Secondary Social Studies Newsletter

September 2014

Welcome New Social Studies Teachers

We could not be more excited to welcome all of our new folks to the the social studies department!  It was a pleasure getting to know you during New Teacher Week and we are looking forward to working with you throughout this year.  Remember, Dodie and Meridith, are just a phone call away if you need anything!  Welcome to the team!

Planning for Learning

On August 19th, we spent 4 hours in campus teams working on the process of Planning for Learning.   In this planning model, we want to begin with the end in mind, so we ask that you start with identifying what you want the students to learn in this unit.  Then pinpoint your test questions and design review before you begin planning your activities.  We also gave you a Blue Book, to be a new planning tool to help with alignment of standards, lessons, and assessments.

So why do we backwards plan?
"We backwards plan so that we can purposefully plan for student achievement. Rather than simply taking all our disconnected activities and throwing them against a wall and hoping something sticks, we use what we have and evaluate how it relates to what we want students to be able to demonstrate. Some things may need to go, some may simply need adaptation to get to where we want students to go, and in some cases we may need to start over. If we are intentional then we have a better chance of reaching our desired outcome." -PD Article

Increasing Rigor

I know what some of you did last summer!  You worked on increasing rigor in one of your units!!  In each of our newsletters, will we focus on one aspect of the training as reminders of all the great things that were shared.  This month's focus is on the Social Studies Toolbox!  Inside the toolbox are great ways students can process information into categories and strategies for breaking down a primary source.  Remember the documents can be made into posters for your classrooms as reminders to you and students of the skills they have to become independent thinkers and analyzers.  We have already seen some of the these strategies at work in classrooms around the district! The toolbox can be found in Eduphoria called "Vertical Alignment of Skills" in either "Scope and Sequence" or "Social Studies Strategies".  

DBQ Update

Last year, we heard you when you asked for an easier way to grade the DBQ's and we gathered a team together to develop a common rubric 4th-11th grades to promote student reflection and specific feedback.  These rubrics were developed by Instructional Coaches from every campus, teachers from around the district, and a consultant from the DBQ project.  The team met last May to look at student samples and determine expectations of students at each level.  Once we had a clear understanding of what students were capable of doing, the team determined what we would hold the students accountable for at each level.  

The DBQ Rubrics have been loaded into Eduphoria, within each DBQ.  These are soft copies and minor adjustments are perfectly acceptable.  What we want to hold tightly are the "look fors" and expectations of the rubrics. We want the rubrics to lower the grading burden, while still offering our students a chance to grow and learn to be better thinkers, and writers.  

Question? What is the average air speed of an unladen swallow? Respond to Dodie or Meridith with your answer and your name will go into a drawing for a great prize!

Constitution Day

September 17, 2014 marks the 227th Anniversary of the signing of the Constitution.  This national observance began in 2004, after Senator Robert Byrd  passed a bill designating September 17 as the day for citizens to commemorate the signing of the U.S. Constitution and learn more about our founding document. Senator Byrd once said, "Our ideals of freedom, set forth and realized in our Constitution, are our greatest export to the world." He believed that all citizens should know about their rights as outlined in the Constitution. The law mandates the teaching of the Constitution in schools that receive federal funds, as well as federal agencies. -Constitution Center

There are Constitution Day Resources loaded in Eduphoria or you can create your own lessons to commemorate this day.  Please send us pictures of the great activities your campus does to be featured in next month's newsletter!

Celebrate Freedom Week

What is Celebrate Freedom Week All About & What Do We Need To Focus On?

From TEKS Grades 3-12:

Instruction during Celebrate Freedom Week. Each social studies class shall include, during Celebrate Freedom Week as provided under Texas Education Code, appropriate instruction concerning the intent, meaning, and importance of the Declaration of Independence and the United States Constitution, including the Bill of Rights, in their historical contexts. The study of the Declaration of Independence must include the study of the relationship of the ideas expressed in that document to subsequent American history, including the relationship of its ideas to the rich diversity of our people as a nation of immigrants, the American Revolution, the formulation of the United States Constitution, and the abolitionist movement, which led to the Emancipation Proclamation and the women's suffrage movement.(b) Recitation during Celebrate Freedom Week. (1) Each school district shall require that, during Celebrate Freedom Week or other week of instruction prescribed under subsection (a) of this section, students in Grades 3 - 12 study and recite the following text: "We hold these Truths to be self-evident, that all Men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the Pursuit of Happiness--That to secure these Rights, Governments are instituted among Men, deriving their just Powers from the Consent of the Governed."

(2) Each school district shall excuse from the recitation a student: (A) whose parent or guardian submits to the district a written request that the student be excused; (B) who, as determined by the district, has a conscientious objection to the recitation; or (C) who is the child of a representative of a foreign government to whom the United States government extends diplomatic immunity.

See attached Sample Announcements from Region 13- if your campus would like to incorporate some announcements each day of Celebrate Freedom Week.

Geography Bee Registration

The curriculum office will handle all registrations for this year's Middle School Geography Bee.  Campus sponsors will receive more information after September 15th.  

Helpful Websites

Here are some web resources that may be helpful for you in your planning. Thank you to Jeff Wiseman for the links!

"Close Reading Strategies, Rubrics, and Sample Assessments for History Teachers"

--The UMBC Assessment Resource Center for History

--(Blog post here --

USGS Historical Topographic Map Explorer

This has really cool historical map overlays of tons of locations around the country.

"The Public Domain Review - A Good Place to Find Public Domain Media"

Blog post --

Would be a nice compliment to appropriate resources based on copyright!

Upcoming Workshops

Hindi is Here! A one-day workshop for students, teachers, parents and education professionals.  Saturday, October 4th, 8:30-4:30, The Pat May Center, Bedford.  Register at

Texas Council on Economic Education (TCEE) and the Council for Economic Education (CEE): National Conference on Economics, Financial Literacy and Entrepreneurship in Dallas, October 9th-11th. This year’s registration for teachers is $150. Register at

Frontiers of Flight Museum, Tuesday, October 28th, Dallas, 9 am-4 pm Register at

Museum of the American Railroad

The American Railroad Museum in Frisco is now offering quality programming to North Texas schools. These can be offered on campus or at the museum and were developed with a partnership with FISD.  The Museum programs are suitable for both middle school and high school and are aligned to the Social Studies TEKS.

Below is a link to the program announcement on the Museum’s homepage:

Below is a link to the Educational Program Directory:

Hispanic Heritage Month

"Each year, Americans observe National Hispanic Heritage Month from September 15 to October 15, by celebrating the histories, cultures and contributions of American citizens whose ancestors came from Spain, Mexico, the Caribbean and Central and South America.

The observation started in 1968 as Hispanic Heritage Week under President Lyndon Johnson and was expanded by President Ronald Reagan in 1988 to cover a 30-day period starting on September 15 and ending on October 15. It was enacted into law on August 17, 1988, on the approval of Public Law 100-402.

The day of September 15 is significant because it is the anniversary of independence for Latin American countries Costa Rica, El Salvador, Guatemala, Honduras and Nicaragua. In addition, Mexico and Chile celebrate their independence days on September 16 and September18, respectively. Also, Columbus Day or Día de la Raza, which is October 12, falls within this 30 day period." - taken from

To learn more about Hispanic Heritage Month and to get more resources click on the following link