The 21st century has been a very interesting time for those of us who are responsible for the organization of a social studies program within a public school setting. Let’s take a moment to review… 9/11 refocused politicians and ultimately society on the role and responsibility that comes with democracy. Hurricane Katrina made us reevaluate the difference between equity and equality in addition to the true effects of migration. Finally, the elections of this time period exposed flaws and created questions about democracy, equity, equality, immigration, and the effects of misinformation. If we were to analyze these historical events and draw a conclusion in regards to their effects on society, the conclusion would most definitely center around the overall lacking of true historical thinking skills, the lack of true social studies knowledge in our society and most importantly the need for true social studies leadership within a public school system.
When I began teaching personal financial literacy, I learned quickly that my student’s perceptions, interpretations, and beliefs about money were very different from my own. As a former financial adviser, I was comfortable having conversations about money, but in the classroom I struggled to keep my students engaged. I realized that getting them to where I wanted them to be required me to meet them where they were. I needed to adapt my lesson plans to build on their experiences and relationships with personal finances.
Take a moment to think about all the ways we engage students inside and out of the classroom. Part of that work is how we present instruction and resources, and the other half is the content itself. Gone are the days where we are differentiating a textbook from the internet to grapple with direct instructional needs. Even curriculum created by local school districts has to create lessons on discernment of information gathering from a variety of resources. We now are living in a time where primary sources and authentic texts live online and where citations are now being created to reference videos, oral histories, and screenplays. The access to the variety of resources we have at our fingertips is vast and global. Exciting social studies texts and literature exist for your students to gain access to a wide array of diverse and inclusive perspectives from across history.
Many of us think back to grade school and remember story time fondly. Our reading teacher would gather us around on the rug and read aloud from a colorful picture book as we gasped and giggled. You may think that picture book read-alouds are a kind of fun reserved only for reading teachers in elementary school—but not so! Picture books can be a tremendous tool in the social studies classroom at all grade levels for:
As Social Studies educators, we look at our job as preparing our students to be active and productive citizens once they leave the educational setting. Part of being productive citizens is learning to work with others and being able to think critically to solve problems. In our classroom, we need to provide our students the opportunity to develop and practice these important skills. We need to give them the opportunity to develop the necessary communication skills to work with others and the essential skills to solve problems that arise with determination and purpose.
In an era where it seems that every day comes with a “breaking news” headline, and where there is increasing scrutiny regarding what we talk about in our classes, it may seem like a challenge not worth accepting to work current events and controversial topics into our lessons. However, we also know how beneficial it is for students to have a place to engage in tough conversations with their peers, process the events of the world around them, and learn how to engage with media and with one another responsibly. This is the perfect opportunity for a microunit.
Have your friends ever asked you, “Why do you always attend so many trainings?”
The world has changed; many of us no longer feel comfortable and have yet to return to our pre-pandemic “normal.” We live differently with masks, address life differently in our workplaces, and attempt to refocus on what matters most: our safety and our health.
In teaching African American studies—specifically, content centered around the concept of Africa and the African diaspora, Dr. LaGarrett King of the Carter Center for K–12 Black history education at the University of Missouri, asserts that Black history did not begin with enslavement and that in order to understand Africa and its people, its descendants, we have to acknowledge and be open to exploring the similarities and differences of Black histories and cultures from a global perspective.