Further Unit Plan information:Social Studies Unit Plans

Reading Reflection: Zarrillo, Chapter 2


In chapter 2, Zarrillo discusses the idea of lessons and unit plans. He starts with lessons and moves into how they fit into unit plans. Zarrillo mentions two different types of lessons (comprehensive and abbreviated) and talks about the different types of instructional methods most commonly used in social studies. He also makes mention of Bloom’s taxonomy and how that should impact the way we write objectives and how we format our lessons. Zarrillo goes on to describe units, which should be formatted by “backwards design.” Teachers should determine standards and objectives first, the type of assessment second, and plan instructional activities tailored to the objectives and assessment last. This allows a unit to be focused, clear-cut, and detailed. Zarrillo concludes by discussing different types of activities found within social studies units.

Helpful Ideas and Examples

  • Establishing goals at the beginning of each unit (pg. 42) (determining background knowledge and student interest)
    • “Determine what our students know about the topic we will be studying”
    • “Find out whether our students would like to investigate anything in particular”
  • The blurb on integrating social studies – page 40
    • Content integration
    • Process Integration

Thoughtful and Authentic Question

I want to know how to integrate social studies effectively, both in regards to content and process. I can’t remember my elementary school teachers doing this (although they probably did and I simply can’t remember) and I want to know how to be purposeful in the way in which I do it.


Going into this chapter, was of the mind that I could competently write a good lesson plan. Zarrillo challenged me in this. I’ve been taught how to write good reading/language arts lesson plans, and I’m starting to realize that writing good Social Studies lesson plans is going to be completely different (even if some elements are similar).

