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 31: April 20-24

    Beijing Smog Permission for Reuse from Wikimedia Commons


    Students shared their paragraphs on the One Child Policy in small groups. James read each student’s paragraph and gave individual feedback. Some students who wrote the advanced extra paragraph shared it with the class.

    New Topic: Pollution in China

    Students did a brainstorm warm-up on pollution and we filled the board with their knowledge of the topic.

    Students then read a transcript of a news segment and watched the video of the news clip. It was from the Onion – a fake funny news publication.

    Screen shot 2015-04-21 at 12.08.28 PM

    We discussed the role of humor in serious issues, and then students answered questions on the newscast in notebooks.

    Screen shot 2015-04-21 at 12.08.58 PM

    Finally, students watched the clip again, and acted out the interview.

    The next activity was then introduced. Students teams were assigned a question on the topic of pollution that they will investigate in class on Thursday, and which will prepare them for a round-table discussion on Friday. The questions and sources are on this website.

    HW: Spend around 10 minutes searching the website China Air Daily. Look at each city for a variety of months and days to get an idea of how much air pollution there is. Look at info for all the cities in the tabs.


    Students read many of the articles from the list on this lesson plan, and took notes as they related to the questions bullet pointed under the heading “Activities.” They especially focused on their focus question (assigned to them on Mon/Tues.).

    HW: Review your notes on your assigned focus question from today’s activity. Do any additional research necessary to be an expert on your topic for the roundtable discussion.


    Roundtable discussion using the bullet questions from the above resource. A sociogram will be used to track student participation.

    HW: Read the article (including charts) on pages 8-12 of this reading packet (from last week.) It is survey results from pole of Chinese people about pollution in their country.

  • Social Studies Week 30: April 13-17
    Flicker: Labeled for Reuse

    One Child Policy


    • After a quick recap of the lessons of the last week (before break):

    -Western Imperial powers influence in China

    -Japanese Imperial Powers in China

    -Loss of technological prowess and population explosion problems in China, 19th Century

    -Rise of Communism

    • We had an introduction to the new topics: Modern Chinese Dilemmas (Geography topics)
    • Lesson/Lecture on Chinese Modern Chinese Population Dilemmas, using statistics
    • Here is the slide show, which is mostly graphs and data from the World Bank, CIA World Factbook, and GAPMINDER. We spent a lot of time talking about and watching the gapminder animation in slide 3, and how the various numbers show the problems before the one-child policy, and the results of it on fertility rates, growth rates, and how that looks on graphs, including the population pyramid.


    • Activity: Paired Reading Activity: Cornell Notes, using the first 2 articles of this reading packet (which will be used over the next 2 weeks). These are on the 1 Child Policy. Students didn’t finish article 2.

    HW: Students were given a copy of the population pyramid for China, 2014. They are to annotate it in order to:

    1) Show how the graph works

    2) Analyze it in terms of the 1 Child Policy (show how the 1 Child Policy has affected the graph).

    Absent students can print off a copy from the slide show, above.


    • Students finished reading article two from the packet, and taking notes.
    • We then had a full class discussion about the One Child Policy

    Discussion Questions are here.

    • We then watched this video, which gives a lot of personal perspectives on the policy, and brings up several key points that needed to be addressed.

    HW: Students are to make a projected population Pyramid on lined paper for a variety of years into the future. The lines should be used as the guides for the age bands, and a ruler should be used to draw the vertical lines necessary. Students will need to project forward into the future, data from the the 2014 Pyramid, the appropriate number of bands for the projection year they are assigned.

    This website can help them refer to other future Pyramids, to give them an idea if they are correct.

    It allows the viewer to select the year they would like to see in the future. This screen shot is for 2050. Notice the population projection graph on the left for each year, too! Screen shot 2015-04-14 at 2.15.59 PM


    This is a short day due to Earth Day. We will lay out our pyramids in chrono order and discuss the shapes and implications. We will spend more time looking at the above website. We will reflect on what the dilemma we studied this week has to do with Earth Day, and the wider global implications of Population growth, and the power of Demography to help us understand these problems.

    HW: Write a paragraph describing whether or not you think the One-Child Policy was good for China. Advanced: Add another paragraph: How would you change or replace the policy to make it better?


  • Social Studies Week 29: March 30-April 3

    From althistory.wikia


    After a quiz and an intro lecture on the major factors involved in the decline of imperial China and the rise of the communists, students began investigating one of six roles in this big, complicated story. This slide show contains an overview of the activity, including the individual role cards. Here are some sources the students scanned and read.

    HW: NONE


    After some clarification of the big picture of what we are studying, students continued to explore their roles in preparation for Friday’s Discussion/Debate. They also did web searches to try to find missing information, and to expand their knowledge of the topics.

    HW: Review Role Notes


    Short class today 30 minutes – we had our island discussion, with students representing the roles they prepared earlier in the week.

    HW: NONE (Happy Spring Break!) Read a lot!

  • 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)