My Philosophy of Teaching Social Studies in the Elementary Grades
Becoming a Culturally Skilled Teacher Statement
Rationale for Creation of the Module
Goals of the Module
NCSS Standards and CSDE Social Studies Curriculum Frameworks
Planning Required for Implementation of the Module
Profile of Students’ Skills Required to Use the Module
Profile of the Students’ Prior Knowledge Base Required to Use the Module
Instructional Implementation of Module
Assessment of Student Learning
Thematic Culminating Activity
1:Overview of the Module This module was created to show that learning about the Plains Indians is a great way to implement subject of Social Studies in the classroom. In elementary schools today, the main subjects that are focused on are math, reading, and writing. This puts the content areas such as Science, Social Studies, and Specials (such as art) on the backburner. It is important for a teacher to incorporate the content area of Social Studies in the classroom so that the student becomes knowledgeable of the past and present world around them. This is why it is necessary for teacher’s to plan ahead, and try and implement engaging Social Studies topics such as Plains Indian culture into the classroom. The Plains Indians use their strength, buffalo economy, creativity, teamwork, and culturally acquired skills in order to survive on the Plains. These character traits are some of the main reasons why the Plains Indians are such an engaging topic for students to learn about.
This module incorporates the Social Studies sub-topics of history, civics, geography, and economics into the classroom. All of the lesson plans include historical facts and information about the Plains Indian culture. Whether the lesson is about Indian legends, hunting food, or Indian leaders, there is plenty of Plains Indian history to learn about. One of the lessons in the unit mainly focuses on the importance of the buffalo for the Plains Indian economy and survival. Other lessons in the unit focus on either leadership skills and/or responsibilities on the Plains, which relates to the subject of Civics. The subject of Geography is briefly touched on by having the students learn the location of the Plains Indian Tribes using a map. The content area of English is also focused on in the lesson plan involving legends.
The incorporation of various content areas helps the students develop a more worldly view of the Plains Indian culture. Students will use Plains Indian books and technological resources as aids in this unit, while developing reading, writing, speaking, listening, viewing and computing skills.
2: MyPhilosophy of Teaching Social Studies in the Elementary Grades In my opinion, Social Studies is an extremely important content area that must be incorporated into every elementary classroom. Social Studies is a content area that helps to teach students about why we live the way we do. In order to understand these human experiences, we study not only the past, but the present as well. It is also important to teach Social Studies in the elementary grades to help the student develop civic competence. In the future, children are going to make their way into the community, and they must have an idea of how a democratic society works. Social Studies helps to build both civic knowledge and skills, so that the student can actively participate in a democratic society or community in the future. Being aware civic rights and being actively involved as a citizen can help students to bring about positive social change in a society or community when the time and student age is appropriate.
My philosophy of teaching Social Studies in the elementary grades would be to bring in as many interactive books and activities as possible. Since I am an English major on top of being an elementary teacher, I would consider using all different types of literature to bring Social Studies alive in the classroom. I would make sure to bring books, magazines, newspaper articles, and other literary devices as an aid in teaching Social Studies content. These visuals along with technological assistance, using movie clips or music segments, would be perfect for teaching Social Studies information and activities. I would make sure to not only bring in history of the past, but to also keep the students up to date with current events in the world and their own community.
Since schools are mainly focused on teaching math, reading, and writing I would make sure to teach every subject in an interdisciplinary manner. For example, I would do a lesson on economics to teach both math and Social Studies material. Another example is that I would have the students study a historical figure and then put their writing skills to the test by writing a reflection about this particular historical figure. Social Studies is broad content area that can be effectively implemented into any teacher’s lessons with a little bit of thinking and planning ahead. The thinking and planning behind implementing Social Studies in the classroom would mean that I would have to become an expert on all different kinds of historical subject matter. It is important to become an expert on the subject matter that will be implementing in a Social Studies lesson, because student questioning and inferences can often take a lesson in a different direction. My philosophy as a teacher is that it is important to adapt lesson plans “on the fly” because it could lead to new and improved student learning. In this case, questioning and making inferences (a huge part of learning about Social Studies), can only be accomplished if the teacher is an expert in the subject matter and is willing to adapt the lesson quickly and efficiently.
