Category Archives: books

Sociology Spotlight: Teaching Social Stratification with Music and Fantastic Lies

Teachers of social studies across the curriculum probably don’t realize that they cover the issue of Social Stratification (social class systems, poverty, Karl Marx, etc) in their classes. Teachers of sociology probably could spend a whole month on the topic! Social Stratification is one of my favorite units in my semester-long sociology course. Last year, I had my students read Animal Farm (it’s not required in English anymore) and compare the animal’s problems with the issues of social class and social mobility. I may do that again – just because, in my personal opinion, I think students still need to read this classic! But I have two other favorite activities to go with this unit. Music and Fantastic Lies.

First, students watch a few videos and we discuss some important vocabulary with Social Stratification. Then I have the students listen to “Livin’ on a Prayer” (Bon Jovi) and “Fast Car” (Tracy Chapman). They pick out the issues that relate to social stratification after listening to the songs and reading the lyrics. Next I set them free to find their own examples of stratification in music. Obviously there are some ground rules – nothing racially or sexually offensive. You could also make sure that the songs are clean, but I really want the students to look at the music that they like and pick out these issues within the songs they are listening to everyday. And like almost everything else, you’ll have those students who just google “Songs about social stratification” — normally they pick “Allentown” by Billy Joel. But I do have some kids who really become more aware of social class issues that people write about and how there are SO MANY songs with these issues to choose from! To complete this part of the unit, students view a Slide Mission with videos, notes, and responses embedded. I like this format because they can insert their YouTube videos right into Google Slides without me have to go search for them. A copy of what I used in my class can be found here.

After a class discussion about poverty in the U.S., we watch the ESPN 30 for 30 called mv5bmjqwmtcymdg2n15bml5banbnxkftztgwmtcxnjg0ode-_v1_uy1200_cr8906301200_al_Fantastic Lies“. This is the story of the Duke LaCrosse team rape scandal back in 2006. I show this because it covers individuals from across social classes and their expectations vs. reality. Students who are unfamiliar with the story are always shocked once we get about three-fourths of the way through it! Afterwards, they will write a reflection (usually around 300 words) and they make connections with the episode and the terms we discussed regarding Social Stratification. I purchased this episode of 30 for 30 (Season 3, episode 6) on Amazon Prime Video.

Sociology teachers out there: I’d love to hear what you do in your classes to teach social stratification! Comment below.

-Megan

Russel Tarr & A History Teaching Toolbox

(Cross-posted from History Tech.)

Part of what I get to do is spend time browsing the Interwebs finding tools and resources that would be useful for history and social studies teachers. Sometimes I find new stuff like the very cool Smithsonian Learning Labs and sometimes I just keep going back to the classics.

Russel Tarr is one of the classics. His Active History site (along with his ClassTools and Tarr’s Toolbox) always has some new strategy or tool that I haven’t seen and it’s always something useful. I’m really not sure how he finds time to actually teach but he’s been doing this for almost twenty years.

He has a degree in Modern World History from Lady Margaret Hall, Oxford University and is currently Head of History at the International School of Toulouse, France. On his free time, he delivers training courses to history teachers in the UK and Europe, writes regularly for the national and international press on historical and educational issues, and is a prominent figure in the educational community on Twitter – where he is one the most followed history teachers in the world.

All of this to say that he knows what he’s talking about. And it just got better. Continue reading Russel Tarr & A History Teaching Toolbox

Play Like a Pirate – Fun needs to be a part of what you do

I spent part of the morning chatting with golfing buddy and educational expert Steve Wyckoff. He’s got a way of sucking people into unplanned conversations that end up making everyone smarter. It’s always a good time when it starts with Steve’s signature line:

“So what’s become clear to you?”

This morning wasn’t any different.

We spent perhaps an hour meandering around a matrix that focuses on levels of engagement matrixstudent engagement. The different quadrants of the matrix ask students to think about how challenging a class is and whether they love or hate it. We’re thinking about using this to get usable data from middle and high school students. As in, “pick a quadrant that best describes each of your classes.”

We talked about how we could use this collected data to help design high quality professional learning. We chatted about what does the word challenging mean. How grit and rigor might figure into the matrix. And how an Uber business model might impact how kids complete the matrix.

The scary thing?

I think a lot of kids sit in classes that could easily fit in the Grind quadrant.

Part of the solution? Continue reading Play Like a Pirate – Fun needs to be a part of what you do

Inspiration from American Colossus Part Two: The Ascendancy Cycle

brands bookIn my previous post I wrote of the inspiration I gained from H.W. Brands’ book American Colossus: The Triumph of Capitalism 1865-1900; specifically how Brands discussion of the dueling natures of capitalism and democracy could lead to a solid classroom discussion in an 11th grade US History course.

This post is regarding another aspect of Brands’ thesis, something that Brands calls the ascendancy cycle in American history.  What follows is far from a polished lesson, but instead the beginnings of an idea that hopefully will result in something beneficial for my students.

In the book, Brands claims that the competition between the forces of pure capitalism and pure democracy can be used to characterize the last 200 years of American history.  This competition has resulted in the proponents of each of these founding principles consolidating power, furthering their beliefs, losing that power to the opposing group as they create policy furthering their agenda, so on and so forth.  I believe that looking at US history through this lens provides students a concrete example of the ebbs and flows of American politics and how these elections can fundamentally alter the course of the nation. Continue reading Inspiration from American Colossus Part Two: The Ascendancy Cycle

Reading as professional development and capitalism vs. democracy

Welcome to Scott Peavey, high school US and World history teacher at Gardner Edgerton. Scott will be writing regular posts as the newest KCSS board member.

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As social studies teachers we constantly are finding little tidbits of information in our everyday “civilian” lives that create that special spark.  I consider that spark to be the feeling of creativity and insight that educators get whenever they identify an opportunity to cultivate a teachable moment in their classroom.  The source materials for these sparks are diverse; anything from reading the news to watching my one-year old son race across the living room floor.  Over the last week I felt that spark as I was undergoing the most cost-efficient social studies professional development there is . . . reading.

triumphI recently began H.W. Brand’s book American Colossus: The Triumph of Capitalism 1865-1900.  Last school year was my first formally teaching 11th grade US History and I quickly found that the Gilded Age and the rise of the industrialists was a weak point in my content arsenal.  My goal in reading this book Continue reading Reading as professional development and capitalism vs. democracy