Doing Different in Social Studies

As I reflect on my teaching, I feel most of what I do fall just left of engagement on the continuum. Maybe I’m being too hard on myself, but I usually am. However, this is tons better than where I started five years ago with Social Studies.

When I reflect back on my first 2 years in the classroom, it was based on compliance. Sit down. Here’s a worksheet. Here’s a webquest. Here’s a packet. Read Chapter 2 and answer these questions. Here’s a map. Let’s go over last night’s homework. When I reflect on these things, it kind of embarrasses me but I guess most of us have been there, done that. I was closer to compliance than engagement.

Now I am closer to engagement with sprinkles of empowerment. I’m not where I need to be, but the classroom culture I’m striving to create is so much different than it used to be. This school year, I have grown to appreciate having 5 different things taking place within  the 50 minute period. It’s typical to have 3 students just starting a hyperdoc, 5 students choosing to create with legos, 2 students choosing to write, and 4 students choosing to do a Flipgrid to show what they know. These are the days I see engagement through choice. These are the days that would have freaked me out 5 years ago, but now make me smile. 

The “sprinkles” of empowerment I have found this year come i the form of Wonder Projects.  I got this idea from John Spencer and used it at the beginning of the school year. I liked using it at the beginning of the year because students chose whatever they wonder about, researched, and create a way to share what they learned with others. It gave me a chance to learn more about the students and their interests. I began using this same format at the end of units. 

When we reached the end of a unit, I would ask the students what they wonder about the colonies, or the American Revolution. I would encourage them to think of something that interested them, or they wondered about, and explore it further. It was open ended, lasted a week, and we shared out. Was it perfect? No. But, it gave them a choice and a chance to learn more about a history related topic further. 

Here is an example of how we shared out along with project examples.

6 thoughts on “Doing Different in Social Studies

  1. Congrats on moving from compliance to engagement! How does the school support you with the approach of having students working on different topics at the same time and how do parents feel about it?


  2. I love the use of the word “Wonder”. It isn’t as targeted as what you would use in a research project. There is plenty of room for wandering around the informational ether to collect all kinds of interesting tidbits of knowledge. It also seems to foster additional wonderings better than pointed info hunts. Good luck continuing your engaging teaching practices. Sounds great.


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