#sschat Reflection: Teaching What Matters Most

Last night I was so proud to call myself a social studies teacher!  The #sschat last night focused on how to cover real-time historical events in your classroom.  It made me miss teaching.  There is a special heartbeat about being in a school that is hard to replicate in higher education.  What last night’s chat made me miss most of all was teaching “Curran” events in my middle school classroom.

For the most part, I remained somewhat quiet during the #sschat since I’m not currently teaching middle school social studies.  I wish I had shared one of my all-time favorite books, Dateline Troy by Paul Fleischman.  I used this book with my middle schoolers to demonstrate the power of using “Curran” events.  The book chronicles the Trojan War and suggests that we are still fighting that very same war today, “Though their tale comes from the distant Bronze Age, it’s as current as this morning’s headlines.  The Trojan War is still being fought.  Simply open a newspaper.”

I loved using the newspaper as part of my curriculum.  I used to drive to Harvard Square in Cambridge, Massachusetts to pick up newspapers from different parts of the country and the world for my students to read, compare and examine.  As the chat progressed, I was struck by how much and how fast the world has changed since I first started teaching in 1993.  I wouldn’t have to drive to Harvard Square to pick up my newspapers anymore.

Social media has changed the landscape.  If I were in the classroom now, I’d want to use Newspaper Front Pages: Death of Osama bin Laden to examine headlines from different newspapers and we’d create classroom news articles using Scoop.it. I would use The Choices Program: History and Current Issues for the Class on a daily basis.  We’d use Twitter to evaluate perspective, as well as primary and secondary sources just like Ron Peck suggested last night during the #sschat:

We would also examine how quickly social media can alter history by retweeting a powerful, but totally inaccurate quote.  I’m guilty of retweeting this quote too!

 Out of Osama’s Death, a Fake Quotation is Born

I’d collaborate with my other #sschat teachers that I’ve met on Twitter, so our classrooms could learn from each other and model what it means to be a community of global learners.  Look at the thoughtful comments made by @virtual_teach third graders, Is it okay to celebrate Osama bin Laden’s death?  I would have loved to collaborate with her classroom and students yesterday.  For now, I’ll have to wait until the Fall semester when I teach a graduate methods social studies course.

I’ll end with this last thought, what social studies teachers do everyday is magic.  It is the most important work to be done in a classroom.  We model what it means to treat others, how to live in a community (our own and the world at large), we face issues of intolerance, teach empathy through the use of perspective and we foster curiosity.  I’m so proud to be part of the #sschat – it gives me such hope for the future of education!

P.S. Here’s the start of some resources I found on Twitter and #sschat: 6 Q’s About the News, Teaching Ideas: the Death of Osama bid LadenThe Post-bin Laden World,  Twitter First With bin Laden News, How to Discuss bin Laden’s Death with Children9/11 Osama bin Laden Links by @ShawnMcCusker, Bin Laden Resources by @gregkulowiec and the #sschat archive from last night. Please add any other resources that you have found valuable.




  • This was such a well written post that truly captures the energy and passion that is created by a group of motivated teachers. #sschat started as a very small idea last summer that has turned into something truly remarkable. What began as a group of 10 or so social studies teachers has turned into an unbelievably valuable resource of inspiring educators, ideas and collaboration. Thanks for the post!

  • I am glad to see the comments from people who have participated in #sschat about what they take away from it. Every week I feel the energy that people pour into making the chat a success. I love to see the free flow of ideas and the unselfish sharing of materials. I know that I am always proud when others find my work useful and I am honored to have my work included here. Thanks for this post and for capturing the excitement that is a key part of the #sschat experience.

  • I enjoy using current events. I always find the kids’ thoughts and perspectives interesting. And regardless of the content, there is a way to make it developmentally appropriate for the students you teach. For the death of Osama Bin Laden it was finding the nugget that would make the most sense for third graders. Most of my students are at that stage where fairness is a huge thing for them. Knowing this, that’s how I decided to talk about it.

    I love what you said about the Trojan War still being fought. Just pick up a newspaper. Think about all of the teaching you could do through current events! What a great use of primary documents that help kiddoes learn perspective. Plus you have this resource that helps fuel a historical concept. Which then brings in higher level thinking skills like compare and contrast.

    And if you think developmentally, elementary students struggle with the concept of time. Imagine using current events to make that connection for them?

  • I think current events should be the driving force behind what we teach. No matter your content, all teachers are inevitably teaching students to think, and what better way to do that than to focus on current events? Especially for me as an English teacher, current events are the heart of my lessons. I try to make my lessons relevant and meaningful to students, and the best way to do that is to relate learning to their personal lives, their world, their communities.

  • I always love having current event discussions with my students because it is very interesting to see their view points on the topics. I do not think there is enough emphasis put on current events in school. All students should be learning about the world around them because we are now an interconnected global world and we all depend on one another for everything.

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