Social Studies

Summaries of the Modelling the Tools (K-12)

Modelling the Tools are detailed teaching suggestions that illustrate how teachers might help students develop a particular array of critical thinking skills that have wide applicability in the social studies curriculum. These elaborated instructions address the “tools” required for various tasks – from asking questions and interpreting pictures to solving problems and taking social action. These lessons can be accessed through the Critical Challenges to which they apply, or by searching “Modelling the Tools” or directly from this chart.

Analyzing a Situation (MT)

Analyze a situation by identifying the relevant stakeholders, implied interests and underlying issues.

Asking Powerful Questions (MT)

Identify the criteria for effective questions and then frame questions that meet these criteria. In preparation for a visit by a classroom guest, students brainstorm criteria for a powerful question and then use these criteria to assess questions they generate. Each student selects a powerful question to ask of the guest.

In A Classroom Example of Asking Powerful Questions, teachers and students work through the suggested lesson activities in this resource.

Assessing Web Site Credibility (MT)

Judge the authority and credibility of information posted on the Internet. Students will use one of two approaches: a comparative assessment of two Web sites (one of which is bogus) or a pro and con assessment of one Web site. The same criteria are used in either approach. Either approach can be used as an independent activity or as part of a research or inquiry project. Students begin by discussing criteria for evaluating a Web site and then apply these criteria to examples. Next, students are introduced to the selected approach using Web sites provided by the teacher or selected by the students. Finally, students assess the credibility of Web sites. Assessment support provided by the Alberta Assessment Consortium (AAC).

Comparing Then and Now (MT)

Decide whether or not earlier times were as good as people say they were by interviewing two or more adults who were the students’ age fifty or more years ago. Based on the interview results, students compare across a number of areas the quality of life in earlier times and the present. Students are encouraged to consider the whole picture when identifying the advantages and disadvantages of living in the past. For example, students might consider what they do in their own lives that parallel conditions in earlier times (e.g., what they do when they are camping and do not have electricity). After sharing their findings and discussing the implications, students decide whether or not, for young people, things were better in the old days than they are today. Assessment support provided by the Alberta Assessment Consortium (AAC).

Considering the Impact on Issues or Events (MT)

Consider the impacts of change or the influence of groups of people on an issue or historical event. Examine the roles of fur traders and Church missionaries in colonizing Aboriginal peoples in New France prior to 1663. After identifying indicators of ‘colonization’ such as growth of population, social institutions and local economy, students examine the effects of the fur trade and missionary work on colonial development. Students then determine the most significant contribution of Church missionaries and of fur traders to the colonization of what was to become New France.

Creating Authentic Diaries (MT)

Write an “authentic” diary/journal entry about an assigned historical event based upon their understanding of how it might be viewed by a person living at event at the time. Students examine a forged historical entry and an actual entry for evidence of the criteria for an “authentic” diary/journal. Students then create a brief biography of an assumed character and write an entry involving their historical event as seen through the eyes of this character. Students critique each other’s entries before submitting their final drafts.

Creating Persuasive and Effective Visuals (MT)

Explore the qualities and techniques used in various media so they can effectively advertise an issue, topic or event. Students first learn about the techniques of persuasion and then discuss how visuals are useful in creating a powerful impression in a short period of time and informing people about the topic or issue—two other purposes of advertising. Students then examine and analyze a number of samples of print ads, identifying the techniques and the implied impact they have on the viewer. Finally, students create their own visuals translating what they have learned into a persuasive and effective visual.

In A Classroom Example of Creating Persuasive and Effective Visuals, teachers and students work through the suggested lesson activities in this resource.

Designing an Exhibit (MT)

Learn about the qualities and techniques of effective exhibits. Examples of effective and ineffective exhibits to help students generate standards for exhibit design are presented. Students critique three exhibits at a museum. Based on their evaluation of the museum exhibits, students review the elements of an effective exhibit to create a checklist of qualities they want to include in their own exhibits. Next, students review their individual research to select the most important facts to feature in their exhibits, and then they prepare a mock-up of their design. After learning about constructive feedback, students critique each other’s exhibit designs and suggest specific improvements. Finally, students use the constructive feedback to improve their own exhibits before presenting the finished exhibits to the class.

