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This Week in NHD: Overcoming the Wall

Student Historians have been overcoming challenges related to their in-depth, student-centered National History Day projects while persevering and finding success as they wind up their research and continue their note taking.
I have noted with interest how so many students (and teachers) lately seem to be focused on the finish line and completing these projects when, to me, the process, not necessarily the product, is essential. 
It's natural, I suppose, to want a project completed and "checked off" of a To Do list, but the true test for these Student Historians lies in the multitude of steps that must be taken to get to this end result. These steps should be celebrated and acknowledged. Rushing this process doesn't give students ample time to be mindful of the many components of the project or have the chance to reflect upon their work, step by step. Time can even demonstrate the worthiness of an assignment. We model this worthiness by continuing this work over the…

The Power of Support

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Yesterday's National History Day work featured the power of support. Eighth Grade Student Historians were once again fortunate to have Ms. Bradfield, State Coordinator for Michigan History Day, join us, along with our Teacher Librarian Mrs. Chatel. I'm happy to say that Ms. Bradfield will be joining 8th Graders from Smith Middle School in two weeks.
Students were able to ask Ms. Bradfield questions about topics, finding sources, and thesis development. They were also able to learn more from Mrs. Chatel about maximizing the benefits of Noodle Tools for research, digital note cards, and citations for their Annotated Bibliographies. 
My expertise in assisting students with National History Day projects is strong. My reaching out to other experts, though, hopefully demonstrates to my students my firm belief in Synergy. This notion that we are stronger together when we work with and learn from others should be practiced and reflected upon often.
I have worked alongside and served …

Symbaloo

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Link to my NHD Symbaloo Webmix 
Symbaloo is one of the best technology resources I've found to assist my Student Historians and me on our National History Day journey this year. 
I learned about Symbaloo at the MACUL (Michigan Association for Computer Users in Learning) Conference this past March. I was intrigued by its ease of use and by the company's commitment to education. My first thought was to utilize this resource for National History Day.
Over the summer I created a Symbaloo Webmix to simplify the NHD process. Developing the Webmix was a matter of breaking down the project components (thinking about possible topics of interest, understanding the theme, pre-searching, researching, writing the thesis question, learning about project types, seeing project examples, creating digital note cards, housing resources, developing an Annotated Bibliography, and learning about the contest) and creating tiles for each these web links. 
The left side of the Webmix focuses on researc…

The Wall: Update

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Students did experience "The Wall" today while working on their National History Day projects (see yesterday's post). One group finally overcame a challenge today and it was really exciting to witness.
Two students have been interested in learning more about the Salem Witch Trials, but have been struggling with developing their thesis. (I studied this topic in depth in college--the trials were about economics, class struggle and sociology, not about "witchcraft" at all.) This year's theme is challenging, which added to their frustration. I guided, but mostly listened. Reminding these Historians that they have a powerful topic (which they do) gave them the encouragement to take the risk and try again. Walking them through developing a thesis that gave their audience more factual information was important. We also talked about how not "showing your hand", but creating curiosity about your topic, is key. 
This team has been trying to create a persua…

This Week in NHD: The Wall

Student Historians will continue work tomorrow on their National History  Day research. We are at the point in the process that all of the students will experience frustration and a setback or two of various degrees. This is what I've termed "The Wall".
Creative, open-ended projects are messy. 
Project-Based learning is messy. 
One "correct" answer doesn't exist to solve the problem. 
The learning that takes place doesn't follow a prescribed plan and it's not linear. 
This is disconcerting to students, especially those that have found great success with traditional education. Parents and teachers want to help students but the best thing we can do when the going gets challenging for them is to walk our talk.
We consistently tell our students that we believe in them and in their abilities (and we mean it). We let them know we think they are capable of great things. 
It's our time to show them. 
We cannot rush in to "fix things", though,…

This Week in NHD: 4Cs Theme Analysis

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This week featured a deep dive into this year's theme utilizing a graphic organizer (entitled "The 4Cs") from the National History Day organization. We were fortunate to have Ms. Amy Bradfield, Education Services Manager with the Historical Society of Michigan, observe part of 5th and all of 6th hour Tuesday. Ms. Bradfield helped us all (myself included) enhance our understanding of the theme and I'm truly grateful for her knowledge and expertise! 
The Cs refer to Conflict, Compromise, Context, and Change. The first two, Conflict and Compromise, represents the lens all students must view their topic in History through. Students do not have to represent the conflict and the compromise of a topic equally, it's perfectly acceptable to have an uneven representation of the two, as long as both are reflected in the thesis, document selection, and persuasive justification. Students need to clearly state the problem of the situation and the give-and-take involved in the…

I'm a Better Teacher because of Twitter

Twitter has transformed my life as a teacher. The world has become much smaller and the role my students play within it has grown due to this social media outlet.
Twitter is a terrific way for me to allow parents and the community to witness our learning in action. The teens in my classroom may not always connect with their parents about their day. Posting the successes and events happening in our room 2-3 days a week (on average) enables parents to have a starting point for conversations about the learning and thinking that occurs. 
Twitter brings the world into our classroom. I have followed and been followed by leaders in Historical research, Authors, Educators, and educational organizations. My Student Historians and I have been assisted time and again by these experts and my students are excited to take part in these adventures. (So am I!) We've Tweeted to authors during Skype sessions, interacted with the National History Day Webmaster, been asked to Tweet our thoughts rega…