Archive for the 'Learning' Category

#ArmMeWith: A Counselor’s Requests

pexels-photo-460087By Sabrina Bartels

Following the tragic shooting in Parkland, there has been a lot of discussion revolving around gun control laws. And among that discussion is the thought that maybe, just maybe, teachers should be armed. It has caused an uproar around the country, and educators have taken to social media to express their concerns on this topic.

One particular movement that has caught my eye is the hashtag #ArmMeWith. People have held up signs saying “Arm Me With …” and then inserting what it is they feel they need to have in their school buildings. The requests have varied from smaller class sizes, books and pencils, and more school counselors and school psychologists to help students with their social/emotional and mental health concerns.

I was really proud to see school counselors and psychologists on many of these signs. Ever since I joined the profession, I’ve really come to understand just how important it is for students to be aware of their own mental health. A lot of students come to school every morning with a lot of emotional baggage: absent parents, struggling siblings, financial issues, and housing problems to name a few. This means that students are trying to comprehend some very adult problems in the world, even though they are only 12, 13, or 14 years of age. And while they are struggling to understand how and why their lives and families are the way they are, they lose sight of why they come to school in the first place: to get an education. By having school counselors and psychologists in the building, students are able to have someone to process through their thoughts, feelings, and emotions, which then gives them the “brain space” to learn.

But I know that school counselors and psychologists are not the only solution to helping students stay safe and enjoying school. There are so many things that I can think of to “arm” myself with, or things that I hope for every educator. For me, personally, here is my list of both physical and abstract things:

#ArmMeWith resources to ensure that students’ essentials are covered. Just recently, I had a conversation with one of my students who told me that every day she comes to school, she is guaranteed two meals. The weekends are harder; she doesn’t always know how many meals, if any, she will get. The term “resources” also applies to school supplies. There are several students at my school who cannot afford school supplies. When bills need to be paid, and a child needs a new winter jacket because he or she has outgrown their current one, it’s hard to find money to pay for pens, pencils, binders, and notebooks. At my school, we added a community closet, which has been incredibly helpful with our students and families. I wish more schools had this option.

#ArmMeWith patience when working with my students, because sometimes I forget what is important when you are in middle school.

#ArmMeWith compassion. I can never have too much of it. Sometimes, it’s the love for my students that keeps me invested in my job, even on the really difficult days.

#ArmMeWith the right words to talk to my students. Some days, it’s really hard to explain why they need to deal with so much in life. A lot of times, I am at a loss for what to say. It’s hard to reassure them that everything will be okay when they feel as though everyone – and everything – is against them.

#ArmMeWith perseverance to ensure that I never give up on one of my students.

And lastly …

#ArmMeWith love. Some of my toughest students – the kids who scream, swear, and act out all the time – are the students who need the most love. There are students who come to school just to have that meaningful connection with an adult. If there is one thing that all of us as educators need, it is an abundance of love to give and share.


A +/- Approach To Assessment

grade-156087_1280by Elizabeth Jorgensen

A retired colleague entered my classroom today, grunting, his hand in the air. He’s now long-term subbing at a neighboring district. “You know what’s stupid?”

“What?” I asked.

“Rubrics. I was reading short stories and assessing them using the teacher’s rubric. Creative writing earned a four; highly creative writing earned a five. And for the life of me, I couldn’t figure out the difference between what’s creative and what’s highly creative.”

“Yeah, that’s my problem too. Too subjective.”

He told me after his first attempt at scoring, he had a conversation with his students. “The kids, they all agreed that they didn’t know the difference between creative and highly creative either. So I told them we’d scrap that rubric and I’d score the papers differently.” He went on to remind me of his assessments: he awards positive points for everything students do well (stylistic devices, action verbs, entertaining openers) and negative points for errors (run-on sentences, incorrect punctuation, clichés).

