As a Social Studies teacher, I’m obsessed with having my students think critically about the topic of History. Still, it’s difficult to have students think critically without some background knowledge. Therefore, I’ve taken on the task of making sure that my students gain background knowledge with a variety of activities and tasks. It has been a process for me to develop those strategies. I thought I might share some of those strategies here to inspire you to think about the classroom experience for your students.
As Social Studies education has transformed in the past few years, I’ve found that I need to have my middle school students analyzing documents almost every day of the year. Simply having students read and answer questions becomes tedious and boring after a week of class. Therefore, I’ve developed quite a few strategies to “trick” my students into reading and analyzing text. Honestly, the more I’ve introduced these strategies for primary source analysis, the more I’ve seen my students engaged and involved. My classroom has become much more student centered in recent years, and that makes me really happy.
Setting Up a Structured Debate – Middle school students are still learning the art of conversation, so when we as educators decide to have our class debate, we need to offer some structure to make sure that the debate offers a positive learning experience. I’ve had several debates over the years, some much better than others. In recent years, I realized that there were some crucial components to making sure that a debate proved successful in my middle school classroom.
I’ve been working with inquiry based learning for the past few years. As soon as it was introduced as a concept for teaching and learning, I immediately began to adapt my curriculum. I love the way that it compels students to think about history and analyze history, and not just memorize specific events.
Social Studies education has undergone (and is still going through) a revolution in teaching practices. The idea of teaching History through the authentic process of inquiry has completely revived my curriculum and my approach in the classroom. I’ve found my students to be more involved and engaged, and simply more interested. The inquiry process works particularly well with the middle school age. These students are naturally self centered, so they love to express and argue their own viewpoint.
As I’ve delved more into inquiry based learning in my classroom, I’ve been collecting any and all resources that can provide specific lessons for me to implement. Recently, I purchased a copy of Reading, Thinking, and Writing About History: Teaching Argument Writing to Diverse Learners in the Common Core Classroom, Grades 6-12 (Common Core State Standards for Literacy). The book has several authors, including Chauncey Monte-Sano, Susan De La Paz, and Mark Felton.