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There is learning. And there is learning. Early in my career I saw the value of not just learning in the classroom, but having students go out in the community and having the community come into my classroom. From the very first field trip (to Boston in 1987) to the ones I have planned this year and the many guest speakers I have hosted, I have seen how changing the learning environment can greatly enhance the learning experience. Students become more excited, motivated, and open to new ideas while out in the community or when visited in their classroom. It is something different, and because of that the interest level is higher. Experiential learning also ...
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“We don’t see things as they are, we see them as we are.” --Anais Nin This book review is the first in a series of reviews of exemplary children’s books for teaching social studies. For this inaugural blog, I decided to feature my favorite children’s book, Mirror by Jeannie Baker.  Mirror  is wordless picture book illustrating the daily lives of two children across the Earth from one another: a child in Valley of Rose, a rural region of Morocco, and one in a suburban region of Sydney, Australia.  In this blog post, I am going to focus primarily on the opportunities for using Mirror to examine cultural universals and the elements of mutuality ...
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Margaret Smith Crocco www.margaretcrocco.com   That's me at AACTE a couple of years ago. It seems an appropriate photo for a "talking head." Hi, readers! I do hope you’re out there and that things are fine with you as you read this.  First, let me introduce myself. Then, I’ll share my plan for the blog.  I’m a “seasoned” teacher educator who has worked in three colleges of education. I am professor emeritus at Teachers College, Columbia University, and am in my fifth year at Michigan State University, where I chair the Department of Teacher Education. I’ve also worked at the University of Iowa, and have taught American History ...
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Compelling questions, as described in the C3 Framework , focus on issues and concerns of humans through time. Because they don’t have just one “correct” answer, but many different interpretations, they help students perceive the work of historians -- “doing” history. Compelling questions combine the interests of students, the content of a discipline, and the literacy and inquiry skills needed in that discipline. Compelling questions are very similar to Jay McTighe and Grant Wiggins’ essential questions. Both can be serve as conceptual frameworks for learning big concepts and discrete facts over multiple units or across disciplines. I love compelling ...
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This summer, I facilitated 25 days of professional development to support Illinois’ renewed commitment to the “civic mission of schools”. With the backing of the Robert R. McCormick Foundation Democracy Program lead by Dr. Shawn Healy, Illinois has adopted new Social Studies standards and a civic education requirement for graduation.  After organizing and implementing double digit workshops with the help of 35 regional mentors , mid August brought time for much needed rest for both me AND my car.  My tires needed a realignment and so did I!  When I checked my car in for its service appointment, I was reminded why this work is vital ...
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I had the following thoughts when I started my first year overseas. As I write, I'll be reflecting on living in Pakistan and the United Arab Emirates over the past two years. It is important to read these blogs as a personal viewpoint of one person moving to a different nation and moving out of their comfort zone into a different place in the world. I look forward to reading your comments about my blogs. Well, after the plane ride, I landed at the Lahore International Airport with all of my baggage!  Yes, I made it with all the pieces of luggage. When I finally got through customs and moved to get my baggage, the high school coordinator was there to ...
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By spring my U.S. history kids were learning about World War II, including the Holocaust. I visited the Holocaust Museum in D.C. and acquired one-page bios of some victims of the Nazis. Some survived, some did not. Lesson idea- I passed out a different bio for each student. I told them "We're going to try something a little different. After you read your bio put head on your desk and close your eyes.” I arranged it so two-thirds of the kids had a bio of someone who died and one-third did not. When I saw that all students had their heads on their desks I said, “If the person you read about lived, keep your eyes closed and heads on your desks. If the person you ...
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Social history themes across time are difficult to squeeze into teaching units defined by specific beginning and ending dates. Instead social history often focuses on patterns that develop over decades, or even centuries.  Social history themes, such manners or etiquette, must be examined across the traditional instructional units that are usually centered around political history. For example, nineteenth century codes of polite behavior were different than today. When did manners change? Pinpointing an exact date on a timeline is difficult. Changes in daily behavior occur quickly in some places, slowly in others, and new customs are adopted at different ...
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Surfing the Net The 100 th Anniversary of the U.S. Entering World War I One hundred years ago on April 6, 1917, the United States declared war on Germany, and a major European war became World War I.  The war had begun on July 28, 1914, following the assassination of Archduke Franz Ferdinand of Austria. Many historians contend that the war could have been avoided, but others argue that economic competition among European countries and their colonies in Africa and Asia made a war inevitable.    What wasn’t inevitable was the entry of the United States into the war, making it a true world war. While troops from the colonies of Great Britain, ...
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References to lenses as unique ways of seeing the world are increasingly common, especially in pedagogical texts that describe culturally responsive teaching.  Incorporating social history themes in the classroom is an excellent way to introduce new ways of seeing the world through three sets of culturally responses lenses, or glasses. The first pair of glasses refer to how students originally see the world through their own cultural framework. This framework is formed by students’ experiences within their own family, culture, and community. The second set of glasses help students “see” similarities and differences between their own experiences and those of ...
