This week, the National Council for the Social Studies (NCSS) annual conference is being held in Denver, Colorado. Luckily for me, I have a supportive administration this year who sees the value in teachers attending professional development. I'll be flying out to Denver on Wednesday, visiting Colorado Academy on Thursday, and hitting up the conference on Friday and Saturday.
I am especially excited about this opportunity because, while I've always been a member of NCSS, this is the first opportunity I've had to attend one of their national conferences. Smaller conferences I've been to by NCSS in the past have left me less than satisfied. I'm hoping a national conference will give me the opportunity to really connect with some seriously good social studies teachers.
I've often found ideas from others about teaching social studies to be somewhat lacking. People at conferences usually suggest you read a book with your students, make them write an essay or maybe do a simulation, and then have a discussion (or something along those lines). There are graphic organizers galore for helping students make sense of cause and effect, stereotypes/generalizations, and summarizing texts. But I've rarely found a curriculum that I think really does a masterful job of integrating exceptional instructional strategies with appropriate primary/secondary documents, discussion around historicity/connections to student lives/moral issues, and powerful forms of authentic assessment. I have my fingers crossed that I will pick up some ideas in Denver this week.
Aside from Denver, I've been recently working with a team of social studies educators from the Bronx on creating a unit on US History for a grant from the federal government, which I'm really excited about. The leader of the team worked with Deborah Meier at Central Park East and seems to profess many similar views about teaching history as Ms Meier. The group is working on writing a unit on industrial freedom, using the Triangle Shirtwaist Factory fire as a jumping off point. The group is also following the general guidelines proposed by Wiggins and McTighe in Understanding by Design, which I love.
All told, I think this is going to be a pretty great semester for improving in my content area.