Creating "learning tools": making our thinking visible in Social Studies

     At the end of last week, when we were getting ready for our big Social Studies unit test, I finally fished out the “Learning Tools” notes I’d taken at my last workshop at TC.  Mark had presented a “walk through” of this idea of  making our thinking visual in Social Studies.  
We had spent about three weeks on the Constitution and our plan of government – pretty dry and boring stuff for most sixth graders.  It was time to review, and I thought that creating these “learning tools” would be one way to revisit the abstract ideas which underpin the entire unit.
      As Mark had suggested, I presented a “purpose” lesson so that my students would see why we were undertaking this – to focus on big ideas in our unit of study.  We used our notes to brainstorm people, ideas, quotes and words which summed up these important ideas – this was essential because this was our first try at this, and I wanted to make sure everyone got” the idea.
     Next, as Mark had done, I presented a “craft” lesson – how to go about zooming in on important information, close ups, and how to best make these come alive visually.  We practiced in our social studies notebook (another important step), and then finally created the cards seen in the pictures above.  I think my kids, as usual, exceeded expectation.  Many pulled together strands of one important idea – pretty sophisticated stuff for sixth grade.  
     Finally, we did a gallery walk – with students using their notebooks to jot down key ideas.  I loved watching them make their way around the room, respectful of and interested in what their classmates had to say – and think.   At the end, when we “summed up”, everyone felt that they had, in essence, reviewed the entire unit….mission accomplished!!  


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