Category Archives: lesson plans

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

5 Easy Ways to Integrate Writing in the Social Studies

Today’s post is written by Cheney, Kansas middle and high social studies teacher Jill Weber. Jill is the 2016 Gilder Lehrman Kansas History Teacher of the Year.


Gone are the days in which reading novels and writing essays belonged solely in an ELA classroom.  All subjects are now expected to (and should) be integrating and supporting the reading and writing skills that students are taught in Language Arts class.

“But, but . . . I went to college to be a history teacher, not an English teacher. I don’t know HOW to teach ELA!”

That was me. Seriously. I was ready to fight teaching reading and writing skills as long as I could.

Until I learned some simple strategies to help me.  This list is meant to help those who are struggling to add reading and writing skills into their classrooms and possibly give some new ideas to others. Continue reading 5 Easy Ways to Integrate Writing in the Social Studies

Increasing student engagement through place-based education: The Flint Hills Maps & Education program

Guest Post: This month we have a guest post from Anne Wilson, Map Program Coordinator for the Flint Hills Map and Education Program.


As teachers, we often hear students lament:  “What does this have to do with me?”  We know if our kids believe an idea actually affects them, it all of a sudden really matters.  However, actually relating learning to students’ own lives and local environment takes time and background knowledge we don’t always have.

Now a grass-roots team of teachers in the Flint Hills region has developed a new “place-based education” program – designed to connect learning to students’ own heritage, culture, landscapes, ecology, economy, and experiences as a foundation for the study of core subjects.

How important is place?  Bio-regionalist author Wendell Berry writes, “If you don’t know where you are, you don’t know who you are.” Many of our students think they’re from nowhere.  They are connected to everywhere but where they are.  This program gives them the gift of pride, understanding and commitment to their place.

The bonus is: Continue reading Increasing student engagement through place-based education: The Flint Hills Maps & Education program

Foundations for Teaching Economics free professional learning. And a stipend!

Looking for some free econ professional learning and a $200 stipend? Then the Foundation for Teaching Economics upcoming Economics for Leaders week-long session is for you.

During this in-depth training scheduled at Washington University in St. Louis on July 17-22, high school teachers “go back to school” and are taught by university professors and mentor teachers. What makes the week unique are the games and simulations: instructors run the activities with real students so teachers can observe the students’ interactions. You’ll see why FTE – designed lessons are so effective and you’ll walk away with a better knowledge of economics, new classroom strategies, and a renewed enthusiasm for teaching. Both new and experienced teachers will benefit from attending the Economics for Leaders program.

What you’ll get:

  • Lessons correlated with the state and national standards in economics
  • Engaging lessons & activities for your classroom
  • Free housing with most meals paid by the Foundation for Teaching Economics
  • Optional graduate credit, three semester hours in economics, only $366
  • 50+ hours of instruction

Specific topics covered:

  • Economic Growth and Scarcity
  • Open Markets
  • Labor Markets
  • Property Rights
  • Money and Inflation
  • Opportunity Cost and Incentives
  • Markets in Action
  • Incentives, Innovations and Institutions Role of Government
  • International Markets

I have been teaching economics for 15 years, so I wonder if I would learn anything new. I learned so much!!! The activities are wonderful for engaging teenagers.

Carla Schiller

Interested? Contact Haley Sisler via email at  hsisler@fte.org or call 530-757-4635. Get more information at fte.org.

Detecting Bias: Quick and Easy Lesson Applications for Practicing this Essential Skill (Part 1)

In the ongoing battle between serious, fact-based interpretation of current events and the onslaught of “fake news” stories being spread throughout social media (and beyond),debate headlines 21st century social studies teachers face a daunting task.  How can we possibly help students develop the necessary skills in order navigate the confusing blizzard of information they encounter on a daily basis?  Even still, who has enough hours in the day to both cover all the required content and engage in current events activities that encompass more than reading an article and answering a few questions?

As a veteran teacher believe me, I feel your pain.  My colleague Joe Zlatnik and I have spent time the past few years talking with teachers throughout the country about how they address bias in their classrooms.  The consensus we have heard is that most teachers don’t address it since they don’t have time to teach “current events.”  With this in mind we developed a set of simple activities that can help kids practice the skill of detecting bias within the framework of US and World history courses.  I will explain one of these activities in this first part of a three part series.

Continue reading Detecting Bias: Quick and Easy Lesson Applications for Practicing this Essential Skill (Part 1)