Making Connections in Elementary and Middle School: Social Studies


Andrew P. Johnson

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    This book is dedicated to the memory of my father, Glen D. Johnson. He was a good man.


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    In comparison with reading, math, and science, social studies is often met with a certain amount of indifference. Why is that? It may be because people do not understand the true nature of social studies education. Social studies is not simply a body of knowledge and a set of skills. Instead, social studies is a dynamic process that uses knowledge and skills to enable greater understanding of the self, others, societies, institutions, nations, and environments. In this way, it has the potential to become a vehicle for improved community, national, and global citizenship. The purpose of this book is to describe this view of social studies education and to demonstrate strategies, activities, and pedagogical skills that will enable you to implement it.

    The Philosophic Foundation of this Book

    One's philosophy, whether stated or not, is the basis for all thought and action. This is true of one's life philosophy and one's educational philosophy, although at the deepest level, these two are the same. Below, some of the ideas that comprise the philosophical orientation of this text are briefly described.

    A Holistic Approach to Social Studies Education

    This text sets social studies education, teaching, and learning in the context of holistic learning theory and holistic education. Holistic education is a philosophy or worldview that seeks to address the problem of fragmentation and compartmentalization in education. Ron Miller (1991) describes four essential characteristic of holistic education:

    • Holistic education nurtures the development of the whole person. It is not just concerned with developing the human intellect or getting higher scores on bubble tests. Holistic education seeks to help students grow and develop in all dimensions: emotional, psychological, creative, social, imaginative, physical, intuitive, and spiritual, as well as intellectual.
    • Holistic education involves relationships. These relationships occur between learners, teachers, and other adults in the community. To relate means to make connections—in this case, interpersonal connections. Instead of an authoritarian, top-down relationship based on rules, power, and authority, holistic educators seek to create more equal relationships in the school and classroom based on principles of respect, community, and a shared set of values. Instead of using power to control, they use relationships to cooperate in creating meaningful learning experiences.
    • Holistic education is concerned with life experiences. Instead of a narrowly defined curriculum focused on mastering basic skills in order to achieve higher aggregate scores on standardized tests, holistic education is concerned with engaging in the real world. Instead of having students study an abstract, academic world defined by somebody else, holistic educators seek to engage students in their real-life worlds, to the greatest extent possible. Students’ own curiosity and quest for meaning are the new scope and sequence. Relevance and personal meaning are the new standard to which schools should be held accountable.
    • Holistic education enables learners to critically examine and define their values within a personal, cultural, and political context. Instead of a curriculum that simply replicates and promotes an established cultural or historical perspective, holistic educators seek to create learning experiences whereby students are able to examine established ways of seeing. The purpose of this examination is not to reject cultural traditions, institutions, and values, but to enable them to continue to evolve.
    Teaching and Learning are Human Experiences

    Holistic learning theory is also built around the idea that you cannot separate the teaching and learning experience from the human experience. We are human beings first, who happen to be teaching and learning. We are not teachers and learners who happen to be human. This very aptly reinforces the definition of social studies used in this text as the study of humans. And what is it that makes us human? Among other things, it is our capacity to think reflectively, imagine, dream, create, intuit, and emote. It makes sense, then, that these dimensions be included in education in general, and in social studies education in particular.

    Making Connections

    Holistic learning theory recognizes the importance of making personal connection in social studies (as well as other curriculum areas). When operating at its highest level, social studies can be a vehicle to make three kinds of connections:

    • Intrapersonal connections. Social studies can be used to help students understand themselves by enabling them to do the following:
      • Nurture and give to the self
      • Develop intrapersonal intelligence
      • Self-actualize
      • Align actions with values/philosophies
      • Understand emotions, pursue interests, develop strengths
      • Imagine and create
    • Interpersonal connections. Social studies can be used to help students understand others by enabling them to do the following:
      • Nurture and give to others
      • Empathize with and understand others
      • Understand humans and humanity
      • Develop interpersonal intelligence and social skills
      • Perceive interpersonal connections
    • Interconnectedness. Social studies can be used to help students understand the whole, to see the world in terms of interrelated and interconnected experiences, by enabling them to do the following:
      • Nurture and give to all—environment, humans, other
      • Develop transpersonal intelligence—use logic, knowledge, intuition, and emotion to solve problems
      • Understand interconnectedness
      • Perceive the multidimensionality of all things
      • See systems, not parts
      • Embrace seemingly paradoxical ways of thinking—things are not either/or; rather, they just are
    Citizens of the World

    This text perceives social studies education to be a powerful vehicle for citizenship education (see Number 3, Interconnectedness, above). However, in the interdependent world in which we now live, we can no longer afford to think of citizenship education simply in terms of developing “good” American citizens or Canadian citizens, or citizens related to any specific community, religion, country, or region. Rather, we must strive to develop conscientious global citizens who are able to live responsibly within a global community. Hopefully, these citizens of tomorrow will be able to cooperate and work together for the greater good of all humans and other life forms who share this planet.

