Social Studies Framework and Libraries – A Match Made in Heaven

If you are an educator in New York State, unless you’ve been living under a curricular rock, you’ve likely heard of the new(ish) Social Studies Framework that has been adopted by the New York State Department of Education by now. A marriage between C3 Teachers (College, Career, and Civic Life) framework and the ELA standards, this approach to Social Studies presents an elegant opportunity for librarians and teachers to collaborate. Right now, a team of teachers and individuals from the realm of higher education, led by S.G. Grant, are meeting and working and building and creating the (sort of) equivalent to the ELA modules–units of study billed as “inquiries”. Hey librarians, did your ears just perk up? That’s right: the new social studies units are being called INQUIRIES. Inquiries! Within these inquiries, the unit is guided by a “compelling question” as well as scaffolding “supporting questions”. From there, “featured resources” (things like primary source documents, images, political cartoons, etc) are gathered for students to lead their own learning, dive deeply into the text, and uncover history as historians do. Finally, students are asked to synthesize their learning with formative assessments for each supporting question, and a summative assessment to address the overarching compelling question.

If you’re like me, you’re giddy with possibility right now.

Let’s break that process down a little further, and make some connections with library language…

Compelling Question = Essential Questions (Edit 3/2/15: There are a few key distinctions – Grant Wiggins lays it out beautifully here, and I put together a quick graphic here: Essential Questions versus Compelling Questions)
Featured Resources = Text sets
Formative/summative assessments = Products of mini-research projects

Oh, and if you need some graphic organizers to help approach the texts, well, have I got a resource for you.

While I’m not on the official inquiry development team (although it is based here in Binghamton), here at Broome-Tioga BOCES, a little team of two–professional developer and social studies aficionado Pat Walsh and myself–have been feverishly working to develop a set of resources to help teachers. Our collaboration is a model for your potential collaboration–content area teachers and librarians working together to achieve something greater than the sum of our parts.

Inquiry Cycle Mashup

A bit busy for the eyes, but this flow chart demonstrates how the inquiry cycles from ELA (Odell), Social Studies (C3) and Library (Stripling) are essentially the same process.

What it really boils down to is the fact that many educators are speaking different dialects of the same language. What we need is a translator, someone to bring everyone to the same understanding that in the end, we’re really all working toward the same goal: curious, creative, critical thinkers/readers/writers that can gather and make sense of information, use said information to make a point/find an answer to a profound question, defend their position intelligently, and share their knowledge in an articulate way. That is a foundational skill across job types–and sorely missing from many current educational practices.

Man…looking back, if only my social studies classroom were like that.

I can’t say it strongly enough: librarians, this is your golden ticket. Find a social studies teacher and get. to. work. Even better: find a team of teachers and build an inquiry that spans the subjects –can you imagine the powerful student learning that could derive from seeing connections across ELA, Social Studies,art…science? music? physical education? with the library, inquiry, and research as the backbone. This is what has been driving my passion lately. I am so excited about this new framework I can barely contain it.

If you’re interested in what we’ve been putting together so far, click below. Please note: these are drafts and will be updated as we test, tweak, and improve. Feel free to use these, but please give credit and let me know if you do use it in the comments below. Even better–provide feedback on how your students did!

Was Progressive Reform Progress? Middle School Inquiry (Grade 8)
Has the Adoption of the UDHR Effected Positive Change Since its Inception? High School Inquiry (Grade 10)


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