In Social Studies courses it is important to connect the material to the lives of the students and provide them with topics that not only ask them to think about history, but think about their own lives and the events going on around them. This technique not only helps students become more engaged with the material, but helps them retain and apply the information they have learned, helping them gain a better understanding of the material and the skills being taught.
This mini course will demonstrate potential strategies for using current events to teach historical topics. My goal is to take the recent United States military conflicts of Afghanistan and Iraq, and use them to teach students about the Vietnam War. Students will be looking into primary and secondary sources from a variety of different time periods in our nations history as a way of understanding what it was like for soldiers, and citizens of the United States during the wars in Vietnam, Afghanistan, and Iraq. Students will make connections between these conflicts by examining the similarities and differences that exist among them.
1. SWBAT Identify essential vocabulary words and figures in Vietnam, Afghanistan and Iraq
2. SWBAT Explain how the U.S. became involved in Vietnam, Afghanistan, and Iraq
3. SWBAT evaluate arguments and perspectives about these wars
4. SWBAT make connections between these U.S. conflicts
5. SWBAT show similarities and differences between primary sources from these conflicts
6. SWBAT Form their own opinion on the degree of relation that these conflicts have to one another, and support their opinion with evidence
Currently in education there is a push to provide meaningful instruction to students with both content and skills intertwined. However in some subjects it can be a challenge to relate the content and skills to the daily lives and experiences of these students. This is a problem since relatability of content can have a direct impact on student motivation and retention levels in a class. It is seen that students can form better connections and be more engaged with the classroom material if it is more relatable to their daily lives (Pescatore, 2007, pg.338). Along with making the content more relevant to students, the skills that they learn and practice must also be applicable to tasks they might be using in the future. For example, this is reflected within social studies standards today, some of which state that students should learn knowledge and intellectual skills that are necessary for them to function in society through performing scholarly academic tasks by analyzing ideas, principals, and concepts (NYSED, 2015, pg.12). While this can all be very useful to students the actual implementation of these concepts and strategies can be seen as a challenge for many teachers. Also, many students have problems organizing data and making connections, along with forming arguments and conclusions about topics (Manning, 1994). Because these higher level skills can be difficult for students the burden is on instructors to figure out way to make material relatable and engaging for students while still providing them with meaningful, higher-level tasks. This mini course will demonstrate possible ways that social studies can be taught using current events, as well as project designs and activities that show examples of high-level tasks students may need to perform in the future.
What is to be learned:
Students will learn how to analyze primary and secondary sources, make connections between different U.S. conflicts of Vietnam, Iraq, and Afghanistan, reflect on these different topics, and form their own opinions regarding the relation that these conflicts have to one another.
This course will be used for 60 Middle School students in Queens, NY. Students range from 12-13 years old and a majority of these students are of Asian descent which make up sixty percent of the average class size (Insideschools.org). The second highest ethnicity in the school are Caucasian students, at twenty percent (Insideschools.org). While learning levels of these students vary, many of them score above average on state exams, and are considered well above average when compared to other schools in the area. Generally, students are middle to upper class and have parents that are involved with their education. The background of students also may play a role in the lesson, being that about sixty percent of them are of Asian descent, some of them being the first generation of their family in America. Because of this the Vietnam War may not seem as foreign to them as it might for some other students, which may help in the relatability of the content and student motivation. For my target learners I will be planning on using traditional differentiation techniques, there will be a little something for everyone in these lessons and activities. The material, readings, and tasks will be around grade level with certain variations that might be below, or above expectations.
Students will be completing these lessons in a same time, same location instructional setting and instruction will be blended since students will be accessing the mini-course through computers within the classroom. The classroom environment should not be a problem for any of these students, since grade data demonstrates that they have been succeeding within a traditional classroom setting. Classroom materials consists of speakers, a projector and a laptop. Students are seated in group of five or six to facilitate collaboration and group work with one another. Based on my analysis of the school setting, the design of the lesson should be something that can be easily presented to a class but also allow for tasks such as group work. Because of the nature of the mini course, students will need have computers with them in class. Luckily the school provides computers to students if the teacher signs them out, therefore students will be able to access the material in the classrooms. For assessments students can complete paper versions of the assessments that will be posted for the mini-course, or can complete online versions if available.
Problem and Solution:
Students participating in this lesson will be examining a wide variety of source and be receiving multiple modes of presentation and practice. Because performing higher level tasks can be a problem for some students; scaffolding, guiding, and step by step strategies will be employed to try and increase student understanding of skills and content. Projects and activities will be varied, yet still provide meaningful engagement in tasks that can be seen as useful to them in their schooling and future. To do this, projects will be given real-world contextual settings to help student motivation with skills practice, and to promote knowledge of how these skills can be applied to other aspects school, work, and life.
