Active Learning in Social Studies, Part 2

08 Feb

This is the second of a series of five posts on different formative assessment strategies.

Engineering Effective Discussions that Elicit Evidence of Learning

Good questions:

  • require learners to evaluate, synthesize, analyze

  • require learners to construct their own answers and make their own meaning from information gathered

  • require time to engage learners in real-life problem solving

  • lend themselves well to cross curricular investigations

Questions should cause thinking and provide information that informs the teacher about what to do next.

Ideas for engineering effective discussions that elicit evidence of learning:

1. No Hands Up

– every student is responsible for providing an answer

– turn and talk with a partner

– if answer is incorrect, it is OK as it can be used to clarify misunderstandings. After a few other students respond, come back to original student and ask “which of those answers do you most agree with…”

2. Whiteboards

– small whiteboards can be used (purchased or made)

– tablets such as iPads with an app like ShowMe, DoodleBuddy or Educreations

– glossy page protectors with white cardboard inside

– quickly grasp student understanding and adjust how they move forward

3. ABCD cards

– a question is provided to the class along with 4 answers

– in small groups of 2-4 students discuss their answer and why

– one student holds up the letter of the correct answer

– teacher checks for consensus and ensure a discussion from various groups

– cards can also be used where there are no correct answers, just different views

4. Timeline

– a visual with ideas

– 3D paper flip chart

– Smart Notebook timeline

– Notebook flip tiles timeline share with students from another country via Skype for Wright brothers example)

– Using digital maps in a social studies class would greatly enrich every aspect of the curriculum, from geographic and map-reading lessons to demographic statistics from census reports. (Google Earth, Community Walk)

5. Infographics

Piktochart – infographic creator

– Discovery Education Board Builder – interactive poster

6. Problematizing in-class activities


Mini challenge

Sample criteria

Titles, headlines or captions

– Create a great headline.

– Which of these is the best title for the paragraph/video?

– Revise the supplied caption for the picture.

  • informative

  • catchy/intriguing

  • concise

  • playful

Main idea

– What are the five most important ideas in this paragraph/video?

– Prepare an effective summary of the chapter.

  • relevant to the topic or issue

  • contains key ideas

  • concisely noted

  • written in own words

Supporting details

– Decide which one of the four paragraphs is bogus.

– Which of the following statements are likely true(false) given the information provided?

  • seems plausible

  • consistent with other information

Perspective talking

– Rewrite the story from another character’s point of view.

– Draw a picture (describe the situation) from another point of view.

  • true to the facts

  • plausible

  • shows insight into character

For example, great a great headline for the article below using the sample criteria above.


This year’s winter coat offerings have gone colourful, displacing the plainer palettes of black, beige and grey traditionally associated with cold-weather dressing. These coats pop with bright shades of blue, yellow, pink and even orange, breathing new life into old wardrobe staples.

“People are naturally drawn to colour — a bright pop of it seen walking down the street on a dreary winter day is a sight for sore eyes,” says local fashion publicist Janis Galloway, also known for her style blog, Dress Me Dearly.

“When you live in a place where it’s winter for six to eight months of the year, nothing seems more appealing than a bright jacket,” adds Ashley Antonio, a store manager at Anthropologie’s West Edmonton Mall location. “Even if it’s freezing outside, you’d be surprised how throwing on a bright topper can make you smile and instantly lift your mood.”

From oversized coats and trenches to moto jackets and even cape coats, these pieces set our otherwise drab environment aglow.

“Many of us tend to choose the ‘safe’ option and go with standard black, so you really notice someone when they’re wearing a bright colour or fun pattern,” says Galloway.

“A bright coat can uplift your winter blues and bring your basic items to a whole new level,” adds Melanie Morais, fashion blogger behind Born Lippy. “I personally love bright outerwear because it can elevate an otherwise boring outfit and make you really stand out.”

From Derek Lam’s electric blue coats to Stella McCartney’s unapologetically orange options, there’s no shortage of colourful outerwear in the higher-end of the sartorial spectrum. But for those unsure of the trend’s staying power, there are many affordable alternatives at your disposal as well.

“Since bright outerwear is more of a fun piece than an investment, I would turn to trendy stores such as H&M, Forever 21 and ASOS,” Morais advises. “Even vintage stores would be a great place to look.”

Other local retailers like J.Crew, Simons, Club Monaco, Topshop and Zara offer eye-catching options in various shapes and sizes, as do several local boutiques.

“Coup Garment Boutique currently has this stunning raglan coat on sale by Edmonton-born designer Angelique Chmielewski,” Galloway says. “Bamboo Ballroom carries a limited number of coats each season, but they are always unique and often in bright colours and fun patterns.”

Regardless of where you source your vibrant topper, Antonio warns against overly trendy colours. Opt instead for vibrant takes on beloved hues.

“Since outerwear is more expensive, I’d choose something chic and classic,” she says. “Turquoise and purple are universally flattering, timeless options.”

For those wary of injecting colour into their wardrobes, the experts agree that it’s a good idea to add neutral notes as well. “I think a bright coat looks best when it’s paired with something neutral,” says Morais.

“Don’t add too many shades to the mix as they can clash; let the coat be the focal point,” says Galloway, adding that white or black accessories can be the perfect way to highlight vibrant outerwear.

As with any garment, pay attention to what style and silhouette is most flattering to your body type when selecting a coat, considering all aspects from the materials to the finishes.

“A bright red puffer jacket is not going to look good on everyone — pay attention to the coat length, tailoring and how it complements your body,” Galloway advises.

“The cut is much more important than the colour,” Antonio agrees. “Choosing a jacket that nips in at the waist and is mid-length generally works on all body types.”

With black and navy outerwear having overpowered Edmonton’s winter landscape for so many years, how much staying power do these rainbow brights have?

“We will be seeing crazier colour patterns and many more colour options in outerwear in the coming seasons,” Galloway predicts.

Now share your headline with your small group and then with the rest of the class. Refer to the sample criteria to ensure that your headline is appropriate. Once some of the headlines that were created have been shared, you can show them the original headline. Compare the original headline with theirs using the criteria.

7. Critical Challenges

Not only do these exemplars support promising practices in teaching through a skills embedded, critical inquiry approach, they also support the assessment of skills. These are found easily in LearnAlberta by searching for “aac”.

Featuring Local Heroes (Gr. 2)

What Does Canada Look Like? (Gr. 5)

Understanding Our Rights and Responsibilities (Gr. 6)

Great City-states of the Renaissance (Gr. 8)

Government Intervention in the Economy:  How Far Should It Go?  (Gr. 9)

Framing Effective Foreign Policy (Gr. 11)

Challenges to Liberalism (Gr. 12)


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