We are preparing to teach an upcoming section of our course, Accessing Inquiry for English Learners through Primary Sources, and reflecting on what specialists in English language acquisition tell us about making history and social studies accessible.
In 2010, when Emerging America first focused on teaching strategies using primary sources to engage and support English Learners, we built the course content around immigration history, expanding the investigation to include the history of American communities that speak languages other than English. A key part of making curriculum accessible to all learners is teaching topics, concepts, and skills that are directly relevant to their lives. Not all English Learners are immigrants, of course. Yet many are, and today’s volatile politics of immigration impact all English Learners.
There is growing awareness among state policy makers that teaching Disability History is past due. California’s 2011 Fair Education Act included people with disabilities among groups whose history must be taught. Other states followed. In 2018, new Massachusetts History and Social Science Framework integrated several pivotal developments in disability history, from Dorothea Dix to the 1990 Americans with Disabilities Act.
Facing the Crisis in Social Studies and Civics Education
Following years of decline in the teaching of History and Social Science, especially in grades K-5, and neglect of civics by schools at all grades, the Massachusetts Legislature and Board of Education each took decisive action in 2018. New state History and Social Science standards elevate civics in the context of inquiry-based Practice Standards, and the Civic Engagement Act mandates opportunities for civic action by all learners.
In 2020-2021, school districts across Massachusetts will fully implement student-led civic engagement projects in every 8th grade and every high school. Projects will occur as class assignments, but students may request the option to complete individual projects. Later in November, the Department of Elementary and Secondary Education (DESE) expects to announce a small grants program to support implementation.
A new lesson for high school students uses primary sources to engage students, including those whose reading levels may not yet be at grade level, in exploring the changes in policy in who is admitted to the United States.
EmergingAmerica.org happily announces new website resources and features to support powerful teaching of diverse learners. Long-established features also got major rebuilds, including Radical Equality exhibit and Windows on History local history projects:
There are two new opportunities for teachers to learn more about culturally relevant pedagogy, in addition to the excellent videos and other teaching materials linked on the Engagement Strategies page of the Accessing Inquiry section of our website at EmergingAmerica.org.
Visual Literacy: Making Lessons Accessible and Inclusive
Guest Blog Post by Wendy Harris, High School Social Studies & Teacher of the Blind at Metro Deaf School in St. Paul, Minnesota.
You want to get your students to work with primary sources, but you have students who struggle with reading English text. Maybe they have a learning disability, English is not their most comfortable language, or any number of other reasons. Sound familiar?
Guest Post by Lori Austin: A personal reflection on the Industrial Revolution by a 4th grade teacher
Over the summer of 2019, 70 teachers participated in an immersive NEH-funded Emerging America workshop exploring transformational innovation in Springfield, MA and up and down the Connecticut River Valley. Teachers learned about causes and consequences of precision manufacturing processes invented here. On this Labor Day, we publish Lori Austin’s thoughts on how this workshop helped her gain personal connections to the past.