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Nerdfest 2015 Day Three: New York State Social Studies Toolkit

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For too long, state standards have encouraged social studies teachers and students to simply focus on the memorization of foundational knowledge. The pendulum is swinging back to quality instruction focused on the development of historical thinking skills.

This is a good thing. But it can also be a bit intimidating and discouraging. I often hear from teachers asking what this sort of instruction should look like. What resources should they use? Where can they find resources? How long should a unit last? How can this type of learning be assessed?

The answers to those questions just got easier thanks to the great state of New York. Over the last few years, teachers in New York have worked to create what they are calling the Toolkit. Made up of 84 different Inquiries across multiple grade levels, the Toolkit provides specifics about what the historical thinking can look like in your classroom.

The Toolkit is designed to put instructional and curriculum design tools into the hands of teachers and leaders in local districts. The Toolkit resources focus on implementation of the Inquiry Arc, as presented in The College, Career, and Civic Life (C3) Framework for Social Studies State Standards, including the four dimensions:

  • Developing questions and planning inquiries
  • Applying disciplinary concepts and tools
  • Evaluating sources and using evidence
  • Communicating conclusions and taking informed action.

The Conceptual Foundations provides the intellectual foundation for the Toolkit project and specifically, the Inquiry Design Model. The Inquiry Design Model (IDM) is a distinctive approach to creating instructional materials that avoids over-prescription by highlighting key elements, offering pedagogical suggestions, and relying on teacher expertise and experience.

Written by New York State teachers for New York State teachers, the centerpiece of the Toolkit are inquiries that are provided for all K-12 teachers.  An inquiry is larger than a lesson plan but smaller than a unit; they are not scripts or modules for teachers to follow. Rather, these inquiries set a curricular and instructional course that teachers can consider in light of the NY Framework.  In this way, teachers must bring their professional expertise and knowledge of successful instructional practice into the inquiry.

Within the Toolkit are 84 inquiries: six at each grade K-11 and twelve at grade 12. Each of the inquiries features a blueprint and a short description of how the inquiry might be taught. Fourteen of the inquiries are fully annotated with explanations. Review of the annotated inquiry is a recommended first step for teachers, as it provides considerable curricular and instructional guidance in implementing an inquiry-based approach.

The beauty of the Inquiries is that they can be immediately implemented into the classroom or modified to fit your specific situation.

7 Comments Post a comment
  1. Jennifer #

    Thanks for highlighting this resource, Glenn. The teachers in our state worked hard on creating this toolkit. Glad it can be helpful to others🙂

    November 15, 2015
    • glennw #


      The hard work definitely shows. You guys did a great job – thanks so much for pushing it out to the rest of the world!


      November 15, 2015
  2. dlaufenberg #

    Ok… I am intrigued, went to the site… and all of the 84 inquiry links return a dead page… thoughts?

    November 15, 2015
  3. Ed #

    I have used two inquiries so far (one for 6th and one for 7th). I appreciated the flexibility and freedom to download the inquiries as editable documents. My classes liked them too!

    November 17, 2015
    • glennw #


      I shared these with some elementary teachers yesterday and they also liked them for similar reasons. I think more and more teachers will find them useful!

      Thanks for the comment!


      November 17, 2015

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