Opine I will

I am an elementary school teacher just trying to do the right thing

Archive for the tag “social studies”

This is our Sputnik moment.

School’s all across the nation are either starting or about to start a new academic year. It’s suppose to be an exciting time for students and teacher. However, this year may be much, much different.  This has been the summer of Trump. Our students  have been subjected to Trumpism all summer.

Before this weekend’s horrific events in Charlottesville, I was wondering where did we go astray. How could our nation elect someone like Trump? After this weekend, I think I have the answer.

As a teacher, it’s hard for me to admit this. I view this past year as a failure of our education system. As educators we have not fought hard enough to protect our curriculum, our methods, our standards and our public schools.

All too often we  observe teachers dutifully, following directives that they don’t agree with. We observe teachers, following standards that are not research based and often inappropriate for the children they teach.

I have watched  Social Studies lessons being put aside for high stakes testing skills and subjects. I have observed Social Studies standards morph into ‘big ideas’ that often lack correlation with history. For example, teaching about the Articles of Confederation without taking the necessary time to teach the events that led up to them.

Social Studies is being put aside. Now we hear STEM is the new ‘ big idea’. Science Technology Engineering and Math is turning into this year’s new focus. We’ve already witnessed literature, take a back seat to non-fiction in Common Core.  Look at the results, look at society, and ask yourself, “ can we really afford to abandoned the humanities”?

We need to refocus our teaching towards Social Studies. Link your lessons towards teaching history. Not a whitewashed version, but real history. The history of the peoples of the world.

We now have a President that has no understanding of our nation’s past. We have thousands marching in the streets protesting things they do not understand.

This is our Sputnik moment. We need to emulate the counter protesters of this weekend by resisting any attempt to water down our curriculum. We need to stand against those that want us to teach a revisionists version of history.

Forget the damn high stakes tests. It’s time to roll up our collective sleeves and do what we need to do to save our nation. Resist and teach like our future depends on it, because it does.

The End is Near

 

the-end-sign

Public education is our nation’s most important asset that is responsible for protecting and nurturing our nation’s most precious asset, our children. Public Education is about to be dismantled and sold off to the highest bidder in every state of our nation. Trump’s legacy will someday describe this real estate scoundrel as the demolition expert that has destroyed an American institution that began in 1690.  Unfortunately, a large portion of our populace do not realize that the end is near.

No matter which party you support or who you voted for, you will soon feel the real pain of a Trump administration. Some have said, we may survive four years of Trump, but will we survive many years of an ultra-Right Wing Supreme Court? Will we survive a Tea party controlled Congress? Will our schools survive?

The “end” for public education is one step closer with Trump’s pick for Education Secretary billionaire Betsy DeVos. DeVos is a conservative activist that has pushed for school vouchers across the nation. She supports raiding taxpayer revenues and funneling them to private and parochial schools. She has no experience in education and will be the chief architect in Trump’s demolition plan.

Trump’s demolition plan includes the destruction of unions. The very same unions that advocate for highly effective schools, strong standards that are appropriate, school safety, and protect the needs of our most challenged students.   Trump has signaled that he would establish Right to Work laws nationwide. Trump’s plan would impede all unions’ abilities to provide the much-needed advocacy that has protected our schools and in turn our middle class.

The end will arrive for many of our union sisters and brothers when a Trump Supreme Court dismantles public unions’ bargaining rights and his wrecking ball destroys tenure protections. Public schools will be immediately impacted when teachers that advocate for their students are fired without due process. Public schools will be systematically taken over by private for profit corporations that will not be subjected to collective bargaining. Profits and the bottom line will be the only measure that is important.

The end is near for public pensions. Trump’s demolition crew is about to blow up a system that has allowed hard working public sector employees to contribute to a system that would protect them in their end years. Trump’s crew will raid our pensions and turn them over to his private sector buddies. Public sector employees will now face the same questionable future as the private sector workers who have lost their future.

The end is near for our curricula. Our Science programs will be distorted with creationists warped views, Social Studies will be used as a tool to indoctrinate and not liberate the mind. The Arts will be lost forever. The focus will be on a false accountability system, based on a failed business model invented in some boardroom.

The end is near for our freedoms. Our freedom to worship as we choose, love who we choose, opine as we choose and severely limit our individual life choices. Trump’s demolition crew is about to dismantle our Inalienable Rights.  Disguised as the Righteous, his crew is about to destroy the very fabric of our nation.

