Social Studies

Welcome to Middle School Social Studies

2013-14 MS Social Studies Pacing Guide

Social Studies Letter to Parents 2013

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 29: April 14-18


    After reviewing tips for conducting good research, students began research for the new Civil War Project (see last week’s post for handouts and details). James discussed the topics proposed by individual students with each student, and made suggestions if necessary. Students started a research document and shared it with James. The title must include the words Civil War, the hour the student is in, and their first name.

    HW: Add research notes on 1-2 additional sources. (HW will be checked by timestamp on the research doc).


    We used some of the slides in this image-rich powerpoint timeline africanamericans_civilwar Revisedto review the beginning of the war, and especially focused on:

    -Lincoln’s changing policies on slavery

    -Black involvement in the Civil War

    We then did a partnered primary source analysis activity using a Recruitment Poster recruitment-broadside and set of analysis questions Black Recruitment Poster Questions.

    With the little extra time some pairs of students had, they were able to use our classroom civil war books to continue research on their project.

    HW (Due Mon/Tues): 1) Do the last question in the Poster analysis activity – to answer this question, you need to find a modern army recruitment poster to compare with the Civil War poster you analyzed in class. 2) Continue research on your project – add notes to research Doc (to be checked by time-stamp).

  • Social Studies Week 28: March 31-April 4


    We took the Terra Nova Social Studies

    We then went over the Economics quizzes from last week and the Economics tasks 1-5

    We then started the book browse of 30 plus Civil War Books (mentioned in last Friday’s post but we didn’t end up getting to that since we needed more review of civil war causes). Students recorded Civil War sub-topics in one column as they browsed, and questions they had in another. They were also encouraged to write down the name of any book they thought they might want to use again. The main goal was to generate curiosity and a list of possible topics and questions for the upcoming research project.

    HW: Refine/add to your list of Civil War questions. You should have a minimum of 3 really good questions when you enter class on Weds/Thurs.

    Weds/Thur (and Friday)

    We shared some topics and questions we had to date. We then did a class demo on how to identify sub-topics and how to generate questions using a sample illustration and sample page from a book on the elmo. Students were then given about 20 more minutes to browse and further develop their lists in their notebook.

    We then watched Crash Course U.S. #20. We demoed Cornell note-taking strategy again using this video and the elmo for the notes.

    Finally, I handed out the Project Assignment Sheet, went over it, and showed them photos of projects from previous years.  Civil War Project Revised 2014

    HW: Further refine your list of questions and subtopics. You should have at least 3 more questions and 10 or more subtopics (or many more).


    I showed students some additional lists of possible topics, and had them add any they found interesting to their list.

    I then gave them the proposal sheet they will complete over break and went over it.  Civil War Project Proposal

    Students then had time to investigate their top 5 potential topics using iPads and the class books.

    HW: Complete Proposal (Due upon return from the break)

  • Social Studies Week 27: March 24-28


    We warmed up by comparing and contrasting supply and demand curves for goods with those for labor markets. This was a follow-up on part of Friday’s lesson. Students should take note that for a labor market, the negatively sloping demand curve refers to demand for workers by firms at given wages (in the Y axis). The supply means the labor force (=workers) who are willing to work at given wage rates. This can be confusing because in the curves for a good, supply refers to supply by firms/sellers at various prices whereas demand refers to consumer demand.

    The bulk of class was spent in pairs using a web tool from the website Read Write Think. Students created digital timelines on 8 key political events which contributed to sectional tension (tension between north and south) leading up to the Civil War. The assignment is here: PreCivilWarTimelineDirections

    HOMEWORK: Make one index cards on economics lessons from last week. Include anything you could find useful on a potential quiz or test. North vs south data, Industrial Rev history and vocab, and econ concepts should be included. Basically, refer back to last week’s slide show and any extra notes you took.


    Students start off by comparing the timelines they made Monday with those made by other students. They write down questions or conflicts of understanding they have while they do this. They then got a little time to follow up on these questions with a bit more research. We then watched Crash Course U.S. #18, which covers precisely the same material and should help clarify and solidify understanding of these key events.

