Thinking on Education: The Importance of Project-Based Learning

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We all want students to experience authentic, meaningful learning within the classroom.

To that end, project-based learning (PBL) is an effective teaching method.

PBL focuses on what students learn more than what teachers teach, as Diana B. Turk and Stacie Brensilver Berman explained in their January/February 2018 Social Education article, “Learning through Doing: A Project-Based Learning Approach to the American Civil Rights Movement.”

“[W]e see project-based learning as an approach that focuses both on the content of curriculum and what students do with what they learn,” the authors explained. “Organized around real-world challenges that students engage in and ultimately master in their learning, PBL units look and feel very different from traditional classroom learning.”

Most importantly PBL is not a one-and-done lesson — this method usually lasts at least a week or more. Turk and Berman added that PBL is teacher-shaped but student-driven, a key component of engaging students. PBL units must also be authentic and as real as possible — both within the classroom and without.

“It must be minds on as well as being hands on,” Turk and Berman said. “Only by engaging in projects that invite transfer — the extension of learning from one project to another, across and outside the curricular realm — do students truly come to own the material they learn and see the value and meaning of the work they are engaged in. Those are the prerequisites for real learning to take place.”

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Successful PBL units make students think differently about the content they are learning, encourage them to ask questions they didn’t think of before, and engage them within their community, Berman added in a March 2018 National Council for the Social Studies podcast, “Passionate about Project-Based Learning.”

Teachers are often nervous about implementing PBL into their classroom because it can sometimes be loud and messy. But the skills students gain are essential to their future work within a company, the community and their families. Through PBL, students learn how to question and research, how to collaborate and communicate effectively, and how to identify a problem and chase down a solution as part of a team.

Here are some tips — culled from multiple experts and resources — for using PBL in the classroom:

1. Teach team skills.

Many teachers go into PBL without teaching students how to work well with others. But these skills are not instinctive for most students. Teachers should model and teach how to be an active listener, engage in respectful discussion and debate, and share the work.

Mari Venturino shares some good ideas for how to do this in a September 2018 Kids Discover post, “Teaching Teamwork.”

2. Assign roles.

Unique roles within a group makes everyone work together on the project. The type of project will dictate the exact roles needed, but some general roles are: group facilitator, note-taker, progress tracker, teacher liaison and materials manager. In a January 2018 Getting Smart article, Jamie Beck also suggested four roles that work well:

• Head Coach: The one who understands the activity, keeps the team together throughout and understands the final solution well enough to explain it to others.

• Journalist: The one who leads the team in organizing results and creating the final product.

Resource Manager: The one who gets supplies for the team, and is the only person who can ask team questions from the teacher.

• Assistant Coach: The one who ensures everyone shares their ideas and contributes.

You can find further tips and downloadables to help you and your students understand collaborative roles at Teachers Pay Teachers.

3. Track ongoing progress.

Many teachers don’t rely on just one final deadline for the completion of a project, because students need clear measurements for what they should be doing and when. To do this effectively, you could set intermittent deadlines for some or all of the following:

• Identifying and validating the problem

• Gathering data and research

• Organizing and identifying pertinent data

• Creating a presentation plan

• Finalizing the presentation

• Presenting

• Reflecting on the project

4. Teach students how to prepare for a presentation.

project based learning

PBL does not always end in a written research paper. Students can tailor their final presentation to the subject studied. 

For example, a social studies project may result in students creating a newspaper about the event or movement, or even doing a reenactment of the event.

Students can also present their topics in a variety of ways, such as: a TED Talk style speech, a video, a play, a broadcast, a diorama, a hands-on demonstration, a children’s book, etc. You should be open to allowing the students pick their presentation style depending on their subject, rather than choosing one for them.

If students will be presenting their findings outside of the classroom, teachers should also prepare them for this.

5. Grade through rubrics.

Studies Weekly PBL
Courtesy PhilipCummings.com

It is challenging to assign a blanket grade to group work and projects. Rubrics allow you to grade the intended outcome for the project both individually and as a group. Students should see the grading rubrics before starting the project so they know how they will be graded.

Good rubrics don’t just assign points, but also describe the reasoning behind those points. Effective rubrics outline where a group is below a standard, approaching the standard, and completing the standard.

Students should also evaluate themselves and each other through another rubric that details their collaboration skills — including how well they listened, communicated, did their assigned role, kept on task and contributed to the final product.

Find some great rubric ideas at our Pinterest board.

6. Allow time for reflection.

Studies Weekly projects

Students should always have time to reflect on the group’s efforts and the final project. This can be done through a peer/group rubric, but can also be accomplished as a class. Reflection time gives students the opportunity to share the following:

• What worked in their group

• Frustrations they had with the project

• What surprised them about the project, or topic

• What they learned about the subject

• What they learned about themselves

• Further questions they have about the subject

• Possible roles they’d like to try for the next project

Emily Murphy explained that reflection time is important for both the teacher and learner. In her December 2018 Edutopia article, she shared a highly successful PBL experience. But she did not realize how differently her students felt about their project’s outcome than she did until they talked as a class after the project’s completion.