    Audience for the Text

    The second edition of Making Connections in Elementary and Middle School Social Studies is intended for pre-service elementary and middle school teachers. The wealth of activities and pedagogical strategies makes it ideal for teacher professional development or graduate courses related to social studies education. It is an excellent reference for practicing teachers who want ideas for how to update their teaching methods or wish to update their knowledge of the field.

    Organization of the Text

    Section I: Building a Framework for Social Studies introduces and sets the stage for the overall discussion of elementary and middle school social studies. The chapters in this section define social studies, what is involved in social studies teaching and learning, and what makes up the social studies curriculum. You are also introduced to the idea that social studies involves the human experience and the way diversity relates to how and what students are able to learn in the classroom. This section provides the framework for the later sections in planning, assessment, instructional strategies, literacy, teaching subject area content, and enhancing democracy.

    Section II: Planning and Assessment in Social Studies focuses on planning learning experiences and assessing student growth. The chapters in this section walk you through how to plan a unit, develop an integrated unit, and plan a lesson. You are also introduced to the many types of assessment that can be used in the social studies curriculum and how to analyze student growth based on these assessments. This section provides important foundational information that is useful for all teachers.

    Section III: Instructional Strategies in Social Studies provides a comprehensive overview of the various types of instructional strategies that can be used in the social studies curriculum. Chapter 5 focuses on the instructional models that can be used and provides a wide range of examples of how to incorporate these instructional models into the classroom. Chapter 6 provides strategies for differentiating instruction, particularly for English language learners (ELLs) and highly creative or gifted learners. Chapter 7 discusses the importance of thinking skills and problem solving in social studies and offers examples of projects and activities that can be used in the classroom. Chapter 8 explores inquiry learning, particularly discussing inductive analysis, surveys and interviews, and the inquiry process and how to implement it. Finally, Chapter 9 discusses the importance of learning through human interaction and focuses on cooperative learning, communication skills, and using classroom discussions effectively. Together, these chapters provide comprehensive coverage of the important instructional strategies needed for teaching social studies.

    Section IV: Using Social Studies to Enhance Literacy focuses on strategies that can be used to help readers of all ability levels create meaning with text and provides some discussion of how to use literature in the form of picture books and trade books for social studies classes. The chapters in this section work together to provide an overview of how to make textbooks, literature, and language arts powerful resources in enhancing student literacy.

    Section V: Teaching Subject Area Content in Social Studies examines the four disciplines usually associated with elementary and middle school social studies: history, geography, civics and government, and economics. The two chapters in this section provide some general discussion of the topics to cover when teaching subject area content in the social studies, and they offer some ideas of strategies to use in the classroom to keep students engaged with the content.

    Section VI: Using Social Studies to Enhance Democracy focuses on using the Internet and current events to teach social studies, as well as the intrapersonal and interpersonal dimensions of social studies education. Chapter 14 discusses how to use the Internet and current events to keep social studies education dynamic and relevant and help students make real-world connections. Chapter 15 provides a conclusion to the text and looks at how education in general and social studies in particular have the potential to develop better human beings.

    Features of the Text

    Making Connections in Elementary and Middle School Social Studies, Second Edition, contains the knowledge and skills necessary to help you design interesting and effective learning experiences for elementary and middle school social studies. This text also addresses some of the major concerns of pre-service and in-service teachers of social studies: What are some interesting activities that I can use to enhance my social studies lessons and improve learning across the curriculum? How do I motivate my students and get them fully engaged in social studies? How can I help my students make personal connections and see the relevance of social studies education? To answer these questions and to enhance comprehension, this text contains a variety of unique features, as described below.

    Thinking Ahead

    This feature is found at the beginning of each chapter and contains questions and thinking points that invite you to link your own experiences with the chapter context before reading. These can be used as discussion points for class or small groups, or simply as pre-reading prompts to enhance comprehension.


