Teaching Social Issues in Elementary School

In my most recent issue of Social Studies and the Young Learner (Volume 23, Number 4, March/April 2011) from the National Council for the Social Studies, there’s a brief article entitled “The Uncompromised Curriculum: Videos of Teachers Teaching Social Justice Issues,” by Debbie Sonu. Debbie talks a bit about how difficult it for today’s teachers to include social justice lessons despite narrow, test-focused curriculums. She took videos of three of these determined teachers in action, and they are nothing short of inspiring.

Watch the videos here.

These are classrooms I would’ve loved to be in as a child (heck, I’d love to be in them now!), and you can see how engaged the kids are with the different topics. What I love most about all three of these approaches is the respect each of the teachers has for her students. In the first, the teacher tells her fifth graders that it’s okay to let their discussions wander where they will and not stick to the prepared question list. In the second, the teacher tells her first graders they are not asking first grade questions, they are asking college questions. And in the third, the teacher asserts that all children–gifted or not–have the ability, and in fact the need, to discuss these kinds of issues.

Kudos to these teachers, and to Debbie Sonu for sharing them with us!