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Designing a 21 st Century Framework for Teaching and Learning. Beth Ratway Senior Consultant April 2010. “Stop asking me if we’re almost there! We’re nomads , for crying out loud!”. MY MANTRA.

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“Stop asking me if we’re almost there!

We’re nomads, for crying out loud!”

robert pirsig zen and the art of motorcycle maintenance


When the question: 'What's new?' is pursued at the expense of all other questions, what follows in its wake is often an endless flood of trivia and fashion. I wish to be concerned with the question: 'What is best?' for this question cuts deeply, rather than broadly sweeping over everything."

Robert Pirsig, Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance

what is social studies

What is Social Studies

Social Studies is like…because…

where are we now
Where are we now?

the scene
The scene
  • National
  • State
  • Local – How do we find ourselves reflected in this work?
current national landscape
Current National Landscape
  • ARRA
    • Race to the top
    • I3
  • NCLB reauthorization
  • New CURRICULUM standards from NCSS
  • 21st century skills
arra 4 assurances
ARRA 4 Assurances

Support Effective Teachers and School Leaders

Improve theUse of Data

Complement the Implementation of High Standards and High-Quality Assessments

Turn Around Persistently Low-Performing Schools, Whole-School Reform, and Targeted Approaches to Reform

  • Reauthorization
ncss curriculum standards
NCSS Curriculum Standards

The NCSS curriculum standards provide a framework for professional deliberation and planning about what should occur in a social studies program, by which we mean curriculum and instruction across pre-K through grade 12.

The curriculum standards contain the following components:

  • Ten themes are seen as vital organizers for a comprehensive social studies program.
  • These themes should guide the development of discipline-based courses, such as those primarily focused on U.S. history or economics, and that draw on other disciplines as well. The themes also support an organization for more highly integrated courses that cut across disciplinary boundaries such as courses on Current issues or world cultures.
  • Learning Expectations illustrate the kinds of knowledge, processes, and dispositions that students at early, middle, and high school grades should develop as the result of involvement in effective social studies programming.
  • Snapshots of Classroom Practice provide examples of classroom instruction and assessment to illustrate learning expectations in action.
how do content standards differ from curriculum standards
How Do Content Standards Differ from Curriculum Standards?

Content standards (e.g., standards for civics, history, economics, geography, psychology), provide a detailed description of content and methodology considered central to a specific discipline by experts, including educators, in that discipline. The NCSS curriculum standards instead provide a set of principles by which content can be selected and organized to build a viable, valid and defensible social studies curriculum.


Partnership for 21st Century Skills

Learning and Innovation Skills

Core Subjects &

21st Century Themes

Life & Career Skills

Information, Media, and Tech Skills

Standards & Assessment

Curriculum & Instruction

Professional Development

Learning Environments


key concepts spiraled k 12
Key concepts spiraled K-12
  • Culture
  • Time continuity and change
  • People places, movement and environment
  • Individual development and identity
  • Individuals, groups institutions systems and interactions
  • Power authority and governance
  • Production distribution, consumption and resources
  • Ethics
  • Global connections
  • Civic Ideals and practices
  • Competition and interdependence
  • Conflict and cooperation
  • Diversity
  • Contributions
  • Freedom Justice and equality
  • Rights and responsibilities
concepts are
Concepts are
  • central to one or more domains or disciplines. Issues that foster understanding allow students to gain the necessary skills and understanding to proceed successfully to more sophisticated work in the domain or discipline. Typically such issues are also of interest to professionals in the field.
  • interesting to students. The generativity of a topic varies with the age, social and cultural contexts, personal interests, and intellectual experiences of students.
  • offer opportunities for multiple connections. They give students the chance to make connections to their previous experiences, both in and out of school. They have an inexhaustible quality: they can always be explored more and more deeply.
what each grade looks like

What each grade looks like:

Grade Level Foundations


“Theme”/Big idea(s)

  • Fundamental questions
  • 16 core concepts
  • Focusing questions (broken out under civic, global and economic literacy) to use throughout the year that incorporate each of the 16 concepts
  • Critical Content to be covered
  • Skill chart for every grade


key themes elementary
Key Themes - Elementary
  • Citizenship
  • People
  • Places
  • Resources
key themes middle school
Key Themes –Middle School
  • Ancient Civilizations
  • US History
  • Civics
  • World Cultures

****Systems that Make a Society Work

key themes high school
Key Themes – High School
  • US History
  • World Studies/Geography
  • Economics
  • Behavioral Sciences
  • Civics
focusing questions per grade level
Focusing questions per grade level
  • Questions are focused on concepts
  • Split into civic, economic and global literacy










the local scene

The Local Scene

How do we find ourselves reflected in this work?


