Category Archives: Newsworthy

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!)

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.

Thinking About Historical Markers

I read this article recently and have been thinking about it in the context of the reckoning around Monument Ave and Confederate monuments in general.

Racial reckoning turns focus to roadside historical markers

Across the country, historical markers have in some places become another front in the national reckoning over slavery, segregation and racial violence that has also brought downCivil War statues and changed or reconsidered the names of institutions, roads and geographical features.

Do you stop to read historical markers? Do you know who created them and why? Is there a historical marker that you’ve seen that stands out for you?

Where are the women?

This article in the Washington Post has me thinking.

Opinion: In my advanced high school history textbook, it’s as if women didn’t exist

“Once, after second-grade history class, I came home and jokingly asked, “So did women just not exist?”

Ten years later, the question stands. But I’m no longer laughing.”

Where are the women in the SOL? Which ones are named? For a number of years, Eleanor Roosevelt appeared in the first grade standards. She was taken out in the 2015 revision. Currently in grades K-3 and Virginia Studies we find Pocahontas, Maggie L. Walker, Helen Keller, and Rosa Parks. US History to 1865, which can be taught in 5th or 6th grade includes Harriet Tubman, Isabella (Sojourna) Truth, Susan B. Anthony, Elizabeth Cady Stanton, Clara Barton, and Mary Bowser.

Do you know these women? Are there others that are missing? What women should we be highlighting in the elementary curriculum?