“Had we skipped the step of reflecting the day after the meeting, I would have made many incorrect assumptions. The reflection period prompted teachers to spend time considering student perspective and to ask, ‘Are we following their agenda or ours?’” she said.

PBL is not a new teaching method. According to Education Week, it’s been a part of education for more than 100 years.

But — with so many technological advancements giving students easier access to information and resources — there are many opportunities in classrooms today to thoughtfully and meaningfully implement authentic, real-world project-based learning. This will better prepare students with essential collaborative skills needed for today’s interconnected society.

For further reading, the Buck Institute for Education offers training and resources for teachers who want to learn how to apply PBL in their classroom.

Studies Weekly’s consumable newspapers and magazines work well with PBL. Students can use the print and online editions for primary source research and data gathering, and then turn around and cut up the print edition and/or incorporate Studies Weekly’s videos for their presentations. The possibilities are endless.

Visit https://app.studiesweekly.com//online/pdod to learn more.

Susan Cro: Studies Weekly Spotlight

Susan Cro uses Studies Weekly publications in a unique but important setting.

Susan Cro Spotlight
Susan Cro and her husband

As Cro explains, she is “a homeschooling Nana.” She teaches three of her grandchildren, ages 8, 10 and 11.

“All three have VERY distinct learning styles, and are all moving at very different speeds with their learning. It has been an ongoing struggle to work with all three, at three separate grade levels, and keep them all motivated and challenged,” she said in an interview with Studies Weekly.

Susan Cro Spotlight
Susan Cro's grandchildren study

Cro has spent her life teaching. She and her husband were group home parents working with and teaching at risk teens for two years. She was a regular substitute teacher for an alternative school, and a longtime substitute teacher in the K-12 schools in her community.

Even with all her experience, she admits that homeschooling is probably harder than anything she’s done before. But she loves the individual attention and learning flexibility it gives her grandchildren.

“All three children love being home schooled with a relaxed atmosphere and the ability to study in depth any subject they show an interest in. It doesn’t matter if you’re studying trains or bones, you should be able to pull all subjects into that unit,” she said. “The knowledge that each child is receiving the individual attention they deserve, being able to let them relax when they’re not feeling well, and the ability to school any and everywhere makes this something that I will continue as long as the children and their parents want me to.”

She explained she is grateful for Studies Weekly because its curriculum flexibility allows her to tackle the same subject matter, but individualize instruction for all three grade levels each week.

“Finding a program that can be used to teach across multiple ages, grade levels and abilities is truly a blessing. Studies Weekly provides this for homeschooling. We will utilize Studies Weekly until all three children age out of the program,” she said.

Susan Cro's grandchildren read books recommended by Studies Weekly at their local library.

Cro discovered Studies Weekly after a suggestion from another homeschooling parent. In her seven years of homeschooling, she hadn’t concentrated on social studies, but Studies Weekly is helping her play “catch-up” with that subject area.

“We school year-round so we plan to just keep working through each subsequent Studies Weekly grade until going through them all,” she said.

Studies Weekly helps her grandchildren get excited about what they are learning. They love that the lessons are “short, sweet and to the point.” Because of this, they want to explore further.

“I love seeing the ‘Aha!’ moment or hearing the excitement in a young voice as they grab hold of an idea or concept and run with it,” she said.

Susan Cro Spotlight
Susan Cro and her grandchildren at Oklahoma's Museum of Osteology

Studies Weekly: Always Growing and Improving

Studies Weekly is continually improving and growing.

As a company, we are dedicated to updating and improving our products to better serve teachers and students.

For example, we were extremely excited to roll out our Google Integration recently, as we know how time-saving that is for teachers. We also added 7th and 8th grade to our Social Studies program, and completely updated our K-5 Science publications.

But that’s not all. Here’s what we’ve been up to:

New State Publications

Our Tennessee K-5 Social Studies publications successfully launched last year, and we were honored to be the only K-2 textbook adopted by the Tennessee State Board of Education.

Our editorial and production teams also worked tirelessly to create completely new and updated K-5 Social Studies publications for Georgia and Ohio. They also completely updated the Louisiana 3rd Grade Social Studies publication. Those all are available for advance purchase online and through local sales teams, for use in the 2019-2020 school year.

More Teacher Supplements

Your teacher resources now include 35 pages of graphic organizers and activities for students. Those additional tools are accessible through your online account, and they will be included in the printed Teacher Resource starting this fall.