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After changing majors at Buffalo State to Social Studies Education, I enrolled in history/social studies courses that were very helpful to my future teaching, and education courses that were less so. Student teaching began at the start of my last semester. I was scheduled to begin at West Hertel Academy, a middle school in Buffalo. But “The Blizzard of ’85” postponed my start for a week. To keep people off the streets, Buffalo Mayor Jimmy Griffin advised residents to, “Go home, buy a six pack of beer, and watch a good football game.” My buddies and I took that sincere advice to heart...especially the beer part. A week later it was time to start. It was a two-mile ...
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I am Douglas Graney, social studies teacher at Herndon High School, Herndon, Va.  In late November, 1985, I was interviewed by a young principal who seemed like a cool guy and a verging-on-elderly woman who was the social studies department chair. I was talking with the principal and the rapport was fine, we were connecting, the interview was going well. You know when you’re killing it, and I was. I had been asked to bring a sample lesson plan, and while I was talking to the principal I saw the old gal looking it over. Every few seconds she would shake her head sadly and roll her eyes. Well I’m going to have to win her over, I thought. The principal said to ...
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      I love history, but that love affair began outside the classroom. In elementary school, it wasn’t my social studies or history classes or a favorite teacher that first made me history fan – it was historical novels. By middle school, my history classes were okay, but we studied the usual, and often dull, political narratives. I didn’t really understand—or care—what a bunch of men did to govern societies distant in place and time. The historical people and events in those history classes were like numbers in the math book—mostly flat, colorless, and dull.      Historical novels made history come alive for me. In middle school, I worked as a student volunteer ...
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America’s War for the Greater Middle East:  A Military History, by Andrew Bacevich. New York:  Random House, 2016.  453 pages.  $18.00 paper.   Social Studies teachers who are committed to refining their understanding of contemporary American foreign policy will profit from reading Andrew Bacevich’s recent book America’s War for the Greater Middle East .  Over the last decade Bacevich, now Professor Emeritus at Boston University, has emerged as one of the most prominent and compelling critics of American foreign policy.  In a spate of articles and a handful of spirited books, Bacevich has attempted to warn the American public of the ruinous consequences ...
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All this week, various celebrations around the country will honor our nation's teachers. NCSS is proud to serve teachers and support promising practices in the social studies classroom. We would not be here without you! Thank you for inspiring our learners every day to learn about the world around them, and how they can be engaged and informed citizens in our world! Every teacher practices a special craft that is a life’s work and passion. We all can name a teacher who inspired us personally and professionally. That teacher may have become a mentor beyond the classroom. That teacher may have inspired a calling to pursue teaching as a profession. I am curious ...
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A few years ago, NCSS established the Rho Kappa National Social Studies Honor Society, the only national program for high school junior and seniors that recognizes their excellence and achievement in social studies learning. In a short time, over 500 Rho Kappa chapters have been established in 38 U.S. states and 4 countries. If you’d like to learn more about Rho Kappa, check out www.socialstudies.org/rhokappa. We invite you to start a chapter in your own school and recognizing student success in our discipline! I believe that the future of social studies education will be heavily determined by our students. Their achievement and their passion for the social ...
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Learning from the Best

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Every year, professional associations recognize outstanding achievement in the classroom through Teacher of the Year awards. In my travels to many state social studies council conferences over the past two months, I’ve seen some variations on how these awards are presented: some are during a ticketed evening dinner, others during a breakfast or luncheon for all members. Some include a keynote speaker. Being recognized by your peers is one of the highest honors and humbling moments for any educator. The process of forming an awards committee, selecting a recipient from many outstanding educators, and organizing the awards event is an important part of any conference. ...
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In my 13 years as a teacher of high school American and world history, not once had I heard the term historiography.  This was simply not a concept that was introduced in my college history courses nor one that would appear in my vast reading of American history.  It was not until I was teaching at the university level that I first happened on the term while reading James Loewen’s Teaching What Really Happened: How to Avoid the Tyranny of Textbooks & Get Students Excited About Doing History .  After that, I dug a bit deeper and found the concept to be essential to truly understanding history itself.  I was astounded that no one had ever thought to teach ...
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Last weekend, I had the pleasure of attending the Greater Metropolitan New York Social Studies Conference. This is the annual conference of the Association of Teachers of Social Studies/United Federation of Teachers (ATSS/UFT) , our affiliated council which serves educators in the New York City Department of Education. I have attended this conference for many years as a social studies curriculum specialist for the New York State Education Department and later as the President of the New York State Council for the Social Studies. It was a treat to return to my home state in my new capacity to learn from New York City educators and to share our NCSS 2016 annual ...
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This post is not a plea to add social studies to list of STEM disciplines. SSSTEM does not roll off the tongue politely in conversation. STEMSS is not a memorable acronym, either. I also worry that if we add too many more disciplines to STEM, were just going to end up with a clunky acronym for the traditional 8-10 course school day. Instead, this post is a thought that social studies education is the original STEM initiative. Consider this definition of STEM: STEM is the acronym for Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics, and encompasses a vast array of subjects that fall into each of those terms. While it is almost impossible to list ...
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