"Teachers could stage the compelling question by having students read an article from the Christian Science Monitor, “Germany Finishes Paying World War I Reparations, Ending Century of ‘Guilt.’” Students should discuss why some historians claim that World War I did not end until 2010. As students read and discuss the article, they are previewing conditions of the Treaty of Versailles (e.g., reparations and guilt) and one historic interpretation of the event and its consequences that will be useful as the inquiry develops." C3Teachers
This was a very creative way to launch this inquiry coupled with the student friendly, intriguing compelling question. The compelling question to all the Inquiries are designed to "hook" students into the wonderful mystery of history.
As Sierra, along with other Social Studies teachers consider implementing a Social Studies Inquiry, one topic surfaces on multiple occasions: “COVERAGE”. With the breadth of topics to “cover” there is a major shift occurring in social studies pedagogy, dual intensity. This implies there is a movement to better balance content with social studies skills and practices that include:
1) Gathering, Interpreting and Using Evidence
2) Chronological Reasoning and Causation
3) Comparison and Contextualization
4) Geographic Reasoning
5) Economics and Economic Systems
6) Civic Participation
In deciding to implement an inquiry, the teacher has an incredible amount of leeway and professional power to adapt materials as he or she sees fit. This is the work Sierra undertook in a workshop. Despite being concerned of the amount of content on the current Global Regents Exam, she jumped right in. Upon completion, Sierra shared with me the following reflection:
"When I started the toolkit I was worried that students were going to sick of all the reading and highlighting and note-taking and so forth. Some of them did say the amount of reading was a little much but for the most part they actually preferred the toolkit over taking notes or some other activities that we may have done instead. Some of them also commented that the readings were a little difficult as far as some of the vocabulary within the readings. Many of them said that they had a hard time understanding how some of the documents were connected to the supporting questions and some of them I agreed with. The language in the documents, length of the document accompanied by the amount of documents and the connections with the questions were the three things I felt would be a struggle and after reading student responses they seemed to feel the same way. In the future those are things that I will change or improve."
As with anything we try for the first time, it isn’t perfect but Mrs. Beaver was willing to approach inquiry with the desire to spark interest in social studies. Of course, I was most intrigued to hear what the students had to say:
One student said "The documents really got me thinking." Another student said "I feel like I have a really good understanding of the Treaty of Versailles and how this could have led to WWII."
If we want to truly deepen the understanding of content we should consider sharpening the historical thinking skills of our students. Don't be afraid, jump right in!
Marcy Sweetman is a member of the IES Team as a Staff Development Specialist and Curriculum Coordinator North Collins CSD and Westfield CSD. Her major work focuses on Social Studies, literacy across the content areas, and technology integration. You can follow her on twitter @sweetman_marcy
Sierra Beaver is a 10th grade Global Studies teacher at Frewsburg Central School.