KCSS Sunflower

Spring Newsletter May 2017

As social studies educators, you are responsible for teaching students the content knowledge, discipline specific thinking skills, and civic values that are vital for fulfilling the duties of citizenship in a participatory democracy. Our task at the Kansas Council for the Social Studies is to provide leadership, service, and support to make your job easier.


Use the resources and information below as you continue to hone your instructional skills. Feel free to pass the newsletter on to others!

Save the date!

2017 Kansas Social Studies Conference

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The annual state Social Studies conference is scheduled for November 5 - 6, 2017 in Wichita, Kansas at the historic Hotel at Old Town Conference Center. The event is co-sponsored by KCEE, KGA, KSHS, KSDE, KCSS, and KCHE. You don’t want to miss this – make plans now to attend!


The conference theme, Kansans Can: Social Studies Leading the Way, is focused on the teaching and learning of historical thinking skills and assessments with a special highlight on economics and the state board’s Kansans Can vision. You’ll walk away smarter after learning more about:


  • the upcoming Spring 2018 social studies assessment
  • civic engagement strategies
  • tech integration tools
  • current best practices
  • reading and writing ideas
  • the latest from the Kansas Council for Economic Education


Extra bonus? The conference is in the center of Old Town with all sorts of fun things to do. So get registered now!


Keep updated with schedule details and session proposals at the conference site.

Teacher of the Year section

The KCSS Judy Cromwell Excellence in Teaching Award is intended to reward and encourage high quality instruction in the social studies. Winners of the award exhibit innovative and effective instructional strategies, utilize state and national standards, foster a spirit of inquiry, develop democratic beliefs and values, and participate in professional organizations.


Nominations for the 2017 KCSS Teacher of the Year are now being accepted at both the elementary (K-6) and secondary (7-12) levels. Winners will be announced at the November state social studies conference and are awarded $250, conference registration, and travel expenses. Both winners are automatically considered for the Kansas State Combined Teaching Award and are also eligible for the National Council of the Social Studies Teacher of the Year.


To learn more about the process and to nominate a teacher, click here.

10 Steps to Civic Engagement

KSDE social studies guru Don Gifford recently shared some useful tips for developing a program that focuses on civic engagement. Taken from the book Soul of a Citizen: Living with Conviction in Challenging Times by Paul Loeb, these ten suggestions can help us start to flesh out a practical program for our students;

  1. Start where you are. You don’t need to know everything and you certainly don’t need to be perfect.
  2. Take things step by step. You set the pace of your engagement. Don’t worry about being swallowed up because you’ll determine how much to be involved.
  3. Build a supportive community. You can accomplish far more with even a small group of good people than you can alone.
  4. Be strategic. Ask what you’re trying to accomplish, where you can find allies, and how to best communicate the urgencies you feel.
  5. Enlist the uninvolved. They have their own fears and doubts, so they won’t participate automatically; you have to work actively to engage them. If you do, there’s no telling what they’ll go on to achieve.
  6. Seek out unlikely allies. The more you widen the circle, the more you’ll have a chance of breaking through the entrenched barriers to change.
  7. Persevere. Change most often takes time. The longer you continue working, the more you’ll accomplish.
  8. Savor the journey. Changing the world shouldn’t be grim work. Take time to enjoy nature, good music, good conversation, and whatever else lifts you soul. Savor the company of good people working for change.
  9. Think large. Don’t be afraid to tackle the deepest-rooted injustices, and to tackle them on a national or global scale. Remember that many small actions can shift the course of history.
  10. Listen to your heart. It’s why you’re involved to begin with. It’s what will keep you going.”

Free and Awesome Teaching Tools

Social studies teachers are always on the lookout for new instructional tools. You'll want to give these a try. Trust us.


  • StorySpheres
    StorySpheres allows your students to create multimedia 360 virtual reality tours. Perfect for digital storytelling.
  • Teaching With Documents
    When we ask students to work with and learn from primary sources, we transform them into historians. Rather than passively receiving information from a teacher or textbook, students engage in the activities of historians — making sense of the stories, events and ideas of the past through document analysis. Use these lessons and brand new analysis worksheets from the National Archives as part of your instructional design.
  • Tampering with History: Adapting Primary Sources for Struggling Readers
    Should we modify primary sources? Sam Wineburg says yes. Learn how in this article co-authored by Daisy Martin.
  • Crop It
    Use this handy strategy to help younger students explore evidence more effectively.
  • Teaching Tolerance
    The Southern Poverty Law Center has a ton of useful teaching tools. Be sure to check out their free film kits!

