Half-Time Report

This entry serves to update participants in this year’s TAH project.  It may be of interest to others, I suppose…

With just two more demonstration lessons to go, we’re in wrap-up mode for the first half of the Causes of Conflict year.  I wanted to drop you a line reminding you of where we’ve been, where we’re going, and what we’re hoping you’re thinking about during this brief intermission in our activities.

Last summer, we began our journey investigating American history and our students’ learning needs.  We identified targeted skills and content – drawn from the GLEs and CBAs – on which to focus our efforts.  Most recently, we tested our strategies to meet those targets though demonstration lessons.  I know that most of you will be employing revised versions of those lessons in your classrooms – and that your teammates are eagerly awaiting hearing about the results of those tweaks.

As a group, our activities resume in 2010.  These activities include:

  • Thursday, February 4, Paul Finkelman will return for a talk at the ESD on the Lincoln-Douglas Debates and the 1860 Election.  The program will run 5:00-8:30 pm; if you’re coming from a distance and would prefer to use the K-20 network to avoid the slog through the weather, please let me know at your earliest opportunity.
  • Saturday, March 6, the Center for Columbia River History will host a program linking the national story to the regional one with “Neither North Nor South:  The Pacific Northwest in the Civil War,” 9:00 am – 4:00 pm at the Red Cross Building on the Fort Vancouver National Historic Reserve.
  • Tuesday, March 16, 9:00 am – 3:30 pm, we’ll host a program with two legs I’m equally excited about.  First, Steve Schwartz from the Gilder Lehrman Institute for American History – our partner for the Gettysburg trip – will guide us in investigating primary documents related to the trip and considering how we might use them in the classroom.  During the second half of the day, we’ll explore the evidence of student learning you’re collecting in your classroom (more on that below.)
  • March 28 – April 3 (or April 2, for the handful of folks who will be leaving Friday) is our History on Location in Gettysburg.  I hope that you’ve either begun or are looking forward to beginning the preparatory reading for that trip, Gary Gallagher’s Causes Won, Lost, and Forgotten and Matt Pinsker’s Lincoln’s Sanctuary.  Drs. Gallagher and Pinsker thought that those two books would build strong foundations for the work we’ll be doing together that week.
  • Finally, we make use of all those experiences during our spring lesson study cycle.  We’ll meet two evenings in April (the 14th and 21st for the Vancouver area contingent; the 15th and 22nd for the Longview area folks) and have another round of demonstration lessons shortly thereafter.

Regarding the collection of evidence referred to above:  Please remember that, for all students from one of your classes, we’re asking you to set aside student work related to the program targets.  Even more important than the critical role this plays in our program’s evaluation, we hope this will serve as a tool to strengthening your teaching through investigating student learning.  These folders can play an important role in monitoring what skills you explicitly teach your students and how they’re responding to those efforts.  If you do student led conferences or ask students to reflect on their learning, these collections will be key source material; they may also prove valuable in discussing student work with parents.

Please use the assignment log to track assignments you are giving that focus on one or more of the project targets.  Shoot for including at least one assignment a month.  Probably the first entry you’ve included was the document set you gave your students that we went over as a group:  this is the rare assignment that targets just about every skill on the list and, therefore, serves as a baseline to keep returning to as you consider growth.  Most of you will also include student work related to the demonstration lesson, given that those also explicitly targeted program goals and objectives.  Keep building from there:  The more entries you have that share some common goals and objectives, the easier it is to confidently monitor growth.

Keep in mind that, even during this brief lull in activities, I remain eager to support your efforts.  If I can ever be of help, don’t hesitate to contact me with your questions, concerns, or requests.

All the best,

Matt

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