School Library Connection’s own Paige Jaeger reminds us that in this political season of change, pontificating, bloviating, orating, and more…the truth gets buried deeper than normal.
Now more than ever we need to teach our students to make informed decisions— based upon evidence—and ensure that they see the link between history and real life. Now may be the best time to ensure we understand the new College, Career, and Civic (C3) readiness.
Swept up in the tsunami of educational standards reform, the National Council for Social Studies completely overhauled their teaching framework so that social studies content is aligned with the Common Core (CCSS) reforms. Even if your state has not adopted the Common Core, it’s likely that they have been influenced by it. State education departments use the national standards to inform changes at the state level and it often takes a few years for the aftershocks to be felt by the students. Be ye hereby warned: The changes are massive.
It’s likely that your state will be, is currently, or has reviewed their state Social Studies Standards for alignment. Here are a few thoughts to ponder as you start the school year and begin to review possible social studies (SS) projects for alignment with new national standards.
The Arc of Inquiry
Storytelling may still be alive, but lecture is dead. There is no doubt about it—new standards want students to manipulate content, get down and dirty with the past, draw informed conclusions, and deeply uncover, discover, and understand the why behind our (hi)story. In fact, the crafters of the C3 put it up front and center in the change. If you are not familiar with inquiry-based learning, now is the time to embrace this learning model that fits the learning styles of the NextGen students who want to be in control. The inquiry model is defined in “dimensions,” where students are asking questions, researching, deliberating, and making claims, all wrapped up in a knowledge product, thus making them more capable of taking informed action.
Living in our age of quick information access, it’s no longer necessary for students to memorize names, dates, and events. “We study history so we don’t repeat it,” it’s been said. But, in our daily headlines we find prejudice, cultural division, immigration, migration, wars, starvation, and political bloviating—all of which needs to be validated. History is repeating itself. The national C3 authors were committed to re-defining standards to ensure that students think, understand, and internalize history’s lesson in order to grow up and be good citizens. It’s not enough to know something happened. We want our students to be change-agents. We want them to:
- Think critically
- Make informed decisions
- Look at the past to solve and avoid problems
- Think like “historians”
With a goal of “civic action,” educators are encouraged to incubate “historical thinking” so that students will be able to deeply understand an issue and are compelled to react—to change their world.
Social Studies Lenses or “Practices”
If you were to ask a group of SS teachers what SS lenses they use, they would likely answer:
So our social studies “projects” (i.e. inquiry-based research endeavors asking students to find “evidence” to support a position) should be packaged in such a way that the students are practicing historical thinking. In professional development seminars I often refer to these as “lenses.”
With all this in mind, we can start to make changes to existing SS projects, aligning them with the goals of the C3. In theory, the changes are so vast that new units should be built from the ground up. However, here are a few steps to consider as you self-assess and plan collaboratively if you want to begin embracing these new standards:
- Ensure that you are operating under the “Arc of INQUIRY.” Have you pre-defined too much research so that the students really don’t “own” their endeavor or point of view, or that negates their ability to form an opinion based on facts? Try to form “compelling questions” or “essential questions” that are student-friendly and compels them to uncover and discover the answer as they dig (research) deeply into our past, data, historical documents, databases, and more.
- Consider asking students to research through the SS lenses. Can they look at the issue being studied with a graphic organizer that starts to incubate this mindset? Can they look at these issues through these Social Studies “practices”?
- Ask students to find evidence to support a claim. This allows them to make an informed decision.
- Gather the “vocabulary of the discipline” and hand that out to ensure students are embracing terminology that demonstrates to their SS teachers that they know and are able to use this vocabulary in their knowledge products. This is a little tool that will incubate student success.
There’s a great deal more to the whole SS reformation, but if you understand the above, you likely would understand why and how this works for today’s learners. Here are a few examples of compelling essential questions to launch an inquiry learning adventure, taken directly from the site C3teachers.org:
- Can words lead to war?
- Is compromise always fair? (The Great Compromise 1787)
- Was it destiny to move west? (Westward expansion)
Let’s graduate students who are C3 ready! After all…this generation will grow up and run the world. If we do this, we’ve done our job.
Paige Jaeger, MLIS, is a prolific author and prominent educational consultant, delivering professional development at the local, state, and national levels on inquiry-based learning, the CCSS, and the C3 framework. Previously, she was a library administrator serving 84 school libraries in New York.
Ratzer, Mary, and Paige Jaeger. Spotlight on American History-Planning Guide. Rosen Publishing Group, 2016. Accessed August 29, 2016. http://rosenlearningcenter.com/.