Lecture and Direct Instruction

I like how this chapter gave clear instructions for planning and implementing lectures. The step-by-step procedure was helpful with setting up lectures. Working on the unit plan for our class I have seen how important it is to be organized and be able to plan a lecture out clearly so you are prepared as a teacher. In this process the authors also talked about student note-taking skills. I thought this was an important section. While reading this part I thought about how challenging it is for many of my students to take notes. We have to highlight the parts of the PowerPoint that we want them to write down. Also the important things have to be repeated a couple times throughout the lecture to make sure the students understand what they are supposed to be focusing on. I liked how the authors talked about handing papers out to the students as well as having it on the overhead. I think this is important because it is often times easier for students to recognize small details and closer examine something if it is in their hands.

I also liked how Larson and Keiper talked about classroom management and student motivation during a lecture. As a new teacher I am worried about gaining control in my classroom. The authors said that as a teacher you must require the classroom to be silent when lecturing. It isn’t okay to start teaching if the students are quietly talking. I see this in my practicum as well. My teacher waits for every student to be quiet. Sometimes he stands up there for minutes until they all get the hint. I think this is important because you can’t be talking over students. It also sets a tone for the classroom, to let the students know that you are in charge.


Lectures with direct instruction help students understand what they are supposed to be learning.




Classroom Discussion and Debate

This chapter gave many good examples of how to facilitate good classroom discussions. While reading this I kept thinking about my practicum and how they have discussions and debates regularly. My teacher is fairly free when teaching and lets the students speak up whenever they want. He usually never has problems asking for them to share their opinions because they all have something to say. When going over the lesson for today it’s almost a guarantee that one student will say something that starts a discussion. The students are pretty opinionated and they argue with each other regularly. I think my cooperating teacher does a good job of facilitating the discussion. He always lets them voice their opinion and talk through what they want to say, but if things get out of hand he isn’t afraid to shut them down. This also helps the students learn the subject material because they get to talk through their questions and give examples.

I liked how Larson and Keiper went into detail about the six types of structure for engaging students in discussions. While I think these are good examples of how to facilitate discussion I don’t know how well they work for each grade level. For example using electronic threaded discussion in my classroom hasn’t been very successful. Sometimes my cooperating teacher will have the students use their chrome books to anonymously answer questions. Because the answers don’t show their names often times the students answers are very short or off topic. Using this type of discussion is hard for younger students because they are too immature to handle it. I think if I were in a higher-level class it would work much differently and be effective. However, I wouldn’t recommend using electronic threaded discussion with younger students.


It is important for teachers to facilitate classroom discussions.




This chapter was about primary sources like the previous one, but it went more in depth in how to use people from history. This chapter gave many examples in how to use different primary sources from people in the past. I liked how the author tried to incorporate many different sources and ways to use them to get students interested in the past. The awareness activities Schmidt discussed in this chapter all had to do with primary sources from people. I think this is a good way to get your students interested in using primary sources because they are dealing with what actual people said or wrote down.

I thought most of the examples in the chapter were helpful, but I questioned some of them. The Time-Machine Literature seems like a fun activity but I could never see my freshman doing something like that. They would think it is childish and probably stupid to read something about time travel. If I had a class of seventh graders who were imaginative and willing to read such things it would probably work better. I think when using these primary sources it is important to know your students. The class I am with now is usually unmotivated to do any extra work, and I would have to work really hard to get them to do an awareness activity described in the book. However, I think using these primary sources would be beneficial to students learning. Having students read journals or a dead person’s will, could be eye opening to them. Often times students aren’t interested in history because they don’t think it applies to them. But if they could read a diary entry from someone their age they could gain perspective on what life was like for that person.


Anne Frank’s diary is a good example of a primary source.



I like how Schmidt started off the chapter by saying primary sources may be the hardest fun you can have in your classroom. I thought that sentence was spot on because primary sources are a great way to learn, but they can be challenging and have to be administered in the correct way. I think primary sources in history are some of the best ways to get your students attention and get them interested in what they are learning about. However, if you don’t introduce primary sources in the correct way students can have trouble learning from them.