Rate and Review System

Teachers can now rate and review all online articles, article questions, bonus media questions and assessment questions.

In the right-hand corner on articles and assessments, you can see the 5-star rating system. Simply click on the star of your choice.

Studies Weekly online

Social Studies online

 

Studies Weekly online

If you rate an article or question below 4 stars, a comment box pops up and you can give us feedback on how we need to improve that item.

 

Studies Weekly onlineAs a company, this helps our product development team see where we are succeeding, and where we need to improve and update our curriculum.

Don’t worry, only teachers can rate content. This feature is not available for students.

Audio Reader

Your students can now choose the reading speed for the audio reader option on online articles. Students who are in the early language acquisition phase can slow down the reader speed so they can follow along easier. Students can also speed up the reader to a pace that works for them.

Studies Weekly online audio

Product Updates from Teacher Feedback

In November, we organized a focus group, and gained valuable insight from those who use our product every day. Group members shared a number of suggestions where we can improve. Since then, we have implemented those, and are working to finalize other changes.

Here’s just a few of those suggestions we heard, and our resulting actions:

More K-2 videos. We’ve increased our K-2 video productions, and will continue to do so this year.

Different content than crosswords. As we update each state’s content, we’re swapping out a large number of our crosswords with additional activities and content in our publications.

More rigor and relevance in publications. As we update state content, we are building in more rigor and relevance.

More online professional development. We have created an online professional development program, and will continue to add to it. District leaders can also now purchase additional PD training from Studies Weekly.

More Tech Support hours. We now provide full day Tech Support coverage for all United States time zones except for Hawaii and Alaska.

More Changes to Come

These are only a few of the most recent improvements we’ve made to better serve you. We enjoy hearing from you as well. If you have other suggestions and ideas, feel free to contact us through our Facebook page, or text us at:  (385) 399-1786.

Thinking on Education: The Importance of Emotion in Learning

Emotion in Social Studies
Oswiecim, Poland – March 28, 2016: Electrical fences of Auschwitz — the largest German concentration camp built and operated by Nazi Germany during World War II.

As your students analyze and ponder history, are they tapping into the feelings of people in the past?

We do students a disservice when we distance them from historical experiences through detached instruction.

At Studies Weekly, we live by the motto: “Standards Inform, Stories Inspire.” We wholeheartedly believe that sentiment. While all our curriculum is based on rigorous national and state standards, we present that curriculum to students through the power of stories.

Why?

Because we believe, and research proves this, that true learning involves emotion, not rote memorization of facts and figures. As noted in a Psychologist World article, “emotionally charged situations can lead us to create longer lasting memories” of events.

If we want our students to truly learn from the mistakes and triumphs of the past, we need to ensure they experience the emotions of those events.

“The need to belong, the desire to be understood, the instinct to understand — these are all universal human emotions that do not fade with time, vary across generations, or stop just because you’ve got algebra to teach. They lord over a student’s mind constantly, and require more than a little bit of ‘social and emotional learning’ — they require emotion at the core,” said Terry Heick, founder and director of TeachThought, in an October 2017 post.

Just as students need to belong and be understood in the classroom, they can see these basic human needs in the past. Are students delving into these universal emotions as they learn history?

For example, are they discovering the stories behind why an individual fought for the North or the South in the American Civil War? Or are we just emotionlessly requiring them to memorize the dates and locations of battles and their military outcomes?

For those who lived those battles — and the many battles that followed — the dates mattered less than the sights, sounds and smells of gunpowder, smoke and death. Location mattered only in that it was the last place they saw a fellow soldier alive.

This is why Studies Weekly relies so much on primary sources.

Good Primary Sources Draw Students into the Story

“Primary sources allow us to discover important details about horrific events of the past, especially the often-overlooked human response,” Lee Ann Potter, director of educational outreach at Library of Congress, in a 2011 Social Education article.

For many students today, World War II is a distant war fought on a distant land. But for people like Jack Tueller, it was where he lost many friends, but also found a strength within himself he didn’t know was there.

For many students today, the Holocaust was an atrocity that no one can comprehend happening today. For Noemi Mattis, it was an era that ripped family and friends apart.

For many students today, the Civil Rights Movement was a major achievement that struck a major blow to racism. For those who lived that era and fought for equality, it was a time of fear and violence, but also strength and solidarity.

Studies Weekly centers much of its instruction around these and other types of primary sources so students will feel and experience history, not just read about it. So they will understand multiple perspectives of events from those who were there.

So they will see something within themselves in the stories of both ordinary and heroic history makers, and realize their own place in today’s society.

To learn more about teaching with stories and primary sources, visit Teaching with Primary Source in Social Studies.

Teaching Digital Citizenship in a World Full of Technology

We are all part of a digital world, but sometimes internet interactions bring out the uglier side of humanity.

Today, there is a profound need for digital citizenship education.