Overall, Social Studies is extremely important to implement into the classroom. The students must develop civic competence and historical knowledge (both past and present) in order to actively participate and potentially bring about positive social change as a democratic citizen in the future. My philosophy for implementing Social Studies in the classroom would be to bring in all different kinds of literature and visual aids (based off my English major background), as well as making sure that the content area is constantly and effectively implemented using interdisciplinary lesson plans. This will help to not only bring Social Studies to life for the students, but will also help to make other content areas engaging as well.
3: Becoming a Culturally Skilled Teacher Statement
In order to be a culturally skilled teacher, it is important to experience and be a part of diverse populations. Luckily, by attending college in Danbury, I have experienced many diverse classrooms during observation hours. The classrooms I had observed in mainly consisted of Puerto Rican, Brazilian, and African American students. There was also a mix of Chinese and Caucasian students in the classroom that created an even more diverse school environment. After experiencing Danbury elementary schools’ classroom environments, I realized that it extremely important to be a culturally skilled teacher.
In order to be a culturally skilled educator, it is important for the teacher to set goals for oneself and the students in the classroom. The main goal I would set as a teacher in a diverse classroom would be to create a comfortable school environment for all of the students. I will start off by creating a comfortable environment by having the students participate in ice-breaker activities. Ice-breaker activities are used to help students socially interact and learn about other students in the class at a quick pace. These ice- breaker activities often include a teacher verbalizing a category such as “what was something exciting you did over the summer?”, and then the students discuss their summer events with a partner. The teacher will have the partners switch along with the categories, until every student has interacted with another student in the classroom. These ice-breaker activities are helpful in developing some kind of trust or even a positive relationship between students in the classroom. I would create this trusting and comfortable environment right at the beginning of the year to avoid problems or obstacles in the future. After creating trust and comfort between students, I would make sure that the students felt comfortable around the teacher as well. To do this I would cooperate with the students to help develop rules and expectations in the classroom, by creating a class contract. As a class, the teacher and students will work together in a cooperative manner to come up with the best ideas. After all class rules and expectations are agreed upon, then all of the students will sign the contract. Both the ice- breaker activities and the class contract will help to create a trusting and comfortable environment between all diverse students.
In order to become a culturally skilled teacher, you must be aware of your own assumption biases and values. Every teacher, student, and or person in general has his/her own personal opinions in life. As a teacher, it is important to put all assumptions, values, and/or biases aside because it can create a negative class environment if not all students agree. For example, if I accidentally told the class that Christmas is a better celebration than Kwanzaa, then African American students may get upset or even uproar against the teacher. Teacher’s must check their biases and/or stereotyping ideas out of the classroom and be open to all student opinions and cultures, in order to create positive class environment. It is also important for a teacher to clarify appropriate behavior in situations that involve different student opinions and cultural ideas. In diverse classrooms, a teacher should expect students to have different opinions or beliefs about certain concepts brought into the classroom, so it is important for the teacher to be prepared for these differences. One way to express appropriate behavior or reactions to different biases, is to teach the students that everyone is entitled to their own opinion. The teacher will clarify that no opinion or idea is right or wrong, it is just different. The teacher will also need to clarify that students should never put down another student’s opinion in a negative manner. For example instead of a student saying “that is a stupid idea,” in response to a student’s opinion, the student should say “that is an interesting idea, but I have a different idea or view.” Making sure student’s act appropriately in conflicting situations, such as student debates or culturally-diverse topics, it is important to make sure the class stays under control and knows how to react. Both the teacher and the students must be open to listen to all student opinions, biases, and assumptions, especially when in a diverse classroom.