    This feature demonstrates exactly how a concept, strategy, or technique is applied in the primary (K-3), intermediate (4–6), or middle school (6–8/9) grades. The examples make more complex teaching strategies and activities easy to learn and understand. Examples are found throughout each chapter.

    How do I?

    This feature provides explicit, step-by-step instruction that demonstrates how to implement and apply the strategies, techniques, or activities described in the chapter. “How Do I?” boxes are found throughout each chapter, where relevant.

    New to the Second Edition

    The second edition has been significantly refined to incorporate new topic coverage and strategies needed by elementary and middle school social studies teachers of today. Below, you will find a comprehensive list of many of the new and revised elements in this second edition.

    New sections divide and organize the text. The second edition has been reduced to 15 chapters, divided into six thematic sections. These sections help organize the text into its major components: foundational concepts, planning and assessment, instructional strategies, literacy, teaching subject area content, and enhancing democracy. A full description of each section can be found above under “Organization of the Text.”

    Organization is significantly revised. The second edition has been considerably revised based on reviewer feedback and now includes the following major changes:

    The discussion of planning (formerly Chapter 5) and assessment (formerly Chapter 6) has been moved to earlier in the text, prior to the teaching subject area content chapters, to become the new Chapter 3: Planning Learning Experiences and Chapter 4: Assessing Student Growth.

    The teaching subject area content chapters (formerly Chapters 3 and 4) now appear as Chapter 12: Teaching History and Geography and Chapter 13: Teaching Civics and Government, and Economics in Section V: Teaching Subject Area Content in Social Studies. In addition, the chapter on textbooks (formerly Chapter 8) is now Chapter 10: Textbooks and Social Studies in Section IV: Using Social Studies to Enhance Literacy.

    The chapter on learning through literature and language arts (formerly Chapter 15) has been moved to earlier in the text. It is now Chapter 11: Learning Through Literature and Language Arts.

    Two new chapters have been added: Chapter 5: Instructional Models in Social Studies and Chapter 6: Differentiating the Curriculum: Inclusive and Multilevel Practices in Social Studies.

    Some topic coverage is new or significantly revised. The second edition has been considerably revised based on reviewer feedback and now includes the following major changes:

    • Significantly Revised Chapter 2: Celebrating Diversity in Social Studies Education. The revised Chapter 2 combines the former Chapter 2: Celebrating Diversity in Social Studies Education with the former Chapter 7: Special Needs Students in a General Education Setting. This chapter includes an expanded discussion of abilities, exceptionalities, and language. It covers specific learning disabilities, emotional or behavioral disorders, attention deficit hyperactivity disorder, highly creative and intellectually gifted individuals, bilingual education, and English language learners.
    • Reorganized Chapter 3: Planning Learning Experiences. The former Chapter 5: Planning has been moved to earlier in the text and has been revised to first discuss planning a unit, then an integrated unit, and finally a lesson plan.
    • Updated Chapter 4: Assessing Student Growth. The former Chapter 6 has been moved to earlier in the text and includes new coverage of assessing the growth of students with special learning needs. It also includes a new section on performance expectations for NCSS Thematic Subject Matter Standards.
    • New Chapter 5: Instructional Models in Social Studies. This new chapter includes comprehensive coverage of teacher-centered instruction and individual-centered instruction. The chapter provides various examples and teaching strategies to use in the social studies curriculum.
    • New Chapter 6: Differentiating the Curriculum: Inclusive and Multilevel Practices in Social Studies. This new chapter includes a discussion of the importance of education for all students. It specifically looks at the importance of differentiating instruction, inclusion, and mainstreaming and the issues faced by English language learners and gifted learners. This chapter also includes many strategies for differentiating a common curriculum.
    • New Chapter 7: Teaching Cognitive Processes in Social Studies. The former Chapter 10: Problem Solving in Social Studies and Chapter 12: Creative and Critical Thinking in Social Studies have been streamlined and combined to create this new chapter that focuses on teaching cognitive processes. This chapter includes a wide range of examples and teaching strategies to help you implement the concepts in your own classroom.
    • Revised Chapter 9: Learning Through Human Interaction. This chapter now includes content from the former Chapter 13: Current Events and Classroom Discussion about classroom discussions and teaching discussion skills. The leadership content formerly included in this chapter has been moved to Chapter 15.
    • Updated Chapter 10: Textbooks and Social Studies. This chapter (formerly Chapter 8) has been moved to later in the text, and the material in this chapter has been revised considerably in terms of organization and streamlined according to reviewer comments.
    • Revised Chapter 11: Learning Through Literature and Language Arts. This chapter has been moved to earlier in the text (it was formerly Chapter 15) and includes two new sections. The first section is on strategies for making connections with literature, and the second is on multilevel instruction for literature.
    • Updated Chapter 12: Teaching History and Geography. This chapter (formerly Chapter 3) has been moved to later in the text and now includes several new sections. There are two new sections on teaching history: The first includes coverage of content standards for history, and the second includes standards in historical thinking. There is also new material in the geography section, including a discussion of the National Geography Standards and information about Google Earth and other satellite computer programs.
    • Revised Chapter 13: Teaching Civics and Government, and Economics. This chapter (formerly Chapter 4) has also been moved to later in the text and includes several new topics. It now includes two new sections on civic ideals: one at the societal level and one at the individual level. It also contains a new discussion of the Voluntary National Content Standards in Economics.
    • Updated Chapter 14: Using Current Events and the Internet in Social Studies Education. This revised chapter includes material about using the Internet (from the former Chapter 14) as well as material on current events (from the former Chapter 13). These concepts have been combined to provide a comprehensive discussion of how to use current events and the Internet in teaching social studies.
    • New Chapter 15: The Intrapersonal and Interpersonal Dimensions of Social Studies Education. This new chapter combines the former Chapter 16: Character Education with content on leadership from the former Chapter 9: Learning Through Human Interaction. The discussion of character education has been streamlined from the previous edition. The overall goal of this new chapter is to discuss how education in general and social studies in particular have the potential to develop better human beings.

