NBC Learn K-12 Subscriber Spotlight: Read It and See It - Enhancing Social Studies Lessons with NBC Learn
After nearly two decades in the same profession, many would assume that an average individual would simply coast on their laurels. But talk to any good teacher and you’ll quickly learn that the very best continue to experiment, tweak, and enhance even their best lessons. For Heidi Geisler, a 5th grade teacher at Grewenow Elementary in Kenosha, Wisconsin, the advent of technology has opened up a world of opportunities that simply weren’t available at the beginning of her 18-year career. Gone are the days of having students read out of a text book and complete a worksheet. Today, with assistance from NBC Learn, she’s able to have her students engage with the material in a multitude of ways.
“I like for them to read it, but I also like for them to see it,” says Geisler. “Once they see the video clips, then we talk about it. What kind of information do they have that relates to our social studies book? Sometimes [the video] gets us more in depth from what is in our book.”
While social studies textbooks generally provide broad overviews of various topics, NBC Learn’s social studies stories delve deeper into key moments and controversies from throughout history. Geisler loves that the videos feature experts like Professor Maria Montoya from New York University or Professor Craig Wilder from Dartmouth College. Each professor paints a vivid picture about some of the challenges associated with settling in the colonies and governing a new nation after American independence with their detailed descriptions of the events.
“[Students] get to see the firsthand knowledge,” says Geisler. “They get to see professors and experts talking about the subject that we are talking about.”
Unlike longer, hour-long documentaries that have been broadcast on television about the American Revolution or the Civil War, NBC Learn’s stories have been crafted specifically for teachers to use in their classrooms. They’re concise and to the point.
“What I like most is that they are short,” says Geisler. “You don’t have to watch a video for 30 minutes to get the idea because we have already read about it. I like that they get to the meat of the subject right away.”
In addition to using the stories to reinforce some key concepts from her text book, she’ll also use NBC Learn resources as a way to introduce new topics to her students and pique their interests about what they are going to be learning next. Geisler finds a way to use at least one NBC Learn video in each of her lessons.
“I go through my curriculum and my lesson and I look on the NBC Learn site for videos that go along with my lesson,” says Geisler. “For example, we just did Westward Expansion. So I showed a video on the Oregon Trail and moving across the United States. I showed them a video about the Mormons, why the Mormons went across and went from one part of the state and why they were being persecuted and why they decided to sell the land and move to Utah.”
With over 20,000 resources to choose from, Geisler has developed a key method of finding the videos that are going to be most interesting to her students.
“I try to find those videos that are more current as opposed to those that are a little older,” says Geisler. “I look at all the videos and then I decide which ones my kids would be most interested in. I spend a lot of time going through the videos and seeing which ones are most appropriate for my age group and which ones are attention grabbing.”
The easiest way to find the most recent videos in a specific collection is to use the filtering tools found on the top of every page. By simply sorting by the air/publish date, Geisler is able to find the most relevant and recent videos that discuss topics she is covering, like during a recent lesson about the American Revolution. She showed her students the video George Washington, Victories in War and Peace.
“We talked a lot about George Washington,” says Geisler. “I would show a clip about George Washington and then we also did an exploration project on George Washington. And a lot of times the kids would ask, ‘Hey can I go back and watch that video again? Can I see what they said about George Washington?’ A lot of times I get that request. It makes it more concrete in their minds.”
When a concept is more concrete in a student’s mind, they are more likely to recall the information in the future and can start to draw connections between that information and newly acquired knowledge in subsequent lessons. Engaging with NBC Learn videos gives students access to multiple memorable, authentic learning experiences. For Geisler, she has developed quite an affinity for NBC Learn and was pleasantly surprised to stumble upon resources that could be used in other classes as well.
“I love the site. I think it is user friendly and not only is it good for social studies, there is other stuff on there that is good for science,” says Geisler. “I don’t teach science, but I know I’ve been talking about the science materials with my colleague and I know that he has been looking at things on there for that. It is so great for current events and I really appreciate being able to use this kind of site with my social studies curriculum.”