Using politics to teach critical thinking

As high school social studies teachers in a swing state, election season is some of the most fertile ground for learning, and this past cycle—with all its splashy and expensive political ads—proved no exception.

Our students are all in their mid teens, which means in the next presidential election, they will be eligible voters. With so much information (and misinformation) swirling around our students, it was imperative for us to teach them how to think critically about the political process in an unbiased, nonpartisan way, giving them the power to sift through the reams of information we’re inundated with on a daily basis and decide what to trust and what to be skeptical about—and how to go about making those determinations.

Tools to Teach with Politics…Read More

App of the Week: Globe Smart Education 1

Ed. note: App of the Week picks are now being curated with help from Graphite by Common Sense Media. Click here to read the full app review.


What it’s like: Globe Smart Education 1 explores the lives of kids around the world through stories and games. Users pick one of eight kids from five countries: Haiti, the Netherlands, Indonesia, Burundi, and the United States. They then can choose to read that child’s story, select “tell me about yourself” to engage in a dialogue, learn phrases or count to 10 in the child’s native language, or read more facts about the child’s hometown. Teacher sections of the app offer a discussion guide for each country, lesson plan ideas, and classroom activities that draw directly from each unit and build on topics that arise in the stories.
Price: $19.99
Grades: 1-3
Pros: Stellar teacher guides offer lots of classroom connections that bridge disciplines.
Cons: Some kids talk very quickly in the story sections; high price tag may be prohibitive.
Bottom line: A smart, thoughtful way to learn about the lives of kids around the world.

9 inspiring social studies apps

These engaging social studies apps can help students absorb content while they have fun learning

social-studiesMath and science seem to get all the focus these days, but other core subject areas deserve just as much attention–and this includes social studies and history.

Student engagement may dwindle when they read about historical events or other cultures from a textbook, but giving them access to social studies apps can help stir their interest and make learning more engaging.

These apps, from geography, to U.S. history, to world civilizations, are just the starting point. What social studies apps do you use or recommend? Let us know in the comments section.…Read More

Three ways social studies teachers use tech

Increased access to devices and digital tools makes it easier for social studies teachers to integrate technology into their teaching

social-studiesSocial studies lessons are becoming more engaging and interactive, thanks to a variety of classroom technology tools and resources. Here are a few examples.

OER in the classroom

Shannon Blake, an eighth grade social studies teacher at the Charleston Catholic School in Charleston, S.C., uses Net Texts, a free open educational resources (OER) content management and delivery platform, to access and create information, organize it by chapter or subject, and make it available to her students.…Read More

Historians blast proposed Texas social studies curriculum

Historians are criticizing proposed revisions to the Texas social studies curriculum, saying that many of the changes are historically inaccurate and that they would affect textbooks and classrooms far beyond the state’s borders, reports the Washington Post. The changes, which were preliminarily approved last week by the Texas board of education and are expected to be given final approval in May, will reach deeply into Texas history classrooms, defining what textbooks must include and what teachers must cover. The curriculum downplays the role of Thomas Jefferson among the founding fathers, questions the separation of church and state, and says the U.S. government was infiltrated by Communists during the Cold War. Because the Texas textbook market is so large, books assigned to the state’s 4.7 million students often rocket to the top of the market, decreasing costs for other school districts and leading them to buy the same materials. “The books that are altered to fit the standards become the bestselling books, and therefore within the next two years they’ll end up in other classrooms,” said Fritz Fischer, chairman of the National Council for History Education, a group devoted to history teaching at the pre-college level. “It’s not a partisan issue, it’s a good history issue.”

Click here for the full story

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Texas debates how history should be taught

Rewriting the history curriculum has become an ideological battleground in Texas.
Rewriting the history curriculum has become an ideological battleground in Texas.

The latest ideological battle over what gets taught in U.S. public schools is being waged in Texas, where the state board of education is considering new classroom standards that will determine how history is taught for the next decade.

Several students, parents, and lawmakers lobbied Jan. 13 for more diversity in Texas’s social studies curriculum, while religious activists are pressing for more emphasis on the role of Christianity in how the nation was formed. The debate could have implications for schools outside the state as well, because Texas is one of the largest textbook markets in the nation.

In more than six hours of public testimony, dozens of people took their chance to help shape the way millions of Texas school children learn topics from the Roman Empire to the entrepreneurial success of billionaire Bill Gates.…Read More