Drawing the Line on Rights (MT)

Make the link between the factors that substantially affect quality of life and people’s entitlements to basic human rights. Using food as a demonstration example, students indicate on a continuum the extent to which the food needs of young people in previously read stories are met. After exploring the direct and indirect consequences of the absence of adequate food, students identify the minimum level of food to which all persons are entitled. Students justify their drawing of the line for this basic human right in light of the impact on a person’s quality of life. Following a similar procedure, students identify the point at which people are deemed to have rights to other factors affecting the quality of their lives. Students create and justify “rights statements” describing the level of basic entitlement for assigned quality of life factors. These statements are compiled as a student-developed Charter of Young People’s Rights. 

Examining Cross-cultural Observations (MT)

Recognize when anthropological accounts are culturally sensitive. Students are introduced to an anthropological account. Using this example, students learn about three sets of pitfalls involved in judging, interpreting and generalizing about cultures. Next, students work with a partner to examine the cross-cultural sensitivity of anthropological accounts of the cultures of New France. Their ratings and evidence are summarized in a display chart. These charts are evaluated by other pairs of students. Finally, students complete an additional examination of the cross-cultural sensitivity of a different anthropological account

Identifying Family Memories (MT)

Explore the sources and feelings associated with family memories. Students are introduced to the concept of memory through physical objects and the story Wilfred Gordon McDonald Partridge. After establishing an understanding of 'memories', students generate memories of various family events. By considering what makes some of these memories more powerful than others, students develop criteria for a powerful memory. Based on these criteria, students decide which of their family memories is the most powerful. Students portray their powerful memory through drawing or dramatization. Assessment support provided by the Alberta Assessment Consortium (AAC).

Interpreting and Reinterpreting Images (MT)

Examine and then reconstruct drawings depicting historical scenes. The foci in these lessons are drawings about early contact between Aboriginal peoples and Europeans in New France by C.W. Jefferys. Students use the W5 questions (who, what, where, when and why) to decipher the explicit message in one of the drawings. They are then introduced to the idea of an implicit messageand examine the artist’s implied attitudes towards the people and the events depicted in the drawing. Students then interpret the implicit message of their assigned picture. In the final lesson, students offer a revised interpretation the events by presenting a different implicit message about Aboriginal-European contact—one that is more sensitive to the Aboriginal perspective. Assessment support provided by the Alberta Assessment Consortium (AAC).

In A Classroom Example of Interpreting & Reinterpreting Visuals, teachers and students work through the suggested lesson activities in this resource.

Investigating Pictures (MT)

Learn to extract information from photographs. The focus in this lesson is on using pictures to learn about community life, but the activities could be altered to suit other purposes. Students take on the role of detectives in looking for clues in photographs depicting various community scenes in order to answer the questions: what, where, who and why. They then use their findings to draw conclusions about the community.

In A Classroom Example of Investigating Pictures, teachers and students work through the suggested lesson activities in this resource.

Judging Quality of Life (MT)

Explore the myriad of factors affecting a person’s quality of life. Students consider what constitutes a good or “rich” life then read about two young people, looking for various indicators of the quality of their lives. After deciding which of these young people has the richer life, the class agrees on which indicators are the most important in determining a good quality of life. Depending on the particular focus of your study, you will want to assemble a suitable pair of biographies or stories of people who live in very different situations. The purpose of assessing individual profiles is not to reach a pre-arranged conclusion about the best life, but to stimulate student discussion of the different and sometimes underappreciated factors that affect their quality of life.

Learning to Be a Friend (MT)

Learn to better support others who are upset or have been slighted by responding in a manner that models the qualities of a friendly person. Students work in small groups to suggest possible responses to an upsetting situation depicted in a picture from a teacher resource or picture book. After developing criteria for recognizing the actions of friendly and non-friendly persons, students review the suggested responses in light of these criteria. Students then role-play each suggested response. Finally, students draw a picture of the situation and their recommended response. As an extension, students apply the lessons learned about friendly responses to an actual incident at school or home. Assessment support provided by the Alberta Assessment Consortium (AAC).

