Thursday, August 2, 2012

Back to School 2012-2013 Social Studies Workshop Part 2

In this post, I hope to get into the nuts and bolts of my social studies workshop. How do I plan for each component of the workshop and the flow of the week?

Well, first I have to explain my change in thinking  about how to plan for social studies.

I used to think "Okay, I'm teaching Colonization/Revolutionary War for 4 weeks and we will get as far as we get before it's time to move on to Science." Depending on the how fast the group of children works, we may get through activities and assignments at a good pace, but inevitably, I have to cut some of my activities and learning plans.

By planning through the workshop model, I figured out that it makes sense to break the concept down into smaller topics and plan to spend just a week on those concepts. I chose to break our Colonization/Revolutionary War unit into the following 4 topics: Week 1: The Thirteen Colonies, Week 2: The Colonies Rebel, Week 3: Important People of the Revolution, Week 4: Important Battles of the Revolution. This will nicely set the foundation for our 2nd nine weeks' social studies unit, Government.

Okay, let's get to planning. Here's my social studies planning template again:
1st, I gather many different kinds of resources and decide on my minilesson plans. Will I use a read aloud, poem, video clip, interactive smartboard activity, or a question and quick write to launch a discussion? Is there an important person or event that students won't learn about through their work stations that I can teach them about in minilesson?

Next, I pull materials for small groups. We have guided reading materials that came with our social studies textbook. These are good for my below-grade level and average readers. For my higher readers, I plan to use the Joy Hakim series entitled A History of US. I could also choose to use historical fiction and make the small groups more like a book club. (I may do this later in the year for another unit, but for our first unit, I chose to focus on nonfiction reading skills.) We have a great book room that we have worked hard over the years to make sure provides us with materials that connect to the content areas. With social studies workshop, now we can definitely utilize them even if we are studying fiction in readers' workshop. Sometimes it might even make sense for me to pull a chapter from the social studies book to utilize during small groups--the possibilities are truly endless, but  I want to make sure I am supporting students' learning of literacy skills and deepening their understanding of the time period.

Next, I think about what stations or tasks I want to have. With stations being Tues, Wed, and Thurs, students will have two stations and one day that they meet with me during the work time portion of our workshop. What materials and activities have I used in the past that I want to use in stations? For this first go-round, one of my stations will be computer-based so that students can use technology to learn and one of my stations will be a research station that allows us to share our learning through a jigsaw or carousel activity on Fridays.

Now that I am ready, I group my students and think about which day would be best to meet with each group. Might one group of my students need me to teach them research strategies in their small group before they go to the research station? (Of course!). I also think about which students would benefit from a partner at the computer station and research station and try to organize my groups so that they have the support they need while I am working with small groups.

One last thing I have to plan for is fast-finishers. Now, with this structure, I feel like I will rarely have fast finishers, but I still need to plan for them given that one of my purposes for social studies workshop was that some students could accomplish more learning during social studies time. I decided to begin with three simple choices for our first unit: pull a book from the Colonial/Revolutionary War book bin, read, and represent your learning in your knowledge notebook; choose one of the RAFT writing ideas and write a piece in your knowledge notebook; work on your timeline booklet, adding more events from this time period.

I may change this structure as the year goes on, but these are my plans for using a workshop model in our first social studies unit. I'm super excited to see how it goes.

How is your social studies instruction going? Am I just a slow-learner or are these the things you tweak as you gain more experience?


  1. I just found your blog and I am super excited to try the workshop model across the disciplines this year. How did your Social Studies Workshop turn out?

    1. Hi! Thanks for stopping by my blog! I tried this model for one year and LOVED it. We also used the same structure when we were teaching science units. I felt it gave me the chance to have an introduction and closure while giving me time to be creative (on the middle three days) and use my time better. We don't always have time for an opening and closure in that day's lesson when we really just want to maximize our time for students to work (especially when most science/social studies blocks are 30-40 minutes!). Good luck this year!



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