Active Learning in Social Studies, Part 5

11 Feb


This is the last of a series looking at formative assessment learning opportunities within Social Studies.

Activating Students as Owners of Their Own Learning

Learners create learning. Therefore if we want to engage students more deeply in their learning, we must activate them to become owners of their own learning. The process of having students self-reflect can be uncomfortable at first for both the student and teacher, but the benefits are well worth the effort. Students need time and multiple opportunities for their reflections to be insightful and meaningful.


1. Colored Cups or Disks

– students are given 2-3 colored cups (R,Y,G) or a CD sized disk with R on one side, G on the other

– students use the cups/CD to indicate whether an activity/lesson is moving too fast, has a question or completely understands

– teacher is able to check for understanding, work with specific students, etc.

2. Talk Partners

– turn and talk with a partner about 3 new things they have learning or what they found easy or what they found difficult or a connection they made to another concept (talk topic determined by teacher)

– ensure to be specific as to how to talk (each partner takes one minute while the other listens) and use a visible timer

3. Learning Logs

– at the end of a lesson, students complete a learning log entry using a variety of prompts.

– self- reflection provides the teacher with insights as to how students learn, what they need for more support and on the growth students have show from one assignment to the next.

– easily done with a Google Form

– use Socrative for responses

– sample prompts include: the easiest part for me was…., the hardest part for me was…., one thing that I learned…., one thing that I could use more help with is…., in the past I had difficulty with ___ now I have learned…..

4. Learning Portfolios

– organized to show an incremental view of ability, not just the latest and best work

– student can use work samples to reflect on their growth and determine goals for future learning

– Google Drive

– network account

5. Become an Expert

– Jigsaw a piece of text, a chapter or even a unit of study

– students are divided into groups of 4 and the text is broken into 4 pieces

– assign each student one piece of the text

– students then break out into similar text groups (all have same text) and become familiar with it, discussion occurs, main points are written up and this information will be shared with their original group

– return to original jigsaw group

– each ‘expert’ will then share their piece of the text, student encouraged to ask questions for clarification

– notes are made by each student on the material shared

– give a formative/summative assessment

6. Class Learning website/ebook

– students develop a daily update of the class notes (a different scribe/day) online

– additional media can be added such as video clips, links, audio, etc. related to the topic

7. Info/Text Processing

– A-B Each Teach: paired reading strategy where each will read a segment of a larger selection and prepare to teach the information. About 10 minutes for reading and preparing to teach. Each partner should include a summary statement, key points, concrete examples.

– Focused Reading: compare and contrast background knowledge. Annotations used – Got it,

Important, Clarification needed. Assign a text passage for reading and marking. After reading, organize pairs or quartets to share and compare their responses.

– It Says, I Say, And So (one of my favorite strategies for text and videos)

Purpose: to support inference-making, to make the inferential process explicit, to provide a method for checking that interpretations are based on information in the text/video.


1. Students create three columns (or teacher gives/sends a template to them) with It Says, I Say, And So.

2. Model the strategy a few times. On the board/screen, create the three columns. Use a sample text and pose 3-4 questions that will require students to go beyond the facts and to make inferences and draw conclusions. Read a portion of text and then record in the first column exactly what the text ays – a sentence or phrase. In the second column, using context clues, connections and predictions, speculate on what the sentence means. In the third column, draw a logical conclusion based on the quotation and speculation from columns one and two.

ex. Prologue from Romeo and Juliet

It Says

–    Actual text

I Say

–  Overall understanding/summary

And So

–  Inference

Two households, both alike in dignity/In fair Verona, where we lay our scene/From ancient grudge break to new mutiny.

It means that two families who are well known in Verona and known to each other have some sort of long-standing animosity, and something is going to happen to make it flare up again.

The play will probably be about a disagreement between the two families, I wonder if it means just the immediate families, or their friends and servants (their households) and distant relatives too? And “mutiny” sounds as if there’s a group on at least one side who will disobey orders.

3. You are looking for students to make predictions, make meaningful inferences, use context clues to read strategically and to determine what words are critical to meaning.

4. Collect info.


It Says/I Say/And So Reading Strategy

It Says

–    Actual text

I Say

–  Overall understanding/summary

And So

–  Inference

And so….

Data Collection for It Says, I Say, And So

Student Name: _________________

Indicators: LS – with lots of support, SS – some support, I – independently

Reading Strategy

What am I looking for? Observe whether students:

Make predictions

·         Predictions that are plausible

·         Refers back to text to justify plausibility of prediction

Make meaningful inferences

·         Inferences are plausible

·         Refers back to text to justify plausibility of inference


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