As part of the social studies curriculum, educators already teach children citizenship in our nation. In prior generations, this teaching included how to function in the public sphere and the local community, and how to fulfill civic duties.

But because the internet now connects our entire globe, we all are also citizens of the world. Thus, instruction today must include digital citizenship.

As Richard Culatta, CEO of the International Society for Technology in Education, explained in a speech last year, digital citizenship is not the same as teaching children online safety.

“Digital citizenship is not a list of don’ts, but a list of dos,” he said at the 2018 ISTE Conference & Expo in Chicago.

Culatta outlined four of those dos, and encouraged educators to incorporate them into their instruction.

1. Digital Citizenship is using technology to make your community better.

We all, hopefully, have seen examples of this. From the teenager in a Utah school who created a social media account to highlight and compliment random students from his school, to the many amazing apps now available to help people with disabilities — many, many people use technology to improve society.

High school teacher Douglas Kiang shared another example of this in an ISTE article. He noticed his students weren’t really connecting as a class, so he created a classroom Minecraft server. He assigned them to play the game together.

Before even tackling this assignment, the class created initial rules to govern their communal gameplay. From this, they learned valuable lessons about translating the citizenship rules that govern face-to-face interactions into a digital community. As the gameplay progressed, students gained in-depth knowledge about how laws and societies work.

“I just realized something. In the beginning, we had a hard time coming up with rules because no one knew what was going to happen. Now I think that laws only exist because someone at some point in the past did something before it was a law,” one student told Kiang after a classroom discussion.

The play encouraged problem-solving, and in-person debate and discussion. Overall, Kiang felt it was a powerful community-building experience.

“The power of Minecraft as a catalyst for learning is in its ability to involve students in creating a shared world together, in all of its intricacies and challenges and difficult conversations. Good teachers are at the heart of this process, not just for providing a powerful learning environment to students, but also for helping them create meaning from the challenges they face and the choices they make. This teaching can take place when the laptops are closed, face to face. As students become better citizens in the virtual world, so will they develop powerful skills for negotiation and compromise that serve them well in the real world,” he concluded.

2. Digital Citizenship is respectfully engaging with people who have different beliefs from ours.

From some reason — possibly because we can hide behind a username — we may find ourselves saying something nastier or meaner online than we would in a face-to-face discussion. This seems especially true in online political discussions and debates.

But through digital citizenship instruction, students learn that those “anonymous” posts have real-world consequences. And arguing with someone online rarely, if ever, changes their mind — all it does is isolate and divide the participants, stymying real solutions.

digital citizenship respectfulCommon Sense Media has some great suggestions for teaching respectful digital citizenship at each grade level.

3. Digital Citizenship can shape public policy.

Culatta shared the power of social media in connecting with government representatives.

“If we only teach students that the way they interact with their elected officials is by writing a letter to the senator, then we should not be surprised when they don’t think to turn to social media as a tool to make sure their voice is heard,” he said. “If we only teach students how to organize people around a good cause in a physical space, we should not be surprised when their devices are used only for entertainment.”

As an example of this, he pointed to No One Eats Alone, a digital inclusion project targeted to bringing middle school students together at lunchtime.

Parkland, Florida, USA – April 25, 2018: The Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida. The school was the site of a school shooting in 2018 which set off mass protests against gun violence.

“And of course, we’ve all seen recently the power of the students from Parkland, Florida, who used their voice to change the conversation. And change a national dialogue, because they knew how to be good digital citizens,” Culatta added.

4. Digital Citizenship is discerning the validity of online resources.

In a world where anyone can put up a website, Culatta said students need skills to distinguish fact and fiction. For example, a professor created a legitimate-looking website with “factual” information about the endangered Pacific Northwest Tree Octopus. He did this to see how many students in case study believed the “facts.” Culatta said only one student questioned the validity of the source.

Home page of the Pacific Northwest Tree Octopus spoof site.

“Our ability to recognize truth from fiction is essential to our survival as a society,” Culatta said. “We have to evolve and develop new skills for distinguishing truth from fiction. These new skills don’t just happen, they have to be taught.”

Again, Common Sense Media has some great grade-level-appropriate lesson plans for teaching digital literacy.

As our world becomes ever more digitally connected, the need for good digital citizens rises. Parents and educators can lead the way in teaching these skills.

“Teaching digital citizenship means embracing the reality that we’re all interconnected through the Internet, and that we therefore need to understand the responsibilities and risks that come with life online,” said Kristen Hicks in a 2015 Edudemic article.

Digital citizenship both protects and empowers us and our children.

Studies Weekly Integrates with Google Classroom

You asked, we listened.

The Studies Weekly online platform is now integrated with Google Classroom!

Now, with just a few clicks, you can assign articles, images or videos to the entire classroom. The Google Classroom integration works with our entire platform, making your job smoother.