When I started teaching thirteen years ago, he shared a favorite assignment with me. In this exercise, students told the story of three people trapped in an elevator. The students wrote in narrative format with correct indents and punctuation and the dialogue tagging rules.

He told students, “You are in charge of this story. You can add as many details as you wish. The rules of reality are also up to you. Maybe people change into sandwiches on this elevator. Whatever! The reason the elevator stalls is also up to you. But your story tells what happens on that elevator with those people. Don’t focus on people outside the elevator, like rescue squads or repairmen. Write about what the people in the elevator say and do.”

He gave students three rules: “1) No ultra-violence. No guns. No bombs. No strangling. Don’t kill off your characters. Be a more astute writer and don’t rely on death to solve your story; 2) No telling the reader what a person thinks or feels. Show us through the character’s actions or words; 3) No graphic sexual scenes!”

And then, he explained his scoring: “You will begin with 50 points and earn your grade accordingly: +3 for each piece of realistic diction used in dialogue; +3 for impressive description that is not overdone; +3 for a WOW (something funny or deep); -3 for repetitive or incorrect tags; -3 for any incorrect grammar, spelling, punctuation or indentations; -3 for inappropriateness or immaturity; and -3 for telling.”

Students, if they felt he missed something when scoring, could argue for more points. He encouraged students to score their own essays before handing them in. Finally, he gave students an example featuring Britney Spears, Elvis, and Buzz Lightyear:

Britney squealed as she twirled her kinky, blond hair and snapped her gum. “Um, like you guys, I think that, um, like, the elevator has like stopped or something. Like hit that button one more time.”

“Hey, baby, how about you and me stop at the Heartbreak Hotel after we get outta here? Priscilla won’t mind,” said an overweight man in a sequined jumpsuit, gyrating his hips so fast it shook the entire elevator.

From out of nowhere, a one-foot tall plastic space man flipped open his space helmet. “Buzz Lightyear to the rescue! This is an intergalactic emergency! Push the button, blonde girl!”

“Like I’m not a slave for you; I’m not a girl, not yet a woman. Treat me with some respect little space man or I’ll send my bodyguard after you!” she said as she applied her pink lip gloss.

And on and on…

My colleagues all grade differently. Some use rubrics; some use the four point system I outlined in an earlier blog; others use the plus and minus system my former colleague favors. No matter your method of assessment, grading challenges instructors to communicate achievement accurately and effectively. I hope your method doesn’t make you throw your hands in the air and grunt.

Exploring Identity in Milwaukee

milwaukee-1809871_640 (1)By Lupe Serna

Growing up, I remember social studies instruction as very textbook heavy. It seemed like everything we learned about social studies was through text. I don’t recall ever going out to the community to explore social studies, much less to personally witness the role of social studies in real life experiences or in my community. Perhaps that is what influenced my imprecise understanding of the social studies. I never got the opportunity to fully immerse myself in the subject, at least I was never aware that I already was immersed in it on a daily basis.

As teachers, we want our students to see the purpose and importance of class content. We want them to be able to explore on their own and discover new things. Students should be able to question and inquire. They should be able to take what they learned and transfer it outside of the classroom.

In order to accomplish that, one of the biggest resources that we can turn to is the outside world. We can engage students into the lesson by making their city and their communities part of the curriculum. Physically taking students out into the community so that they can see the presence of social studies in the real world can make a lesson much more meaningful. Teaching social studies does not have to be limited to inside the classroom, much less to a textbook. The great thing about teaching social studies is that we can use what’s out there! We can look for sites, museums, or neighborhoods in our communities to connect social studies to students’ lives.

