In Case You Missed It: Top Takeaways from NCSS 2018
The Newsela Team was excited to attend the National Council for Social Studies annual convention in Chicago, where social studies educators came together to learn from keynote speakers and teacher leaders from across the country. Here are the top takeaways from Community Team members Ted, Megan, JJ, and Lauren!
1. Districts are rethinking their social studies curricula with new content and standards.
School leaders from Elmhurst 205 shared their journey to redesign their district’s social studies curriculum, starting from the top, building in the Illinois and C3 Standards, organizing standards and content, and then building out daily lesson plans. One resource they’re incorporating, Bill Daggett’s Rigor and Relevance Framework, is a tool to help examine curriculum, instruction, and assessment. Other educators shared that their state standards and compelling questions are the foundations of the curriculum.
The team noted that so much of our own social studies education was about memorization and regurgitation of facts. Even in higher-level courses, the emphasis was usually on spitting back out an established point of view from the original source or the textbook. (Did we ever learn to question what was in the textbook? No—even though history textbooks are all from one point of view.)
Now, with the ability to integrate audio, video, speeches, primary sources, and bring in more voices and narratives, history is ripe for re-thinking. Some of Ted’s favorite resources are the Text Sets for Social Studies: dozens of Text Sets containing all kinds of nonfiction, including the topics of Slavery and the Civil Rights Movement. Pair it with the Teaching Hard History Podcast from Teaching Tolerance, over 8 episodes of podcasts designed to teach slavery from leading scholars and educators.
2. Educators can help students develop skills to unpack the world around them.
A Social Studies Department head said it best: “I’m going to let some of the content go, and there will be gaps in students’ knowledge, but it serves well if we’re going to teach valuable skills—supporting opinions, analyzing resources, engaging in inquiry—we’re well served”. Conference attendees agreed that it is their job, as social studies educators, to add to students “toolboxes” and arm them with the skills necessary to unpack not only historical texts, but the world around them. If we can do that, we are setting our students up to be engaged, active, and civically-minded citizens. Lauren recommends the Social Studies Toolkit as a great place to start when thinking about how Newsela can be used to practice high-level skills in the social studies classroom like inquiry, debate, and simulations.
3. Action is key - what do students do with their learning?
Weaving civic engagement through everything that we do as educators. While many of the examples of civic engagement may come from the past or from people who our student may feel are older or in a better position to make change, we need to show them ways they can engage civically here and now, so they have opportunities to flex and grow those civic muscles. Megan loves the Activism Text Set because it include scores of example of students making impactful in changes in their own communities.
So what comes next? Continue the conversation. Collaborate and share your best practices. How are you teaching the critical historical thinking skills? How are helping your students take action in their school or home communities? For more resources, our Educator Community is home to over 200 teacher created Text Sets and Lesson Sparks to help support social studies instruction.
Top Takeaways from Twitter
Newsela Collections for social studies educators are now available. These are aligned to anchor literacy standards, NCSS thematic strands, and the C3 Framework - and of course, mapped to your favorite Newsela articles. You can request a preview of our US History for Middle School or AP GoPo Collections here.