In order to become a culturally skilled teacher, one must be aware of the diversity of students that may be in a classroom. Using the Danbury elementary schools as an example, the classroom consisted mainly of Puerto Rican, Brazilian, and African American students. As a teacher, it is important to be aware that each culture has different beliefs and the student may express certain cultural cues based on both familial and cultural ideas. It is the teacher’s job to educate him/herself on different cultures and cultural cues that may be found in a diverse classroom. The teacher can educate and/or gain background knowledge on a different culture by researching using books or technological resources, such as computers. Another way for a teacher to become knowledgeable of a certain culture, is to reach out to the student’s parents in order to gain insight on possible cultural cues, ideas, or socioeconomic situations. The parents can help the teacher to understand why a son/daughter may not be making eye contact during any type of conversation, or why a son/daughter may get emotional during holidays. By connecting with the parents, the teacher can also become aware of the socioeconomic status of a family in terms of lacking school-related resources and/or technology based on income. If the teacher is aware of a student’s socioeconomic status, it would help to clarify possible homework completion, resource supply, or dietary issues of a student. After basic knowledge is gained about different cultures in the classroom, it is the teacher’s job to implement cultural ideas (based off the student’s heritage/race) into the school curriculum. By implementing cultural ideas into diverse classrooms, both the teachers and the students can develop an understanding and respect of the cultures they see right in front of them. This can help to both engage students in class activities, as well as broaden their horizons about the different cultures around them.
In order to become a culturally skilled teacher, a teacher must have appropriate intervention strategies and techniques that are in no way discriminatory. One way to create non-discriminatory interventions and techniques is to generate a wide variety of verbal and nonverbal responses. For example, if a student is violating the one of the class contract rules, then the teacher will verbally state that this is your first warning. The student will know what comes next based of the behavioral chart the teacher has set up and clarified at the beginning of the year. If the child misbehaves again, then the teacher will not say a word and go to the behavioral chart to change the student’s behavior status to a higher punishment. Having a behavior chart in the classroom is the perfect strategy/intervention for students to receive rewards or consequences in the classroom in a non-discriminatory manner. Another way to gain control or get the classes attention would be to use clarified non-verbal cues. An example of a non-verbal cue to get a classes’ attention would be to flick the lights on and off. The student’s would recognize the cue as stop talking and pay attention to the teacher. The teacher must clarify all verbal and non-verbal cues to each all students at the beginning of the year, in order to prevent cultural misunderstandings. Besides behavioral strategies and interventions, a teacher must also use appropriate and non-discriminatory strategies when grouping students for lesson plan activities. For example, the teacher must make sure students are not grouped together based on race, but based on academic skills. Thanks to literacy profiles, running records, and other literacy assessments it is easier to group students based on skill level in a content area. This strategy is skilled based, therefore it is extremely non-discriminatory. The last strategy a teacher can use in a culturally diverse classroom is various teaching techniques. Since all students comprehend information differently, it is necessary for the teacher to incorporate kinesthetic, auditory, and visual activities to support all diverse student learning. If teaching strategies are varied in a culturally diverse classroom, then the classroom environment will keep students feeling comfortable, engaged, and academically successful.
4: Rationale For Creation of the Module Studying Native American cultures has always been a memorable and engaging topic to me. For example, when I was in elementary school I will always remember the unit on Native Americans. I remember how excited I got when I created my own Indian pieces of artwork such as a dream catcher and a totem pole. I also can clearly remember some of the Indian shelters such as a log house, a wigwam, and a tipi after going on a student field trip. It is also easy to remember Native American culture when the holiday Thanksgiving comes up every fall. My continued remembrance of the Native American unit in elementary school, along with my continued engagement with studying Indian culture, led me to create this unit.
But Native American culture is extremely broad and diverse depending on the environment the tribe is located at. This is why I knew I had to choose a specific Indian tribe that would help to focus my unit’s ideas. After researching several Indian tribe locations, ideas, and looking at pictures, I decided to use to Plains Indians as my main focus in the Native American unit. My final decision was influenced by the strategic male Indian Hunting strategies, the important role of women in the tribe, and the aggressive and strong leaders found in each tribe. The Plains Indians were extremely intriguing and fun to learn about, and I feel like my students will feel as I do by the end of the unit.
