Even though students who scored a “2” don’t get college credit, there is still a benefit for them in taking the test because they experienced a rigorous class and learn what a college exam will be like.

In 2011-12 D.C. Everest Social Studies Department began a pilot program to bring AP offerings to 9th graders at the Junior High.  Twenty-five 9th graders were selected to take AP Human Geography.  The pilot was a complete success as all 25 students passed with 3’s or better with eleven students scoring 5’s! At the Senior High AP World History was added for the first time as an elective. This new class offering was also highly successful as 23 of 25 students passed the exam (93%!). 

In 2011-12, The D.C. Everest School District was designated an AP Honor School for expanding opportunity for students and improving performance on AP scores for the second year in a row.  AP growth will continue in 2012-13 as the department will be bringing back AP Economics, and has expanded AP American Government to two sections and AP Psychology to four sect

Saturday, July 21, 2012

Anchor Posters in Social Studies

Anchor charts or anchor posters are visual aids to help students remember previously studied ideas.One blog, Coaching Chronicles describes anchor posters:

Anchor Charts are artifacts of classroom learning communities. An anchor, by definition, is an object used to hold something firmly in place. Anchors are a source of stability and security. Thrown overboard, the anchor stables the boat holding it firmly in a desired location. Likewise, an Anchor Chart displayed in a classroom learning community anchors student thinking while offering a source of visual reference for continued support [scaffolding] as the learner moves forward. Classrooms with rich anchor support leave little doubt about what a student is expected to learn and offer a “public trail” of thinking, a collection of learning.

Anchor charts are best when created with students during class. (Of course, to save time, I'm making some of mine this summer and will add things to them in class). What are some things we might want to "anchor" for students in the area of social studies?

Thinking Like a Historian
Reading Thoughts
Expository Essay Format
DBQ Essay Format
Word Walls with Vocabulary Words
APUSH Test Taking Tips

Friday, July 20, 2012

Whole Brain Teaching Conference

Two teachers, Nancy Gajewski and Patty Mayo (English teacher) attended a Whole Brain Teaching Conference on July 17th and 18th in Union, Missouri. They have provided us with information on Whole Brain Teaching.

I [Nancy] started researching Whole Brain Teaching after an old colleague and previous DCE teacher, Pattii Waldo recommended it. My first impression was - Wow! This stuff is strange! But the more I investigated their website, the more I liked what I saw. I liked that students were highly engaged and Chris Biffle is quite brilliant in terms of strategy when it comes to dealing with challenging students. I started watching "Coach B's" Tuesday night television broadcasts and implemented a few strategies the last month of school. The strategies worked well. Patty and I (along with 620 other teachers) attended a two day conference in Union, Missouri. Chris Biffle (founder) happened to be staying at our hotel so we asked him if we could get our picture taken with him. Here is information from the Whole Brain Teaching website.

Chris Biffles, developer of Whole Brain TeachingWhole Brain Teaching (originally called “Power Teaching”) is a highly interactive form of instruction that delivers information to students in short “chunks.” Kids then teach what they have just learned to their partners, using hand-gestures to help remember specific vocabulary. While students teach each other, the teacher walks around the room to formatively assess who understands the lesson and who needs more instruction. Research shows that children retain more information when they have an opportunity to put it into their own words and use gestures to emphasize key instructional units… plus, it’s amazingly fun! Whole Brain Teaching was developed by Chris Biffle, Philosophy professor at Crafton Hills College in Yucaipa, CA (San Bernadino County). Fourth grade teacher Chris Rekstad is one of the whole brain teachers who has worked a lot with Chris Biffle.

Whole Brain Teaching makes claims that students learn better because they are using many parts of their brain. They have a research section on their websites which provides some statistics about student achievement from a few school districts. The claim regarding the use of "the whole brain" may be difficult for them to prove. All I know is  know it that it gets people focused in a quick, fun and efficient manner (We were on-task 98% of the two days in Missouri) and the use of gestures provide cues for students. I found several articles about the use of gestures and learning: Students' Gestures Boost Learning Gesture Give a Hand to Language and Learning, Teachers Gestures as a Means of Scaffolding, The Role of Gestures in Learning  The Role of Gestures in Geoscience Teaching and Learning, Why Kids Need to Move

Probably the best part of Whole Brain Teaching is how much the students are talking and teaching. Whole Brain Teaching is like "Think Pair Share" on steroids. The teacher is continually walking around and formatively assessing understanding.