David Bagley, Studies Weekly vice president of sales, explained that many teachers across the nation use Google Classroom, and have been asking for this integration for some time. He’s very excited Studies Weekly can offer this to teachers.

“The best part of this integration is that it allows teachers the flexibility of reaching so many students instantly and to track progress, go paperless in the classroom, and communicate with both parents and students. And it works with any device,” Bagley said.

You will now see the Google Classroom icon on the Studies Weekly platform, and it works individually with every digital source. Teachers can assign a single video, image, article or assessment to students’ classroom. For extension activities, teachers can customize assignments and pull in other media from the platform as well.

Getting Started

To connect your Studies Weekly account to your Google Classroom, your students’ Studies Weekly usernames must be their Google Classroom email.

For those that want to use the integration now, you will need to log in to your account and manually change your students’ usernames to their Google Classroom email.

1. Select your classroom in the Studies Weekly platform

Studies Weekly Google Classroom

2. Navigate to edit each student

Studies Weekly Google Classroom

3. Edit the student’s usernameStudies Weekly Google Classroom

At the beginning of each school year, your auto-rostering program can link both platforms, but make sure to check this username requirement for all students.

How to use the Integration

1. From an article, navigate to the Google Classroom Icon in the corner.

Studies Weekly Google Classroom
2. Click on it, and select the Classroom you are sharing it to, and the action from the Classroom options. Click “Go.”

Studies Weekly Google Classroom

3. Add your own notes, points, due date, etc. Click “Assign.”

Studies Weekly Google Classroom

4. The assignment shows up in your students’ Classroom stream.

Studies Weekly Google Classroom

Assigning Specific Sources

You can also assign specific audio, images or videos from an article, or search for them and assign them individually. To do so, simply look for the Google Classroom icon on each source.

Studies Weekly Google Classroom

 

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Videos

Of course, all Assessments, Crosswords and Mispilled are integrated as well.

Studies Weekly Google Classroom

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Sign on to your account at Studies Weekly online, and let this new integration save you time and sanity!

Thinking on Education: Teaching Civil Disobedience

As we teach history, one of the many important ideas from the world’s shared history is the use of civil disobedience to motivate change.

This is sometimes a tricky concept for younger children, because they are so ingrained with rules at home and at school.

“Don’t cross the street without looking both ways.”

“Don’t hit your sister.”

“Don’t touch the hot stove.”

“Don’t jump on the bed.”

“Don’t yell.”

Sometimes we all — not just children — struggle with the nuances of breaking a law because it is a bad one. That very struggle is why we view those who improve society through civil disobedience as heroes.

“One has a moral responsibility to disobey unjust laws,” Martin Luther King Jr. wrote. “One who breaks an unjust law must do so openly, lovingly, and with a willingness to accept the penalty. I submit that an individual who breaks a law that conscience tells him is unjust, and who willingly accepts the penalty of imprisonment in order to arouse the conscience of the community over its injustice, is in reality expressing the highest respect for law.”

Martin Luther King Jr.
Martin Luther King Junior Memorial in Washington DC, USA

As dictionaries define it, civil disobedience is the refusal to comply with certain laws as a peaceful form of political protest. Or, as Emmeline Pankhurst, a late-1800s British suffragist, put it:

Teaching Civil Disobedience“We are here, not because we are law-breakers; we are here in our efforts to become law-makers.”

For her own acts of civil disobedience, Pankhurst was arrested about 20 times throughout the 40 years she campaigned for women’s right to vote. British women gained that right in 1928, just a few weeks after Pankhurst’s death.

Joan Trumpauer Mulholland was one of many white and black protesters who spent time in prison for their actions during the Civil Rights Movement. Mulholland faced violence and anger when she joined friends at a 1963 Woolworth’s sit-in in Jackson, Mississippi, but didn’t back down or retaliate.

Many others throughout history caused important change through their civil disobedience.

Mahatma Gandhi

Mahatma Gandhi led the Salt March in 1930 — a peaceful protest of British rule in India and its unfair taxes and production restrictions on Indian salt. As Gandhi made the 240-mile march on foot, villagers along the way gathered to the cause.

Teaching Civil DisobedienceChange did not immediately happen for the Indian people after this, but Gandhi’s act inspired others, and eventually brought great change for his people.

Claudette Colvin

Civil disobedience almost always takes time to be effective, and sometimes multiple people must resolutely rise up before the spark of hope catches. Before Rosa Parks’ quiet but monumental act, one teen did the same in March 1955.

Claudette Colvin
Courtesy PBS

Claudette Colvin was a 15-year-old high school student in Montgomery, Alabama. As she explained in a March 2018 interview with the BBC, when the driver asked her to give up her seat in a full bus, she refused.