    We then switched back to economics and students took time to practice drawing diagrams for their classmates in small groups while explaining what they were doing. This gave them informal presentation practice and a chance to work through their understanding of the economics materials. After a few more minutes of review, we then had a Special Surprise Activity! ;-)

    HOMEWORK: Make one index card on material related to the 8 political events we explored (i.e. on the timeline) that you could potentially use on a quiz or test.


    We did some review and miscellaneous clarifying. Students then had a chance to browse books on the Civil War and started generating lists of questions and ideas for a potential project topic (for a Civil War Museum Project that will be introduced and started next week).

    HOMEWORK: Develop, edit, and add to your list of questions about the Civil War (in notebook).

  • Social Studies Week 26: March 17-21


    We spent the first part of class reading each other’s paragraphs on abolitionism (paragraph B, see last week). James also projected and read 2 exemplars and we discussed them. Students got back paragraph A and read James’ comments.

    We started our week-long look at Economics preceding the Civil War. We talked about the terms “economics” and “economy.” All of the lecture, reading,  discussion topics, and classwork and homework prompts are combined into one Drive Presentation Document. The PDF version is linked below. Basically, we are trying to understand how different the north and south were as a result of industrial revolution in the north, and are learning some basic economics concepts and tools, such as supply and demand curves.

    Industrial Rev and a Divided Nation

    Homework: Paragraph C (see last week’s post) & finish economics tasks 1 & 2 (see slideshow) if you didn’t finish them in class.


    Continued to explore the economic issues pre-civil war (see above slide show).

    Homework: Finish Econ Tasks 3 & 4; review notes and readings on slideshow

    Friday: Finished up Slides

    Homework: Finish Econ Task 5

  • Social Studies Week 25: March 10-14


    After a brief discussion of presentation skills, students put the final touches on their presentations on slavery, then presented (see last week’s post for the docs). Most of these were quite good. We also discussed how they relate to the state standards on slavery (see A, B, and C below, which also are this weeks homework prompts).

    Homework: Write Paragraph A (see A, below). This should be a well developed paragraph, typed, double-spaced, printed out, due Weds/Thurs.



    Students did a brief informal peer-editing session on paragraph A (the homework). Students shared feedback on post-it notes.

    We watched a video called Making of America: Seeds of Destruction, narrated by Morgan Freeman. Students took web-style notes, with three central circles containing the 3 standards- A, B, and C (see below). Notes were linked to the  3 circles based on related meaning. This was demonstrated in class.

    Homework: Write Paragraph B (see below). Follow same protocol as for Mon/Tues. HW.



    Another brief peer-editing session on Paragraph B.

    We then began examining Economic differences between the North & South by

    discussed this interactive map:


    and these Bar Graphs – N vs. South


    Homework: Paragraph C. Follow same protocol as for the previous two HWs.

    State Standards (Simplified) on Slavery (for the homeworks, presentation discussions, and video notes):

    A. Describe the resistance efforts of enslaved people.

    B. Describe the development and efforts of the abolitionist movement.

    C. Explain the ideology of the institution of slavery in America, its policies, and consequences.

  • Social Studies wk 24: March 3-7

    Mon- Tues.

    Unit Test on Westward Expansion

    Then we watched crash course U.S. # 13 on Slavery; it can be found on youtube; students took Cornell Notes and I showed them my notes and we discussed them.

    HW: Review above Cornell Notes


    We went over the Test

    We wrote about and discussed how slaves resisted slavery

    We started an assignment where student groups are using a Cornell University Archive to read and analyze primary and secondary sources on various aspects of slavery, including resistance, the business of slavery, and abolitionism. They will eventually present on their sub-topic for the class.

    The assignment is here: Abolitionism Activity

    HW: (both days)  Continue preparing/making progress on this activity (about 20 minutes)


  • Social Studies Week 23: Feb 24-28


    Students warmed up by writing about the concept of manifest destiny and its importance. We discussed it briefly. We then did a 15 minute directed Q & A session in which we reviewed the details of both the Trail of Tears and The U.S.-Mexico War.

