The Digital Broadside

News You Can Use

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Questions about Homework

After many data meetings across the county where teachers, principals, content specialists, and other Central Office staff reviewed benchmark test data and class grades, a question was begging to be asked: What should the county's homework policy be?

Here are more questions related to that:

  • Should a school have the same homework policy? For example, in one school, some teachers will accept late work, and others will not. This will happen in the same content area. Should the entire school or a department should have the same grading policy.
  • This leads to: Should teachers accept late work? If it was important enough to assign, then does it make sense to never collect it? If a student is passing all the tests, but failing or getting a bad score because of not turning in homework, does that make sense? Is the hidden assignment in homework to teach responsibility?
  • Is homework done with fidelity? Meaning, how do you know the student didn't cheat? Does turning it in really mean they understood it? That they were being responsible? If they have a 100 homework score, and fail each test, are your assignments productive?

Then there is mastery of the content, which can be seen through homework and assessments. Which is more important, that the student know the content by the time the school year ends, or by test day? If a 9th grade student didn't understand polytheism in September, but does in February, should a bad grade from September still punish the student in February?

There are no "answers" right now. Rather, the beginning of a conversation. What should our homework policy be?

Women's History Month

March 1 begins Women's History Month, with the theme this year being: Celebrating Women of Character, Courage, and Commitment. Too much alliteration, for me. I like, "Well-behaved women seldom make history," better, but I wasn't on the committee.

Every year, the National Women's History Project chooses a slate* of women to honor, this year's group includes: Grace Harris, former Dean of Virginia Commonwealth University.

Here are some quick resources you can use:

(* or binders full)

VCSS Conference

This year's state Social Studies conference will be held in Tysons Corner in Northern Virginia on October 24 and 25. Right now, the Virginia Council of the Social Studies is accepting presentation proposals. If you'd like to present, please click this link.

Furthermore, if you'd like to join VCSS, you can do so here. Belonging to a professional organization helps you in many ways: 1) you learn more about what you can do in your profession and opportunities open to you; 2) it builds your resume; 3) gives you a way to contribute to your profession. You can join here.

You can also join the National Council of Social Studies here.

2014 Drop-a-Thon

Part two of the Drop-a-Thon begins today! Last time, we went from zero to 2.7 gigs (100s of files) of resources shared in our Dropbox. That's great news for people looking for resources.

However, most of this is first semester material. So I'm now asking teachers to drop second semester material and SOL review material.

This newsletter is global (one guy in China), so email me for a username and password.

What to share:
· Power Points
· Flip Charts
· Worksheets
· Notes
· Exam View files
· Project ideas

General Rules:
· If you use anything from the dropbox, please give back to the dropbox
· If you already see 3 Power Points for SOL VUS.4a, you don’t need to add a 4th VUS.4a power point
· If you’re putting something in the dropbox, you know people may alter it to fit their own needs
· Always give credit for someone else’s work when possible
· If you borrowed from someone, and you know who’s it is (maybe their name is on the Power Point), email them a Thank You!

2015 SOL Curriculum Framework

Rowdy Roddy Piper once said, "Just as you have all the answers, I change the question!"

The VDOE is already revising the next set of SOL Standards, the 2015 History and Social Science Standards of Learning. They are revised every 7 years, and then take 2 years to implement. So, the 2008 Standards came in officially in 2010. So, 2017 is just around the corner.

When the SOLs are up for review, every one with a historical bone to pick comments and wants their story told. That's why it's important to know that Robert E. Lee was the President of Washington College.

I would like to stress to everyone to please comment. Here is the link. If you don't comment, dozens of interest groups and museums will dictate WHAT YOU TEACH. Some of that may be fine. But... as Whodini says, "The freaks come out at night...."

HCPS Teachers of the Year

Schools are choosing their 'New Teacher' Teacher of the Year and Teacher of the Year. So far, here is what I know (I'll keep adding):

Teacher of the Year

Holman Middle School is Heather Racer

Brookland Middle School is Matt Mason

Tuckahoe Middle School is Ann Vannoy

Elko Middle School is Robert Rice

New Teacher of the Year

Short Pump Middle School is Rob Przybylski

Congratulations to our teachers!

General Assembly FINAL Update

FINAL NEWS: HB930 has passed! It just needs the Governor's signature, but that's a done deal. The VDOE may have authority to tinker a bit, but we don't know that yet.

This will mean major changes in middle school. We know a few things, but many other things are still up in the air.

What we know:

  1. As soon as next year, 2014 - 2015, there may only be an SOL test for Civics. The US History 1 and US History 2 SOL will be no more.
  2. Some sort of alternative assessment will be used to ensure that US1 and US2 are still taught.
  3. US1 and US2 will still exist as classes

What we don't know:

  1. Everything else
  2. We don't know what the alternative assessment will look like or who will develop it
  3. We don't know what it will mean for 8th grade, World History students
  4. We don't know if the VDOE can, or will, delay this to 2015.

I don't mean for this to cause any apprehension with folks, but this is public knowledge and will be in the newspapers. As soon as I hear more concrete facts, I'll let people know.

None of this affects high school courses. Sorry I don't have more answers, but this just happened Monday, so a lot needs to be digested. It's just another thing we will all get through.

Teacher Opportunities

Museum of the Confederacy

With the coming of 1864, the American Civil War became a war of attrition. Ulysses S. Grant was made a Lieutenant General and appointed General in Chief of all U.S. Armies. He proposed to “fight it out on this line if it takes all summer” in Virginia, while General William T. Sherman hammered his way through Georgia. Robert E. Lee and the Confederates held on with determination, hoping that Abraham Lincoln would fail to win reelection and the Peace Party would prevail. On the homefront civilians did their best to deal with growing shortages, loss, and increased populations of POWs. And one woman in the heart of the Confederacy daringly risked all for the Union.

