Welcome to the Summer 2022 Semester

I am excited to welcome you back for the summer semester. I’m especially happy to be working with all of you again.

This blog will serve as a place to extend class discussions, share current news of interest, and further reflect on what it means to teach social studies using pedagogical approaches that encourage critical thinking, problem solving, collaboration, communication, and creativity.

Use the menu to navigate to course resources.

  • Hover over Assignments in the menu to find guidelines for the work of the semester.
  • Hover over Readings and Videos in the menu to find the assignments for each class session.
  • Click on Google Slides to find the notes from each class session.

Single-Sex Schooling and Gender/Sexual Identities: How Do We Support LGBTQIA+ Students During Development?

Hello all,

For our very last blog post of the semester, I thought we would be able to take the time to do some reflection and see what that looks like in the field of Psychology. For my child development class, I have been working on a toolkit for the Virginia Center for Inclusive Communities, in partnership with the Bonner Center for Civic Engagement. This toolkit will include evidence based-recommendations for teachers to access during their teaching careers in order to achieve what this class has been working to achieve: as much inclusion and support as possible.

In the last couple of Child Development classes, we have carefully read empirical and anecdotal articles about single-sex schooling and the effects, or non-effects, it has on student performance and sense of belonging, to name a couple, as well as how single-sex schooling may not be backed by scientific evidence to conclude that single-sex structure improves student academic achievement.

Along the way, we reviewed how psychologically, mentally, and emotionally challenging it might be for students who do not conform to cisgender, heteronormative identities. The LGBTQIA+ community will tend to feel less of a sense of belonging, and the single-sex structure and heteronormativity may discount and devalue their identities, which is very detrimental to children and young adolescents’ development.

Dr. Hunt discussed how some Republican senators are pushing to pass a bill that bans LGBTQIA+ instruction in the form of literature/texts, videos/documentaries, and such. This is very disheartening for many reasons. Recently, I have thought about teaching in Nashville, where I am closer to an environment of interest and some family. I, myself, also identify as a gay cisgender male. So, to hear about what has been happening in Florida and in Tennessee with the “Don’t Say Gay” bill and the banning of LGBTQIA+-supportive instruction gives a little sense of hopelessness for those with political power and disappointment that our careers are in the hands of white men in power.

Read one or both of the articles below, and let me know what your thoughts are about everything that has been discussed and anything that you want to bring in from the class.

Thank you guys, and I hope you have a wonderful weekend!

Luis

The Learning Network: The New York Times’ Social Studies Resource

Hey class!

I have found a fantastic resource on teaching current events and lessons revolving around relevant topics to social studies instruction. Follow this link to view The New York Times’ Learning Network for Social Studies. This resource uses content from The New York Times to create “Lessons of the Day” surrounding a current or important history topic.  They also post graphs and other visual organizers with interesting and relevant social studies topics. Some of the recent “Lessons of the Day” have been about confederate monuments, black history, the invasion of Ukraine, and redistricting/gerrymandering. These lessons include warm-ups, vocabulary, questions to lead writing and discussion and further learning to dive deeper into the content. They have different tabs for lessons on U.S history, global issues, civics and social studies skills. I thought this website had some fantastic resources for teaching current or important historical events regarding social studies and civics. I think some of the lessons are too complex for elementary students but I think the resources provided by the site surrounding events we teach in the classroom can be great tools to aid our social studies instruction.

Do you think you’ll use this resource to aid your social studies instruction? Have you found any similar resources on your own? Link any others you’ve found below!

Hope everyone has a great week!

To Kneel or Not to Kneel, That is the Question

Composite image - Kneeling football player with American flag background

My Digital Toolbox for this class is focused on Second Grade and specifically the American Symbols.  