A site in the Milwaukee community that can help us teach social studies is the Old South Side Settlement Museum. This museum is located inside of a home in the South Side of Milwaukee. Despite growing up in that area and passing by that house for years, it wasn’t until my junior year of high school that I visited it during a summer camp job. I always wondered why that house stood out from all the others and when I finally got to experience what it was about, I was amazed by what I found. This museum shows the history of Milwaukee’s immigrant communities in that area of the city throughout the decades. Each room in the house is set up to represent the cultural identities of families who once lived there. Aside from displaying photographs of that neighborhood across the years, it also has antiques and furniture that date back to when families lived there. The cultures highlighted in this museum are the Polish and Mexican cultures. Visiting this museum is a great way to see not only the differences in identities, but also the similarities among these two groups. The tour of this museum goes into the cultural component, but also the historical component in regards to immigration and the living conditions throughout the ages.

Before visiting this site, students can explore different cultures (like the Mexican and Polish that they will hear about at the museum) and their similarities and differences. They can also explore the topic of immigration and the waves of migration into Milwaukee throughout the years. Finally, students could look at the challenges that immigrants face in terms of living conditions, but also the identity crisis that they might experience upon moving to a new country. A means of introducing students to this struggle of discovering and freely expressing one’s identity can be through the book Unidentified Suburban Object. The book can engage the students through the story of a young girl who explores her family’s heritage and only then does she feel like she can be herself.

Students can greatly benefit from both that lesson and visiting that site because it is important for students to learn about what has shaped their community and to begin to discover and be proud of their own identity. One’s identity is composed of multiple factors, cultural identity, like can be clearly identified in that museum, is just one example. A person’s identity also consists of their values, ethnicity, language, sexuality, beliefs, and much more.

Religious and spiritual beliefs are large components that shape our identity. There are many different religious affiliations, and even within each affiliation, there are different practices/rituals that people adopt. Discovering one’s religious/spiritual beliefs is a long and complicated journey for many. To expose students to the religious diversity of the world, teachers can of course begin to explore different religions in the classroom so students can pick up on the differences and similarities between them. However, one of the most impactful ways to teach students about religions is by offering them the opportunity to personally witness them.

A site in Milwaukee that can teach students about Judaism through an exhibit on Jewish Belief and Community is the Jewish Museum Milwaukee. Their exhibit focuses on the religious identity and the sense of community among Jewish communities. This site can be used along with the study of different religions and the values tied to those religions. Students can also learn about celebrations/holidays and find commonalities and differences between them. For example, with the lesson below, students can compare and contrast Hanukkah, Ramadan, and Diwali. Finally, students can learn about the Jewish history in Wisconsin to increase their awareness of the lives and struggles of this religious community. This is something that they can directly interact with and explore in the museum.

Going out into the community and visiting monuments, sites, museums, or any other form of public exhibit is a great way to engage students in the exploration of social studies. If students become aware of the presence of social studies in their immediate surroundings and world, they are more likely to become interested in learning more in the classroom because they see the importance and connection of the content to real life. If there’s any way to effectively approach the teaching of social studies, it’s like this.

Being Confident as a Counselor

school-1413366_640By Sabrina Bartels

One of the best things I did when I became a counselor is join the Facebook group called “Caught in the Middle School Counselors.” It’s a group of middle school counselors from around the nation who use the page to ask advice, celebrate triumphs, and support each other through tough times. People post ideas for bulletin boards, classroom lessons, and any trends that they have noticed.

Recently, one of the counselors asked, “How long did it take for you to feel really confident in your position?” And I had to laugh a little. The truth is, I have been doing this for five years now, and there are still days where I feel like I’m fresh out of grad school and meeting with my very first student ever. My confidence varies day by day, student by student, and definitely situation by situation.

As I scrolled the comments, I was relieved that there were others who were in the same boat as me. Some of the counselors responded that they were in their 15th or 16th year of counseling, and still occasionally felt like they weren’t completely confident in what they were doing! It comforted me that even seasoned veterans at counseling still experience doubts sometimes.

My confidence was especially shaky this last week. I spent the last half of my week feeling like I was drowning. I would create a to-do list, and due to various emergencies, would only get through maybe two items on my list. I was constantly busy, but felt like I wasn’t actually getting anything done. I would even stay late to finish up paperwork, but would still go home feeling frustrated with myself. (I blame the super blood blue moon, or whatever that epic lunar experience was on Wednesday.) I kept thinking that somehow, people more experienced than me would have a better handle on things, or at least be able to accomplish more on their to-do list.

