All posts by Emily Hobbs

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!

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!)

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?