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NCHE Session III – Connecting the Common Core and Content

This is the tough part of the day – right after lunch. I’m full of chicken burrito, black bean soup, and charros. Must . . . stay  . . .  awake. Wish me luck.

But I have been looking forward to this one. Dr. Fritz Fischer from the University Northern Colorado, former middle school teacher, former NCHE president, is leading the charge in a session dealing with the Common Core.

I had the chance several years ago to take part in a Gilder Lehrman teacher summer seminar on elementary literacy that Fritz lead. It was incredible. So  . . . figured I couldn’t go wrong this afternoon.

He starts off

Like it or not, social studies teachers will have to become very familiar with the Common Core.

The Common Core is all about English and math. So how does it apply to us? There are specific connections between social studies and literacy at all grade levels. The focus in these connections is on historical process, not content.

The question? How to connect the content of social studies with the process of the Common Core?

The concern by many when first hearing about the Common Core, national standards targeting ELA and math, was that social studies was once again getting thrown to the gutter. Upon further reading, it has become apparent that using the Common Core encourages historical thinking and the NCHE Habits of Mind.

Beth Scarbrough, from the Georgia Council for History Education, highlighted a specific lesson on the Boston massacre. She gave us seven documents of the event and asked us to analyze the different versions. Part of what you should use is Revere’s woodcut of the event.

Write down your own short account of the event using whatever historical skills you might have.

The first step after coming back together is to agree on the core facts such as date, who was there, where it happened, etc. But the next step involved sharing our accounts. These varied, of course. This led to a nice conversation about how to train kids to source information and employ historical thinking.

It sounds very similar to Geoffrey Scheurman’s exercise on the Battle of Lexington.

We’re training kids to look at history and historical stuff differently. And the Common Core helps us do that:

  • RH.6-8.7. Integrate visual information (e.g., in charts, graphs, photographs, videos, or maps) with other information in print and digital texts.
  • RH.6-8.8. Distinguish among fact, opinion, and reasoned judgment in a text.
  • RH.6-8.9. Analyze the relationship between a primary and secondary source on the same topic.

Fritz shared a different standard – a high school English standard that he suggests is better taught by a history teacher, one who understands historical content and habits of mind.

  • RI.11-12.4. Determine the meaning of words and phrases as they are used in a text, including figurative, connotative, and technical meanings; analyze how an author uses and refines the meaning of a key term or terms over the course of a text (e.g., how Madison defines faction in Federalist No. 10).

Fritz says that most English teachers will simply stop with defining the words and phrases – without focusing on the context.

So we need to spend time discussing what Madison was trying to say in Federalist No. 10 not only in the context of the times but also what it means for us today in terms of special interest groups and Super PACs. And it’s not just the context but using history specific skills such as analyzing primary source documents.

I plan to talk about the Common Core and Social Studies a bit more sometime next week. But what I’m seeing over the last few months is that the Common Core does a good job of encouraging high levels of social studies instruction and learning.

(Needed more Fritz! And a nap.)

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