Critical thinking is more than just being able to think clearly about a topic or a problem. It is a crucial life skill that every student must learn.
Many of our students will not learn this essential skill at home, so it becomes extraordinarily important to increase critical thinking at school. (In the meantime, you can get parents more engaged with our Parent Accounts.)
Teachers have actually been using Studies Weekly to incorporate critical thinking skills in their classrooms for decades. Here are some ideas that we’ve come across.
1. Start by Asking a Question
The easiest way to increase critical thinking in your students is to begin your lesson with an open-ended question. The question should require some research and problem solving.
One thing we encourage teachers to do is have students read an article out of their Studies Weekly and discuss it as a class. What are the similarities between the people in the article and your students? What might your students do differently for alternative outcome?
2. Have Students Collaborate
Collaboration is not only an essential skill for critical thinking, but it will serve your students well to learn now how to cooperate with peers. As students gather around their Studies Weekly and discuss a problem, they are able to come to conclusions and process information by learning from their peers.
3. Hold a Mock Debate
Holding a debate is a great way to increase critical thinking about both sides of an issue. Take an issue from your Studies Weekly publications for the week and have students discuss each side. Ask a question and have students take turns debating their stance.
If students are up for it (older kids might be “too cool” at this point so gauge what will work best for your class!), you could even have them role play both sides. Seeing it from another perspective can be a great way to get students thinking analytically and creatively about a problem or issue.
4. Increase Critical Thinking Through Information Fluency
Information fluency is a key ingredient in critical thinking. This involves knowing how to use the information you gather to determine what is useful and appropriate, and what is not. When you ask your question at the beginning of the lesson, pull out some phrases from the Studies Weekly text and write them on the board. Have students decide based on the question which pieces of information are useful and which are not.
5. Teach Open-Ended Problem-Solving
Assign a student or a group of students a problem. Perhaps they have to build a tower or hat out of unrelated out of unrelated, very different ingredients. The goal of the project is to get students learning how to problem solve. There will be a lot of trial and error and discovery, as students are forced to try different things to accomplish the goal.
Critical thinking is an essential skill for your students to have a successful adult life. For more of our classroom ideas and to download some free lesson plans, subscribe to our newsletter. Or you can sign up for a free trial of Studies Weekly.
Did you know your Studies Weekly print publications already have a subscription to our online tool? We are always surprised to find out when teachers who have been using Studies Weekly print materials for years are not also taking advantage of the online side of their products!
Whether you are a parent, teacher, or even a student, Studies Weekly’s online format is user-friendly and thoughtfully designed. Here are some of the different functionalities available to you through Studies Weekly online for your respective role.
Registering and logging in is easy. If you have a Studies Weekly print publication in your classroom, then your online account already exists; you just have to go in and register to “activate” it. You can find instructions on registering in this article.
Here are some of the key features of your online account:
1. Give assessments
Each week, we provide assessments that correlate with the article. This can be accessed by clicking on the Reading tab and selecting the publication you’re using. You will then have the option to activate and edit the test, as shown:
When the test is activated, your students will be able to go in and take it. While testing, their responses will autosave every time a student types into a field or selects an answer.
2. Read along with students
We provide an auto-reader that will read aloud when you click the play icon. Each word is highlighted when read so that students can follow along with ease.
Not only does it help with student comprehension but it also comes in handy when your voice needs a break. We have a wide range of accents and characters to keep students entertained and engaged with the topic being discussed.
3. Get a picture of student progress
Studies Weekly online includes a robust reporting structure. Select your class from the right-hand side of your screen, to view your list of students. Just click on the Reports link in the top right corner to access the reports for your class:
Alternatively, you can access all of your reports for all of your classes by clicking on the Reports tab at the top of any page once you have logged into your Studies Weekly online teacher account:
For your reports, you have two tabs at the top: 1) SLI (Student Learning Index) Report; and 2) Utilization Report. You have the option to export student report data to Excel in CSV format or view in a browser by selecting Search. Either view of the report will give you a clear picture of what your students are working on and how they’re progressing.