The main goal for this mini-course is for students to evaluate and assess the similarities between current U.S. conflicts and past ones, and examine the political and social impacts these conflicts had. By the end of the course students should be able to gather and use historical documents, along with secondary sources to create a project arguing about whether or not they feel the U.S. conflicts of Afghanistan/Iraq are repeats of Vietnam, or very different conflicts.
Analysis of Learners and Context
Analysis of Learners:
This course will be used to teach 8th grade students about the Vietnam, Afghanistan, and Iraq wars. Some things that must be considered about the learners is their cultural background, since these students might have common experiences and background knowledge about these topics (Larson & Locke, 213, pg. 54). A majority of these students are of Asian descent which make up sixty percent of the average class size (Insideschools.org). The second highest ethnicity in the school are Caucasian students, at twenty percent (Insideschools.org). The remaining percentages consists of Hispanic, African American and Middle Eastern Students. Because of this student population and the topics of Vietnam, Iraq, and Afghanistan, I will need to make sure that information is not bias, or even offensive to some students.
The level of academic achievement for students, along with their learning types is another factor that must be considered. To start off with academic achievement, 67% of students received 3’s or 4’s on the State ELA exam and the target learners consist of average, to above average students (insideschools.org) However, the school does not have any self-contained special education classes, and as a result there tend to be quite a few students who are at the lower end of academic achievement. Along with this gap in achievement, throughout some classes there are also a wide variety of learning styles among students. According to school wide assessments of learning styles, these range from auditory, visual and kinesthetic, with a mixture of these style present in many students. These factors all present challenges for designing instruction, therefore content must include elements that address both the students’ academic level, and their way of processing information. One method I plan on using is to offer students a variety of options for different lessons, and allow them to choose which content and activities best suit their learning needs. These opportunities have been shown to increase student motivation, which can help improve learning success (Marzano et al., 2001).
Analysis of Learning Context:
The learning environment, or learning context is a factor that needs to be considered for this mini course. Since instruction will be taking place within the school there are some limitations that will impact how it is designed. First off literacy is a requirement for lessons, therefore each lesson much contain some type of reading/analysis strategy. The channel, or the way that information will be presented needs to be considered as well. Since the lessons will be on this mini course, students will be need access to computers for the duration of the unit. Lastly essential content needs to be considered, and the lessons must reflect standards from Common Core, and the New York City Curriculum for Social Studies.
- Use a graphic organizer to identify key vocabulary terms and complete a vocabulary matching quiz with 85% accuracy.
- Upon viewing articles, images, and primary sources, explain the causes of Vietnam, Afghanistan and Iraq wars
- Look into different arguments in favor of, and against these wars. Use a T-chart style organizer to organize the main points of these arguments and determine which one they side with more, using evidence to support their opinions.
- Analyze firsthand accounts of soldiers, photographs, and other primary sources and form connections between them, discuss them with classmates in an online forum
- Compare and contrast these U.S. conflicts through primary/secondary sources and reading comprehension activities. Determine similarities and differences between these wars and complete a quiz with 75% proficiency
- Create a project of their own design arguing their opinion about how closely Afghanistan/Iraq wars are related to Vietnam.
Unit One: The Basics - Vietnam, Iraq, and Afghanistan
- Identify key figures and essential vocabulary associated with Vietnam, Iraq and Afghanistan
- Examine charts, readings, and videos to gain background knowledge about these conflicts
Unit Two: The Wars and their Impacts
- Look into varying perspectives both arguing in favor of, and against these conflicts
- Form an opinion about how justified these conflicts were, provide support for their argument through source analysis.
Unit Three: Vietnam, Iraq, and Afghanistan, Repeats or Varying Conflicts?
- Analyze artifacts and sources associated with these conflicts
- Compare the three wars to one another, organizing their information/ideas on a graphic organizer/thinking map
- Create a project of their own design arguing their opinion about how closely the Vietnam, Afghanistan, and Iraq wars are related to one another
File:Jaskot - Mini Course Curriculum Map.pdf
References and Resources
Incorporating Skills into Social Studies Programs K-12. (2015). The New York State Education Department Albany, NY
Larson, M. B. and Lockee, B. B. (2013). Streamlined ID: A Practical Guide to Instructional Design. New York, NY: Routledge. (ISBN 978-0415505185)
Manning, M. L. (1994). Addressing young adolescents' cognitive development. High School Journal, 7898-104.
Marzano, R.J., Pickering, D.J., & Pollock, L.E. (2001). Classroom instruction that works: Research-based strategies for increasing student achievement. Alexandria, VA: ASCD
Pescatore, C. c. (2007). Current events as empowering literacy: For English and social studies teachers. Journal of Adolescent & Adult Literacy, 51(4), 326-339.