National Council for the Social Studies Resources

The NCSS always has great professional learning opportunities. These are a few of their upcoming options:


C3 Teachers Inquiry Design Model Summer Institute

July 17, 2017 to July 19, 2017

The third annual IDM Summer Institute will be in Raleigh, North Carolina, July 17-19, 2017. Sponsored by C3 Teachers, the National Council for the Social Studies, and North Carolina State University, the Institute will feature hands-on opportunities for teachers to develop inquiry materials for use in their classrooms and to join a larger community of educators who share an interest in invigorating their classrooms through inquiry teaching and learning.


The Institute will feature the Inquiry Design Model (IDM), a unique approach to creating curriculum and instructional materials while relying on teacher expertise and experience. If you are working on implementing inquiry in your classroom, school or district – then this conference is for you!


Constructivist Media Decoding: Media Literacy and Critical Thinking in Social Studies

July 24, 2017 to July 26, 2017

Learn Constructivist Media Decoding theory, analyze models, access resources, and develop activities for practice in your classroom. In this 3-day workshop, you'll gain knowledge, skills, materials and practice to develop and deliver inquiry-based media analysis activities in social studies. Participants will receive individual feedback, reflect with colleagues, and finalize integration plans using diverse media documents and inquiry-based techniques that integrate critical thinking and literacy skills with core social studies content. This work will be balanced with engaging, media literacy mini-workshops from the Newseum and Project Look Sharp.


NCSS Advocacy Toolkit

In this Tool Kit, NCSS has outlined their objectives for the advocacy campaign and numerous sample materials you can use to promote social studies education. An awareness campaign, such as this one, works best with a grassroots approach. Using this kit, you can influence key audiences locally.

Summer Reading List

We all like to take a few weeks off in June to catch our breath. But grab a couple of the following sometime this summer to keep your social studies brain alive!


  • Soul of a Citizen: Living with Conviction in Troubling Times
    This book has become the "handbook for budding social activists, veteran organizers, and anybody who wants to make a change - big or small - in the world around them."
  • Make Just One Change
    This book is a must-read for any teacher who is sick of hearing crickets whenever they ask a question (even an easy question) in their classroom. This helpful resource shares the Question Formulation Technique that any teacher can use to help students ask their own questions that are rich, meaningful and spark their own curiosity for learning.
  • How We Got to Now: Six Innovations That Made the Modern World
    Steven Johnson explores the history of innovation over centuries, tracing facets of modern life from their creation to their unintended historical consequences. Filled with surprising stories of accidental genius and brilliant mistakes, the book investigates the secret history behind the everyday objects of contemporary life and examines unexpected connections between seemingly unrelated fields.
  • The Republic of Nature
    Author Mark Fiege “reframes the canonical account of American history based on the simple but radical premise that nothing in the nation’s past can be considered apart from the natural circumstances in which it occurred.” He basically tells the story of the United States through an environmental lens, very cool stuff.

  • Evaluating Information: The Cornerstone of Civic Online Reasoning
    This is the executive summary of research conducted by the Stanford History Education Group that highlights the struggle our students have with making sense of online information. Get sample activities and rubrics.
  • Explore Like a Pirate: Gamification and Game-Inspired Course Design to Engage, Enrich, and Elevate Your Learners
    Are you ready to transform your classroom into an experiential work that flourishes on collaboration and creativity? Then set sail with classroom game designer and educator Michael Matera as he reveals the possibilities and power of game-based learning.
  • Subscribe to the Teaching with the Library of Congress blog. Top right corner equals the Subscribe button. Click two times and each new blog post will show up in your email inbox. Easy peasy.

Doing Social Studies Blog

Doing Social Studies is a place for a variety of voices to discuss what high-quality social studies looks like in the 21st century. KCSS board members and other educators from around the state share ideas, resources, and materials about how we can all do social studies better. We'd love for you to join the conversation by stopping by and leaving your own ideas and suggestions.

Membership

Do you know someone who's not yet a member of KCSS? Send them to our membership page. Membership is free and a great way to support the discipline.


If you're already a member, be sure to follow our Twitter feed and Facebook group for the latest updates.