Social Studies

Welcome to Middle School Social Studies


What we did in class and assignments can be found in the Recent Assignment button on the left, under Social Studies.

Recent Assignments

  • Social Studies Week 28: March 23-27


    Exploring Chinese Innovation Through Ads

    James did a tutorial on using Lucid Press, which is an app students should add to Google Drive (click “Create” then add more apps, then select Lucid Chart Diagram)

    Here are the directions for what needs to be included in the ads.

    Here is a sample ad James made for his tutorial: Printing Press James (5)

    Most students finished their first ad in class. They chose their invention from the list of 5 that they chose from Friday’s homework assignment.

    HW: Start 2nd ad. You will have around 35 min. more class time on Wed/Thur, but need to have both done and printed before you leave class.


    We listened to this podcast:

    and took notes on this document together as a class, discussing along the way. James shared images during the audio presentation.

    Students spent the last 35-40 minutes of class finishing their 2nd ad.

    HW: Finish Dramatization Reflections (due Friday).


    We held the “Tech Fair.” Students displayed their ads, purchased orders of the technologies they liked best with the 5 Yuan I gave them, and the richest person at the end of class received a prize.

    HW: Study/Prepare for a quiz Monday on the Themes from the Primary Sources from last week’s dramatizations. Please see last week’s blog post under Friday for a copy of James’ answers to the prompts, and consult your chart.

  • Social Studies Week 27: March 16-20

    Photo Credit: loveguccihandbags via Compfight cc


    Students created quick mock-ups of a “movie poster” design for their group dramatization as a warm-up and shared them with their group. Very fun!

    They then organized, read through, ran through, recorded, and uploaded their dress rehearsal in prep for the performance (Wed/Thur.)

    HW: Reflect on Video (or for those of you who couldn’t upload b/c Drive was being lame, reflect on what you remember from the run-through)


    Students got themselves organized, then performed their dramatizations. There were some really great scripts! Students filled out a chart during the presentations, and we discussed them as a class. Students also shared positive comments with their peers. The reflections on the second side of this will be completed after students watch the video of their performance (to be posted by Friday).

    HW: No Homework!


    Students reflected on their presentations, and then James posed some prompts to help them think further about what they learned from the skits. These prompts could be used as quiz prompts at a future date. Here is a copy of James’ answers to this task: James’ Answers to China Dramas Big Themes. They are not perfect, but notice that they address the specifics of the prompt and do what the instructions ask.

    HW: Browse this extensive wikipedia page which is a detailed list of Chinese Inventions. Write down 5 which interest you and you would want to know more about, AND which you think are important. (In Notebook). DO NOT CHOOSE the four great inventions: Gunpowder, Printing Press, Paper, Compass. They will be addressed separately in class. While writing this won’t take long, browsing it will take a bit, even if you only look at the names.

  • Social Studies Week 26: March 9-13

    Chinese Opera Source: Wikipedia, Labelled for noncommercial reuse



    As a review warm-up, students wrote and we discussed Qin Shi Huangdi. Students were strongly encouraged to make sure they are regularly reviewing class materials in small chunks (there is always the possibility of a “pop” quiz, at any time).

    James looked at student’s dramatization proposals and approved or made suggestions to improve it. Students then started drafting their scripts, after we discussed the elements of a good script (i.e be sure to include specific actions, facial expressions, how props are used, etc., not just the lines).

    HW: Add to the script on the shared Google Doc.


    After a “little special something (see Mon/Tues above for a hint),” student groups continued to draft and revise their script.

    HW: Finish script


    Made props;

    HW: Create cue cards, practice lines

  • Social Studies Week 25: March 2-7
    The Great Wall at Mu Tian Yu; photo by J. Watz

    The Great Wall at Mu Tian Yu; photo by J. Watz


    Boy & Girls Education

    We discussed the timetables students made showing the difference between boys and girls education, and the influence of Confucianism, and why this mattered.

    We discussed all of the spin-off creation of jobs that results from government sponsored infrastructure projects.

    We discussed the foods and imports and exports of Early Imperial China

    We then watched the first part of a program:

    We took detailed notes and discussed a number of points about technology, Taoist, Buddhist and Confucianist influence today, including the concept of feng sui. This video shows people who attempt to recreate the famous rainbow bridge from the Song Dynasty Qing Ming scroll, which we examined earlier this year.

    HW: Read and mark up this handout and rubric which gives an overview and instructions of our upcoming mini-project: China Dramatizations.


    After finishing the video China Bridge and thoroughly discussing it and making sure our notes are in order for later review, we had captains privately select teams for the upcoming Dramatizations activity. Students then received their sources and began reading and analysis.

    HW: Craft your proposal with team (on Drive)

    Fri: Students consulted with James on their proposals, got feedback, and made revisions as necessary. They then started drafting script and brainstorming (on Chrome books)

    HW: contribute to the script writing process on the shared Google doc

  • Social Studies Week 24: Feb. 23-27
    Source: The Smithsonian

    Terra Cotta Army at Xi’an


    -We took the first half of the quiz – Quote analysis on the big three.

    -Students received their graded Timelines back.

