“Why Are We Doing This?”

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One of my favorite moments in any class is when a student interrupts the lesson (always politely) and asks, “Mr, Bassett, why are we doing this?” In social studies there is a pretty broad consensus that students should do certain things. At the top of the list, if not the very top, is “read primary… Read more »

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Classroom Debates: For and Against

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I think I’ve finally reconciled myself to debate. I came by my skepticism honestly. Way back as a TA in grad school I remember reading a paper by a student in a political theory class that was chock full of arguments, good, bad, and indifferent. The sheer density of claims, with a half-hearted defense tacked… Read more »

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Student Judgment in the Classroom

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Social studies teachers love a lively student discussion: “The kids were really into that discussion about whether or not we should have school uniforms!” But I suspect that most of us don’t do a great job of letting students know if their lively discussion was actually backed with clear and rigorous thinking. Too often we… Read more »

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A few weeks ago Gary and I were talking with a client who is responsible for history and social studies curriculum and instruction in grades 5 – 8. She was explaining why social studies has to fight for instructional minutes with ELA, and one thing she said really struck me. She reported that some curriculum… Read more »

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Sometimes Textbooks Get It Right

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In my last blog post, I complained about the way our textbooks address Question Three, Why then and there? I also promised that I’d stop complaining in the next post (this one) and tell you about a textbook that actually gets Question Three (mostly) right. But first a story… It was 2002. I’d just become… Read more »

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Using The News To Teach Explanatory Thinking

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Gary and I have been trying to finish the chapter in our book about Question Three, “Why Then And There?” It’s the most abstract and difficult of the Four Questions, so the chapter has been the hardest to write. Because we’ve been thinking about this Question so much we’re both also blogging on it. Gary… Read more »

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Question Three: The Resource Problem

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[Apologies in advance; this post is long. If you make it to the end and write me a note, I’ll buy you a drink when the pandemic is over. GS] Jon jokes at our workshops that it took me 18 months to convince him that there was a Question Three. The joke is largely true.… Read more »

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The assault on our nation’s capitol on January 6th was dramatic, frightening, and very unusual. That makes it a prime case for a Question Three puzzle: Why then and there? Question Three is all about patterns and disruptions of patterns. Consider: throughout our history there have been countless demonstrations in Washington, but as Senator Cory… Read more »

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Schools Can’t Fix This

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The Commonwealth of Massachusetts put civics instruction at the center of its revision of the Social Studies curriculum frameworks published in 2018. Every 8th grader in the state is meant to study the institutions of the American republic and learn how they work. The governor signed a law that same year that will eventually require… Read more »

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