There was a time when teaching Social Studies was a downright easy gig. There was a distinct formula to follow that few teachers ever wavered from:
Step one: Define vocabulary terms for the chapter using the definitions found in the back of the book.
Step two: Read the chapter. Sometimes students read aloud, sometimes silently. Few actually remembered any of it.
Step three: Answer the questions at the end of the chapter.
Step four: Long, boring documentary. Take 20 notes.
Step five: Test.
Step six: Repeat for next chapter.
As the years progressed, some of us began to fancy things up a bit with a few new innovations such as bellringers, current events reports, research projects, popcorn reading, and other “exciting” new strategies. However, the basic outline of Social Studies curriculum remained the same. Chapter by chapter, we drudged through the history of the world with one goal in mind: cover the content. Learning was never a goal. Stimulating students minds and making them curious about the world around them was never considered. This is the Social Studies classroom that many of us knew and HATED in our middle school and high school years.
Fortunately, those times have passed and today’s social studies teachers are being held to much higher standards. In many states, the social studies classroom has become an extension of the English and language arts classroom and that’s not a bad thing. Kids who can read can learn more history, interact more effectively with the community and become more informed citizens. Furthermore, the new C3 framework that was recently released from the National Council of Social Studies shifts the focus from teacher-driven instruction to student centered inquiry. The vision: social studies classrooms where students learn and explore as historians, economists, and geographers and where they take ownership over what they learn. If you haven’t checked this out yet, I highly recommend it.
It’s an exciting time to be a social studies teacher. For some of us, it’s a little scary, but for our students this shift is potentially life-changing. For those of us who have been seeking validation for our work in a world obsessed with math and literacy standards, this is our chance to get in on the action.
This summer, I’m taking a hard look at my curriculum and trying to update my own materials to be more in-line with the new C3 framework. I’ve created this website to share my work with my colleagues around the world and I look forward to your feedback and suggestions.