5: Goals of the Module I have always been interested in all the different cultural aspects of the Native American tribes. After speaking with a local teacher about my unit, she told me that Native American cultural studies, along with many other Social Studies topics, are being pushed out of most elementary school classrooms. This is mainly due to the ongoing assessments of student comprehension and improvement focusing on reading, writing and math. Factoring out Native American culture was an outrage to me, mainly because that was one of the units I do remember learning about in elementary school. I could still remember how excited I was listening to Native American music, creating my own tipi and totem pole, and even listening to the intriguing legends different Indian tribes. One of the goals of my unit is to convince teachers that Native American (Indian) culture is important to incorporate into the classroom based off my engaging experience when I was in elementary school. Another goal of my unit is to have students be comfortable with using a variety of resources around them. It is a technological world right now, and majority of younger students prefer working with/on computers over reading authentic resources such as books. It is important to me that the students in my classroom do not just resort to computer technology in order to find information about a subject or topic. I want them to feel comfortable using books, reading paper-based worksheets, and/or studying real life artifacts, instead of just using technology. Therefore I created a module involving books, paper-based articles, videos, and incorporated computer based-technology using links to online websites. This unit will help the students to use a variety or resources in order to understand the culture of the Plains Indians.
6: NCSS StandardsandCSDE Social Studies Curriculum Frameworks (see attached lesson plans for CSDE)
Social studies programs should include experiences that provide for the study of culture and cultural diversity.
Social studies programs should include experiences that provide for the study of the ways human beings view themselves in and over time
Social studies programs should include experiences that provide for the study of people, places, and environments.
Social studies programs should include experiences that provide for the study of individual development and identity.
Social studies programs should include experiences that provide for the study of interactions among individuals, groups, and institutions.
Social studies programs should include experiences that provide for the study of how people create and change structures of power, authority, and governance.
Social studies programs should include experiences that provide for the study of how people organize for the production, distribution, and consumption of goods and services.
Social studies programs should include experiences that provide for the study of relationships among science, technology, and society.
Social studies programs should include experiences that provide for the study of global connections and interdependence.
Social studies programs should include experiences that provide for the study of the ideals, principles, and practices of citizenship in a democratic republic.
7: Planning Required For Implementation of this Module An extreme amount of planning is required prior to the implementation of this Plains Indian module. To start off, the teacher must prepare an organized and detailed outline for each lesson plan. The teacher must become an expert in Plains Indian content knowledge in order to be able to effectively adapt lesson plans “on the fly” if necessary. In terms of preparation, the teacher must make sure that all materials (worksheets, graphic organizers, and computer links) are ready and easily accessible before lesson implementation, so there is no student or teacher confusion and/or unnecessary delays in time.
Since there many students who need differentiated learning in this module, it is important to have all necessary tools and aids available to accommodate the student’s personal needs. For example, if a student has difficulty reading information on the computer for long periods of time, the teacher must have a hard copy paper format of the information ready for the student to use (see all attached lesson plans for differentiated strategies and tools for students with special needs).
Before implementation of is module, it is also important to communicate with or make contact with necessary people. For example, the teacher must make sure to contact a person in charge of the computer lab in order to reserve a date for implementation of lesson one. Lesson one involves an extreme amount of computer use and research, so the teacher must set an appropriate date in order to make this lesson plan effective. Another important person to communicate with is a potential substitute teacher. It is important for full time teachers to have a detailed and easily accessible lesson outline, so that lesson plans can be implemented effectively by the substitute teacher. Also, another person that may be contacted before implementation of this module are the student’s parents. Although keeping in contact with parents is not necessary, it can be helpful to the student’s completion and further engagement in lesson plans both at school and at home. A simple email or website post would be efficient for keeping parents in the loop with student achievement and activities.
