Social Studies Academic Feature


Kelsey Moston teaches Social Studies to sixth, ninth, and tenth graders. Her background in teaching courses at college learning levels has led her to incorporate a great deal of discussion-based and project-based learning into her lessons and units. Teaching students to take strong ownership in their assignments, develop leadership amongst their peers, and incorporate good time management strategies as they go through the requirements of a unit are key elements of success in her classroom.

Sample of a Sixth Grade Unit

Greek God and the Modern Day Belief System Board: Students chose religious icons of ancient Greece or Rome and then analyzed the icon to understand what part of the world they influenced. Once they identified the area of influence, students compared the ancient world applications to the modern world applications. As a project, the students recreated sections of a medieval community as part of a social class aspect of the unit. During a class period, they rotated through each section in groups to learn more.

Ninth Grade Renaissance Unit: The Medieval Mind

Ninth graders have been studying a college level text about life during medieval times. The author, William Manchester wrote A World Lit Only By Fire, criticizes the Medieval mind because he believes the people of that time were ignorant due to trying to survive the Black Plague. His thesis centers around the idea that the Renaissance occurs because the Plague ends which allows them to focus on more than survival. The culminating element of the unit was a Socratic seminar during which the students had to take a position and either support or refute the author’s thesis. Leading up to the seminar, the assignments and classroom discussion involved critical thinking, defining intelligence, and note-taking skills using the Cornell method. The class also spent time comparing and contrasting medieval priorities, thought processes, societal and political influences, literacy rates, etc.

Below are several discussion questions from a recent class period. 

Does education always equal intelligence? 

The class discussed how being “street smart” is also a type of intelligence.

Is there only one form of education? Most students wrote that education is not the only form, but that it contributes to intelligence.In discussing that there are more forms, job skill training in a hands-on system of learning was an example. 

Does technology help or hinder your intelligence? 

The discussion centered around positives and negatives of technology with examples of how it simplifies life, but sometimes too much.

Do you think the medieval mind is intelligence? 

There is intelligence that creates artwork and scientific advancements, but there is also intelligence that allows people to survive difficult circumstances like the bubonic plague.

Of all the eras, during which were people most intelligent?

The students centered on innovation during the Renaissance citing examples of inventions like those of Leonardo da Vinci, artwork and architecture that continue to influence us today. We are able to see their thought processes through the buildings and artwork they left.

Tenth Grade Supreme Court Unit

Ten graders studied a number of landmark Supreme Court cases involving education, law and order, and how the U.S. Constitution affects America’s youth. The students eventually participated in a gallery walk with a partner. Together they reviewed the basic facts of ten cases and theorized the Supreme Court decision. During a class discussion afterwards, they found out the actual Supreme Court decisions to compare to their own thoughts.

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