    Additional focus is given to students with special needs and differentiating instruction. The second edition includes discussions on how to differentiate instruction and address students with special needs throughout the text. While these discussions are prominent in Chapters 2 and 6, the text also includes some suggestions for addressing these needs where relevant throughout.

    Updated coverage is provided of No Child Left Behind. Chapter 1: Defining Social Studies includes new content on the No Child Left Behind Act and how it affects the social studies curriculum.

    Additional lesson plans and examples are offered. New examples and lesson plans have been added throughout the text as resources for new teachers. For example, new lesson plans and activities have been included in Chapter 8: Inquiry Learning in Social Studies.

    Thinking Ahead points have been updated. At the beginning of each chapter, the Thinking Ahead points were revised and updated to reflect the new content.

    Making Connections points have been streamlined. The Making Connections points at the end of each chapter have been streamlined throughout the text. Additional connection ideas and activities can be found on the Student Study Site for this book at

    Pedagogical material has been relocated to the Student Study Site at In streamlining the second edition, some pedagogical material formerly found within the chapters has been moved to the Student Study Site on the SAGE Publications Web site. This material includes the “Internet Search Terms” and the “NCSS Standards” that were previously found in each chapter.

    In addition to the many updates and revisions listed above, the references have been significantly updated throughout the book where applicable.

    Hopefully, these new elements will make this text even more useful to you as you prepare to become teachers of elementary and middle school social studies, or improve your teaching strategies in your current social studies classroom.

    Student Study Site

    The Student Study Site provides a comprehensive selection of resources to enhance students’ understanding of the book's content. The site includes practice tests, flash cards, links to NCSS Standards, Internet Search Terms, and additional resources created by the author.

    Instructor's Resource Site

    The password-protected Instructor's Resource Site offers the instructor a variety of resources that supplement the book material, including a test bank with multiple choice, true/false, short answer and essay questions, and PowerPoint lecture slides. Additional resources include sample syllabi and Web resources.

    Access to both sites is available at:


    I would like to recognize two very important people: first, my wife, Dr. Nancy Fitzsimons, for her love and amazing ability to deal with a sometimes very crabby textbook writer working long hours in the basement; second, Dr. Steven Reuter of Minnesota State University, Mankato, a dedicated professional and friend who's outstanding work has helped to prepare a generation of teachers.