Go Back: Extra Reading: Social Studies Methods

Class Notes

  • I Used To Think: Discussion summary:
    • This reading strategy was extremely helpful‼ I plan on using this in my classroom some day!
  • A look Back… Discussion summary:
    • Purpose of school: go to college, get a good job, be successful, don’t end up on streets
    • Overall, we all have pretty similar backgrounds regarding education and how we were taught social studies (spit and regurgitate). This will make it difficult (but definitely not impossible) to break from these teaching ideas and begin to teach in a meaningful way. For me, it will be like forging a new path: I have to leave behind most of what I knew based on past experiences and begin to learn by doing and discovering.
  • Hypothesize
    • Themes
      • H=History
      • G=Geography
      • C=Civics
      • P=Public Discourse
      • E=Economics
      • U=United States History
      • W=World History
  • Verbs & Thinking
    • Highlight Verbs: GLCEs
    • Based on Bloom’s taxonomy
      • Yellow = Knowledge or Comprehension – 20
      • Pink = Application – 15
      • Green = Analysis – 5
      • Blue = Synthesis or Evaluation – 7
  • Analysis
    • Count the number of GLCE’s for each color (see above for totals)
      • Lots of yellow‼
      • Verbs seemed very colorful right at first, but then as I went on, most standards said “describe” or “explain” (not very colorful there)
    • What does this tell you about the GLCE’s in general?
      • Not extremely challenging
      • There is a lot of room for improvement, especially if we want to teach critical thinking.
    • What are the implications for you as a teacher?
      • I need to work harder to apply these standards in a way that challenges my students. I can reference the standards when writing my objectives, but I shouldn’t rely on these standards to help me fully equip my students.
  • Writing Objectives
    • Prior knowledge:
      • Why do you need to write objectives? Can’t you just use the standard?
        • Specific
        • Measureable
        • Vivid verbs
        • Clear
        • Focused on a skill or strategy
      • What have you learned in previous classes about writing objectives?
      • What makes a good objective?
  • Activity
    • In Grade Level Groups (K-2) (3-5) (6-8)
    • Goal: Write a higher order critical thinking objective out of lower level thinking GLCE’s
      • Use just one GLCE or a few GLCE’s
      • Write an objective that:
        • Is stated in terms of student behavior
        • Identifies the learning that will take place
        • Is measurable and observable
        • Uses a higher order critical thinking skill (Application, Analysis, Synthesis or Evaluation)
    • Do at least two as a group – from different grade levels – Write them here:
      • (Based on: 3-G1.0.1) Given an end location, the learner will be able to evaluate the quickest route and direct a fellow learner to that destination using cardinal directions (north, south, east, west), scale, and key or legend.
      • (Based on: 2-C5.0.3) The learner will be able to construct a list of community needs that they have observed and brainstorm and implement ways fulfill these needs.
    • Pick one that you will write on the board
      • Try one on your own – Write it here:
        • Challenging on my own – I get frustrated with the GLCEs – they’re incredibly basic and make it difficult to determine the useful skill and concept required for student development. I have to be careful not to throw the baby out with the bathwater.
  • Curses & Sins
    • Curses of Knowledge (Details)
      • Teaching to the test
    • Sin of coverage
      • Textbook as curriculum
  • Big Picture
    • Picture of the Community
    • Picture of the School
      • Mission
      • Vision
      • Goals
      • History
    • Picture of the Graduate
      • Academics
      • Personal/Social
      • Career
      • Spiritual
  • Backward Designed Curriculum
    • Identify desired results
      • Prioritize
      • Review State standards
      • Mission/Vision/Goals
      • Essential questions
    • Determine acceptable evidence of understanding
      • Performance tasks and the criteria for judging them
      • How will students reflect and self-assess
    • Plan learning experiences and instruction
  • Let’s Try Backwards Design
    • Groups of three
    • Each group pick a different outcome/desired result from the list below:
      • Identify the beginning, middle, and end of historical narratives or stories.
      • Recognize that maps and globes represent places
      • Use positional words (up/down, in/out/, above/below) to identify significant locations in the classroom
      • Distinguish between wants and needs.
      • Distinguish between goods and services.
    • When do students need to be able to know and do this in their real life?
      • In Life: as soon as possible!
      • Situational
        • Substantial food vs. Pleasure food
        • Grocery shopping
        • Time management (videogames vs. homework)
        • Spending allowance – saving vs. personal spending vs. spending on others (blessing others)
    • What is acceptable evidence that EACH student can do/understand/know it?
      • Giving examples or creating a scene that presents choices between wants and needs within the categories of money, time, and food for their classmates to identify which was the want and which was the need. Or creating a “choose your own story” and seeing what happens to the person in the skit or story based on what they choose.
    • Plan the learning steps
      • Working in groups to choose a category (money, time, or food)
      • Groups choose a real-life situation in which their category can be applied.
      • Have a few minutes to practice
      • Present to the class – class chooses between the want/need
  • A Big Idea…
    • Provides a “conceptual lens” for prioritizing content.
    • Serves as an organizer for connecting important facts, skills, and actions.
    • Transfers to other contexts.
    • Manifests itself in various ways within disciplines.
    • Requires “uncoverage” because it is an abstraction
    • Transferable Big Ideas – the complete list is in Moodle
  • Work with a partner or in triads
    • Organize the cards into 2 piles
    • In your notes:
      • Give a name to each of the piles: Fact vs. Opinion
      • Describe the characteristics of each of the piles
      • Create two more “cards” for each of the piles
      • Create instructions to give to someone to help them determine which pile to put a card in.
    • Strategy – Word Sort (constructivist/inquiry)
    • Classroom Application – Brainstorm ways you could incorporate this type of activity
  • Essential Questions
    • Have no simple “right” answer; they are meant to be argued
    • Are designed to provoke and sustain student inquiry, while focusing learning and final performances.
    • Often address the conceptual or philosophical foundations of a discipline.
    • Raise other important questions.
    • Naturally and appropriately recur.
    • Stimulate vital, ongoing rethinking of big ideas, assumptions, and prior lessons.
  • Identifying Essential Questions & Understandings
    • Topics & Big Ideas: ______________________
    • Clarifying Content Priorities
    • Worth being familiar with…
    • Important to know and do…
    • Big Ideas and enduring understandings…
    • Leverage – influence more than a single discipline
    • Endurance – standards that will have long term relevance
    • Essential for the next level


What new information did you learn?

A lot‼ The reading strategies you showed us were extremely helpful. Having us write our own objectives based on the GLCEs was slightly annoying, but in the “I know I have to do this and get good at this, but can’t it wait till later..” kind of way. I definitely see the value in working on better objectives and standards – it’s the only way to have solid, tight, and effective lesson plans!

How has the material/experience affected you?

Before actually meeting you and coming into class, I was wary about taking a social studies methods class. After coming into class, I am excited to learn how to teach effectively and in a manner that draws kids to enjoy social studies‼ I’m excited to learn more!

Has it challenged your thinking? How?

As I said earlier, this class is going to involve breaking old perceptions of how to teach social studies and building new and better habits for how to effectively teach social studies. In many ways, I’ll be forging a new path – this is daunting for me, but it’s also exciting – I like a good challenge!

Go Back: Extra Reading: Social Studies Methods


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