Here is a great site which explains the Whole Brain Teaching basic components.The blog describes the Core Four and Class Rules:
The Core 4 are, simply put, the four main things you can incorporate into your class to implement Whole Brain Teaching quickly, effectively, and with immediate results each and every day.
They are:
  1. Class-Yes
  2. The Scoreboard
  3. Mirror
  4. Teach-Okay
They are meant to:
  1. Bring the class together (Class-Yes)
  2. Keep them motivated (Scoreboard)
  3. Get them active (Mirror)
  4. Build community and be accountable for their learning (Teach-Okay)

Here is another website which contains many Whole Brain Teaching videos. The program also provides many well-thought out strategies for challenging students. A "Super Improver's Wall" is also part of the program.

Tuesday, July 17, 2012

American Institutions Honors Classes Hold Mock Congressional Hearings

The Mock Congressional Hearings program comes from We The People and is implemented by the American Institutions teachers: Gus Grossklaus, Chad Thompson and Jeffrey Bergstrom.  The following comments written by Jeff Bergstrom explains the yearly program.  Parents and community are invited to watch these future leaders of America.

We the People: The Citizen and the Constitution is about ideas, values, and principles fundamental to understanding our constitutional democracy. The curriculum is organized around ideas that form part of the common core of civic values and concepts that are fundamental to the theory and practice of democratic citizenship in the United States.”
  • “The main goal of the program is to promote civic awareness and responsibility in students. By emphasizing student involvement and encouraging students to relate important concepts and principles to historical and contemporary situations, it strengthens student's critical thinking and public speaking skills.”
  • The We the People lessons, questions and activities are geared to focus on the analyzing, evaluating and creating levels of blooms taxonomy.
  • Each unit assessment contains 25-30 high level multiple choice question on one essay question.
  • 2011-2012 over 100 9th Grade students participated in the program
  • Community members served as judges
    • One Judge (Michael Moran)
    • Local Lawyers
    • Curriculum Coordinators
    • State We the People Coordinator
  • Students study the text “We the People: The Citizen and the Constitution”
    • 6 Units of Study
    • 39 Different chapters
  • Steps to the process
    • Students read and take Cornell notes on every chapter
    • Classroom instruction focused on
      • Critical thinking skills
      • Discussions
      • Current event connections
    • One “practice” Congressional Hearing after Unit 1
      • Students placed in groups of 4-6
      • Students prepare a 4 minute opening statement
      • Students prepare answers to possible questions from judges
      • Jim Kegel (State We the People Coordinator) serves as a judge for this practice hearing
      • Students reflect on struggles and successes of practice hearing
    • One Congressional Hearing
      • Based on Unit 5 (Bill of Rights)
      • Hearing held during an evening so parents/community members can attend
      • Students placed in groups of 4-6
      • Students prepare a 4 minute opening statement
      • Students prepare answers to possible questions from judges

Social Studies Extracurriculars include a Vibrant and Successful Mock Trial Team

The 2012 Mock Trial season was a successful one for DC Everest,  and the program continues to grow with the help of the Wausau legal community (namely Greg Strasser, Robyn Kennedy, and Rick Cvyekus).  In an increasingly competitive climate Everest ran two teams at regionals with one of the teams placing second, and losing their only match to the team that took first.

The case this year dealt with a uniquely Wisconsin Northwoods issue, the problem of adverse possession in the form of two families disputing the ownership of a parcel of overgrown land.  Something like this usually only exists in areas that are sparsely populated and so most lawyers never see one of these cases in their careers.  However, given that this type of civil case can be very contentious and easily written to be balanced for both sides, it provided students with an excellent opportunity to hone their analytical and debating skills.

Greco - Roman Days Celebrated Every Year

We have always prided ourselves in creating active learning experiences in social studies. Julie Klinner, Middle School Teacher explains Greco-Roman Days.  

During the last two months of the school year, students at the  middle school are studying the ancient civilizations of Greece and Rome. They are involved in research based active instruction as they prepare for their Greco-Roman day celebration. Students select a topic area of ancient Greece or Rome and conduct short research projects to answer the question: How did your topic impact or change the lives of the ancient Greeks or Romans? They use their research to write a written response to the question and reflect on how it continues to influence the modern world. 
Along with their written response to the question, students plan and create a visual product to help deepen the understanding of their topic. The visual could be in the form of a model, poster, diagram, computer project or other creative idea. Their projects create an ancient Greece and Rome "virtual museum" in the school's IMC. Students spend a class period visiting the museum and can read how Greece and Rome were similar yet very different.  

Megan Thompson, Julie Klinner, and Yauo Yang are commended for providing students with authentic history lessons!