Join the staff of The Museum of the Confederacy and guest lecturers as we explore the pivotal events of 1864 through special sessions, tours & discussions. All participants will receive a notebook filled with lesson units featuring primary source documents and photographs. Additionally, participants will receive a certificate verifying 31 hours of instruction.

June 23 - June 27, 2014

For more information, click here.

Check out these opportunities for teachers:

Cultural Legacies Workshop

Henricus Historical Park

Become a part of the SOL Review Committee
VCU Economics Institutes January 15 - April 30
Gilder Lehrman Summer 2014 Sessions
The Holocaust and Human Behavior on February 10
SOL Resources per content area

National Teacher of the Year

History and the movies

Instructional Ideas

Click here to go to the HCPS SOL Resources WikiPage

Digital resources for SOL courses including state guidelines, online textbooks, and other resources to use in the classroom.

12 YEARS A SLAVE - Official Trailer (HD)


Katherine Lowder, a first-year teacher at Moody and Tucker, had an interesting lesson I was lucky to observe. The lesson was based on the television show, "Chopped." In Chopped, chefs are given crazy ingredients and are supposed to come up with a great meal.

The students were studying the Byzantine Empire and she wanted her students to present the information she taught in their own words. So the students were put into groups with the following task:

  • They were given a set of pictures via Google Presentation
  • There were about 15-20 pictures, some of Byzantium, some just random pics and gifs from the Internet (e.g., two dogs walking on a treadmill, Severus Snape shrugging his shoulders)
  • 5 of the pictures were mandatory (pictures of Byzantium) and the students had to pick 5 of the random pictures that the students had to use seamlessly, thus completing a 10 slide project.
  • They had 30 minutes to do this (like the TV show.)

The students did a great job using the Byzantine pictures and also with the random pics. Some students just used the random pictures as transitions to the next slide, but other students used them as a Byzantine fact (the two dogs represented Theodora and Justinian).

The students were very engaged and enjoyed presenting. Even though some of the information was the same (no harm in students hearing repeated information), but the creative parts kept them interested in each group.

If you try it, let me know.


Please make sure you get the Flocabulary link from your department chair and sign up. Once you do, you'll see videos and songs for your content area (US History, World History, and Civics/Government), quizzes, printable lyrics, questions to ask, and more.

There is also a student password for them to use the site at home.

Let me know what you think.

Middle School Resources

Michelle Adams at Fairfield Middle School has created a web page for 7th grade classes. You can access her site here.

She used Google Sites to make the web site, which is something all of you can use, along with your students.

Google Newspapers

Google has 100s of newspapers in digital format that you and students can use (similar to the second article above.) Check out all they offer.

I found one article from 1852 that described how a man was killed by being dragged by a train, and was, "literally torn to pieces, his blood staining the track, and portions of his brain and limbs lying along the whole distance." Nice.

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Double Exposure

Double Exposure is an instructional strategy using historical photos. For example, use the pictures above for the Civil Rights Movement. Do do this:

1. Select a topic for exploration (e.g. Civil Rights movement).

2. Gather two photographs that are likely to lead students to competing descriptions of a(n) person, event, institution, society etc. For example,

Photograph A (photo of Dr. King) = suggests that the story of the Civil Rights movement is the story of charismatic leaders such Martin Luther King or Rosa Parks.

Photograph B (photo of Selma freedom walkers) = the story of the Civil Rights movement is the story of thousands of courageous, everyday people.

3. Jigsaw: Split the class into halves. Divide students in both halves into small groups and distribute photograph A to some groups and Photograph B to other groups.

4. Have students analyze the photograph and discuss the following in their small groups: What does this photograph suggest about the topic (e.g. Civil Rights movement)?

5. Take students who analyzed photograph A and pair them off with students who analyzed photograph B. Ask each student in the paired group to describe the conclusions they drew from their photograph. If the photographs are well selected, students should arrive at competing conclusions

6. Ask students “why might historians arrive at different conclusions about the past?”

7. Debrief: explain that history is filled with different interpretations about the past. One reason for the different interpretations is that historians often rely on different pieces of evidence (e.g. photographs) to construct their accounts. Your experiences with the photographs suggest that there may be more than one story about the past.

Trivia and Other Balderdash

Trivia: Teachers- 10 and Mike- 7

Last Week: Who should have been credited for the idea below? (There was a picture about the Peace Corps).

Hana Hecht was the first to answer with Hubert Humphrey. JFK gets credit for the Peace Corps, but Humphrey first introduced a bill to create the Corp in 1957, but it failed.

This week: Where in the world am I? Clue: A singer who won an Oscar. And the pics below. To win though, you have to identify all 9 pics and the singer.

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History in the News

This is a new section: things from the current headlines today that I think will make the textbooks in the future (not that we buy textbooks). These also make good current events discussions.

  • Ukraine: Holding tight for two weeks, now. This is a great event to talk with students about because it really shows the complexity of history. Think about it: It seems like the revolution in Ukraine to oust Viktor F. Yanukovych was an obvious good thing. However, he was democratically elected and had widespread support. The Crimea is just like Guantanamo Bay for the US, and frankly, if some Russian soldier gets shot by a Ukrainian ... wouldn't the US invade Cuba if a Cuban shot an American soldier at Gitmo if things were tense the weeks before? This isn't easy. Putin wants a Russian Euro-zone. But if he invades, will others want to join? If he does annex Crimea, is this reminiscent of the Sudetenland? Especially since the US, Europe, and NATO will probably let him? Hopefully, cooler heads will prevail.


Real to Reel: The 2014 Oscars Show by BackStory
The contributions of female explorers - Courtney Stephens