Wednesday, August 15, 2012

iPad Activities for the Common Core in High School Social Studies

My colleague, Michael Milton, and I have been working this summer on how to integrate the Social Studies aspects of the Common Core's reading and writing standards into our 1:1 iPad environment.  Over the next week or so, we'll be rolling out our ideas and rubrics on this blog and on his:

We broke down the standards into three categories: Green Circle, Blue Square, Black Diamond.  Mike came up with the idea, mostly because he misses skiing in the summertime, but they do represent the degree of difficulty that the standards pose, not only for to students to attain, but also for teachers to implement!

The standards themselves are linked up here.  Inserting them into this document would make it incredibly lengthy, so I'll cross-reference them based on their number. (RH refers to Reading Standards for Literacy in History/Social Studies, and the # refers to the numbered standards in the 9-10 band)  However, though these are the 9-10 standards, the activities work just as well in the 6-8 and the 11-12 band. (or, if you prefer, Padawans, Jedi Knights and Jedi Masters can do all of these too...)

Below, I've compiled a preliminary list of ways that the iPad could be used in class to hit the various standards laid out for grades 9-10. Wherever possible, I am using only free apps. This is by no means an exhaustive list, but it is what came to mind while thinking about the standards and how to use them in my class.

Green Circle ideas:

RH-1, 2, 3 History Head activities (picture of an empty head in profile, use any drawing app to draw or write or paste in words and images inside and around it): what was the author thinking? What's the purpose he or she was trying to express? What are images that represent the ideas of the document? Students can then post the filled head to their blogs, email it to the teacher, share (using Bump) with a partner and write about what you included that the partner did not.  You could also do this using VoiceThread and students can comment/write back to each other.

RH-1 Timeliner activity. At the start of the class, students should create a chronology of events (or the teacher can provide one) that they modify as the class proceeds. Students should place the documents they analyze on the timeline of contemporaneous events made using, constructed through other apps like doodlebuddy/educreations, or on paper and photographed and shared via bump, email, blog, twitter or edmodo.

RH-2 Summarizer activities: What do you know, what do you think you know, what do you want to know about what this document tells you, use educreations/showme to create slides and record the students voices articulating their answers to the above prompts.

RH-3 Cause and effect: what happens first, second, third, and show causation using educreations or showme--talk through the events of the document with accompanying text. Students could also use a diagramming app like InFlowChartLite to map out the events using different geometric shapes to contain the event sequence.

Blue Square Ideas:

RH-4 Twitter vocabulary activities: tweet the word, an image to define the word, a sentence that uses the word, hashtags for the document so the teacher can project the tweets on the board with an lcd, or students can follow using Hootsuite's app to view the feed, then vote on which images best capture the meaning of the word in a Google Form, or again, through Twitter itself by re-tweeting their favorites. (Note: Sadly, many schools block Twitter.  You can get much of the same functionality through isn't exactly Twitter, but it is, as they say, a "walled garden" social network that schools should find acceptable. It's free and web-based, but doesn't have an app as far as I know. would also do for this type of activity as well.)

RH-4, 5 Electronic take a sip: import a PDF'd document into Notability/SundryNote/Evernote, and go through and indicate the most important word/sentence/point in a paragraph, or in the document by highlighting/circling/underlining/color-shifting, then share with partner to see his or her agreement/disagreement with the selections. Students can then share into a group of 4 then report out to the class by any of the following: plugging into the LCD projector to show, use bump to share, tweet the document, post on their blogs. Students can also decide what tags/labels to apply to the document, rendering it then searchable within their notes, and compilable with similar documents

RH-4, 5 Wordle creation: political words, economic words, track repetition of terms and create a wordle. The problem with is that it doesn't work on the iPad (Flash based). So students could compile words and share them with the teacher (through any cloud-based app), who can then use a laptop to create the Wordle, which can then be shared with the students to discuss the meanings of the words, why it is that some words were more prominent than others, and what that says about them as a group that they chose these words

RH-4 Blog post/wiki/Google doc/form with definition of terms: originate and share a running term sheet that students add to using their own words. The teacher can create a Google Form with the words ahead of time and provide space for the students to write in a definition to the term and suggest alternative words--synonyms and antonyms, for example. The final spreadsheet can then be shared back with the students, or incorporated into the Wordle activity above.

RH-5 Students can demonstrate their understanding of the structure of a document by using InFlowChartLite or another diagramming app like educreations/showme to diagram the structure of the document.  Prompt them with questions like: How is it set up?  What is the order of the presentation of information? What are the points the author wishes to convey and what is the evidence he/she uses to support those points? What if you re-order his or her argument? Does that make it more or less effective?

RH-6 You can also modify the above History Head (RH 1, 2, 3) activity to show different points of view on the topic. Or you can use an app like Instagram to encourage students to take and then modify pictures related to the document. For instance, the famous painting of Washington crossing the Delaware, or Columbus arriving in this hemisphere.  What do they wish to convey through their modifications to the image?  How do the modifications change the impact or meaning of the original document?

