A couple of months ago, I felt smart. I had just finished a full day with some of the best social studies teachers around. We had talked about hyperdocs, completed a BreakoutEdu, identified photos as either real or fake, learned about a variety of graphic organizers, and participated in an awesome video conference focused on the Smithsonian Learning Lab with Darren Milligan and Kate Harris.
I felt smart. I had learned some stuff. I had taught some stuff. My brain was feeling good.
I should have stopped while I was ahead.
But after learning more about the Learning Lab, I decided to dig in a bit and see what all might be available online from the Smithsonian. And that’s where I got into trouble. About an hour later, I dug my way out of the incredible amount of goodness that Smithsonian folks have made available for educators. I felt smarter but not smarter all at the same time.
Smarter because I learned about some sites and resources that were new to me. Not smarter because . . . seriously, how I have I not known about these things before?
Just so you know, there is a ton of materials, lesson plans, and resources that the Smithsonian has put online. Seriously . . . a ton. Darren told us that the Smithsonian isn’t really sure how much stuff they have – he rounded it up to around 160 million objects. And that’s just the stuff in their collections, not the lesson plans and online exhibitions.
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.
Whew! Kansas teachers have just about the first month of school under our belts. Heck, Homecoming is this weekend here in El Dorado. You may finally have the feeling that your feet are on solid ground, having made it through all the new faces, rosters, seating charts, data sorting, lesson planning, meet the teacher nights, etc. Of course, now we’re into our first big assignments to be graded, parent-teacher conferences are just around the corner and if you’re also coaching your away games mean at least one night a week is taken over by bus rides, encouragement and fast food. Now try to remember what it was like figuring it all out for the first time. Wow.
We know that schools in Kansas haven’t exactly flourished in the past few years and that has really effected teachers. The Wichita NBC affiliate KSN ran a story that Kansas is down 1500 teachers for this school year. Is anyone surprised that our young people aren’t flocking to the profession? So I’m asking that if there are any new teachers in your building, please check in with them, even if they’re not a fellow social studies instructor (we’ll forgive them this once). Ask them if they need anything – help them navigate the teacher’s lounge, or share the trick about fixing a jam in the copier. Let them know there’s a lifeguard on duty in case they start to feel like they’re drowning.
We need to encourage and support our new colleagues so we don’t lose them; lock them in before they figure out there are actually jobs that end at 5:00 and have weekends off. In addition to personal outreach, there are a lot of good resources out there for new teachers to tap: Edutopia has a Toolkit for New Teachers, the National Education Association has a good selection of articles for new teachers on many of the issues that don’t necessarily get covered in university programs. Parent-teacher conferences are just around the corner and ASCD has a good set of guidelines to get them started.
There are also a wealth of networks new teachers can join that are on-going. You might have caught my post back in March on #sschat. They’ve seen the need and created the new hashtag #NTsschat just for New Teachers (NTs). The National Council for the Social Studies also has their Twitter account @NCSSNetwork and Facebook page and the Technology Community has the handle @TechNCSS.
In fact, @TechNCSS will be hosting a Twitter Chat of their own tomorrow (Tuesday, September 19) just for the problems faced by new teachers. Please encourage your new teachers to join us (once again, even if they’re not social studies, maybe learning about Twitter Chats will help them to find their way to one in their curriculum). You can feel free to join us if you want to help answer their questions or you’ve been interested in checking one out. This is one that will have a lot of basics if you want to lurk and pick up some new resources.
We all know that travel can enrich our teaching, provide us with experiences that we bring back to our students to will help them to better grasp historical events and far flung locales. This fall I’m bringing Germany back to my students.
Mid-July and hot as an oven outside with just under a month until we report back for another school year. Hopefully you’ve had the opportunity to spend some time with your family and probably too the opportunity to partake of some professional development. If you stayed close to home I bet you checked out a Kansas Impact Institute, #ksedcamp and/or Podstock. If you decided to go a little farther afield you likely spent a week or three with the National Endowment for the Humanities, a Gilder-Lehrman, or any number of programs provided by foundations and museums around the country.
This summer, I had the honor of being selected a TOP Fellow. If you haven’t heard of the Transatlantic Outreach Program, please check them out; if you’ve attended one of their workshops or their reception at NCSS – you need to apply! TOP sends six groups of educators to Germany every summer for two week tours that are truly extraordinary. Every tour is tailored to the interests of the selected educators and lovingly crafted by one of the TOP employees who will guide your trip. Continue reading A TOP Experience→
Joe Zlatnik is an 8th Grade American History teacher at Basehor-Lindwood USD 458.
“I am as happy no where else and in no other society,” Thomas Jefferson once wrote, “and all my wishes end, where I hope my days will end, at Monticello.”
Professional development opportunities, when relegated to our buildings, is often dull, not specific to our content, and, worst of all, uninspiring. Fortunately, there are a number of quality professional development opportunities for Social Studies teachers that will significantly impact us as educators. Coming up in November is the Kansas Council for the Social Studies Conference in Salina. The next month, the National Council for the Social Studies will have their annual conference in Washington D.C. While both of these are great opportunities to learn from some of the brightest minds in our profession, there are other professional development opportunities that are impactful on a more personal level.