One of my biggest challenges when teaching social studies for the first time was figuring out how to best let every student voice their perspective and access the curriculum from where they were at in life. Every student’s unique background meant that each would interpret the complex issues discussed in a different way. I wanted the student to have the opportunity to explain what they viewed as important and meaningful and not be worried about getting “the right answer”. The learning I was looking for was each student’s explanation and justification of WHY they viewed a historical event as important.
In order to achieve this, we began by researching the events and people involved in colonizing North America and rated their significance and included a justification. We completed a “circle of viewpoints” activity where students identified all the people who were involved or affected by colonization and chose 2 perspectives to develop an understanding from. We also completed a “colour, symbol, image” activity where students represented their understanding of the topics in a variety of ways by thinking at a deeper level. Finally, I designed a “bulls-eye” assessment. Listed on the front page were the many events we had studied. Students organized the events by putting what they deemed to be the most important events in the middle of the bulls-eye and events they thought were less important on the outside. They then chose 3 events to justify their choices. (They could choose why the thought events were more important or explain why they thought events were less important).
The results were great. Immediately I saw a difference in opinion based on student’s backgrounds, beliefs, and even socio-economic standing. Best of all, each student was able to demonstrate their understanding by providing great perspective and strong justification because they were invested in their choices.
Bulls-Eye Assessment (downloadable copy of assessment)