RH-6 Venn Diagrams: compare and contrast two documents for similar and different points. There isn't a good app that I've found for creating Venn Diagrams including text yet. So they would have to make their own diagram.  They could do this in their own notetaking/productivity app, or they could draw them by hand, then snap a photo and upload it to their blog.

Black Diamond Ideas:

RH-7, 8 Data: make graphs and charts using population/demographic data; share graphs and charts through qr codes and then have students answer questions that are posted in a google form. (Apps like Graph, Glimpse allow for this creation; a Google Form can also be used to generate charts, graphs, etc. similar to what excel can do, but this works best on laptops, not iPads. So far...). They can also create their graphs/charts the old-fashioned way and snap photos of them. Students can then embed their data into blog posts that analyze the document in light of the data--are the claims accurate? does the author's use of data match up with a secondary source's use of the data?

RH-8 Two columns of opinion vs. evidence.  use educreations/showme/inflowchart/sundrynote to discriminate between the two opinions. Use the same apps to present the evidence used in more than one document and record themselves talking about which is better, then share it. Students can chart out the author's argument and point to areas of strength and weakness in the claims and evidence used in support.  In the event that the author is still living, students can also see if he or she has a Twitter feed or Facebook page and then contact the author to discuss his or her argument. Students could also model the authors' argument via a wikispace.  One student represents one point of view the partner takes the opposite.  Students must then write their argument in the wiki and incorporate evidence to support their points. Because most wikis will only allow one person to write at a time, they have a built in wait time to see what the other student writes before they jump in.  A Google Doc will do the same thing, just allow for simultaneous writing.  At the end, have the class decide who "won" based on who used the better evidence, and who presented the clearer opinion as a result of the better use of evidence.

RH-8, 9 Students can use Blogger, WordPress, Posterous, or Tumblr apps to compose a blog post reflecting on comparing and contrasting different treatment of the same topic in several primary and secondary sources. They should be encouraged to select the "best" document and explain why that is their choice as the most effective document of the options. They should then be encouraged to post back and forth on the blogs about the contents of the original posts. Their posts do not have to be only words either.  They could use a series of scaled images to represent varying degrees of effectiveness, again, Wordle could be used, collages of facts...blogs can be more than just words on a screen!


  1. WOW! How awesome that each activity is linked to a standard! I'd be interested to know what cloud-based apps you use for students to send their work. I use Posterous but not all work is appropriate or ready for blogging.

    1. Yeah, blogging is ok, but not a perfect platform for everything. I've not found any great single one, but students can create a folder in drop box and share work with me via that, or through google docs and do the same. They can also create a binder in and invite me to view it, which sometimes works the best, but is a bit clunky and limited by size too. They can email stuff to me that they create in something like Evernote, but that just clutters my inbox, so I'm not a fan of that either...If I encounter one that is great, I'll be sure to let you know!

  2. This is an impressive array of standards-connected activities. RH-8 strikes me as the most complicated and the one that would require the most advance pre-teaching of what constitutes "good" evidence; what makes for a persuasive argument, etc. In reality, all of these involve pre-teaching of some types of concepts, so my comment may be irrelevant! I would like to see these in the context of a unit plan (or a weekly lesson plan) - which I realize is not the point here!

    1. There is a pre-supposition that this type of instruction is going on (about saliency determination/parsing of evidence, etc.) that sadly probably doesn't happen enough--I'm still shocked by how many teachers don't know how to really make students create their own "crap filter" for the research they do...

      and Big Red, don't spoil the surprises! We're doing the rubric template next and then the weekly/unit level stuff will be coming as we do it this school year...stay tuned!

  3. You noted that there is no app that included Venn diagrams. I am an iOS app developer. What would you like to see in an app that includes Venn diagrams?

    Nathaniel Wyckoff
    Twitter: @DrWyckoff

    1. Hi Nathaniel-
      The app that I think would be the most helpful is one that would allow students to do a number of things to arrange material in visually descriptive ways. For example, in a venn diagram, I have my students show the similarities and differences in Indian and Chinese patriarchal societies. They do this by physically drawing the circles, then adding in either words or images in the appropriate spaces in the diagram to help reveal those similarities and differences. An app that would allow them to do exactly that (create the circles, overlay them, and then import images, drawings or color coded words) would add a layer of functionality to the iPad as a learning tool that could be combined with other pre-set or pre-formatted graphic organizers that are commonly used in schools. (word webs, t-charts, grid-layouts, etc.) I know nothing about app creation, but let me know if you create one like it and I'll be happy to pilot it for you in my classes!

    2. I've been playing around with Lucid Chart for Education as a Venn Diagram tool. Have you looked into that?