In my practicum we don’t use many primary sources. When I observed a different teacher he had his class using a book that was full of primary source speeches and news articles. In that class they read a speech from President Woodrow Wilson and discussed it as a class while they read. I thought this was a good example of how to use primary sources because the teacher helped the students as they did the reading. There were words and sentences in the reading that were confusing and the teacher would stop the class and explain what those meant. It helped the students understand what the speech was about instead of just reading over the parts they didn’t understand.

I liked how Schmidt gave us multiple different ways to use primary sources and how to make your students comfortable using them. I really liked the recycling bin as a resource idea because it got the students involved in aspects about their town. I think primary sources can be a great learning tool especially if you can relate them to the students.


Students looking at old World War II letters.


What’s Your Problem?

In this book Schmidt discusses the real issues of teaching social studies and her writing is very relevant. Schmidt talked about how the social element has been stripped from many social studies programs and that is the main problem. So many students ask why they have to learn social studies. I see this in my practicum too often. When my cooperating teacher says we are going to learn about any new topic at least one student asks why. It is important for teachers to get the message across to their students that social studies is just as important as any other subject. “The goal is to teach them that our actions in the present are connected to actions in the past; that we struggle to solve the same problems as our ancestors; and that our choices and actions will influence the lives of the people who inherit the planet from us in generations to come.” I think this quote is the most important part of this chapter. I think it is very important as a teacher to emphasize to your students that the past is connected to their future.

I also liked how Schmidt talked about focusing on the four basic problems. I think as a teacher it would be beneficial to begin the year going over the four problems with your students. Setting the year up with this would be a good way to explain why social studies is important and why students should want to learn about the past. I can tell in my practicum that my students are only ever excited to learn about a topic if it can be related to their life. Telling students the four problems and giving them good reasons for learning social studies could make them more willing to learn.image003


Getting the Picture

In this chapter the author discussed the importance of teaching with objects. Having visual exposure to materials is helpful if students know what they are looking at and looking for. Schmidt talked about how children of the twenty-first-century don’t know how to see. They are so evolved with television and moving technology that they can’t look at a simple picture and pick out the important things. I have noticed this in my practicum. My teacher tries to do a lot of different activities with the students and they relate to the ones that involve using their chrome books or watching videos. However, when he puts pictures on the front screen I noticed the students have more trouble staying focused on one picture. While doing these activities I wondered if my students just had trouble zeroing in on a specific details, but after reading Schmidt’s observations I agree with her. I think many students are used to looking at moving pictures and haven’t been taught what to look for in a still image.

Anything that students can touch and observe, that has relevance to the topic you are teaching can help students learn better. I liked how in this chapter Schmidt discussed how important it is to use visual materials for ensuring equal access to curriculum content for second-language learners and students with reading disabilities. Teaching through objects is a fun, interactive way to work with your students. Doing something different than reading out of the book or from an article can help your students that learn in different ways. I think using objects in the classroom is a great way to get your students interested in subjects, and to help them understand social studies in a more realistic way because they are actually looking at or holding something from history.





The Learner

This chapter was all about how to better teach your students. I found the section about teaching English to students of other languages helpful. The authors mentioned the demographic imperative and that was interesting to me. One of my worries is that I won’t be able to communicate with my students. If they can’t speak English then it makes it very difficult to teach anything, or see what they need help with. Lincoln is a diverse area, and I have students of many different ethnic backgrounds in my practicum class. Fortunately they all speak English, but I know that won’t always be the case. It’s good to know that there are ways to communicate and help those students that can’t speak fluent English.

Poverty in schools was another section in this chapter. While I was reading this part I thought about some of the students I work with. Many of them don’t have great home lives and it shows sometimes in their appearance. Many students wear the same clothes to school everyday, and look like they haven’t showered in a while. Hygiene can be a big issue when it comes to your students. I know one student in my class is very insecure because they don’t get to shower as often as they would like and that affects their academic performance. They don’t attend school as regularly as they should because they feel embarrassed. Poverty in students is a problem because it can effect their education in a big way. Some students might not be able to study or do their homework because they have to work to provide for their families. As a teacher I think it is important to understand your student’s home life and provide emotional support for them. Even though you might not be able to help them directly, there are other ways you can help.

calpovThis is a photo of students in California attending a food bank. Poverty is a large issue in many school districts around the country.