“He wanted me to give up my seat for a white person and I would have done it for an elderly person but this was a young white woman,” she said in the interview.

Colvin told the bus driver she’d paid her fare, and had the right to remain where she was. Police arrested her and placed her in an adult cell, not a juvenile detention center, Colvin said. Her mother bailed her out about three hours later.

In 1956, after the ensuing Montgomery Bus Boycotts, Colvin was one of four people to testify to the United States Supreme Court about bus segregation. The court ruled to end segregation on buses.

The Tank Man

1989 was a year of changes — with the fall of the Berlin Wall, the uprising in Romania, and the arrest of Manuel Noriega. But one lone man in China became an emblem of the fight for freedom worldwide.

In Beijing that year, student-led demonstrations protested China’s Communist government, and called for basic human rights. The students stationed their main protest near their “Goddess of Democracy” statue in Tiananmen Square.

China’s government responded with military force, killing many with sprays of gunfire and tanks. One man, known only to history as the Tank Man, symbolized the Chinese government’s suppression of human rights and the students’ protest.

Tank Man
Courtesy Britannica

On the morning of June 5, after massive violence and deaths just the night before, the Tank Man faced down a line of tanks as they rolled into the square. Caught on video by journalists, the man blocked the tanks as they tried multiple times to maneuver around him. Even as gunfire could be heard around him, he alone gestured to the tanks to turn back.

Eventually, the tanks went around him and continued on, but his effort became a symbol to the world.

Teaching Civil Disobedience

These are just a few examples of those who used civil disobedience for the betterment of themselves and others. Brave change-makers of history can inspire students today to be the change they want to see in their own society.

“Whenever people ask me: ‘Why didn’t you get up when the bus driver asked you?’ I say it felt as though Harriet Tubman’s hands were pushing me down on one shoulder and Sojourner Truth’s hands were pushing me down on the other shoulder. I felt inspired by these women because my teacher taught us about them in so much detail,” Colvin said of her experience.

Even at a young age, students can and should learn the importance of civil disobedience, explained Andrea S. Libresco, professor of Social Studies Education at Hofstra University, in her 2018 National Council for the Social Studies article. Libresco highlighted how two children’s books — “The Little Book of Little Activists,” by Penguin Young Readers, and “The Youngest Marcher: The Story of Audrey Faye Hendricks, a Young Civil Rights Activist, by Cynthia Levinson — can show students their own power.

Teaching Civil Disobedience
Youngest Marcher, by Cynthia Levinson

Using these books, Libresco suggested various learning strategies to engage students:

Use primary source images and discuss the freedoms and rights the participants are protesting for.
Dig deep with questions such as:
  • Who has the power to make — and change — rules and laws in society?
  • What are citizens’ responsibilities to their community?
  • What are governments’ responsibilities to its citizens?
  • What situations might call for different kinds of protest?
  • Besides a march, what are other methods of protest?
  • What obstacles do people face in their struggles for change?
  • How do you measure the success of a movement?
  • Are there any issues about which you feel strongly enough to protest?
Create project-based learning where students research issues and represent their research in one of the following ways:
  • Talk to family and friends about an issue
  • Learn or write a song or poem about the topic
  • Write letters to a company or public official
  • Make a mural
  • Post informational signs at school
  • Go to a local meeting or hearing
  • Hold a fund-raiser with an educational component
  • Add an article about the topic in a school newspaper or website
  • Attend a demonstration with their families

“The message is this. The world doesn’t have to be the way the world is. Good people can act, and the world can be better, and so can we.” Freeman Hrabowski III
Children have a keen sense of right and wrong and can be true change-makers in their communities. Freeman Hrabowski III, president of the University of Maryland-Baltimore County, witnessed this in his own life. In a PBS broadcast, he described how, at the age of 12, he participated in the Birmingham Children’s Crusade of 1963.

That experience was a powerful example to him, to the world at that time, and to others today. Just last year, after learning about the Birmingham Children’s Crusade of 1963, fifth graders from Case Elementary School in Akron, Ohio joined others in the National School Walkout to protest gun violence.

“The message is this. The world doesn’t have to be the way the world is. Good people can act, and the world can be better, and so can we,” Hrabowski said.

Thinking on Education: Using Screens and Print Effectively in the Classroom

Studies show we all read more today than in previous generations. While printed books and magazines are still a part of our lives, much of our reading consumption is digital.

While technology innovation allows education to reach many students more efficiently, some educators worry that it is also limiting some students’ skills. At the forefront of this is reading literacy, comprehension and other critical skills.

Screens vs. PrintDigital reading is changing the way we read, suggested Maryanne Wolf, director of the Center for Dyslexia, Diverse Learners, and Social Justice at the University of California, Los Angeles, at February’s Learning and the Brain conference in San Francisco.

