The humanities interrogate us. They challenge our sense of who we are, even of who our brothers and sisters might be.
“It could have been me” is the threshold for the vistas that literature and art make available to us . . . education is not about memorizing poems or knowing when X wrote Y, and what Z had to say about it. It is, instead, about the human record that is available to us in libraries and museums and theaters and online. But that record lives and breathes; it is not calculable or teachable via numbers or bullet points. Instead, it requires something that we never fail to do before buying clothes: Trying the garment on.
Art and literature are tried on. Reading a book, seeing a painting or a play or a film: Such encounters are fueled by affect as well as intelligence. Much “fleshing out” happens here: We invest the art with our own feelings, but the art comes to live inside us, adding to our own repertoire. Art obliges us to “first-personalize” the world. Our commerce with art makes us fellow travelers: to other cultures, other values, other selves.
The tired stereotype of the history teacher at the front of the room lecturing from bell to bell, droning on about nothing but names, places, and dates, and never noticing the kids sleeping in the back row needs to be thrown out the window! In its place, how about a teacher that never lectures but instead provides students time to work hands on with the content and apply their learning from bell to bell?
With Flipped Learning, this is possible in every social studies classroom!
Over the last few months, I’ve had the chance to be part of several teacher conversations focused on the integration of social studies and literacy. And for the last few years, I’ve had the chance to work with the Kansas Department of Education and Kansas teachers as we rolled out our revised state standards and assessments – both of which concentrate on finding ways for kids to read, write, and communicate in the discipline.
So while I am not some super duper ELA expert, I did think that I knew a little something about literacy tools. But I recently got a great wake-up call that let me know that there is always something new to learn.
I was doing some internet browsing for literacy activities and ran across references to something I had never heard of before. And it looks like an awesome tool to slip into your bag of tricks.
I was browsing through some old History Tech posts and ran across this 2016 entry. It caught my attention as several of us were chatting about ways to encourage student to student conversations. If you’ve been thinking about that issue as well, you might give the Last Word strategy a try.
I spent some some last week with a group sharing strategies around the blended learning concept. It was compelling conversation, I walked away smarter, and had the chance to meet some interesting people.
But one of my biggest walkaways was a strategy that the forum’s facilitator used to jumpstart the discussion.
He called it the Last Word. Others in the group used the term Final Word. No matter what it might be called, I thought it was a perfect fit for strengthen the speaking and listening skills of social studies students. So if you’ve used Last Word, post some comments on changes you’ve made or things you like about it.
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:
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 “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.