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Social Studies Strategies

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Social Studies Teaching & Learning Strategies

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Reading Strategies and Graphic Organizers
  • Reading Quest - provides teachers with the philosophical bases for sound comprehension strategy instruction, directions for a range of comprehension and content reading strategies, and printable handouts and masters.
  • MapMaker - Customize one-page maps and download, email, or print from National Geographic
Evidence-Based Argumentation Tools and Resources
  • Boston Debate League Teacher Resources - an instructional tool developed by the Boston Debate League in conjunction with Boston Public Schools to equip teachers in all disciplines to create classroom environments where students regularly practice essential academic skills.
  • Think CERCA - digital lessons that promote close reading and argumentative writing for Language Arts, Social Studies and Science classes for grades 4 - 12.
  • The DBQ Project - DBQs and Mini-Qs are short units of study that promote document-analysis and evidence-based writing.  The CCS Social Studies Department maintains a library of DBQ binders. 
  • The Points of View Reference Center - an INFOhio resource that provides articles supporting pro and con sides of current issues, and helps students develop arguments to support a position.
Literacy Resources and Teaching with Primary Sources
  • Newsela - a collection of primary and secondary sources and news articles adapted for multiple reading levels, with text-dependent questions and writing prompts
  • Common Lit - free collection of fiction and nonfiction for 5th-12th grade classrooms
  • ReadWorks - library of curated nonfiction and literary articles, along with reading comprehension and vocabulary lessons, formative assessments
  • DocsTeach - an online tool for teaching with documents from the National Archives
Discussion, Deliberation, and Debate Strategies 
  • 3-2-1 - This activity helps structure students’ responses to an activity, a reading or a film. It provides an easy way for teachers to check for understanding and to gauge students’ interest in a topic. 
  • Alphabet Brainstorm - Brainstorming is an effective way to help students get ideas from head to paper. The Alphabet Brainstorm helps structure students’ brainstorming by asking them to generate an idea that begins with each letter of the alphabet. 
  • Anticipation Guides -Anticipation guides ask students to express an opinion about ideas before they encounter them in a text or unit of study. Completing anticipation guides prepares students to recognize and connect to these themes as they surface in their learning. 
  • Assertion Jar - Students produce assertions on slips of paper and “stock” the classroom Assertion Jar. As a daily or occasional activity, students practice refutation skills by pulling an assertion from the jar and refuting it either orally or in writing. 
  • Big Paper - Building a Silent Conversation - This discussion strategy uses writing and silence as tools to help students explore a topic in-depth. Having a written conversation with peers slows down students’ thinking process and gives them an opportunity to focus on the views of others. 
  • Café Conversations - Understanding the past requires students to develop an awareness of different perspectives. The Café Conversation teaching strategy helps students practice perspective-taking by requiring students to represent a particular point-of-view in a small group discussion. 
  • Continuum - The continuum activity is a method that encourages students to express positions on controversial issues. It is very useful to assess student knowledge before a lesson or to assess student understanding after a lesson. 
  • Deliberation - In a deliberation everyone expects to end up in a different place as a result of the discussion.  The aim of deliberation is to share perspectives and knowledge and to build ideas, not to defend them. 
  • Four Corners - A Four Corners Debate requires students to show their position on a specific statement (strongly agree, agree, disagree, strongly disagree) by standing in a particular corner of the room. This activity elicits the participation of all students by requiring everyone to take a position. 
  • Fishbowl Tag Discussion - Fish bowl tag is a teaching method designed to engage students in carefully-constructed discussion and requires effective listening skills. It works well in many types of classrooms, including classes that include students with a wide range of skills and experiences because it draws on personal knowledge and opinions. 
  • Ground Rules for Discussion - Students work to draw up a list of “ground rules” for classroom discussion through whole class and small group work. 
  • Jigsaw - This is a strategy that has students learn about a concept or case and then teach other students. 
  • Philosophical Chairs - One student from each team will provide a summary of the viewpoints presented during the discussion by his/her team. A student in the neutral zone must take notes on both sides of the argument, and if his/her position changes, he/she must explain why he/she came to a new conclusion.  
  • Refutation - Learning to disagree involves more skills than the simple refutation of an opposing idea. Students must learn how to speak in a measured way, how to understand which ideas are likely to be trigger points for escalation and how to choose reasonable and effective language. 
  • Role-Play - Role-playing is an activity in which students assume the role of another person and act it out. In a role play, students are usually given an open-ended situation in which they must make a decision, resolve a conflict, or act out the conclusion to an unfinished story. 
  • Save the Last Word for Me - “Save the Last Word for Me” is a discussion strategy that requires all students to participate as active speakers and listeners. Its clearly defined structure helps shy students share their ideas and ensures that frequent speakers practice being quiet.
  • Scored Discussion - In a scored discussion, students participate in a formal dialogue on a controversial issue, or open question, and are graded for their efforts. This is different than a debate, because students are not necessarily expected to take fixed positions. 
  • Socratic Seminar - The goal of a Socratic seminar is for students to help one another understand the ideas, issues, and values reflected in a specific text. Students are responsible for facilitating a discussion around ideas in the text rather than asserting opinions. 
  • SPAR (Spontaneous Argumentation) - SPAR is an event in forensic competitions around the country. In this structured debate, students have to frame an argument in one minute and then react quickly to their opponents’ ideas. This strategy helps students practice using evidence and examples to defend a position. 
  • Stop Action and Assess Alternatives - Stop Action and Assess Alternatives is a method for teaching students to think of historical events as contingent. They unfold from conscious decisions made by the involved parties who use the information available to them at the time of these events to make those decisions.  
  • Structured Academic Controversy - A discussion that moves students beyond either/or debates to a more nuanced historical synthesis. The SAC method provides an alternative to the "debate mindset" by shifting the goal from winning classroom discussions to understanding alternative positions and formulating historical syntheses. 
  • Think, Pair, Share - This discussion technique gives students the opportunity to thoughtfully respond to questions in written form and to engage in meaningful dialogues with other students around these issues. Asking students to write and discuss ideas with a partner before sharing with the larger group gives students more time to compose their ideas. 
  • Wraparound (Whiparound) - This strategy provides an efficient way for all students in a classroom to share their ideas about a question, topic or text. Wraparounds can be provocative discussion-starters as well. 
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