NBC Learn K-12 Subscriber Spotlight: Bringing an Abstract Concept to Life in a 6th Grade Classroom

Posted on 01/10/2017 09:38 AM

How do you define ‘government’?

Even for those of us who vote and participate in our democratic republic, defining the role and purpose of government can be difficult. Now imagine trying to explain the nuances, complexities and different facets of government to a 6th grader. It’s a challenge that Melissa Hatcher, a social studies teacher at Faubion Middle School in McKinney, TX, wrestles with frequently.   

“My favorite thing in the whole wide world is to try to bring an abstract concept to life,” says Hatcher.  “When I talk about ‘government,’ that is such an abstract term for a 6th grader.”

Over her 30 years of teaching, Hatcher has tried different strategies to help her students understand the concept of government, but she has settled on one method that seems to help them grasp it.

“I can give them books to read and stories, but they need those to come alive with a video sometimes,” says Hatcher. “So when I can, I put on a video that helps enlighten [the concept].”

Hatcher often scoured the internet for videos directly related to her lessons, but frequently hit roadblocks, such as advertisements and popups, or even simply finding a video that was both appropriate and relevant to her lesson. Then Hatcher discovered NBC Learn K-12. With thousands of archival stories that date back to the 1920s, current events stories that are updated every day of the week, award-winning original stories, and even primary source documents, letters and images, NBC Learn helps Hatcher invigorate her lessons.

“It is very easy to sort through NBC Learn. There aren’t any commercials or any ads that pop up,” says Hatcher. “If you go to YouTube or TeacherTube, there are still things that pop up, but that doesn’t happen with NBC Learn. I don’t have to go through hoops. It is very safe for my kids.”

Beyond just the ease of use, the stories on NBC Learn have helped revolutionize her classroom. She relies mostly on NBC Learn’s US Government & Politics collection to help bring the concepts of government to life for her students.

“From a kid point of view, there’s some really great, interesting things there that piques their interest,” says Hatcher. “They bring the abstract to the concrete. Terms that opens their eyes and opens their worlds. Even if it just opens the window a little bit, it just allows them to say, ‘Oh wow, I didn’t know that was out there.’”

To help increase technology usage, Hatcher’s school district implemented a 1:1 computer initiative and adopted the Canvas learning management system. Since NBC Learn embeds seamlessly into Canvas, Hatcher has used the videos to inspire rigorous conversations among her students. 

“The idea of blended learning is that you have the technology and you have the videos because the kids have their hands on computers,” says Hatcher. “It is very easy to show, or present, or see a video and then for us to have discussions. Whether they be verbal or they do it in a Facebook style, where they comment and they read each other’s comments. That is very powerful also.”

Using NBC Learn resources as a jumping off point for in-depth discussions has helped push the thinking of Hatcher’s students and helped expose them to new ideas and perspectives. While she has taken the time to find all the videos that are shown during her lessons, she was ecstatic to learn that her students can also search the more than 20,000 resources from NBC Learn independently.

“When the kids open up their Canvas accounts, NBC Learn is right there,” says Hatcher. “I was so glad to see that they have the ability to go click on it themselves, because that is a skill they need as they get older and to be able to sort through and decide.”

In this day of fake news, the importance of information literacy has grown dramatically. A recent study from Stanford University has highlighted the worrying reality that students are struggling to evaluate the credibility of information they find online. By utilizing NBC Learn resources in her classroom, Hatcher is not only bringing concepts to life but also teaching her students about the value of evaluating sources and consuming information with a discerning eye.

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