    -We did a lesson on China’s first emperor: Qin Shi Huang di:

    • warm-up : Looked at pics of Terra Cotta Army, wrote words about the kind of person who would have this tomb
    • Used the British Museum website to find out (in partners) what he did to get people to obey him and defend the nation
    • Analyzed a Primary Source poem about him and evaluated the truth of its contents
    • Students were assigned a side for the next classes debate: Was he a hero or villain?
    • HW – prepare 5-10 written arguments for the debate – students wanting to be advanced should look up other sources beyond just the one we used in class


    China Quiz Part 2 – on the other China things we studied before break other than the big 3

    Debate: Qin Shi Huang di – Hero or Villain

    – started the Great Wall activity using the Brit. Museum website

    HW: Finish viewing and taking notes (notebook) on the Great Wall Slide Show (Brit Museum Site – click the projector) 


    Follow up to Great Wall Slide Show

    Start: Daily Life activity (using Brit. Museum Website)

    HW: Finish Early Imp. China Chart (what wasn’t done in class)



  • Social Studies Week 23: February 9-13
    Photo Credit: <a href=

    twilightzones via Compfight cc” class /> Symbols from the big 3


    We warmed up by writing down questions we still had about the 3 Chinese Religions from last week, then James attempted to answer them.

    We then did a practice quiz to check-up on our basic learnings to date.

    We then did a quote identification activity. Students worked in groups to identify which religious tradition the quote represented, and focused on clearly explaining their reasoning in writing. Students were told that a major part of the quiz after the break will include one or two quotes, but ones they have never seen before, and that they will need to do the same type of analysis/identification.

    The quotes can be found in this pdf document on page 31.

    HW: Complete the vocabulary chart on page 12 of the above pdf document.


    We created long timelines to show the dominance of the big 3 religions at various times in Chinese history. The timeline items were selected from the timeline on pages 5-7 of the above linked pdf document, though only 23 specific items were included (see James for which ones, if you were absent!).

    HW: Finish timelines; if time, start key facts notecards


    We did review for a quiz after the break, and students quizzed each other on the facts cards, and finished their fact cards.

    We sang the dynasties song.

    HW: Study everything; I recommend small chunks at a time on several separate occasions since there is a fair amount to memorize.

  • Social Studies Week 22: Feb.4-6

    Mon- Tues Snow Days!


    After a warm-up and discussion on what the similarities and differences are between a religion and a philosophy, we briefly reviewed key facts from our first week (last week) introduction to the China Unit. We reviewed key facts about the Qing Ming Scroll and Some basic Chinese Greetings.

    James then lectured briefly on the 3 religions – Buddhism, Confucianism, and Daoism, and referred to the quick reference chart students read over the weekend for homework. James explained:

    Buddhism: Reincarnation, Karma, Nirvana, 4 Noble Truths, 8-fold Path, Goals and examples of meditation, Vegetarianism and Buddhist symbolism

    Confucianism: 5 relationships, their inequality, focus on education, respect

    Taoism: The Dao and balancing opposites, and symbolism.

    Activity: Jigsaw on the Big 3 Religions

    Students were in expert groups and read a selection on one of the 3, then answered questions.

    HW: Review the questions (above) so you can teach your classmates in small groups for jigsaw part B on Friday.

    The materials for the above activity can be found at pages 16-23 HERE

    Absent Students should choose one of the 3, read the selection, then complete the worksheet on p. 23, and study for class.


    James shared some pictures from Taiwan (where he lived for 4 years). They are mostly of temples, and he showed students how to recognize a Daoist, Buddhist, and Confucianist temple. He also showed a few pictures of apartments he lived in as a basis to discuss the concept of feng shui (daoist), and the importance of ancestors and ghosts (confucianist) in Taiwan.

    HW: Study the big 3. Get comfortable talking about them. Next week we will apply what we know to the analysis of primary source quotes.


  • Social Studies Week 21: Jan. 26-30


    We did two introductory activities related to China.

    1) Students got to examine a 17-foot replica of the famous QingMing Scroll Painting from the Song Dynasty. Pairs of students recorded observations of the various scenes of daily life and tried to come up with interpretations of what they meant/can teach us. (there will be a follow up research piece in the next class). We then had an all-class discussion about our findings.

    qingming record sheet

    2) Students, in pairs, read their news articles and used a reading strategy which prompts them to consider how the text connects to themselves, other texts, and to the larger world. We then had an all-class discussion about our findings.

    news reading connections handout

    news reading record sheet

    HW: Read this brief introduction to the Song Dynasty and take notes in your notebook – any style notes you’d like.


    We did the follow up research for our previous QingMing Scroll activity. Students used several websites to read what scholars have said about the scenes and characters on the scroll, and recorded notes in column 3 of the QingMing Record Sheet (see above). We then had a follow up discussion

    We then did a China Mapping Stations activity. Students built maps of China from 5 different stations.

    HW: Color the maps you built in class at the stations. The five maps (Agriculture, rivers, bordering nations, mountains and deserts, Grand Canal & Great Wall) can be found at this site; review your other China handouts from in class work.


    We created key facts cards about China. We started making some detailed Chinese Dynasty Timelines.

    HW: Students were given a chart on Buddhism, Taoism, and Confucianism. They should read over and annotate it. This is to start familiarizing themselves with next week’s topics. Students should only spend about 10 focused minutes on this. They dod not need to know all the material yet.