One night, I told one of my coworkers that I felt like I just couldn’t keep my head above water. I was getting overwhelmed with everything, and was mad at myself for not doing more and being more. And he gave me great advice. He told me to go home, relax, and remember that I had made a difference to all the students I met with. I hadn’t looked at it like that before. I had been so caught up in thinking about the students that I hadn’t gotten to meet with, that I completely forgot about all the students I did meet with throughout the day. It made me feel better, knowing that even though it was a tough week, I had been there for my students when they needed me.

I remember thinking when I was in grad school that I would have so much confidence after my first few years on the job. And while I do in some ways (I no longer bat an eye when a teacher asks me to have a hygiene talk with a student) I am definitely still learning and slowly gaining confidence in my skills. Being a counselor is a process. It is definitely not a career where you can just wake up and be “better.” It does take time, and patience, and love both for the students you care for and for yourself. But as tough as it is, I have to say that every challenge, struggle, and long night is worth it.

Questioning the Dominant Narrative

books-441866_640By Lupe Serna

Many times, the curriculum is presented through the same dominant narrative. Although this allows for consistency across classrooms, it restricts history teaching to a single story. On the other hand, if we present students with different perspectives and prompt them to question dominant narratives, we open the doors to critical analysis and historical thinking. As a result, students learn how to draw their own conclusions to interpret history, rather than merely accepting the dominant narrative.

Teaching students to question narratives and approach history through different view points can lead to the discovery of new information and facts that are usually disclosed from the dominant narrative of that historical time period.

The Mexican American Civil Rights Movement, also known as the Chicano Movement, is usually briefly mentioned in the classroom. For the most part, students receive a very general understanding of the topic as a fight against discrimination of Hispanics, the fight for farm workers’ rights alongside Cesar Chavez, and the fight for the restoration of land after the Treaty of Guadalupe Hidalgo.

Of course, there are various ways to present this topic. A controversial textbook, “Mexican American Heritage,” describes the Chicano Movement as an attempt to create division. After reading a few excerpts from the book in the article above, I personally did not agree with that perspective. I can see why some might have thought of the movement as one that went against American culture. However, as a Mexican American myself, I think of the Chicano movement as more of a search for identity.

When discussing the Chicano movement, I think it is necessary to go beyond discussing what happened and asking why did it happen? Ultimately, it is the Mexican American people who felt the need to fight for their rights and education. Thus, the focus should be on their own experiences and struggles. Why did Mexican Americans at the time decide to fight for their civil rights? How were they feeling at the time that made them take action? What were they struggling with that led them to take part in a movement?

These questions seem to have straight forward answers: they faced discrimination, their rights as workers were violated, they had limited access to education, among other reasons. That’s as far as discussions in the classroom usually go. The deeper problem that is usually overlooked is the tie to the struggle of identity.

In the movie Selena, there is a scene where her father perfectly describes the struggle of being Mexican American as having to please two different cultures and meeting the expectations of both groups, leading to the feeling of not being good enough to belong to either group.

After the Treaty of Guadalupe Hidalgo, many Mexicans were suddenly American. Mexican Americans struggled with this new identity, not completely Mexican but not completely American either. This article from a 1972 newspaper does a great job of explaining the identity crisis among Mexican Americans, claiming it as “One of the most pressing problems for a person of Mexican descent in the United States.” It goes on to talk about the discrimination that they face due to the color of their skin, the feelings of inferiority that they experience in the US, and the pressure to let go of their Mexican roots and customs.