4. Measure Students’ Engagement
With the new online student reporting tools within our Gradebook, you can see all of the students’ activities in each of your classes on one screen. This tool will give you a snapshot of which of your students are participating heavily and which ones might need a little more encouragement.
With this tool, you can also see which test questions students might be struggling with, and which answers they might have just skipped over.
5. Share Student Progress with Parents
Parents love to know how their child is doing in class. With the new online student reporting tools, you can export student data to Excel and share with parents individually. For a student who is struggling, seeing a snapshot of their engagement may be just what their parents need.
Furthermore, you can increase parent involvement with our Parent Accounts. This tool allows parents to closely monitor how their kids are doing and how they’re using Studies Weekly’s online resources.
6. Take advantage of professional development opportunities.
Once you have logged in to your teacher account on Studies Weekly, you’ll have instant access to all of our professional development articles and videos. The Professional Development Training link is front and center for your convenience. Start logging those hours!
Within the professional development tab, clicking on the module itself will launch right in your browser. Alternatively, we have provided a download link in the bottom right corner of each module so you can download and view later.
We make it easy to filter your results so you only see the type of media that you want to see. Under “Show only these types” at the top of the site, clicking these options will eliminate that option from your filter. Click on the other two options to narrow down your filter to the one you want.
You can perform a search using the search box on the upper lefthand side. Note that the search box in the upper right will search the entire Studies Weekly site. The one on the left will search Professional Development files only.
Most classrooms in the U.S. are connected to the internet today. The internet can be a significant online learning tool in your classroom, but because different students learn at different speeds and in different ways, tools that teach using a variety of methods are extremely important.
To facilitate the best online learning, Studies Weekly designed and created Student Accounts. Student Accounts allow students to work through our online materials at their pace in the way that they understand it best. Here are a few key features of our Student Accounts that will keep students more engaged and improve their learning.
1. Bilingual Content
Students who are English Language Learners (ELLs) make up a large population of our nation’s schools. According to the National Center for Education Statistics, Spanish is the primary language spoken at home for 3.7 million students or about 7.6 percent of students in grades K-12 in the United States. The percentage of ELL students in certain states such as California is as high as 25 percent.
With this in mind, and to serve our Spanish immersion classrooms that use Studies Weekly, our online reading sections and assessments are available in Spanish.
To view the Spanish language versions of the publications, click “Reading” at the top of the page and collapse the tab labeled “Leveled Readers.”
Students are able to highlight passages of text. Teachers make this tool even more valuable when they incorporate highlighting into their lessons.
For instance, you can have students highlight the verbs as they see them in their reading, or highlight all of the proper nouns they see throughout the copy. This fulfills many of the ELA standards while teaching students essential social studies concepts.
To administer assessments to your students, just go into your Teacher Account and activate the test for the section you are working on. The reading sections prepare students for the questions at the end of the unit.
One of the benefits of the assessments is that they utilize a variety of question types: drag and drop, fill in the blank, true or false, multiple choice, etc. We have closely assessed the standards to make sure that both our digital and print materials adhere closely to the standards for each state.
Parents and teachers know that the best way to motivate children is through rewarding positive behavior. As students complete their reading or listening to the text, they earn virtual coin rewards. Students will also have to search the site to earn some of the rewards. (Don’t worry, we give pretty good clues!)
Students can redeem their rewards for items for a virtual pet.
Many of the reading sections also include games. Students can play developmentally appropriate games such as MisSpilled, a game that helps students identify misspelled and correctly spelled words. There are also crossword puzzles that incorporate ideas and vocabulary from the reading.
5. Online Learning Progress Tracking
As a kid, few things are quite as frustrating as not being able to track progress. (Ever been on a road trip with a 6-year-old? Do the words “Are we there yet?” set off any alarms?) With our online tool, students can track their own progress. Students will get through the material and retain more of it when they can see their progress nearing the finish line.
