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!

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