Category Archives: Q & A

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.


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: 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.

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?

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 🙂



Answers to Your Questions – Week 2

Here are answers to some of the questions you asked this week. If your questions were related, I addressed them together in my response.

With the rise in popularity of graphic novels, have any textbooks changed over to that format instead of the traditional text alone with the inserted text features?

  • I wish I could say that textbooks have improved. Those I have seen in schools are old (at least 10 years) and still follow the traditional format. I’m a big fan of skipping the textbook and using trade books instead. This allows for use of multiple genres of nonfiction, including poetry and graphic novels. That said, there is a terrific history series by Nathan Hale that I love. The books are part of the Hazardous Tales series.

There is little time for Social Studies instruction. Even as we integrate many of these reading/writing strategies during Language Arts time, how do we cover such large amounts of content in such a small amount of time? Also, what are some additional specific strategies for English language learners?

  • Time is the problem every teacher faces. There is never enough time to do everything. It’s one of the reasons why textbooks and worksheets are the norm. Teachers feel like they’re covering content, but students often aren’t engaged and aren’t really learning.
  • I’ll get back to you on the ELL strategies. I hope to share/model some in class.

Would is be alright to deviate slightly from the curriculum or state assigned Language Arts books in order to supplement Social Studies texts due to time constraints?
Are there any restrictions on how often teachers use social studies texts during language arts instruction or is there more freedom in choosing texts for language arts? 

  • There really aren’t any state assigned books for language arts. Most of the decisions are left up to the school divisions. Usually, the specialists in central office offer recommendations on what should be used. Since teaching nonfiction is in the language arts standards, any time you can use a book that aligns with science or social studies units, you should run with the opportunity.

Is it possible to cluster primary source documents to create a coherent unit (painting, letters, maps)? Where can we find examples of primary source driven units that are adaptable and effective?

  • We are going to look at several examples of this in class. It is my preferred way to teach. It does take some time to assemble resources, but the units are so much richer when you do this. These documents can be supplemented with good children’s books.

If any students are like me, I hated when the teacher just had us sit and read page after page in the textbook. Do you have some personal ways to make it fun and engaging other than a worksheet? 

  • I’ll say again how much I dislike textbooks. I honestly don’t think they have a place in teaching social studies. Students will get so much more from learning to work with primary source documents. There are many good resources to guide them through this process. Yes, they are worksheets, but they teach students to analyze and ask questions. The National Archives has a terrific collection of document analysis worksheets. Here’s an example of one designed for elementary students.

How much variety is appropriate to incorporate into the class in terms of using models. Should I try every model like the “H” model, Venn diagram, and others switching every time, or should I stick to getting the students used to using the same model or two. 

  • I like to teach students to use all the models. Practice each one over time and introduce them slowly. Later in the school year, I let students choose which form to use. They appreciate having the ability to choose what works for them and you get to see how they are thinking.

As teachers, should we use the textbooks/informational guides in class as much as we use other sources and activities or balance more activities and discussion rather than heavy informational use?

  • The movement in social studies right now is to teach through inquiry. Students are given documents and primary sources to focus on and use them to answer questions about a person or event. This is a pretty engaging way to teach. At some point in this process, students have to explore secondary source material and texts that summarize these ideas, so informational text will always be used in social studies. As the teacher, it will be up to you to determine what form that takes. There are so many good books, magazines, and podcasts, that I hope textbooks aren’t the first choice for this.

Leave a comment if you have other questions or want me to expand on any of these answers.