    Students finished the 4th and final station from last last week’s stations activity, in which they examined primary and secondary sources  on Manifest Destiny and The U.S.-Mexico War.

    Students were then informed that the Debate we will hold in the next class (Weds./Thurs.) will have two parts. In one part they will share their personal opinions on the Trail of Tears, U.S. Mexico War, and Manifest Destiny. They will use the position statements they prepared over break to assist with this. They may deliver these prepared statements and students can respond to one another’s statements. In the second portion of the debate, students will represent one of the four positions laid out in the following role cards: WestwardExpansionDebateRoleCards

    The specific order for the debate topics is below under Weds/Thurs.

    HOMEWORK: Review and prepare to successfully participate in the (graded) debate.


    DEBATE Part 1 : From the role card perspectives

    Overall Topic: Were Americans justified in accomplishing Westward Expansion using the methods they used?


    -Manifest Destiny

    -Mexican-American War

    -Trail of Tears

    -Agricultural Advances

    -Louisiana Purchase


    DEBATE Part 2: Personal perspectives

    Homework: Begin reviewing for a unit test to be taken in class at the beginning of next week.


    We did a geography activity in which students cut out puzzle pieces of the U.S. and labels/descriptions corresponding to the major westward expansions of the nation. Students then practiced assembling the pieces of the puzzle and recapping the stories of each acquisition as they do so.

    Home work: Students should make one standard index card with any information they want to use during the test next week. They must make their own cards – they can not use a copy from another student. Double-sided is okay.

  • Social Studies Week 22: Feb. 10-14


    We moved on this week to new topics within the same unit on Westward Expansion: Changes in Agriculture, The U.S.-Mexico War, and The Trail of Tears. I started off class by explaining it all connects to the unit, along with the Louisiana Purchase material we’ve been exploring for the past 2 weeks, in order to provide context.

    Students took a short multiple-choice quiz on The Louisiana Purchase and Lewis & Clark.

    Students wrote about and brain-stormed and discussed how agriculture today is different from that of the past.

    We then did an activity in which students used a web-based timeline/chart with hyper-links and illustrations to explore 13-15 major developments in agriculture between the years 1790 and 1850. Students then, working with partners, discussed, reasoned, and researched these developments and had to choose winners for the most important developments. They awarded gold, silver, and bronze medals, as well as two runners-up. They had to describe how each thing worked, why it was an award winner, and included a brief sketch of each.

    Here is the address of the timeline : http://inventors.about.com/library/inventors/blfarm1.htm

    Students answered some oral questions at the end of class as a comprehension check.

    Homework: Choose one of the following online readings. Take Cornell Notes. Minimum 4 thoughtful questions and/or connections in the left column. This is due Friday.

    middle school level text : http://www.history.com/topics/trail-of-tears

    for struggling readers or students looking to do less (but also learn less) : http://nativeamericans.mrdonn.org/trailoftears.html


    Also – The Lewis & Clark Posters must be handed in on or before this Friday


    After an warm-up recapping our last lesson on agriculture and an ungraded, informal notebook quiz on agriculture, we briefly aggregated our votes for Gold, Silver, and Bronze medal winners for agricultural innovation and discussed the reasoning behind the choices.

    U.S.-Mexico War & Manifest Destiny

    We then discussed the Manifest Destiny Image (see last weeks post -that we never actually got to -about this). We then watched and discussed the

    We then watched the John Green Crash Course U.S. History #17 together (about 12 min) to give students an overview of the two topics.

    We then began a stations activity in which students visit 4 stations which explore different aspects of Manifest destiny and the U.S. Mexico War. Two stations have primary source materials, including propaganda and essays. One station has a secondary source interview with a historian but designed for middle school readers. The fourth station is audio-visual and students watch two short clips about the war and manifest destiny from a PBS documentary. They also explore an interactive online timeline.

    This will continue on Friday. Students will eventually use what they learn to participate in a debate on the War and the notion of manifest destiny, which will take place after the break (but not on the first day back!).

    Friday’s homework: Compose 3 excellent, clear, supported position statements on manifest destiny and whether or not the U.S. was justified in going to war with Mexico.