Picture from: http://www.ibtimes.com/fools-gold-california-has-highest-poverty-rate-united-states-1548707


Planning, Managing, and Motivating


I like how this chapter talked a lot about lesson and unit planning. I found that information very helpful because we haven’t written many lesson or unit plans. I also liked how the authors outlined the components of a unit plan and gave specific examples of ones. It was helpful to see the unit plan organized that way.

Motivation was another part of this chapter. The authors talked about how one of the greatest worries of many student teachers has to do with management and discipline in the classroom (pg. 80). After being in my practicum for a couple weeks I can see discipline being a large worry. I relate discipline and motivation because many students act out because they are not motivated to learn the material. In my practicum I have students who haven’t done any of the assignments and are unwilling to study for exams. Most of the students who are unmotivated don’t have a great home life. Their parents don’t care about their schoolwork as much as they should, and I think that has a large effect on the students. Using extrinsic motivation seems to work for most of the students. By offering them free time, or being able to listen to their music during work time they behave better and do their assignments.

However, I worry that there will be cases where students don’t have any motivation at all. There are students who don’t care if they graduate from high school and therefore don’t put in the work to pass a class. I think helping students find motivation is one of the most challenging tasks a teacher does.



Preparing Learning Objectives & Assessing Student Learning

This chapter focused on learning objectives and goals that teachers should set for their students. Goals are important because they provide a direction for the course. As a teacher it will be important for me to set the tone and direction of what my class is going to learn over the course of the year. However, I don’t think that setting one, broad goal for my class is the right way to approach learning objectives. The authors did a good job of pointing out that objectives are important when teaching, but as a teacher I think you should have specific goals for each student. Not every student is going to learn the same way therefore they may not learn exactly the same things being taught over the year. In my practicum I can already see the different types of students and their learning styles. As a teacher it will be important for me to get to know my student and see how they learn and set individual goals for them.

Another topic this chapter discussed was assessment. We’ve been talking about assessments and standardized testing in class lately, and it is an important topic. “Assessment is seen not as an end in itself but as a critically important feedback loop for instruction” (pg. 37). I thought this quote was great because it shows how assessments can be used effectively for students. Not as a punishment or something to bring their grades down, but as checkpoint for them to see if they understand the relevant content. Almost all teachers will have to give out some type of assessment to their students, but it doesn’t have to be a bad thing. I think assessments are a good way of checking what your students know and evaluating your class direction from there.



Putting the Social Back in Social Studies

This chapter was a great way to start out the book and let the readers know what they can expect from the author. I liked out Schmidt gave an outline of what each chapter would cover and how teachers can use this book for different purposes.

Right away Schmidt discussed how Social Studies is an overlooked subject. Math and Science are the main emphasis taught in our schools today, and everything revolves around standards. Society has become so digitized that anything that doesn’t have to do with decoding or computerization is seen to be less important. Social Studies is a valuable subject, and can be interesting again if we allow the teachings of it to be.

I want to be a Social Sciences teacher because I find the subject material highly interesting. Learning about our past and making connections to present day events is what makes students attracted in this subject. It isn’t all about numbers or memorization, but about making connections to people and events in each student’s life. Schmidt talks about how standardizing everything made Social Studies uninteresting. Teachers had to “squeeze social studies into the schedule” because there wasn’t a large amount of time devoted to it. Finding the balance of teaching what has to be taught from the standards, and making it interesting for students is challenging, but it is something teachers have to do. There is a quote from chapter one that stuck out to me, “teaching hasn’t happened until kids learn.” As a teacher the most important thing is helping your students. Sticking to the standards can hinder a student’s ability to actually learn the material. However, by putting the social back in Social Studies students will be more inclined to learn the material.