Out of this identity crisis grew great pride in their mixed roots, taking on what came to be known as a Chicano identity. With that pride came awareness. Mexican Americans began to notice the manner in which they were treated differently, like is described in this poem. That awareness is what moved people to action and led to the voicing against injustices, the fight for civil rights and the fight for higher education, which was mostly led by student movements like the Movimiento Estudiantil Chicanx de Aztlán (MEChA).

Among some of the most well known activists of the Mexican American Civil Rights Movement are Cesar Chavez and Dolores Huerta, founders of the National Farm Workers Association, later known as the United Farm Workers union. The fight for farm workers’ rights is the most common story that is taught in regards to the Mexican American Civil Rights Movement.

A different side of the movement that is not usually included in the curriculum is the role of a secret FBI program, COINTELPRO, against activists. Left out of the curriculum and, as a result, not forming a part of students’ social studies knowledge is the use of repression and force against activists and radical groups in the sixties, especially the Black Movement.  This video talks more about the attacks against the Chicano Movement.

Most narratives included in the curriculum focus on the positive outcomes of historical topics. Students are not always exposed to the ugly parts of history that led to those victories. In the case of the Mexican American Civil Rights Movement, victories of activists like Cesar Chavez are commonly known, but left in the shadows are those who were silenced.

In the classroom, students should be encouraged to question both what is included in and what is left out of the dominant narrative. While they explore sources and different perspectives, they should question their credibility, their bias, their audience, their intention, and other factors that could influence the manner in which the topic is presented. This is a crucial step to incorporate into the classroom if we want students to learn how to sort out different perspectives to make their own interpretations of social studies.

Drawing from multiple primary sources when preparing for and teaching a lesson on any historical topic opens the doors to historical analysis for students. The sources above, along with the earlier video on COINTELPRO’s attacks on the Chicano Movement, present different information and perspectives on the Chicano Movement.

Social studies is about engaging students in critical thinking and analysis. A great way for them to partake in that is by questioning the narratives presented in the classroom, especially the dominant narrative. Participating in that questioning and inquiry leads to an expansion of students’ knowledge on historical topics because they learn to dig deeper and discover perspectives aside from the dominant narrative.

As teachers, that is what we are called to do — draw from multiple perspectives so that students can question the dominant narrative and make their own interpretations about the manner in which historical topics are presented.

Students Explore Ideas, Make a Difference and Win Money in Teen Ink’s “If I Were Mayor…” Competition

LJ 1By Elizabeth Jorgensen

Teen Ink is a monthly teen magazine with over a half million readers. In addition to publishing student work online, Teen Ink also prints a monthly subscription magazine.

According to their website, Teen Ink is “devoted entirely to teenage writing, art, photos, and forums. For over 25 years, Teen Ink has offered teens the opportunity to publish their creative work and opinions on issues that affect their lives—everything from love and family to school, current events, and self-esteem. Hundreds of thousands of students, aged 13-19, have submitted their work to us and we have published more than 55,000 teens since 1989. Distributed through classrooms by English and Art teachers, and available in libraries nationwide, Teen Ink magazine offers some of the most thoughtful and creative work generated by teens today. We have no staff writers or artists; we depend completely on submissions from teenagers around the world for our content. Teen Ink has the largest distribution of any publication of its kind.”

In addition to publishing student work, they host writing competitions.

During the fall of 2017, Teen Ink editors asked students to compose an essay on this topic: “If I Were Mayor of My Town…” Students, in an essay of 1,000 words or less, wrote about which issues they would address and why. The winner, according to Teen Ink, would receive not only publication, but also $500 and the opportunity to interview Congressional candidate David Kim; $100 would be awarded to the second and third place winners; and seven honorable mentions would be recognized.

The deadline to submit essays was November 30th, 2017. And then, in the January 2018 issue, five student essays were published. One of my students, senior Cole Siepmann, was published. You can read his essay here. Readers were asked to vote for their favorite essay—with the winners and honorable mentions to be announced at a later date.

