Tuesday, 12 July 2011

Social Studies 9: A New Adventure

I will be teaching a block of Social Studies 9, next year.  It will be my first time teaching this course and, after a bit of inspiration from a variety of sources, my brain is full of ideas!  I love the content for Social Studies 9; it's full of revolutions and adventure!

In no particular order, here are a few thoughts about next year:

1) I hope to build on research, paraphrasing, citation, media literacy, and academic honesty skills throughout the year.  Wow.  Re-reading that sentence bores me.  I have fun plans to integrate these key skills into the course and feel that these are vital to students' success in this class and throughout secondary school.  Research goes beyond a Google search and critical thinking requires more than paraphrasing an article.  I am excited about using these important tools in my classes and seeing the students move from guided practice to independent research.  A huge focus will be on critical thinking and synthesis of information, rather than activities which require students to simply "read and regurgitate" the information.

2) Building on the aforementioned skills, I am planning to incorporate a major inquiry project on life in early Canada.  Students will research and present the information in a manner of their choosing.  This will occur after I have introduced the skills required through more teacher-directed lessons.  It is my hope that I will be the "guide" as students tackle this project.  I hope to have them choose their own inquiry questions and conference with each student/group on a regular basis to ensure that they are on track.  I've been able to spend a lot of time thinking and reading about Inquiry Learning through my courses and am excited about beginning.

3) Students and staff often complain that 80-minute blocks are too long; I hope to break up the time by adding 15-45 minute geography lessons at various points throughout the year, rather than teaching a geography unit at once.  I have other plans to break up the blocks, as well.  The classes are long but I think that we can make good use of the time.

4) As a big fan of historical fiction, I plan to incorporate stories throughout the course.  I happen to be reading The Bride of New France at the moment.  (Interestingly, I put this book on hold at the local library before learning that I was teaching this course.  I love the course content!)  I have learned that secondary students are never too old for a "read-aloud" and think it will be fun to use sections of the book to bring a different perspective to some of the course content.  I am looking for other content-related novels or short stories and would love recommendations!

5) Aside from classes being too long, one consistent comment my grade eight students made last year was that high school teachers assign too much homework.  (They didn't have homework in my Health and Career 8 class, of course, but they were struggling to adapt to the homework in secondary school.)  I have become a big fan of in-class assessment and hope that my students will have little or no homework if they are using class time wisely.  They may need to review key concepts at home, but specific homework will not be assigned.  (More thoughts on homework coming soon.)  If a student genuinely struggles, I hope to work with him or her to make adaptations which will allow learning outcomes to be met and frustration to decrease.  This, of course, depends upon the individual student's strengths, challenges, and work habits.

6) Problem-solving activities are also in my mind.  A couple of colleagues have mentioned that they tried role-playing games in Social Studies and this is something that I would love to implement.

7) I have several field trip ideas.  Part of the curriculum involves art and culture.  I would love to take students to the Vancouver Art Gallery for a tour and/or to the UBC Museum of Anthropology.  This would probably occur in the spring so that students would have enough background information to maintain interest.  A number of variables affect this plan, but it is in my mind now.

8) A number of colleagues have been kind enough to e-mail or give me their resources for the course.  I have received many ideas and materials that I hope to use throughout the year.  In the past, my amazing colleagues have been wonderful at mentoring and providing resources when I find myself teaching a new course.  This year has been no different.  I walked into my room one day to find a gigantic box of worksheets and sample assignments on my desk.  I also received e-mail attachments, handouts, and other resources during the last week of school.  I feel really fortunate to be working alongside so many fantastic teachers and look forward to picking their brains as the course progresses.

9) I just realized that I should add a bit about technology.  If you know me, it goes without saying that technology will be a part of my class.  As usual, I plan to use a class website, post assignments online, and engage students in online discussions and debates.  I've learned about a few new tools which I'm excited to use.  Webquests is a fantastic website to encourage critical thinking about history.  This is one that I'm excited to try with Social Studies 9!  As well, students will be using a variety of online tools.  I've been recording interesting links on a separate page and presentation tools which I've used, or hope to use next year, are included there.  I want to pick a few tools for each class and teach students to use them well, rather than constantly spending class time on instruction.  That said, I will be encouraging students to try different tools on their own and will likely provide a brief introduction to each.  A Google account, of course, will be a requirement for every class I teach.

Of course, Social Studies 9 won't be complete without this video and others from the HistoryTeachers channel:

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