VDOE SOL Civics Unit: 

2.13 The student will understand the symbols and traditional practices that honor and foster patriotism in the United States of America by

  1. a) explaining the meaning behind symbols such as the American flag, bald eagle, Washington Monument, and Statue of Liberty; and
  2. b) learning the words and meaning of the Pledge of Allegiance

Prior to last week’s homework assignment, I had not fully considered how controversial certain symbols like the Statue of Liberty could be.  As a child, I was taught to respect the various symbols of the United States including the Statue of Liberty, Pledge of Allegiance, American Flag and the National Anthem.  In 2016, I was shocked to see sports figure, Colin Kaepernick,  kneel in protest at the beginning of a football game as the National Anthem played. To me, the Anthem was always a beautiful symbol of hope, courage, freedom, liberty, and community. I never stopped to consider that may not be the case for all. 

How should we as educators address this potentially controversial issue in the classroom? Are we able to separate our personal feelings and opinions and simply teach the content standards, or should we attempt to inform, enlighten and educate our young learners that not everyone is treated the same in our country and why that might be?  Should we go the next step and try to explain the controversy? 

I found the following brief article relevant and informative. The article provides context and discusses both the Pros and Cons of kneeling. I would love to hear your thoughts on the topic and how it pertains to social studies education for our children. 

Also, take a look at this longer article providing a bit more background.

The January 2021 Attack on the Capitol, Where We Are Now, and How We Can Prepare Our Students In a Divided Nation

On January 6th 2021, a mob attacked the U.S Capitol and left the nation puzzled, frightened, angry and shocked. Social studies educators put their lesson plans on pause and addressed the fear and confusion many students experienced.  Civics and social studies education is a topic that has been fresh since the election and everything that’s happened since. There is so much going on in just our nation alone; a pandemic, economic hardship, the fight for social justice, teacher walk-outs, BLM protests, police brutality, our role in the war in Ukraine and countless other things. Our job right now as educators in this divided nation is a hard one.

I found an article that really spoke to all of those hardships and emotions students are facing and how we can help them think critically and try to understand what’s going on in the world. The article, titled “A More Perfect Union: Social Studies Educators Tell How To Get There”,  encourages teachers to instruct students to verify facts, decipher between fact and opinion, and learn about media literacy in a world of false information. The article talks about the importance of not squandering debate, but encouraging healthy and constructive debates in the classroom that build community instead of further dividing us. One skill the article discusses that America desperately needs to teach our youth is learning to listen to one another. The article stresses how education is only part of the solution, not a solution itself:

“We can’t play the blame game of laying it at the feet of education,” Tyson said, “because this is a historical multi-pronged problem that is also rooted in anti-blackness and systemic racism. It’s rooted in the ways people feel disenfranchised and are finding themselves becoming more economically fragile. Two pandemics grip this nation and the world: COVID-19 and racism.”

The article uses this quote to encourage us to teach our students to work together, listen to each other, and have those conversations with our students about civics and social studies to prepare them for the future. We must be open about evaluating sources, thinking critically, discussing our viewpoints, and reaching a consensus of community.

There was a lot from this article I didn’t include so please take the time to read it. It felt very relevant to our predicament as social studies teachers in our world today. What was one big take away from the article that really resided with you? How can we foster community in our classrooms when discussing difficult political and civic topics? How has education failed students in the past and how can we do better?

(PS. I hope everyone had a great weekend! Please forgive me for my late blog post, I had my scheduled days confused. Thank you for understanding and I will see everyone in class!)