I want my creative writing students to engage in purposeful writing assignments. In this particular contest, I encouraged my students to first educate themselves on local government. We discussed the mayor’s role and read about famous mayors. In class, we spent time looking at the Waukesha County’s Mayor website. Students learned about what the mayor can and can’t do and made plans for what they would do in that role. As a class, we discussed how each student could use his or her passions to craft a successful essay.

I enjoyed hearing about what each student would change if they were mayor and I was impressed with my students’ ideas and passions. Each student had something to say—and something they wanted to contribute to their community. In addition to writing about their passions, the prize money and the chance at publication served as motivation for my students.

In his essay, Siepmann stated why he would be a good mayor: “I would improve the lives of Milwaukeeans by addressing the three major issues that influence our society most: drug abuse, education, and road repair.” Siepmann also stated how important the improvement of drug education is: “In addition to the drug treatment center, I will expand drug education and addiction programs in schools so children in our community know the lasting effects of drugs and addiction.” Siepmann also stated how roads are a major issue in the state of Wisconsin: “The amount of traffic in Milwaukee creates accidents, and is not what will bring our city future success. Rather than spending money on the inefficient and impractical trolley system, I will focus on decreasing traffic, making our roads safer, and making travel in and out of Milwaukee easier.

I am eagerly awaiting the contests results and even if Cole (or any other student of mine) doesn’t win, I am proud of his accomplishment.

Social Studies Embedded In Our Lives

10012162166_cde34d427e_bBy Lupe Serna

Growing up, my least favorite subject in school was always social studies. I didn’t enjoy it, it never stuck with me, I just knew I had to take it. I would take notes, study the material, take the test, and then eventually forget most of what I “learned.”

Of course, now I realize I must have never really learned it but, rather, memorized it.

The thing is, I always associated social studies with history, specifically, American history. That’s all it ever was to me. And, quite frankly, it was boring. I heard the same story over and over again each year. But even that wasn’t enough to learn it. You would think that after so many years of being taught the same parts of history something would stick with me. But that was not the case.

As a Spanish-speaking, Mexican immigrant, I could not relate to the material. I was not able to personally connect with, much less engage in, social studies class. Perhaps that’s why I always wrongly associated social studies with history, because I never saw myself reflected in the class content. As a result, I wasn’t able to take the material and apply it to my own life, I wasn’t able to make the necessary connection between the content and reality, I couldn’t partake in authentic intellectual work.

As a future educator, I now realize that that has been the traditional approach to teaching social studies for quite some time now. Fortunately, it doesn’t have to be like that. We have the power to change it.

By taking different, non-traditional approaches to the teaching and practice of social studies, students’s retainment of material and ability to explain it highly increases.

If students feel connected to the material, if they see themselves reflected through the content and are fully engaged participants in their own learning, they are more likely to retain what they learn in the classroom and carry it with them to use those skills and strategies in the outside world.

In other words, authentic intellectual work of social studies is constructing knowledge and being able to transfer that understanding into different aspects or situations in our lives.

What exactly does this mean for the classroom?

Authentic intellectual work means that students do so much more than just learn the material or attain knowledge. It means students actually understandthe material. Not only that, they take it a step further than understanding and they, one, discover the content’s value beyond school and, two, take that disciplined inquiry and apply it in their lives.

But before I go on, it is important to clarify what social studies actually consists of.

There really is no set definition for social studies. Usually, when people hear the word social studies, they think of history, politics, geography, and international relations. At least, that’s what I always thought of.

Not many realize that social studies is so much more than just history. Social studies includes topics such as personal idenity, culture, race, language, religion, community involvement, social justice, civil plans and so much more. In a nutshell, social studies includes anything and everything relating to the human society and social relationships.

For the most part, we don’t really think about social studies as something we do. Surprisingly enough, we do in fact “do” social studies on a daily basis, at times when we least expect it. We do social studies by something as simple as interacting with members in our community, actively responding to current events or natural disasters, fundraising money for organizations or our own communities, acting or taking part in a school play that reenacts a moment in history, partaking in civil rallies demanding social justice, etc.

