Hey Middle School Teachers – It’s Okay to Skip Some Standards

One of the most daunting tasks presented to teachers is for them to cover all the standards. This is particularly problematic for Social Studies teachers, as we often have both content and skills standards built into our frameworks. In recent years, the number of “skill standards” have grown, as teachers are now expected to teach students to analyze primary sources from a myriad of different perspectives. I have over 100 standards to cover with my seventh grade Social Studies classes. When one factors in snow days, field trips, career day, and testing, along with other interruptions, it means that I essentially have a day and a half to cover each. It’s basically impossible. Therefore, I’m going to let you in on a little secret.


Yep, that’s it. I skip some of my standards. I look at all of those standards, and I prioritize. Some of the standards are more likely to appear on the NYS Regents Exam that my students will take in a few years.  Other standards are just more interesting. Finally, there are few that are just more important. I look at them all, and I figure out which are the most important. Then, I decide how long I want to spend with each. Some concepts can be discussed and understood within a day, while others might take a few days, a week, or really, a month.

Why do I Skip Standards?

I could rush through the content, and deal a glancing blow to each of the topics required.  I could probably mention everything. However, my students would not come out of that situation really remembering much about anything. I would rather that my students remember a lot about some topics than very little about many topics.

I can partly do this because I don’t have some ridiculous state assessment at the end of my school year. Still, I would probably teach mostly the same even if I did, especially with a heterogeneous grouping of middle school students. My students are still rather new to learning history as a separate topic, and they are also new to learning about history. I want my students to like history. Rushing through content doesn’t really make students cling to their newfound knowledge.

As I Look Ahead

Honestly, I should probably skip more standards. When I have students come back and visit, it’s clear that they best remember the topics I spent the most time with. We all know that our students will never remember everything, so I suppose I should really parse my topics down to the bare essentials and then dive deeply into historical thinking skills with each one.

Therefore, I give you permission also. Skip a few standards, skip some standards. Your classroom, your teaching, and most importantly, your students will be better off.

If you’re wondering how I apply these standards to my grading practices, check out my post on standards-based grading for middle school Social Studies.

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