    I would also like to acknowledge the contributions of the reviewers who provided feedback that aided in the development of the second edition:

    • Margo Byerly Ayala, Western Illinois University
    • Heidi Bulmahn Barker, Regis University
    • Maggie Beddow, California State University, Sacramento
    • Lendi Bland, Emporia State University
    • Kristy A. Brugar, Oakland University
    • Jack Dilendik, Moravian College
    • Richard A. Giaquinto, St. Francis College
    • Andrew L. Hunt, University of Arkansas at Little Rock
    • Madge Kibler, Piedmont College
    • Tracy Meetze, Francis Marion University
    • Beth Moore, Franklin College of Indiana
    • Andrea Noel, State University of New York at New Paltz
    • Helene Robbins, St. Thomas Aquinas College
    • Timothy Toops, Florida Southern College

    I would also like to acknowledge the reviewers of the first edition:

    • Sally R. Beisser, Drake University
    • Elizabeth R. Hinde, Arizona State University
    • Andrew Hunt, University of Arkansas at Little Rock
    • Sandy Kaser, University of Arizona
    • James Lane, Columbia College
    • Donna K. Pearson, University of North Dakota
    • Cathy R. Seymour, Northwestern State University of Louisiana
    • Reese Todd, Texas Tech University
    • Scott Waters, Emporia State University
  • Epilogue

    The function of education, the goal of education—the human goal, the humanistic goal, the goal so far as human beings are concerned—is ultimately the “self-actualization” of a person, the becoming fully human, the development of the fullest height that the human species can stand up to or that the particular individual can come to. In a less technical way, it is helping the person to become the best that he [or she] is able to become.

    —Maslow, 1971, p. 169

    As described in the Preface, this book sees social studies education in the broader context of holistic education and holistic learning theory. Holistic learning theory is concerned with personal growth and the full development of each human's potential, not just on an intellectual level, but also on an emotional, psychological, creative, social, physical, and even spiritual level (DeCarvalho, 1991; Maslow, 1971; Morris, 1978; Patterson, 1973; Rogers, 1969). The goal of education, from this point of view, is not to simply put a uniform body of knowledge in students’ heads; or to transmit “traditional,” nationalist, or religious values; or to train students to keep the economy running strongly; or to create another generation of termite-like consumers of material goods. Instead, the goal is to facilitate the development of knowledgeable human beings who know and are able to nurture themselves, other humans, and their environments; to instill a joy of learning; to promote the discovery of each student's passions and special talents; and to teach the knowledge and skills necessary for students to be good decision makers. In this way, we can change the world one student at a time.

    I would be most interested in hearing from you. Please send your comments to

    Andrew P. Johnson, PhD

    Minnesota State University, Mankato

    313 Armstrong Hall

    Mankato, MN 56001


    Web site:


    Academic language. The type of language that is used in classroom instruction. Learning a second language at the level needed for instructional competence (academic language) is a more complex endeavor and can take from 5 to 7 years. It takes longer because in an academic learning context, students do not have the use of social or personal context.

    Academic learning time (ALT). The time spent by a student actively engaged in a task that is directly related to the teacher's desired outcome and where the student is able to successfully complete the task. ALT is different from engaged time in that students are able to successfully complete the task. It is positively correlated with achievement.

    Acceptable use policy (AUP). Rules established by a school or classroom for using the Internet. These rules should address issues related to the content that students access as well as their mode of communication.

    Advance organizer. Any visual, verbal, or written material that depicts the material to be learned at higher levels of abstraction. Presented at the very beginning of a lesson, it provides a very general sense of the overall structure of the concept or material to be learned.

    Aesthetic response. Responding to literature or a piece of writing by describing the effect it has on your imagination or emotions or by making associations to similar things in your life or in other works of art.

    Agendas. A form of differentiation, this is a personalized list of tasks given to students. The tasks are designed to accommodate their abilities and interests. Students are usually given 2 to 3 weeks to complete their individualized agendas. The teacher acts a coach, helping students complete their agendas and providing short mini-lessons in both large-group and small-group settings.

    Allotted time. The amount of time set aside to teach a specific subject.

    Anecdotal records. Sometimes called field notes, this is a form of authentic or direct assessment that involves written observations of what teachers see taking place in their classroom.

    Assessment. Gathering data related to student (or teacher) performance to diagnose how they are doing. Data gathered should be used primarily to inform instruction.

    Assimilation. Regarding cultures and multicultural education, this is the idea that immigrants or minorities should leave their cultures behind and assimilate into the dominate culture. This is sometimes known as the melting pot theory.

    Attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD).

    A disruptive behavior disorder characterized by the presence of a set of chronic and impairing behavior patterns that display abnormal levels of inattention, hyperactivity, or their combination.

    Attribute chart. A table that has examples and non-examples of concepts on the vertical axis and the defining attributes along the horizontal axis on top. They are useful in teaching new or unfamiliar concepts.

