Why the “Essential Question” Persists

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Jon and I had another excellent day with our friends at the Uncommon Schools charter network in Newark last week. It was particularly gratifying to see how deeply the Uncommon middle school team has embedded the 4QM and, in particular, storytelling into their planning and teaching. Uncommon History teachers in the middle grades now charge… Read more »

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4QM Reading Is For Teachers Too!

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I’m working with an MAT (Master’s in the Art of Teaching) student this year. She’s assisting in two of my classes, and in the spring she’ll take primary responsibility for one of them part of the time. She’s terrific: smart, engaged, thoughtful, and dedicated; I think she’s going to be an awesome teacher. One of… Read more »

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Three Ways to Tell (and Retell) a Story

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Here are three ways we can teach our students a story about something interesting or important that happened in the human world:  We can give them a reading (or video) that contains the story and teach them how to find that story in the reading (or video) We can tell them the story ourselves, out… Read more »

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College Board Code

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I’m teaching an AP course this year: AP World History. (I reverse the title so that I can call it “WHAP” in all my materials.) It’s been some years since I’ve been so intimate with the College Board, and this is my first AP course since Gary and I finalized our Four Questions and started… Read more »

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Student-Centered Storytelling

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Students can’t intuit history. They can’t know what happened in other times and places unless someone shares that information with them. Once they’ve learned enough history, they can begin to make educated guesses. But even then, they need to check reliable sources in order to confirm or, more likely, correct their guesses. In any case,… Read more »

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Why Stories Work

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At our workshops, Jon and I typically tease the audience with imaginary swag. We don’t have any — no pens, no mugs, no stickers. If we did, our swag would be T shirts that said “Story First!” on the front, and each workshop participant would get one. Alas, no T shirts either… So we believe… Read more »

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Natalie Wexler Says, “Story First!”

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“The fact is, history is a series of stories. And kids love stories” (Wexler 28).   At the end of the summer Gary told me I should read Natalie Wexler’s book The Knowledge Gap, and since Gary gives very good advice, I did. Wexler writes about the failure of American schools to teach reading effectively,… Read more »

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China, Japan, and Explanatory Turtles

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About a month ago I wrote a post about China and Japan’s different responses to Western imperialism, and how that made a perfect Question Three puzzle. (You can read that post here.) Today I’m circling back to that topic because I recently had a conference about it with student, and I think the conference was… Read more »

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What Are Final Exams For?

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Our school gives collegiate-style final exams. At the end of June, when regular classes are done for the year, we schedule students for 90 minute exam blocks in each of the major academic subjects. All students, even the 9th graders, come in just for exams and otherwise study or sleep or wander where they will.… Read more »

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If you’re a serious student of history and the social sciences you know that data presentations can be very powerful. (Think of national debt curves, or social class pyramids, just to name two.) But knowing that data presentations are powerful, and knowing how to actually make the kind of tables, charts, and graphs that make… Read more »

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