We all know what we witnessed the day after election day. Many of us saw our own union sisters and brothers celebrate Trump’s win. Many of us lashed out on social media and even got into heated arguments. We could not believe that our sisters and brothers and even our loved ones failed to see that Trumps win will destroy us all.

If we put aside Trumps racism, bigoted, misogynist statements. We are still left with the unpleasant truth that the end is near. Unfortunately, it will be pain that will eventually open the eyes of many of our union sisters and brothers. The pain will be swift and devastating. It will be too late for I told you so’s. It will be our demise. Unless we stop him!

Resist! Resist! Resist! Put your niceties aside. Inform, argue, debate and be relentless. Boycott when told to, protest when you can. Throw up roadblocks, stand your ground. Don’t accept “maybe things will get better” or give him a chance. All the signs are there. Point everyone out. Point every threat to our way of life. Point out every conflict, every attack, every enemy.

Do what we do best. Teach! Teach others how the end is near and how it will be a reality if we do not wake up. Our national nightmare is here.

Saving Social Studies

As a fifth grade teacher, in New York State, I have felt the pressure of ‘fitting in’ Social Studies into my daily schedule.  Language Arts  and Math ‘block times’ have eaten away at the available time each day to teach the subject that is the most important.

I worry that NY’s new Social Studies Framework linked to the Common Core will effectively erode the curriculum into a series of tasks that have very little to do with learning about our past. Sites such as those provided by Putnam/ Northern Westchester BOCES are already watering down the curriculum. They have reduced learning about Europeans encountering Native Americans down to a 2 day lesson.

Imagine that! Two days!!

(I have included that 2 day lesson at the end of this posting)

Talk about watering down  a curriculum.

Over the past several years I have seen the time I have spent teaching Social Studies dwindle. I tried incorporating it into my ELA Block but, unfortunately I have had students leave my room during my ELA Block because they may have an Individualized Education Plan that mandates they  receive ELA instruction in a smaller setting. So if I combined Science or Social Studies into my ELA Block they would lose out.

I scheduled Social Studies in my plans but often those plans were interrupted. I was frustrated and was counseled that teaching Social Studies three days a week was just fine.Well it may be fine with my administrators, bit it certainly was not fine with me!

I love teaching fifth grade Social Studies. It’s focus is on the Western Hemisphere. It should be taught as a timeline, starting with how indigenous peoples settled into new lands and developed advanced civilizations that amazed European explorers. It should be focused on the “Peoples” struggles and advances.

Social Studies should not be taught in topics that are isolated from each other. In order for students to really understand what they are being exposed to, we as teachers must carefully build their schema.

This year I am taking a stand, in my classroom. I make sure I teach Social Studies every day.

I use various sources, including a wonderful series of books by Joy Hakim.  I use videos, audio recordings, and even Howard Zinn’s People History of the United States. I’ve read stories about Sitting Bull, and I am currently reading the biography of Chief Joseph Medicine Crow, Counting Coup.  So far my students have learned about the great civilizations of the Aztecs, Mayas, Incas, Mississipeans, Makahs, Iroquios, Anasazi, and more. We have learned about European exploration and conquest. We discussed the lust for gold, riches, and power that have shaped our historic background.

Currently we have begun to explore the formation of the English colonies and we will be analyzing the differences between them and how they interacted with Native Americans.

This week we began a new project. Using Legos my students will create their own Utopian civilization. Before they are allowed to use any resources ( Legos) they have been charged to develop a plan for their civilization. So far they have chosen a leader, established rules for discussions and began the process of deciding  just what their civilization will contain. They are discussing whether or not their economy will be based on farming,defense, healthcare, education, religion, tolerance and more.

  
This project is providing wonderful opportunities for me to teach. For example, one student stated that she wants to provide housing for the homeless. I used that as a catalyst to ask them to think of ways to ensure there are no homeless in their civilization.

At this point, my class is also writing individual essays on what they really want their civilization to be all about. Tomorrow I will be asking them to share their thoughts and to compromise on a shared solution.

Eventually they will be using the available resources to build their civilization.  

 In the meantime, we will read about the Puritans, Ann Hutchinson, William Penn and others and perhaps that may lead us in another direction.

In the meantime, I will post periodic updates of my class Utopia as I thumb my nose at lessons like these from BOCES.

