New Standards – New Lesson Plans

We’ve known that we are getting new Social Studies standards in Kentucky for a few years now. We’ve belly-ached and moaned about the out-dated and vague nature of the Kentucky Core Content for Assessment in Social Studies for much longer than that. As non-ideal as the old Core Content was, it was comfortable – like my favorite pair of garden gloves. I’ve done hard work with those standards and my practices have grown to fit within their constrains. As long as I can hide behind those knowledge-based standards, I’m safe from getting dirty with these new, fandangled common core initiatives. I throw in a primary source analysis here, an argumentative writing assignment there – but as long as I was accountable for the state standards I’ve never really felt like all of the new teaching expectations really applied to me. Oh, I can speak the lingo and put on a good horse and pony show when the need arises, but at the end of the year I’m accountable for students knowledge in Social Studies. That’s all changing in the next year or so and I’ve got to face a harsh yet thrilling reality: ALL OF MY LESSON PLANS HAVE TO CHANGE.

You see, my lesson plans have become a little stagnant over the past couple of years. I’ve put off any major overhauls because of the ever-looming threc3 social studies lesson plansat of new standards. I’ve tweaked here and there, but actually changed very little. Looking at them now, I realize that I’m going to have to change almost everything. My current lesson plans are all written with the goal of learning facts. Each unit has a specific set of learning targets that must be mastered and they are mostly cause and effect relationships and vocabulary terms. The new standards will have the goal of teaching students to ask questions and find their own answers, to interpret texts and become historical thinkers and to become civic minded citizens. We’re not in Kansas anymore, Todo.

To be honest, I’m overwhelmed. Three years ago, my lesson plans were pristine. They were exemplar. They were… perfect. Now, they are crap. Let’s face it, they always were crap. They were really pretty, shiny crap that I held high on a pedestal for a long time. My old lesson plans are about as useful in today’s teaching world as a cassette player.

I need new lesson plans. I need a lesson plan template so I can wrap my mind around what my world is going to look like for the next 10-15 years (before they change everything again). Luckily, I recently attended a Social Studies network meeting where we were given a template to get our feet wet with. We were actually given a unit planning template AND a lesson planning template, but I still have some things I haven’t figured out yet about the unit plan so I’m going to hold-off on sharing that with you. I’ve adapted the lesson plan template slightly and am happy to share it. I look forward to your feedback!

lesson plan template

Here are a few notes about this lesson plan template:

– It includes an area for both a compelling question and supporting questions. Ideally, students would have a part in developing the supporting questions but that is a skill that will take time for us to learn to teach and for them to fully embrace. For the purposes of getting started, I’m going to start off with the supporting questions already in mind. Baby steps!
– A significant effort should be made to insure that there are plenty of opportunities for students to practice inquiry. They should be given the opportunity to ask questions even though we all know that this is going to be really difficult for some students. (Whoever said there is no such thing as a bad question never taught middle school.) Students should also EVALUATE sources. I think we get caught up in reading comprehension because it’s easy. We want “right” and “wrong” answers. We need to encourage students to read, make inferences and investigate sources without making the assessment a multiple choice quiz. Students also need to communicate about what they have learned. If they can talk about something they have read, their retention rate and comprehension rate goes through the roof!
– I adapted the template I was given to include both a formative and summative assessment because that is something the leadership in my district likes to see. I may change those sections after school starts if they decide there’s something new and even more ground-breaking that they want to see on a lesson plan.

I’d love to hear your feedback regarding this lesson plan template!  What would you change?

One Comment:

  1. What you said sums up how I feel about my lessons. After 24 years of teaching I am now out of the class and charged with working with other Social Studies teachers to make new plans and units. I almost feel like a hypocrite knowing that my lessons needed to change as well. I am so appreciative that you shared this lesson plan template. It put my thoughts on paper. Is there a chance that you would share the unit plan as well? Either way, thanks for thoughts. You said what I am sure others are feeling.

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