    Authentic assessment. A direct form of assessment that asks students to apply knowledge and skills in ways they might in the real world outside the classroom. This type of assessment occurs over time as students create or design products and performances and solve real-world problems.

    Automaticity. The ability to perform a cognitive operation without having to think about the individual steps and with very little cognitive effort. That is, the skill has become automatic.

    Behavioral objectives. A lesson plan objective that describes the particular behaviors students should demonstrate as a result of instruction.

    Bilingual education. An approach to educating English language learners in which instruction in academic areas is given in students’ native language as well as in English.

    Bloom's taxonomy. Benjamin Bloom described six levels of thinking that include knowledge, comprehension, application, analysis, synthesize, and evaluation. These levels, along with their correlating operations and action words, can be used to design questions and activities.

    Brainstorming. Generating as many ideas as possible without evaluating them. The initial goal is quantity without regard to quality.

    Character education. The instruction, planned experiences, and activities that are designed to help students identify and integrate a set of positive character traits and to develop ethical qualities based on these traits.

    Checklist. A form of authentic or direct assessment that involves a list with information about specific attributes such as behaviors, traits, or skills. When a particular attribute is seen, some method is used to either check it off or indicate the number of times it was present. There are a variety of checklists including student checklists, teacher checklists, rating checklists, and open-ended checklists.

    Citizenship education. Education that prepares students to participate in a democratic society. It is composed of three parts: the process of government, civic ideals and practice, and world citizenship or global education.

    Civic ideals. The shared values, principles, and actions necessary to maintain a democratic society.

    Closed-response questions. Questions for which there is a single right answer.

    Cluster grouping. A form of differentiation in which students who are identified with a special learning need are clustered together in the general education classroom of a teacher who has mastered the pedagogical skills necessary to differentiate the curriculum. (A cluster group should have at least two but no more than eight students.) This strategy was originally designed for students who were identified as highly creative or gifted learners, but it can be adapted for other special learning needs as well.

    Cognitive objectives. Lesson plan objectives that describe what students are to learn.

    Communication skills. The ability to both speak and listen.

    Comprehension. The act of constructing meaning from text.

    Comprehension skills. The strategies readers use to construct meaning and retrieve information from a text; they should be taught explicitly.

    Concept. A unit of thought that organizes ideas or experiences. It is the mental abstraction of a category.

    Concept learning. Being able to recognize valid examples of the concept. Students must be able to discriminate between valid and invalid examples.

    Concept map. Any type of visual representation of a concept that shows the relationship among ordinate and subordinate parts.

    Conference. A form of authentic assessment in which one or more students talk about their work or some aspect of classroom functioning. Prompts may be used to get students talking about a particular topic; however, lists of planned questions are not used. Conferences can be conducted individually or in small groups known as focus groups.

    Conflict behaviors. There are five methods of dealing with conflict: competing, accommodating, avoiding, compromising, and collaborating. For younger children, these can be represented as the shark, teddy bear, turtle, fox, and owl, respectively.

    Conflict, sources of. There are generally five sources of conflict: resources, preferences and nuisance, values, beliefs, and forces within a relationship. These types of conflict occur between individuals, families, groups, communities, societies, religions, and nations.

    Cooperative learning. A pedagogical tool in which students work together to accomplish a task. It consists of six elements: positive interdependence, individual accountability, social skills, a specific task, face-to-face interaction, and reflection and review.

    Creative dramatics. A structured drama activity that uses students’ imagination and willingness to act or pretend to reinforce academic objectives and enhance learning.

    Creative problem solving (CPS). A problemsolving strategy in which you define the problem, generate as many ideas as possible, then chose one or two to refine and test.

    Creative thinking. Divergent thinking or thinking that diverges from a single point. It involves the generation of new ideas or the elaboration of old ideas.

    Criterion-referenced test. A type of standardized test that compares students’ performance to a given criterion. An example of this might be end-of-unit tests in math or reading. Here, students must meet a certain criterion in order to achieve a passing score and move on to the next unit or grade. Scores are not compared to other students’ scores; rather, they are used to demonstrate general knowledge or competency related to the ideas and skills covered in a particular unit or class.

    Critical thinking. Convergent thinking; thinking that converges on a single point.

    Cultural pluralism. The idea that having diverse cultures within a society strengthens and enriches it and should be embraced and celebrated.

    Culture. A set of attitudes, beliefs, values, and behaviors of a particular social group or organization that defines the group members’ general behavior, worldview, or way of life.