A Thirsty Fox Getting Its Tail Cut Off & Naked Ghostly Geese

After looking at a variety of books relating to economics, Dr. Stohr made a point to read two books from the collection that may seem to have questionable storylines and/or illustrations. The first book was One Fine Day by Nonny Hogrogian, which is a retelling of an Armenian folktale story about a thirsty fox that gets its tail cut off by a woman (who also refuses to sew the foxes tail back on) after she catches it drinking her milk. Although I believe its important to include diverse literature; as an adult, I can’t help but view this literature with some negativity regarding the concept of animal cruelty, which made me feel a bit uncomfortable. Thus, my immediate thought was not to consider including this book as it might send messages about negative treatment of animals. Yet, I am still unsure of which way I’m leaning more toward on whether to include this diverse literature in my future classroom instruction. The second book Dr. Stohr read was Agatha’s Feather Bed: Not Just Another Wild Goose Story by Carmen Agra Deedy. I appreciated the honesty in providing readers and Agatha the reality of where the feathers came from, but the illustrations of naked ghostly geese might feel frightening for some students, regardless of the message that “everything comes from something.”

A combination our most recent class discussion and Erika’s post on book banning led me to the question: “Are there resources that provide educators with diverse, un-bias children’s literature that focus on the topic of economics?” And, fortunately, I came across a variety of booklists on the Social Justice for Change website for educators to consider.

Link: https://socialjusticebooks.org/booklists/

Further, as I explored the “Economic Class” booklist, I noticed that there were some of the same books from Dr. Stohr’s collection included within this booklist , such as A Chair for My Mother and Tia Isa Wants a Car.

Are there books within the “Economic Class” booklist from the Social Justice Books website that you might consider including in your economics-related lessons? Further, as you explored the other booklist topics, are there specific books from other booklists within this website that you might consider including within other lessons pertaining to social studies, and does the literature you came across provide cross-connections between other core subjects? Also, have you found other websites particularly helpful in providing un-bias literature on any topics within elementary social studies?

The World Map Projection Issue

Our last class was really intriguing as we talked about the different types of world maps. I was blown away by learning that the Mercator Projection is so wildly off lol… I believed some countries were more prominent than in real life, like Russia. Even though the Peters Projection stretches things out a little, I think the accuracy is much better than the Mercator, and it should be used in all schools, in my opinion! I would have loved to see just how massive Africa was before now. I always thought it was about the same size as South America!

Peters World Map (Laminated Poster): Schofield & Sims: 8601404371486: Amazon.com: Office Products

I found this article from 2017 that talks about Boston Public Schools and how they planned to switch from the Mercator Projection to the Gall-Peters Projection. They talk about the importance of showing countries as their actual size, and it is just a fascinating read.

https://brightthemag.com/heres-why-students-need-many-maps-to-understand-the-world-d3ba6507b9a9

How did you feel during the map discussion? Did you already know just how off the Mercator Projection is, or were you shocked to learn what we now know? What projection would you want to use in your classroom? Did you use a projection other than Mercator while in Primary school?

Book Banning? Really!?! What Year Are We Living In?

It’s 2022 and yet, if you do a quick internet search for book banning, hundreds of articles, interviews, and news stories pop up and they are not just from the past but rather are prominently featured in today’s headlines. Book banning (and book burning sadly), remain current issues.  While banning books has been a practice for years (dating back to at least the 15th century), current events have brought it back to the foreground for significant educational and parental discussion. What books are being banned and why? Who decides?

Book Banning has certainly spanned our country’s history, yielding numerous debates about controversial topics such as religion, politics, gender identification, and race; however, the real debate is over who decides what is and isn’t “appropriate”.

To Kill A Mockingbird, The Hate U Give, Maus, The Bluest Eye, and the entire Harry Potter Series are just a few examples of books that have been banned or are on a “watch list” due to “inappropriate” content. But the bigger question is, who deems book content appropriate? Is it parents? School teachers? School Administrators? School Boards? Librarians? Publishers? Politicians? Who ultimately should decide what is taught in schools? Is there a different standard for public libraries? What about the number of parents who complain about a particular book? What if only one parent is bothered by content in a particular book that is being taught in a public school classroom? Should that teacher be required to change their curriculum to appease one parent? What if more than one parent objects? What about the Mississippi assistant principal who was recently fired for reading a book to a group of second graders that was deemed “inappropriate” by school administrators who merely feared parents would complain? The assistant principal defended the book as just “a funny, silly book that can help teach kids reading can be fun”. How are educators expected to walk the line of appropriate and inappropriate when it’s extremely subjective and based on opinion? The answer seems to be: with extreme caution. 

