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Social Studies Lesson Planning for Learning and Reflection

Graphic for curriculum support for social studies

Effective Lesson Planning and Reflection in Social Studies Education

Phase IV of the District Sample Curriculum Project was intended to share just a sampling of lesson planning processes and ideas as a response to requests from local schools and districts asking for more explicit instructional sample ideas. Thank you to the educators that worked diligently to submit their work for this purpose! As examples, they are intended to provide support (or conversation/creation starting points) for teachers, schools, and districts as they make their own local decisions around the best instructional plans and practices for all students.

Phase IV Lesson Elements

Educators that attended the All Students All Standards Institute (2016) submitted lesson plans which included the following four essential elements:

  • Element 1 | Classroom Context
  • Element 2 | Lesson Planning with Rationale
  • Element 3 | Description of the Lesson Implementation
  • Element 4 | Reflection

Click here to learn more about the four essential elements.

Model Lesson

7th Grade Social Studies: "Ch...Ch....Ch...Changes..."  District Sample Curriculum Project (Learning Experience #10).  (Stephanie Hartman, Social Studies Content Specialist, CDE)

Lesson Description: This lesson will introduce the concepts of exploration, imperialism, and colonization in Africa.   Additionally, students will learn how the discovery and access to resources spurred the “Scramble for Africa.”    

Sample lessons submitted by Social Studies Educators

The lessons below represent some of the approaches teachers have taken in lesson design.  One purpose of the lesson design project was to tap into the questioning and reflective practices that enable deliberate and intentional instructional decisions.  We wanted to tap into the metacognitive processes that underlie the decisions teachers make as they plan, deliver, and reflect on their instruction. The district documents represent the way one district leader has taken in working with her teachers on implementing instructional shifts in social studies.

4th Grade Colorado History:  European Exploration of Colorado.  (Charles Kastens, 4th Grade Teacher, Cherry Creek School District).

Lesson Description: Students will gain knowledge about European explorers that came to Colorado, and why they came here.

6th Grade Personal Financial Literacy:  "Who Decides What You Buy" District Sample Curriculum Project (Show Me the Money Instructional Unit, Learning Experience #1).  (Della Hoffman, 6th Grade Teacher, Denver Public Schools)

Lesson Description: This lesson will introduce the concepts of differing kinds of economic systems. This lesson will come during a series of lessons within Learning Experience 1 as part of the Show Me the Money unit for 6th grade Social Studies. Students will be continuing their learning about scarcity of resources and how this leads to societal and individual decision making.

AP U.S. History Class: The California Gold Rush.  (Kurt Knierim, high school social studies teacher, Poudre School District).

Lesson Description:  This lesson engages students with the craft of the historian through a close reading of an unpublished California Gold Rush Letter. Students will have to examine the claims of the letter and compare those to secondary sources about the 1849 Gold Rush, eventually writing their own history of the period.

High School Economics/Personal Financial Literacy: How Risky Are You?  (Andy Roob, Social Studies TOSA, Brighton School District)

Lesson Description: Students continuously learn about how to make financial decisions. In this lesson, they consider their risk tolerance and what that means to their investing decisions.

District Resource for Social Studies Teachers: Observation Ideas and Guidance for Educators Implementing Instructional Shifts in Social Studies (Sarah Hurd, Social Studies Content Specialist, Jefferson County School District).

Resource Description: This guide was created to help classroom teachers make connections between the educator effectiveness requirement of using multiple measures and the lesson plan guidance tool, or the students and teacher reflection tools. The document has been shared with all secondary social studies teachers in the district through the district's online system.  Teachers have been accessing these during guided planning sessions with the social studies content specialist. 

Teacher Education Course - Pre-service teachers: The Damming Evidence (Marianne Kenney, Adjunct, Metro State University).

Lesson Description: This lesson was taught to students in a teacher education course as a way of demonstrating the inquiry process.  The lesson advances the idea of sustainability by placing students in the real-world situation of weighing the costs/benefits of mega-dam projects. Ultimately they must decide between sustainability or economic development.