Take, for example, the many times throughout history when civilians have reacted to and spoken out against social injustices by taking to the streets to protest. It happened back during the Civil Rights Movement and it continues to happen today, the most recent example of nation-wide protests being those held to call for the protection of the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program. In protests like these, participants “do” social studies in the following ways:

  1. Stay informed of current events and actively participate in their communities
  2. Use freedom of speech to stand up for what they believe in
  3. Are aware of and accept cultural differences and diversity
  4. Are informed about the effect of certain political decisions on the lives of others
  5. Interact with other individuals and groups
  6. Sympathize with and show their support for those directly affected

This video shows a recent and local protest on the streets of the Southside of Milwaukee, WI, where the community gathered to call for the protection of DACA.

Another misconception about social studies is that only adults take part in it. Youth’s involvement and role in social studies tends to go unnoticed because many are under the assumption that kids, who have not yet experienced much of life nor have attained much knowledge or wisdom, are not capable of contributing to society or having any sort of impact on the world.

However, quite the contrary is true. Kids can be just as powerful and impactful as adults. At times, they can have an even greater impact precisely because they are kids and as kids, they have a clearer, more innocent outlook on life.

Youth “do” social studies in more ways than imagined. A very common activity that children partake in but that is rarely recognized as “doing” social studies is discussion. When children have conversations with individuals or groups, they are, in one way or another, “doing” social studies. Participating in conversations is a great way for children to “do” social studies because it consists of taking an active role in social relationships. By interacting with others, hearing different perspectives, discussing their own view points, expressing their thoughts and feelings, and connecting with others’s stories and experiences, children are actively “doing” social studies.

This video is an example of 2nd-4th grade students “doing” social studies as they perform their own rendition of Lin-Manuel Miranda’s “Hamilton.” This is a great example of students “doing” social studies because it is evident that students took the material and interpreted in their own way to be able to perform it for an audience. They took history, listened to a different side that is usually not told, made it their own, and, to some extent, re-lived the past by literally putting themselves in the story and taking on different roles. Also, because they were able to fully engage with the material and presented it to an audience, their “doing” of social studies is a lot easier to assess in this situation. Their performance reflects their level of engagement and their investment with the material because in order to perform it well, they must first understand the message they must convey and incorporate props, movements, song, and emotion to do so.

Other examples of youth “doing” social studies are volunteering or doing community service, exploring other cultures and religions, witnessing social justice issues, interacting with people of different backgrounds, acknowledging the diversity within their own homes and the people around them, picking up garbage around their neighborhood, recycling in their homes, being considerate of the amount of water they use, fundraising money for organizations or humanitarian causes, and much more. A few methods of assessment for a non-traditional approach to social studies might be:

  1. Visual respresentations of past and/or current events with captions summarizing students’s explanation of what happened
  2. Visual representations of students’s reactions (physical and/or emotional) to particular stories or shared life experiences
  3. Written reflections about personal encounters or experiences out in the community
  4. A retelling of a story or conversation of students “doing” social studies outside of the classroom
  5. Written responses to the way in which current events were featured in news/media coverage and how it impacted them

A storymap is another example of “doing” social studies because it can serve as a timeline of events that in one way or another impacted an individual, or a group of individuals, while simultaneously telling a story and making it more personal. I created my own storymap to illustrate part of my family’s journey migrating from Mexico to the United States. By mapping this out, I got a better geographical understanding of the long journey that my grandparents, parents, and extended family members made by moving to the United States. It was very impactful because as I reflected on the difficulties, sacrifices, and social injustices that my family has experienced, I realized how strong that has made us and how it has shaped our character. At the same time, it also brought me joy and pride to remind myself of where I come from and what I’ve been through to be where I am today. If that isn’t authentic intellectual work of social studies itself, I don’t know what is.


What is a Marquette Educator?

Follow us on Twitter