Consider the following articles and news video attached below.

The History (and Present) of Banning Books in America ‹ Literary Hub

To Ban or Not To Ban? Virginia’s Schools Caught in a Battlefield – Dogwood.

 Austin Public Library condemns book banning in Texas

When you were in school, were you required to read any of the books that are now banned? Did you think about any controversial issues as you were reading them? Did any of the content give you pause, where you thought to yourself, hmmm, maybe this isn’t appropriate for me to be reading? As educators, are there any books you’ve recently come across that you now think you’d shy away from in terms of teaching? I’d love to hear your thoughts.

Helping Children Understand the War in Ukraine

A significant thought lately, especially after visiting the Valentine, is how to answer questions about today’s biggest current event: the war in Ukraine. I have already experienced these conversations with children as young as 5 who are scared that something will happen to them. Yet, I did not know how to respond because what is okay to say to someone so young?

Woman holding her young son

I understand how important it is to be open with children because many of them can see right through you. This article linked here explains how to talk to children about the war in Ukraine in age-appropriate ways. As educators, our job is to teach our students about the world and what is happening in it. The students I have come in contact with who are aware of what is happening in Europe could be getting that information from home, friends, tv,  anywhere. Our job is to calm any nerves that they might have but still be open with them in an age-appropriate way.

Have you had any similar experiences, whether with the war in Ukraine or something similar? How did you handle it?

Did you find the linked website helpful when thinking about approaching this topic with children?

Lastly, I know that even if it doesn’t turn into WWlll, this war will be in our textbooks someday and will be something that we have to teach. Thinking about that is so scary and sad because it is literally happening right before our eyes. How do you feel experiencing this history when you know what impact it will have on us as we teach our future students? I personally am so sad thinking about it, but it is life, and this is our job. I believe that even if we can’t fix the world, we can prepare our students for it and make them the best humans possible 🙂

 

 

Teaching Sensitive History Through Primary Sources

One of the recurring topics this semester has been surrounding the question, “How do we teach sensitive material to young students?” Topics like World Wars, Egyptian afterlife, slavery, the Holocaust and controversial historical figures are just a few examples of topics that are touchy for both students and teachers.  I found a great article that discusses how primary sources and artifacts can help teach sensitive topics in a variety of ways. The article talks about how images, artifacts and objects can provide a soft transition into a hard, sensitive or possibly controversial conversation. These kinds of visual aids can also make the material easier for students to understand and digest if shown rather than simply explained. The article follows this up with some great suggestions to consider before teaching sensitive subjects:

  1. Consider your audience and take your students backgrounds and experiences into account
  2. Consider your role as a teacher in this conversation (to challenge preconceptions, remain neutral, etc.)
  3. Consider whether it is appropriate or necessary to share your own view or opinion. (This can help a conversation or hurt it)

As educators, I believe teaching sensitive subjects should go hand in hand with our efforts to teach about bias, diversity and social justice. History repeats itself, which means the hard conversations have to go hand in hand with the right response. Dr. Stohr has mentioned in class about bias free teaching and literature and how to recognize bias from a historical perspective. Another great article on Edutopia discusses this topic and explains the importance of teaching young students about bias and social justice. The article provides strategies elementary teachers can use, such as anti-bias lessons, news stories and children’s literature, to start the conversation. The article also points out how we can use a child’s viewpoint on fairness to our advantage when teaching history. These are all great suggestions on how to teach history and lead our kids with truth,  knowing that our students are worthy and capable of knowing and understanding it.

What are some sensitive topics that you are interested in finding resources to help you teach? What strategies from the articles stuck out to you that you think you may use in your classroom? What are some other ways you think we can approach sensitive subjects?