Navigating the tension

Current Reality

Desired Reality



Current Reality

Desired Reality

reflection as grade level teams
Reflection as grade level teams
  • What are our strengths?
  • What are our weaknesses?
    • What is standing in the way?
    • How do we overcome these obstacles and move more toward the ideal?
  • What are our next steps?


Current Reality

Desired Reality

world caf on social studies

“World Café on Social Studies”

In 2015, you open up your local paper to read the headline:

“New Holstein Social Studies program Receives National Award.”

You received this award from businesses, educators, parents and students for success in preparing students for life.

How does the article describe your accomplishments?

What were the keys to your success?

How does the program make social studies manageable and meaningful?

collaborative definition
Collaborative definition…

Definition (describing meaning):

Social studies is an interdisciplinary exploration of the social sciences and humanities, including civics, history, economics, and geography.


to develop responsible, informed and engaged global citizens

to foster civic, global, historical, geographic and economic literacy.



“This is a story about the big public conversation the nation is not having about education… whether an entire generation of kids will fail to make the grade in the global economy because they can’t think their way through abstract problems, work in teams, distinguish good formation from bad, or speak a language other than English.”

How to Build a Student for the 21st Century, TIME Magazine, December 18, 2006

non negotiables

In Vertical Groups Discuss and Create

  • What are the NON NEGOTIABLES students need to learn in a 21st century K-12 social studies program?
  • Start with the ones you have been assigned
  • Add any others you think are missing (no more than 2 others)
enduring understandings
Enduring Understandings

Enduring understandings are statements summarizing important ideas and core processes that are central to a discipline and have lasting value beyond the classroom. They synthesize what students should understand—not just know or do—as a result of studying a particular content area. Moreover, they articulate what students should “revisit” over the course of their lifetimes in relationship to the content area.

  • Enduring understandings:
    • frame the big ideas that give meaning and lasting importance to such discrete curriculum elements as facts and skills
    • can transfer to other fields as well as adult life
    • “unpack” areas of the curriculum where students may struggle to gain understanding or demonstrate misunderstandings and misconceptions
    • provide a conceptual foundation for studying the content area and
    • are deliberately framed as declarative sentences that present major curriculum generalizations and recurrent ideas.
sample enduring understandings
Sample Enduring Understandings
  • Democratic governments must balance the rights of individuals with the common good.
  • The present is influenced by the past.
  • Rules provide order, security, and safety both at home and at school.
  • People adapt to and modify their environment.
  • Certain institutions are basic to all societies, but characteristics of these institutions may vary from one society to another.
  • Economies are interdependent.
  • Political, economic, social, and environmental factors contribute to the growth, distribution, movement, and characteristics of world population.
  • Economic ideas and decisions made in the past have influenced the present.
reflection as grade level teams1
Reflection as grade level teams
  • What are our strengths?
  • What are our weaknesses?
    • What is standing in the way?
    • How do we overcome these obstacles and move more toward the ideal?
  • What are our next steps?
making it our own
Making it our own
  • What would you need to do collaboratively to enable the culture of 21st century skills to happen?
  • How can we enhance the ability for students to make connections between classes around 21st century skills?
next steps
Next Steps
  • What are our next steps?
  • Who needs to be represented in the work as we move forward?
  • How can we make sure everyone’s views are represented?
  • What would be a good date for our next meeting?
my challenge to you
My challenge to you:

During your work continually ask yourself –

How can we all work together towards this common purpose to prepare all kids for the 21st century?

How can we think outside of the box when analyzing our scope and sequence?

the only man who is educated is the man who has learned how to learn how to adapt and change

The only man who is educated is the man who has learned how to to adapt and change.

Carl Rogers, Freedom to learn, 1969


Beth Ratway

P: 630-649-6565 F: 630-649-6700


1120 East Diehl Road, Suite 200

Naperville, IL 60563-1486