Monday, July 16, 2012

Social Studies Staff and Extra-curricular Activities

Our Social Studies staff are involved in so many different extra-curricular activities that benefit students. One of those activities in the "Gaming Club."

D.C. Everest Gaming Club is one of the most fun and unique organizations to ever exist among our district.  We are involved in many different events, such as Evercon, and run our club to the standards of any government, with a high council, secretary, treasurer, and the vice president and president positions.  
Evercon is a gaming convention that occurs every year.  We hold gaming tournaments and other functions to raise money for many different charities and other groups.  Some of the groups we have donated to in the past consist of The Red Cross, D.C. Everest’s own Civil War Day, and other traditional charities.  One newer item that we donate the most to is the Gaming Club Scholarship Fund.  We give out a large amount of money every year to a gaming club member who has been an active participant since their days back at the Junior High.  This year, Ian Welsh, a longtime member of the club, earned the scholarship.  
Other parts of the club, such as the high council, are used to dictate club events and activities in a democratic way. The high council consists of 6 different positions: The 8th grade representative, the 9th grade representative, the secretary, treasurer, vice president, and president. The 8th grade and 9th grade representative positions are obtained in two different ways:  as an 8th grade representative, you can obtain your position by being a highly involved, responsible, respectable member.  As a 9th grade representative, you can obtain your position by running for a position such as secretary or treasurer, or even president or vice president, and not succeeding in being elected for this position.  Mr. Ammon will then designate you as a representative, or a rep (as we call it).
All of the positions that members are elected for are separated into two political parties.  The candidates for these positions can chose to join either party.  This year, our two political parties were the Dungeon Masters and the Black Rogues.  Parties are allowed to campaign with flyers and other ways to sway members into voting for them.  Near the end of the campaign, presidential and vice presidential candidates will create speeches to present to their fellow members at a designated gaming club meeting before the election.  The speeches can contain anything: What they will do for their club in this position, “smack talk” about the other candidates, or just why they want to be your president or vice president.  
Gaming Club strives to be one of the greatest organizations in our district, and will continue to do as much as we can to help our school events and local charities.
Finally, I would like to inform you about an upcoming event: The Open Gaming at Westonfest on July 21st from Noon-4:00 for “Open Gaming” with the public in our very own Tent of Wisdom!   Set up will be at 11:30 a.m.!  This is at Kennedy Park!  Invite friends!  Bring games!  Bring food and drink, but there may be food and drink available for purchase!  Furthermore, we also have events in the Junior High cafeteria from 5:00 - 9:00 p.m. on August 8th & 29th.   Please enter through the lunch room doors.   
Written by: 
Bailey Hughes, 
Vice President of the D.C. Everest Gaming Club

Saturday, July 14, 2012

Social Studies Staff and Community Involvement

The D.C. Everest Social Studies staff are a group of dedicated individuals who continually provide opportunities for students and give back to the community. One example of this is Brad Seeley, a high school social studies teacher. Brad will be completing an 86 mile run in one day. He will be running the entire Mountain Bay Trail from Green Bay to Weston. He is running to raise money for the Michael J. Fox Foundation which is trying to find a cure for Parkinson's disease. Brad is running this race to support his high school coach, Denny Holt who has Parkinson's disease. Denny taught and coached at D.C. Everest for many, many years. In 1976 I had the pleasure of starting my career at D.C. Everest with Denny Holt who became a friend and mentor as I spent my first years as a girls track coach under his tutelage. He taught me the ropes and then he moved on to the boys track team. Over the next thirty plus years I always considered him a great coach and educator. Brad was also greatly influenced by Denny.

Brad also assists his wife Caitlin each year at the Wausau Chalkfest.  Their drawings have won first place several times. This year's drawing features the well-known Rosie the Riveter propaganda poster from World War II.