6. Audio & Visual Features
The content in our online component is identical to the print publications you receive in your classroom each week. With the online tool, however, the content has sound and visual components as well. We also have thousands of videos, and most likely, at least one that correlates with each topic.
We understand you often need to cater to your students’ unique personalities and learning styles. That’s why we’ve included these options to help you.
As a teacher, one of the most difficult things about your responsibility to students is teaching them real-world, real-time applications of events in history. Elementary school students now were not even born when historically significant events such as the September 11 attacks occurred, but most of you can probably remember where you were and what you were doing on that fateful day. So what is primary source media and how can you use these valuable tools we offer in your classroom?
Primary Source Media Explained
Primary source media is used to teach students about events that occurred before and during their lifetime. With primary source, students as young as kindergarten age are able to learn concepts and glean meaning from events that would otherwise be out of sight and therefore out of mind. There are many different categories of primary source media, including but not limited to the following:
After logging into your teacher account at Studies Weekly, you will have access to images of diary pages and letters from notable figures in history. Some of these figures include Joan Mulholland, one of the key figures in the Freedom Rides, Anne Frank, and many more.
In our weekly publications as well as our online tools, we talk about and share images of works of art and literature. The only culture that our students and our kids will know about and understand is what is passed down to them from the generations before. This is what makes primary source so crucial to students now.
It’s Like You’re There
Some of the greatest tools that we have in our online library are the audio and video recordings. Never been to Europe? Take a virtual field trip through Amsterdam, Germany, or Paris. Our video team is led by an award-winning director who produced our Veterans Day assembly video, and they have created videos on virtually every imaginable topic. We’ve conducted interviews with many notable figures in history. Some of our conversations include those with veterans, small business leaders, and more.
Endless Classroom Tools and Resources
We have many photographs and posters available for teachers to use in their classrooms. Primary source values of observation, reflection, and questioning are some of the best ways to teach this. We have many teachers who have been using our publications for several years, including award-winning California teacher, Cathy Marston.
Perhaps the best part about our primary source tools is that they are already included in your print subscription. Many of our teachers are still unaware that their print subscription automatically includes access to our online tools as well. If you have not registered for an online teacher account yet, you can here.
It’s been a great month here at Studies Weekly. With our amazing social studies materials hot off the presses, we are getting ready to ship these out to teachers all over the country. We couldn’t do what we do without all of you, and we are deeply appreciative. We wanted to start off this month with a recap of what’s been going on as well as give you a look ahead of what we’ll be up to this spring.
Changes to Our Website
To start off, we enjoyed some fun victories this month. The Teacher Accounts side of our website underwent some changes that rolled out on February 2. As a Studies Weekly subscriber to our print social studies materials, you already have access to our online component as well. If you are using Studies Weekly online (and you should!), you probably noticed the following updates:
Some of our staff was able to visit a couple of classrooms that are using Studies Weekly successfully. We were able to watch a unique presentation by Harriet Tubman herself, and got it all on video. Click here to see the exclusive video on our YouTube channel.
Regional Manager Visits
Some of our regional managers were able to attend publishers fairs in February as well. These were great opportunities for us to get out and talk to some of our customers. We really enjoyed getting to know some of you and featuring some of our products. If you are interested in meeting with one of our regional managers when they’re in your area, please check out our calendar by clicking here.
Upcoming Education Conference
Coming up this month, we will be attending ASCD Empower18 in Boston, MA. If you’ll be there too, we would love to meet you. Stop by our booth and say hi when you have the time. We had a blast at last year’s NCSS 2017 Conference, Just like last time, we will again be giving away a lot of swag and some great prizes. Stop by and try your luck at winning a tablet, Studies Weekly swag, and more! We will also have samples of our award-winning social studies materials, so check them out.
Order a Sample or Free Trial
In the meantime, you don’t have to attend a conference to have access to our awesome publication, free newsletters and lesson plans, and thousands of original, exclusive videos. Start your free 30 Day Trial or stop by our online shop for a free sample of Studies Weekly!