Lesson 2: Europeans Encounter Native Americans

Overview:

  • Students will examine how the Native Americans viewed the Europeans, and then look at two case studies involving the interaction of the Native Americans and the Europeans.
    Suggested time allowance: 2 class periods

Unifying Themes: (based on the National Council for the Social Studies)

  • Geography, Humans and the Environment
  • Development, Movement, and Interaction of Cultures
  • Time, Continuity, and Change
  • Global Connections and Exchange

New York State Social Studies Framework

  • Social Studies Standards
    • 1: United States and New York
    • 2: World History
    • 3: Geography
  • Key Ideas and Conceptual Understandings
    • 5.3 European Exploration and Its Effects: Various European powers explored and eventually colonized the Western Hemisphere. This had a profound impact on Native Americans and led to the transatlantic slave trade.
      • 5.3b Europeans encountered and interacted with Native Americans in a variety of ways.
  • Social Studies Practices:
    • Gathering, Using and Interpreting Evidence
      • Recognize and use different forms of evidence used to making meaning in social studies (including sources such as art and photographs, artifacts, oral histories, maps, and graphs).
    • Comparison and Contextualization
      • Categorize divergent perspectives of an individual historical event.
      • Identify how the relationship among geography, economics, and history helps to define a context for events in the study of the Western Hemisphere.

Common Core Learning Standards for Literacy in History/Social Studies

  • RH.5-8.9: Analyze the relationship between a primary and secondary source on the same topic
  • RL.5.1: Quote accurately from a text when explaining what the text says explicitly and when drawing inferences from the text.
  • RL.5.2: Determine a theme of a story, drama, or poem from details in the text, including how characters in a story or drama respond to challenges or how the speaker in a poem reflects upon a topic; summarize the text.
  • RL.5.6: Describe how a narrator’s or speaker’s point of view influences how events are described
  • WHST.5-7.4: Produce clear and coherent writing in which the development and organization are appropriate to task, purpose, and audience.
  • WHST.5-8.6: Use technology, including the Internet, to produce and publish writing and present the relationships between information and ideas clearly and efficiently.
  • WHST.5-8.8: Gather relevant information from multiple print and digital sources, using search terms effectively; assess the credibility and accuracy of each source; quote or paraphrase the data and conclusions of others while avoiding plagiarism and following a standard format for citation.

Unit Essential Question:

  • Do interactions between peoples always lead to positive results?

Activities/Procedures:

Day 1

1. Read excerpts from Morning Girl and its parallel text, Journal Entry by Christopher Columbus.Teachers can find both excerpts in Primary Sources and Literature Readings, or use the book Morning Girl by Michael Dorris and the Journal entry included here. If you wish, use Encounter instead of Morning Girl.

2. Have students consider the ways the young girl and Columbus viewed one another and their respective cultural groups. What were each group’s impressions and intentions? Students will make a T chart or a Venn diagram to record the similarities and differences of the perspectives of the two groups/

3. Project “Images and Descriptions Columbus and the Taino.” (included) Discuss the images and excerpts from the diaries and journal. How do these images and description add to what we already know?

Day 2

1. Introduce or review the definition of “turning point” and note that the class will analyze what happened to the Aztec when they encountered the Europeans as an example of a turning point. Explain that the Spanish conquistador, Cortez led an army against the Aztecs in 1521 and conquered them.

2. Distribute the “Compare and Contrast Chart for the Aztec” (included) and have students cover the “after” column when discussing the “before” column.

3. Ask guiding questions that will require the students to read and extract information from the compare/contrast chart such as

  • Where did the Aztec live before the Spanish Conquest?
  • What were some of their technological achievements before the Spanish Conquest?

4. Teacher can utilize a map of Mexico and Central America when discussing the geographic location category, by pointing, or asking a student to point to the areas that were inhabited by the Aztecs. Teacher should ask questions about location and ask students to hypothesize about why the Spanish would be interested in this area (Example: resources, land, treasure, etc.)

5. At the end of the discussion for the “before” column, students will be asked to read to themselves the information presented in the “after” column.

6. The class as a whole will do a verbal compare and contrast of the Aztecs before and after the Spanish Conquest. Teacher will direct discussion by using guiding questions if necessary.

  • What is the difference/similarities pre- and post- Spanish Conquest in language?
  • What do you think is the biggest difference in Aztec life after the Spanish Conquest?
  • How was the Conquest a turning point in Aztec life?

7. For homework: students will create a double–sided playing card to illustrate the turning point for Aztec life.

Evaluation

  • Completed T-Chart
  • Trading Card

Vocabulary (See Glossary for definitions)

  • turning point
  • conquistador
  • demographics
  • encomienda
  • indigenous population
  • Latinos
  • pandemic
  • polytheism

 

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