Wolf postulated “that one of the threats of this shift is that it will hurt humans’ ability for deep reading, which she describes as involving empathy, background knowledge, critical analysis, imagery and reflection,” Sydney Johnson reported Feb. 18, 2019 in “Reading Fuels Empathy. Do Screens Threaten That?”

“The sum of these processes helps prepare citizens to be critical thinkers and empathetic — or not,” Wolf said.

Wolf and others worry that this lack of connection could seriously affect students’ future.

“We are in this moment where ‘other’ is becoming a threat,” Wolf said at the February conference. “The compassionate imagination of childhood begins with understanding that there are others outside of ourselves. We have never needed the role of story more than right now for our children to understand a compassionate sense.”

Studies back up Wolf’s assertions. Geoff F. Kaufman of Carnegie Mellon University and Mary Flanagan of Dartmouth College found that students’ decision processes change when approaching a problem digitally vs. in print.

Utilizing a board game format — or that same game translated to an iPad — they tested subjects’ ability to prevent a health outbreak. Flanagan and Kaufman were surprised when their study showed that analog users  communicated significantly more with their teammates and performed better than digital users.

“[T]he app-game players focused on dealing with immediate, local outbreaks of disease. Those playing the board game were more likely to keep a ‘big picture view’ of which people outside an immediate outbreak might be vulnerable, and they worked together more as a team. Overall, the board game players were better at stopping the outbreak and winning the game,” Kaufman and Flanagan said in May 2016 Education Week report.

This is concerning. Today’s classrooms throughout all levels of education are not ruled by just paper and pencils, but also through keyboard and tablet. Because of this, ultimately the discussion cannot be about “Screens vs. Print,” but where to utilize each more effectively.

Pros and Cons

Flanagan and Kaufman researched further and tested subjects with other tasks either online or in print. They found some pros and cons to both media.

In their studies, digital readers recalled concrete facts and details better than print readers. But print readers scored better when asked to infer meaning and relationships, or ponder abstract concepts.

Other studies found that “students who typed notes on their laptops rather than writing them on paper tended to take down information verbatim rather than summarizing concepts.” Those who summarized the concepts, rather than recording them verbatim, remembered more a week later.

Many educators find digital content is often more engaging for reluctant readers than a sheet of paper or a book. Unfortunately, these same readers tend to skim while reading online, and do not comprehend the text as deeply, or “construct complex arguments, or make connections to their own experiences,” according to a 2014 Education Week article.

Screens vs. PrintWe cannot ban technology from the classroom, though.

“It is fair to say that reading digitally is part and parcel of living and learning in the 21st century .… No matter how complex the question of reading across mediums may be, teachers and students must understand how and when to employ a digital reading device,” said Lauren Singer, a doctoral candidate at the University of Maryland, and Patricia Alexander, a University of Maryland professor, in a 2017 Inside Higher Ed article.

Singer, Alexander, Wolf, Flanagan, Kaufman and other researchers hope more study will lead to ways of helping students develop what Wolf calls a “bi-literate” brain, where they can benefit from the assets of both medium.

For now, these experts suggest teachers use a hybrid approach.

“There are many times when you are trying to get students to compare facts and figures. If you are making a timeline for World War II, it might be really great to have digital technology to optimize comprehension of details like that,” Flanagan said in the 2016 article. “But when you want students to think more analytically about something, especially when you are asking something new — ‘How would you compare what happened in World War II to the Gulf War,’ say — that may require a shift in thinking. You may want to get off the screen for that for a little while.”


Studies Weekly Social Studies and Science materials allow students and teachers to read and complete activities both online and in print. For more information, visit studiesweekly.com.

Tackling the Bard: Teaching Shakespeare to Elementary Students

William Shakespeare’s works may be more than 400 years old, but their messages still resonate today.

Even after all this time, Shakespeare’s characters and themes still live within each of us, as Maggie Trapp, a UC Berkeley Extension instructor pointed out in a January 2018 Berkeley “Voices” blog. And his wordplay and characterization both entertain, but challenge us.

“These plays have managed to speak complicated truths to all manner of audiences and readers for hundreds of years,” Trapp said in the blog post.

Alan Craven, professor emeritus at University of Texas at San Antonio, agreed in a 2013 UTSA article by Cindy Tumiel.

“The language is rich, the characters are complex and many of his basic themes — love, treachery, honor, bravery and political intrigue — still resonate today,” Craven said. “Humans still experience love, loss, betrayal, war, humor and tragedy, which gives Shakespeare a foothold in modern times.”

Teaching Shakespeare, though, can sometimes seem as scary as Macbeth’s fatal vision of a dagger. And with so much violence and innuendo in Shakespeare’s plays, how do we introduce Shakespeare to elementary and middle school students? And really, how do we get beyond the dreaded high school trudge through “Romeo and Juliet”?