Making a Lasting Difference (MT)

Plan a project that the class might undertake which would have a lasting effect on the school or community. The inspiration for the challenge is the story, A Handful of Seeds by Monica Hughes, which tells of a girl in Latin America who helps other street children by providing them with seeds to plant a food garden. Students learn to recognize helpful actions that have a short-term and those that have a lasting impact. Using the criteria of making a lasting contribution that is important and realistic, students assess a list of possible class projects to enhance their school or community. Individually students recommend and justify their selection. Students share their recommendations and adopt one or more projects that the class will then plan and implement. Assessment support provided by the Alberta Assessment Consortium (AAC).

Negotiating Win-Win Solutions (MT)

Negotiate a plan for developing a region of the Brazilian rain forest. The strategies and resources discussed in this scenario could be used as is or adapted for another issue (perhaps a Canadian example, such as the Boreal forests or resource development agreements in NWT). Students attend a mock symposium where they are introduced to individuals representing five stakeholder groups with interest in a particular region. After making notes of each group’s position, students begin by graphically representing the impact of various actions on the interests of the five stakeholder groups. They also learn to recognize solutions that are based on a “win-win” philosophy. As representatives of an assigned stakeholder group, students develop draft proposals for developing the rain forest area. Then, anticipating the responses of other stakeholder groups, students plan how they might accommodate these concerns. Students then meet with representatives of other stakeholder groups to reach consensus on a win-win solution. When all plans have been shared, students assess the impact of each proposal on various stakeholder groups. Finally, students write a position paragraph identifying and justifying their chosen development plan. In the debriefing, students consider the effectiveness of a win-win approach and whether solutions can be found to the problems facing the region.

Offering a Fair-minded Account (MT)

Identify bias in a textbook or other secondary acount of an event, recognize what an alternative perspective of the incident might be, and rewrite the account in a more balanced or fairnmined manner. The example used to demonstrate these tools is a short account and accompaying detail of John Trumbull’s painting of the Battle of Bunker Hill. These appear in the section of a textbook dealing with the American Revolution. Students are taught to detect bias in the painting and the passage. After discussing techniques for writing fair-minded accounts, student rewrite a more balanced version of the incident. You may want to select a different event and, consequently, use different print and visual support materials.

Reaching Group Consensus (MT) Learn to reach consensus in a large group setting by engaging in a mock summit conference on a controversial issue.

Recognizing a Supportive Community (MT)

Learn that an important feature of a community is positive interaction among its members. As an introduction, students observe role-plays, each illustrating a different theme—no interactions, positive interactions and negative interactions. Students role-play these different forms of interaction in a typical classroom situation. Based on these experiences, students learn that a supportive community requires interaction among members and the interactions must help people meet their needs. Using a story and accompanying drawing about a group of people, students identify the people, places, things, and activities in the scene. They must then decide whether or not the group’s interactions are positive. After a practice example, students consider new situations and determine which groups represent a community with mutually beneficial interactions and which do not.

Solving the Problem (MT)

Identify an effective solution to assist someone facing a challenge or difficulty. The emphasis is on helping students tailor their proposed solutions to the particular needs of an individual. The focus in this lesson is on helping a newcomer to the school or community, but the lesson may be adapted to address other kinds of situations. Students learn about the concepts of ‘problem’ and ‘solution’ by matching cards describing familiar problem situations with a corresponding set of cards describing relevant solutions. They then recall their own experiences on the first day of school and listen to a story about a newcomer. Students compare their own experiences with those of the child in the story. Students then list the newcomer’s difficulties and identify possible solutions for each problem. After developing criteria, students generate three possible solutions and choose the best response to a fictional or actual challenge faced by a new student or neighbour. Finally, students role-play their welcoming action.


Last updated: July 1, 2014 | (Revision History)
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