    Curriculum compacting and differentiation. A form of differentiation in which the regular curriculum is streamlined to eliminate the repetition of previously mastered material. Students demonstrate mastery of basic skills or concepts by “testing out of” a unit or area of study. This provides them time for appropriate enrichment or accelerated learning activities called alternative learning experiences (ALE). This strategy is specifically designed for high-ability learners.

    Data retrieval chart (DRC). A visual organizer that is used to help collect and organize information. These can come in a variety of forms.

    Deductive thinking. A type of thinking that seeks to find a single cause or variable from a multiplicity of data.

    Defining attributes. Essential characteristics or shared features necessary to make the thing a concept.

    Differentiation. Making the curriculum different or designing different types of learning experiences and activities for the same class in order to meet the needs of all learners. This concept is basic to an inclusive classroom.

    Direct instruction. A form of teacher-centered instruction, this is a very structured form of teaching where students receive information directly from a teacher. Direct instruction strategies work best for teaching facts, rules, and basic skills.

    Discovery learning. Students are first exposed to structured experiences in order for them to discover concepts or principles inductively. Small bits of instruction are provided along the way as necessary. Discovery learning comes in a variety of forms with varying degrees of structure, all of which take careful planning.

    Diversity. In education, this term generally refers to the following seven areas: socioeconomic status (SES), race and ethnicity, abilities, culture, gender, sexual orientation, and religion.

    Double journal entry. A strategy whereby students observe and record objective observations on one side of the page and their thoughts or subjective interpretations on the other.

    During-reading activities. Things that students themselves do as they are reading and things that a teacher might do to assist them while they are reading. These include active outlining, chapters on tape, group read, and reciprocal reading.

    Economics. A study of the way in which goods and services are produced, distributed, and consumed.

    Elements of effective skills instruction. A research-based method of teaching skills that incorporates four components: identification of the procedural components (steps), direct instruction and modeling, guided practice, and independent practice.

    Elements of oral communication (EOC). A list of traits or behaviors that enhance the effectiveness of communication in student speeches to small or large groups.

    Embedded approach. An approach to teaching cognitive processes within a subject matter context. Students then apply these skills directly to the particular subject matter being studied. This allows them to use the thinking and problemsolving skills in a meaningful context and helps students learn material more deeply by manipulating subject area concepts.

    Emotional or behavioral disorder. A disorder in which one's emotions or behaviors get in the way of learning and participating in the learning environment.

    English language learners (ELLs). Students whose first language is not English.

    Ethnicity. A shared sense of identity or a pattern of characteristics based on nationality, race, religion, or language.

    Evaluation. Gathering data related to student (or teacher) performance in order to make an evaluative judgment on the quality of his or her learning, teaching, or achievement. Such data are often used to put students into a category, assign letter grades, or place them on a normative scale.

    Expanded views of intelligence. The idea that intelligence is the ability to solve problems or create products and performances that are valued in one or more cultural settings. As the type of problem, product, or performance changes, so too does the type of thinking that is required. Thus, intelligence is far more than that which is measured on an intelligence test.

    Expository teaching. A form of teacher-centered instruction in which the teacher seeks to connect new knowledge with the learner's existing knowledge. Advance organizers are used to show the structure of material to be learned and to help make these personal connections.

    Five-step writing process. An approach to writing and the teaching of writing that involves five steps: prewriting, drafting, revising, editing, and publishing.

    Free and appropriate education (FAPE). A part of IDEA that states that schools must provide free and appropriate public education to all children with disabilities at no expense to the family. Appropriate means the educational experiences must be designed to meet students’ specific learning needs.

    Gardner's theory of multiple intelligence. Howard Gardner's definition of intelligence is the ability to solve problems or create products that are valued within a culture. Instead of a single entity with many facets, Gardner has identified eight intelligences, all of which work together as a system. He currently recognizes these eight types of intelligence: linguistic, logical-mathematical, spatial, bodily-kinesthetic, musical, interpersonal, intrapersonal, and naturalistic.

    Gender. Whereas sex refers to the biological dimensions of being male or female, gender includes the sociocultural and psychological dimensions as well. It includes the general parameters for acceptable behavior as established by society, peers, and one's family, and the sociocultural context that describes what it means to be male or female.

    Gifted learners. Students who demonstrate outstanding ability or high levels of accomplishment in at least one of five areas: general intellectual ability, specific academic aptitude, creative or productive thinking, leadership ability, and visual and performing arts.