Fear no more! As good luck would have it, helpful hints this way come.

Teaching Shakespeare1. All the World’s a Stage

…. And there are many players upon this world who have successfully performed Shakespeare for the masses.

Every Shakespeare unit should begin with a movie or stage viewing of at least a part of the play or scene. Think about it — would you prefer reading the script of the latest Avenger adventure or watching the movie?

Not all full movie or play versions are appropriate for kids, but many parts of these productions are suitable.

2. The Play’s the Thing

Shakespeare’s works were never meant to be “read and deadened behind a desk.” They are plays — meant to be performed and “explored on their feet,” as Mark Powell, artistic director of Prime Theatre said in 2014 article for The Guardian.

At the elementary level, students can use finger puppets, Legos, action figures or simple paper cutouts to discover short Shakespeare scenes and themes.

3. Is This a Book I See Before Me?

( , Undefined, 12

Shakespeare’s language is delicious, but as Brynn Allison points out in her 2017 lesson plan for We Are Teachers, he “was a wordy guy.”

“Cut to the important parts of scenes and summarize the less important parts,” she suggested.

Teachers can summarize the play and its characters for their elementary students, then delve deeper into just one important scene, or even just one important soliloquy or interchange between characters.

4. My Kingdom for a Comic Book?

Teaching Shakespeare
Macbeth

Another option — especially for lower level readers — is Mya Lixian Gosling’s stick figure Shakespeare comics at Good Tickle Brain. She’s created short comics for most of Shakespeare’s plays, and even the gorier ones are quite palpable with her clever drawings. Students can’t help but enjoy pairing her comics with more in-depth scene discussions.


These are but a few of the many ideas to successful sparked student’s interest in Shakespeare. For more ideas, start with the following:

teachingchannel.org/video/approaches-to-teaching-shakespeare

weareteachers.com/best-shakespeare-activities-printables/

readwritethink.org/files/resources/lesson_images/lesson1031/terms.pdf

brighthubeducation.com/lesson-plans-grades-3-5/27536-teaching-shakespeare-to-elementary-students/

To view Studies Weekly’s resources on Shakespeare, login to your online account or visit our YouTube page.

Studies Weekly’s new 7th/8th Grade Social Studies and K-5 Science Publications

We know you’re still in the thick of it — developing social studies projects, tackling science fairs, holding parent/teacher conferences, prepping your students for end-of-the-year testing, etc.

At Studies Weekly, we’ve got your back.

Our product development team has been working hard to add two new options to our product offerings.

7th and 8th Grade Social Studies

For you amazing, tireless middle school teachers swinging along with the moody hormonal angst of teenagers, we now have Social Studies 7th and 8th grade publications!

7th and 8th Grade Social StudiesThrough year-long immersive learning, your students will question, discuss and truly experience history. As they connect with historic figures and events, they’ll be better prepared — not only for end-of-the-year assessments — but to take on their future civic duties as well.

You can expect the same engaging weekly newspapers you already know and love, based on rigorous higher-level standards. They are still hands-on and fully consumable, so your students can highlight, take notes right on the publication, and cut them up to incorporate them into projects.

Similar to our K-6 publications, your 7th and 8th grade students also have access to a beautiful online platform with thousands of primary source images and videos, a real-person audio reader, highlighting capabilities, extension activities and customizable assessments.

With these new publications, you will spend less time prepping for instruction, and more time engaging students with ready-to-use lesson plans that incorporate essential learning strategies and important writing and reviewing activities.

To explore samples of our 7th and 8th grade curriculum, visit: science.studiesweekly.com/online/publication_samples/social_studies_78.

New K-5 Science

For you elementary teachers juggling all subjects each week, we created a completely new K-5 Science curriculum based on the Next Generation Science Standards. Our new science curriculum utilizes the 5Es and your students will Engage, Explore, Explain, Elaborate and Evaluate all aspects of science.

2019 ScienceEach unit centers on a guiding question that incorporates student-centered learning activities, experiments and demonstrations. These challenge your students to test predictions, find solutions, draw conclusions and demonstrate their knowledge and skills. As they explore deeper, they will discover answers to the “whys” and wonders of science.

As their teacher, you will spend less time prepping for instruction, and more time engaging students with ready-to-use lesson plans that include tool and supply lists broken down by individuals or groups. These same plans include differentiated learning strategies and full integration of many math and English Language Arts standards.

To explore samples of our K-5 Science curriculum, visit: science.studiesweekly.com/online/publication_samples/science_k5

So, whether you are a newbie heading into your first year of teaching, or a seasoned veteran extending your reach, our new Social Studies and Science publications can help you engage the imaginations of all your students.

To purchase Social Studies 7th or 8th grade materials or your grade level’s Science materials, head over to the Studies Weekly store.