Formative Assessment and Social Studies Revisited

Two years ago the the Social Studies staff  looked at formative assessment. We looked at what we considered to be Eleven Attributes of Formative Asssessment. These attributes are as follows:
1) Partnership with Students
Formative assessment involves teachers and students working together to improve student learning (and teacher instruction).
2) Learning Outcomes
Learning outcomes (also called learning targets) are what the students should accomplish during the lesson. Learning outcomes make sure that the learners have a clear view of what they should achieve. 
3) Success Criteria
Students must know what the success criteria is for the learning outcome. Teachers should provide models/exemplars for students. Students should be involved  in the discussion of the success criteria.
4) Collaboration with Colleagues
Teachers collaboratively determine the power standards, essential understandings and develop assessments for the learning outcomes. Teachers collaboratively gather data and develop plans for remediation.  
5) Daily Assessment Embedded in Lesson–Formative assessment takes place on a daily basis and is a part of the daily lesson.
6) High Level Questioning/Discussions
Teachers should use questioning which goes beyond the recall and comprehension levels by using Bloom’s taxonomy. They should collaborate with colleagues to develop high level questions which will elicit intellectual discussions.
7) Teachers as Observers and Data Collectors Formative assessment involves teachers observing students on a daily basis. It also involves collecting data about students’ learning and responding to the data.
8) Data is Used to Modify Instruction 
Teachers use the data from assessments to alter their instruction (provide corrective instruction) to assist students in learning. Assessments are only considered  “formative” if the information is used to adapt teaching and learning
9) Quality Feedback to Students
Students need feedback that will help them close the gap between their work and the learning outcome. Feedback should be about the qualities of a student’s work. 
10) Students Actually Use the Feedback
Students are given time to read teacher feedback comments. Students must act upon the feedback to close the gap.
11) Student self-evaluation and peer evaluation
Students analyze either their own work or a peer’s work in relationship to the success criteria. Students self-reflect on themselves as learners. 

We compiled 55 simple strategies to formatively assess students understanding of social studies.

We have made great strides in some of these areas. For example, #4 - teachers have been able to collaborate in their PLCs to determine what should be taught. They have developed remediation plans. We still have work to do and will continue to move forward in assessing student understanding of social studies concepts.
1) Staff will focus on developing several common formative assessments to assess student learning while they are in the middle of a unit so remediation can be done well before the final summative assessment. Hopefully this way there will not be as many students to remediate after the summative assessment. 
2) Use technology for quick feedback for students. Teachers will use a variety of ways to give common formative assessments. They will use the SMART Response system (clickers), Socrative iPad app, online textbook assessments, and other technology methods.
3) Additionally, teachers will assess writing formatively by allowing students time to write in class and checking student writing along the way (e.g., checking thesis statement, checking first body paragraph, checking student use of Thinking Like a Historian in the writing, checking refuting an argument).
Teachers will be encouraged to assess learning to informally assess student learning (e.g., listening to the questions students ask during or after class, listening to pair-share and small group discussions, collecting exit passes, etc.)
James Popham (who recently spoke at the Minnetonka Institute) has a book on formative assessment entitled Transformative Assessment. The first chapter can be read online. Dylan Wiliam offers many practical ideas and great analogies in his book entitled Embedded Formative Assessment. 
 Discussion of Quick Response Systems
Using VoiceThread to pre-assess

  Using Smartboard, whiteboards, and student self-recording   TCI guy discusses informal assessment

Sunday, July 8, 2012

Social Studies Staff Attend Minnetonka Institutes

Over the past three years several social studies staff members (along with other school staff) have fortunate to attend the leadership institutes put on by the Minnetonka School District. The Minnetonka Summer Institutes have cutting edge leaders in the field of education. Doug Reeves, Dylan Wiliam, Bill Daggett, and Mike Schmoker have been just a few of the top leaders who have spoken. The focus over the past three years has been on assessment of student learning and grading. Staff have come back to the district with sound ideas based on research. Being able to have staff attend these institutes has propelled us forward in terms of assessment. Handouts from this summer's sessions can be found at Minnetonka website and notes from the Bill Daggett, Ann Davies and Doug Reeves presentations can be found here.

Social Studies SMARTBoards

D. C. Everest Social Studies staff were fortunate to have SMART Boards and document cameras installed into classrooms this past year. Additionally some social studies teachers also received the SMART Response System (clickers) to use to assess students. This technology was made possible due to a generous grant from the TOSA Foundation. This foundation was created by Wisconsinites John and Tashia Morgridge. The couple has donated millions to education causes in Wisconsin.

Social studies teachers received in-service training on how to use the SMART Boards effectively. Teachers have been able to provide more visual learning for students. They can highlight specific parts of a map or have students analyze a picture. Teachers have also used the document cameras to take pictures of student work to use as exemplars or to simply critique the work. Teachers have also implemented the clickers in which students use clickers to answer multiple choice questions. Students then get immediate feedback and the teacher also sees which questions students had difficulty with.

Thursday, July 5, 2012

Grading in Social Studies - Emphasis on What Students Know and Can Do

Social studies teachers grades 6-12 have come a lot closer to eradicating "toxic" grading practices by following last year's department guidelines.  Several social studies staff members have been involved in our district grading committee. Many have attended professional development opportunities (e.g., Minnetonka Leadership) and have read various books on current grading practices. 