8: Profile of Student’s Skills Required to Use the Module In order to successfully get through this module, the students will need to have basic and proficient skills in certain areas of each lesson plan. To start off, the student must have and be able to use the basic skills of reading, writing, listening, viewing, computing, thinking, and studying. Majority of these skills will be implemented into every lesson plan in the Plains Indian curriculum unit.
Reading skills are required in this unit both on an independent level and guided reading level. The unit includes articles about Plains Indian women, communication, and famous Indian chiefs. An important reading skill that is required specifically for one of the lesson plans, is skimming and scanning. It is expected at this point that the students must be proficient with these independent reading skills. The student also has acquired the appropriate skills and techniques for proficient active reading.
Writing is an extremely important skill to have in this unit. Students are constantly writing, either by filling out graphic organizers, worksheets, scales, discussion board information, and pieces other pieces of writing (including essays, stories, and letters). The students must also be efficient with editing and revising their own essays. The students must also have neat handwriting in order for the teacher to effectively grade a hand written paper/worksheet/essay.
Listening is an appropriate behavior skill that must be exercised in each lesson plan activity. The students are doing a great deal of listening in group teacher/student based discussions, in watching videos, during student presentations, and role-playing activities. It is expected for students to be respectful of both the teacher and the students by listening carefully to all activities, visual presentations, and to other students in general.
Viewing is a skill that must be accomplished in every lesson in the unit. Each lesson includes some kind of visual aspect that will help to engage the students. Whether it be books, articles, worksheets, videos, websites, or presentations, the students will always be using his/her viewing skills.
Computing is an extremely important skill to have when progressing through the unit. Since it is a technological age, these generations of students are already extremely computer savvy. The students must be able to access computer links and use research information in a quick and proficient manner. Students must also know how to navigate around computer sites as well as be able to create word documents for writing essays, stories, and/or letters.
There are also many other skills the students will need in order to successfully complete this unit. These skills include being able to draw, predict, follow directions, organizing thoughts and self, decision making, and role-playing. The skills of these students can range from basic to proficient, but the student must have all of these general skills in order to be successful in completing this unit.
Use of all skills will be diagnosed based on the teacher’s observations of student participation and comprehension. Participation can be noted personally by the teacher, through rubrics, and through basic question answer monitoring during group activities. Student comprehension and utilization of the skills are typically measured through the use of rubrics for class activities and homework assignments.
9: Profile of Student’s Prior Knowledge Base Required to Use this Module At the beginning of every lesson, the teacher must tap into the student’s use prior knowledge in order to make the lesson engaging. In order to begin this unit on the Plains Indians, the student will need to already have a general idea of different cultural characteristics of the Native Americans. This usually provided during previous grade level or through personal experiences. Some the general topics that will be mentioned in this unit are leader characteristics, roles and responsibilities, various legends/stories, forms of communication, and economic situations. The students are expected to use their prior knowledge of past experiences in order to recall these topics.
A student must also use prior knowledge in order to accomplish graded tasks such as complete worksheets, essays, and other school activities in order to be proficient. At this point the students already know how to fill out graphic organizers such as a T-chart, Venn Diagram, fact sheets, and other charts. The students also know how to complete participation worksheets such as a likert scales and other rating scales. The students are also familiar with writing creatively, persuasively, and/or in letter format. For further specification on what the student needs to accomplish on an assignment, a formal rubric is provided. Informal rubrics, which are mainly used by the teacher to assess student participation, are shown to the students and clarified by the teacher at the beginning of the year.
Although it is important to address that the student must have prior knowledge in all subject areas (reading, writing, science, social studies, math, etc.), it is more important to address the need for students to recall computer using skills. Since it is a technological age, students must know how to use a computer. Prior knowledge could be as simple as turning on and off a computer, to how to format and edit essays in Microsoft Word. Computer knowledge is both the key and the future of student success and achievement.