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A recent post to teachinghistory offers a four step process for teachers to use with middle school students in their analysis of primary documents. It offers an approach that highlights the more complex historical thinking skills found at the middle school level.
In the illustration provided, students analyze the texts of four speeches given by President Jackson around the time of the Indian Removal Act. Each text, along with its accompanying key questions, is included.
Students begin by focusing only on the top and bottom sections of the document and the source information that appears there to establish perspective and setting. During the second read, students focus on the main body of the text to identify the main idea and underline the phrase that best supports that idea. The third read involves students identifying supporting details (assertions, evidence, or examples) for the main argument. As students read the fourth time, they refer back to the sourcing information that they identified in the first step and write responses to the key questions in the document margins.
The process can be applied as students investigate various topics and primary documents during the school year, giving them opportunities to practice and build on historical thinking skills.
The National Council for Geography Education released Geography for Life – Second Edition. In a recent webinar, Susan Gallagher Heffron described the standards as promoting an emphasis on “doing Geography”.
The 8″ x 11.5″ wire-bound second edition is available for purchase at the NCGE website: http://ncge.org/geography-for-life for a modest price and portions of it are viewable online. The three-column publication, organized by grade band ( K-4, 5-8 and 9-12) includes knowledge statements and performance statements. Two of the original eighteen standards have been updated to reflect 21st century learning: Standard #1, regarding the use of maps and other geographic representations now includes geospatial technologies and spatial thinking. Standard #8 Ecosystems have been expanded to include biomes. Performance statements and illustrative examples were also updated.
Apparently, as the writing team looked at the scaffolding of geography skills across grade bands, their eyes were opened to gaps, which they were able to address. In addition to the expanded glossary there are examples of data sources as well as photos and images, all provided by educators. Classroom vignettes offer models of doing geography in the classroom. This emphasis on doing geography involves students looking at geography from a variety of perspectives, investigating the world around them and asking and answering geographic questions.
The original Five Themes of Geography are included within the 6 Essential Elements, which are more comprehensive and detail the way we get to the application of geography skills.
National Geographic’s supporting website: http://education.nationalgeographic.com/education/?ar_a=1 will ultimately include the revised standards tabbed by grade level and it will be more interactive.