Teachers are trying their best to make grades reflect what students know and can do. A few teachers have switched to the 4 (5) point grading scale while some are still using the traditional 100 point scale. Teachers have either gotten rid of extra credit or have significantly reduced the impact of extra credit!  They are not using zeros to average into grades. In most cases grades are based on unit summative exams, essays or DBQ writing experiences, and possibly a project-based learning product. Rubrics have been developed for most essay/project type assignments and staff have spent some time making sure they are all evaluating work in a similar manner. Daily homework is viewed as formative assessment and counts (depending on the grade level) between 0 -15% of the grade.  
Secondly, all teachers as part of their Professional Learning Communities (PLCs) have implemented retake policies that require students to retake unit exams if they score below 70 percent.  Students scoring over 70 % have the option to retake.  DCE Junior High policy requires teachers to accept the second score.  At the Senior High some teachers allow retake scores to reach a maximum of 90%.
Here are some good grading practices to use:
·   Do not grade practice (homework, classwork).
- Do not allow extra credit (or minimize the impact of it)
·   Use separate systems for grading behavior, attendance, lateness of work and work habits.
·   For missing work - require that the student does the work
·   Set high expectations for achievement
- Use systems that reflect highest level of learning (retakes, performance assessments)
·   Teach resilience/persistence
·   Proficiency scales instead of percentages
·   Use smaller, more frequent assessments
- Make sure that assessments really teach what we want student to know

Tuesday, July 3, 2012

Academic Conversations

Discussion is indeed an essential part of a university education. But not, alas, of K–12 education. As the Learning 24/7 study makes clear, there was evidence of “academic dialog and discussion” in only 0.5 percent of the 1,500 classes they observed (Learning 24/7, 2005). Despite the importance of academic dialog, most students don't engage in it until college or later— Results Now  - Mike Schmoker – Chapter 6 Authentic Literacy 

At D.C. Everest we had always tried to incorporate discussion into the classroom, but it was not until around 2006 that we discovered Socratic dialog.  After researching what Socratic discussions were we began to implement them via the use of Socratic Circles.  I read Socratic Circles by Matt Copeland and found his dual circles to be effective in my American History Seminar class.  Other teachers also began using Socratic circles and the department came up with some effective observation forms that students could use to gather data on their peers during discussion.  The most effective discussion model turned out to be the 4 by 1 which put the students in groups of 5 with one observer and 4 discussants.  With each agenda item the observer form would rotate.  Students were more apt to engage in discussion in the small groups.

Recently I read Academic Conversations by Jeff Zweirs which identified five conversation skills to help foster critical thinking.  The five discussion skills are as follows:
Elaborating, clarifying, and questioning
Supporting ideas with examples and evidence
Building on ideas
Synthesizing key ideas of the conversation

Interestingly enough, Zwiers uses symbols and gestures (posts them in the room) to get students to use the conversation skills automatically. I plan to integrate the teaching of these five skills into my discussion unit along with the skills that I have previously taught.

Another good book on the value of classroom discussion is Discussion as a Way of Teaching.These authors give many practical tips for thoughtful discussion in the classroom. They emphasis a reflection paper by students after the discussion as a way to see how their attitudes may have changed and what they learned during the discussion. 

Monday, July 2, 2012

Hmong Children's Book Zaj Lus is Published

The Oral History Project published a Hmong Children's Picture book entitled: Zaj Lus: A Hmong Children's Story Collection. The book contains four Hmong children's stories. A sample story can be viewed at the D.C. Everest Oral History site. The artwork was drawn by D.C. Everest student artists. The text in the book is written in both Hmong and English. Student authors read stories from book to elementary students. A book reception was held to share the book with the community. Student authors were honored with an award from Skipping Stones: An International Multicultural Magazine

Sunday, July 1, 2012

Oral History Project Helps Vietnam Moving Memorial Wall

Oral History Project summer school members helped out at the recent Vietnam Moving Memorial Wall which was shown in Wausau. A Wausau Daily Herald article reports that "The wall, an 80 percent scale replica of the memorial, is one of five in the world. The wall is part of a large display passing through Wausau that honors veterans, as well as police and fire service members, called the American Veterans Traveling Tribute."D.C. Everest Oral History Project students manned the computers where people can come to locate where they might find the name of a loved one who died. The computer prints out a sheet that tells which panel the person can be found on. The students were also collecting names for an upcoming project they are doing in which they will be interviewing Vietnam veterans for another book about veterans. Anyone Vietnam veteran who would like to be interviewed can contact me: oral history books can be found at the D.C. Everest Oral History Project website.