Va. social studies teacher becomes blog superstar | Ariz. ban on Mexican-American studies sparks enthusiasm for subject | Ariz. lawmakers hasten shift to common-core-aligned tests
Web Version
March 29, 2013
NCSS SmartBrief
Social Studies – Preparing Students for College, Career and Civic Life

Teaching & Learning
N.C. middle-school students learn about World War I trenches
The darkness and claustrophobic atmosphere of battlefield trenches across Europe during World War I recently was relived by history students at Wiley Middle School in Winston-Salem, N.C. Classroom windows were covered and chairs turned over to build trenches, so students had to rely on flashlights to study their notes and to see each other as they crawled among nine stations without being seen over the top of their trench wall. All this was done in an effort to get a hands-on experience to better understand the conditions in the trenches during WWI. WFMY-TV (Greensboro, N.C.) (3/25)
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Va. social studies teacher becomes blog superstar
Ken Halla, a social studies teacher at Hayfield Secondary School in Fairfax County, Va., started blogging a few years ago to offer advice to his local peers but teachers across the nation are reading Halla's blogs, which include U.S. history and government blogs, and using the resources. Halla, who says his blogs get about 50,000 hits a month, said he hopes to encourage others to take greater advantage of the technology at their disposal and flip their classrooms so they can spend less time lecturing and more time helping students learn at a higher level. Fairfax County Times (Reston, Va.) (3/27)
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Ariz. ban on Mexican-American studies sparks enthusiasm for subject
Latino and ethnic studies programs and classes increasingly are drawing interest of students, an unintended consequence of Arizona lawmakers' decision to eliminate Mexican-American studies courses in public schools. Some teachers from the Tucson program targeted by the ban now are in-demand public speakers or are teaching classes in the community. "Underground" libraries of Latino literature will be opening in communities including Louisville, Ky., and Milwaukee, said Tony Diaz, who heads Librotraficante (book smuggler), a group that raises money to buy books and open libraries to preserve Mexican-American studies. Los Angeles Times (tiered subscription model) (3/23)
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Policy Watch
Ariz. lawmakers hasten shift to common-core-aligned tests
Lawmakers in Arizona have approved legislation that eliminates Arizona's Instrument to Measure Standards test as a graduation requirement and paves the way for the state to adopt assessments more closely aligned with the Common Core State Standards. The bill, approved Tuesday by lawmakers, now awaits the signature of Gov. Jan Brewer, who previously has said she supports the change. The Arizona Republic (Phoenix) (tiered subscription model) (3/26)
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Technology in the Classroom
How teachers can use Twitter to connect, collaborate
Twitter has become a powerful tool for teachers to connect, chat and engage in professional development, writes Tom Murray, director of technology and cybereducation for the Quakertown Community School District in Bucks County, Pa. In this blog post, he offers information about the value of Twitter chats for educators and shares some recommended chats as well as how to access them. SmartBrief/SmartBlog on Education (3/27)
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Guide seeks to help teachers manage online videos
MindShift's "Teachers' Guide to Using Videos" offers advice for teachers interested in using the vast library of videos available on YouTube and elsewhere in classroom lessons. The guide, written in collaboration with educator Catlin Tucker, seeks to help teachers winnow down the available videos and answer questions regarding video quality, where to go to get the best educational videos and how such videos should be used. blog (3/26)
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Other News
Social Studies & Civic Life
How can schools improve environmental literacy?
Education programs that take place outdoors can help students develop environmental literacy, according to Nils Peterson, an associate professor of fisheries, wildlife and conservation biology at North Carolina State University. Peterson co-authored a recent study on environmental literacy, which he described as a holistic combination of knowledge of ecology, cognitive ability, environmental attitudes and behaviors. He said there are programs, such as Project Learning Tree or Project WILD, that can help inner-city schools boost students' environmental literacy. KPCC-FM (Los Angeles) (3/25)
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Book sheds light on the naming of America
A new book by cartography historian John W. Hessler focuses on a map from 1507 that helped give America its name. The map, created by clerics in France, was preserved by a 16th-century globe maker and eventually rediscovered in a German castle in 1901. In addition to using the name "America," the map is also notable for its unexpectedly accurate portrayal of the shape of South America. The New York Times (tiered subscription model) (3/25), The New York Times (tiered subscription model) (3/25)
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Other News
NCSS Updates
Now accepting deposits for the 2013 NCSS Annual Conference
Do you have funds for the current school year you want to apply toward the registration fee for November? We can take a deposit now and invoice for the difference once our registration rates are set in early June. Get more information.
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Conducting Socratic seminars: A leader's workshop with a focus on primary source documents from U.S. history
This NCSS Summer Professional Development Workshop, taught by nationally recognized Socratic seminar trainer John Zola, will help participants develop skills as Socratic seminar discussion leaders. Socratic seminars are teacher-led classroom discussions that promote higher-level thinking, more careful reading of texts, and increased skills of classroom and civil discussion. The workshop will be held Aug. 5 to 7 in Washington, D.C. Get more information.
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$125,000 Salary for Master Middle School TeachersTEP Charter SchoolUS - NY - New York
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It is impossible to live pleasurably without living prudently, and honorably, and justly; or to live prudently, and honorably, and justly, without living pleasurably."
-- Epicurus,
Greek philosopher
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