You might recognize Lori from her previous posts here on Doing Social Studies.
And now you’ll be able to greet her as the KCSS Excellence in Teaching Award winner.
The award is named in honor of Judy Cromwell, a social studies teacher in the Topeka area for over 38 years. Intended to reward and encourage high quality instruction in the social studies, KCSS selects one winner at the elementary and secondary levels.
Not only is Lori our elementary winner but she also won the Kansas Department of Education Social Studies Teacher of the Year. Needless to say, she’s a fantastic educator and we’re so happy to have her here in Kansas.
Lori Rice currently works at West Elementary in Wamego as a fourth grade teacher. While she is responsible for teaching all content areas, it has been her goal to “teach social studies standards even when these are often neglected due to mathematics and reading instruction taking priority.”
Lori integrates the social studies curriculum into every aspect of her classroom, as described by a colleague:
. . . her classroom management fosters her student’s development as both citizens and communicators. Her instruction has a profound impact on student learning through her use of materials, strategies, and utilization of standards, interrelated themes, and dimensions of inquiry concepts. All of this is possible with her dedication to her own professional involvement both in and outside of the school building.
Lori’s impact goes beyond the social studies curriculum, as explained by her principal and nominator:
Ms. Rice also goes above and beyond the call of duty for the children in our district,” being involved with summer programs and several after school programs that focus on social skills and STEM.
We asked Lori to share some of her teaching philosophy.
A Path to Social Studies Integration
Dictionary.com defines integration as:
“An act or instance of combining into an integral whole.”
Teachers across the nation are using this idea to purposefully combine curriculum and standards in meaningful ways for student learning. Just like making a recipe or putting together a puzzle, you must combine different pieces of your curriculum, content, and skills to provide purposeful, meaningful social studies instruction for students. In this era of change it is our responsibility to shift more focus to becoming involved, engaged citizens and this can easily be done with integration.
Integration does not need to be time consuming and complex. There are simple steps you can work through to get started in creating integrated units for your classroom, grade level, or school. The process works best with a group because as Vince Lombardi said, “Individual commitment to a group effort–that is what makes a team work, a company work, a society work, a civilization work.” Find a colleague, a grade level team member or network online and start, or continue, to integrate social studies into your classroom and lessons.
Begin with an essential question. Essential questions are open ended, big idea questions that vital, thought provoking, and touch our hearts and souls. In fourth grade social studies we use “Would I live here?” as a year long essential question. This can encompass westward movement, civics and regions which are the big units we teach. Essential questions can be used with units, in classrooms, by grade levels and within entire buildings to provoke inquiry and probe deeper thinking among students. If you are new to essential questions you can watch a short video clip here to get started. https://www.teachingchannel.org/videos/structure-learning-essential-questions .
Using your essential question, think of the things you are already doing that fit under this essential question. What books are you already reading aloud? How does your curriculum fit together? Using a social studies umbrella we can pull civic engagement and citizenship as well as history and geological thinking into classrooms. Speaking, listening, writing and language standards naturally fit into a social studies scope. This integration allows you to do more in the same time because you are combining into an integral whole.
After you have written an essential question and created a list of things you already love and do, think about your standards and units. List resources you have, text sets, experts and what you want students to know. Think about your read aloud book or reading group books you already use with small groups. With simple and purposeful connections you can connect primary sources, maps, timelines, and nonfiction books to integrate. These artifacts will bring the stories of our country and people to life for students as well as promote empathy and civic engagement. https://www.archives.gov/ and https://www.kshs.org/ are great places to start looking for resources.
Social studies is the stories of our past. This can be personal past, recent past, or ancient past. Helping students understand their own stories and connections to the stories of others allows for empathy. Bringing social studies back into our classroom is imperative for developing citizens who care. So reflect on what you are already doing, form essential questions, gather what you need including your resources and technology to find primary source documents, literature, poetry, etc. Bring stories into your classroom for social studies and have fun!
You can find Lori on Twitter @MsLRice. She also blogs on all things teaching (not just social studies) at The Educator’s Room.
The awards for the Teacher of the Year for each the KCSS, KCHE, KGA, and KCEE are given at the Kansas Social Studies Conference. Next year, the conference will be hosted by the Kansas Council for History Education at Newman University in Wichita October 20-21. Start making plans now for this opportunity to meet loads of inspiring educators in your state.