    Global education. Education that examines the global connections and interconnection of our individual lives in all areas.

    Graphic organizer. A visual representation of knowledge, concepts, or ideas that can be used to help students organize their thinking. Graphic organizers assist students by making abstract ideas more concrete. Types of graphic organizers include semantic map, flow chart, Venn diagram, outlines, tables, and graphs, as well as other charts, diagrams, or pictures.

    Guided-discovery learning. A type of discovery learning where students construct their understanding of a concept with the assistance of a teacher who guides them along the way. This guidance comes in the form of questions, hints, modeling, and short bits of instruction. Learning is somewhat open-ended in that students often discover things beyond the lesson objective. However, it is explicit and defined in that there are specific skills or concepts that the teacher wants students to possess as a result of the learning experience.

    Guided practice. When teaching a concept, guided practice involves having students categorize the concept or manipulate the new information under the guidance or observation of the teacher. The goal is for students to use, apply, or try out new content as the teacher monitors in order to assess learning (formative assessment). When teaching a skill, guided practice is where the teacher takes the whole class through each step of the skill several times. The goal is to provide the support necessary for students to use the skill independently.

    Holistic education. Educational practice built on holistic learning theory. A holistic approach to education seeks to integrate multiple levels of meaning and experience and strives to help students realize their full potential in multiple dimensions: intellectual, creative, spiritual, physical, social, and emotional.

    Holistic learning theory. Theory of learning that integrates the teaching and learning experience and the total human experience. It seeks to align educational practice with humans’ natural desire to learn, grow, explore, and self-actualize. Holistic learning theory is built upon four elements: It seeks to teach the whole person, it is built on relationships, it seeks to integrate real-life experiences into the educational process, and it invites teachers and learners to examine and define their values.

    IDEA/IDEIA. The Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA) is a law ensuring services to children with disabilities throughout the nation. Reauthorized in 2004 as the Individuals with Disabilities Education Improvement Act (IDEIA), it guarantees special education services to students with disabilities and governs how states go about providing these services.

    I-learned statement (ILS) or I-learned web (ILW). A form of authentic or direct assessment where students are asked what they have learned about a topic.

    Ill-structured problem. A problem for which there is not one specific process or answer and which often has some of the necessary information missing. This is the type of problem found in the real world.

    Immersion approach. An approach to the cognitive process that does not involve teaching. Rather, students are provided with repeated practice in high-level thinking and problem-solving activities within their curriculum with the assumption that they will eventually develop the necessary cognitive skills to successfully engage in this kind of thinking. This is not an effective teaching and learning technique.

    Inclusion. This is the act of putting special needs students in a general education classroom and then adapting instruction and the curriculum to meet their needs. Here, differentiated, multilevel instructional strategies are used to make the curriculum fit the child. Most in education today see this as the preferred option—meeting special learning needs in a general education class instead of mainstreaming.

    Inductive thinking or inductive analysis. A type of thinking that seeks to induce order on a field by looking for groups, patterns, or commonalities.

    Inquiry. A teaching strategy that uses methods of science to enhance learning. The steps of the inquiry are to ask a question, gather data, organize data, and communicate ideas about the data.

    Instructional time. The amount of time the teacher is actually engaged in instruction. This is the allotted time minus the transition time and time getting settled and organized to teach.

    Integrated study. Sometimes called thematic instruction, this is an approach to social studies or other curriculum areas that cuts across curriculum boarders and integrates a variety of themes, subjects, and skills based around a central topic.

    Internet literacy. The ability to access and evaluate information on the World Wide Web. It includes the following skills: conducting Internet searches, evaluating sources, posting information, and participating in online communication.

    Interpersonal conflict. A state of disharmony between two or more people.

    Interview. A form of authentic assessment in which students respond to a series of planned questions.

    IRE questions. These are the types of questions where the teacher initiates the question, the students respond, and the teacher then evaluates that response. IRE questions put teachers in a position of power and control instead of the preferred position of influence and structure and should be avoided.

    Johnson lesson plan format for concepts. A basic lesson plan format that enables teachers to plan and structure learning experiences to effectively teach concepts or conceptual material. It contains a lesson purpose statement, input, and activities.

    Johnson lesson plan format for skills. A basic lesson plan format that enables teachers to plan and structure learning experiences to effectively teach skills. Based on the elements of effective skills instruction, it contains a lesson purpose or statement, input (identification of procedural components, direct instruction and modeling, and guided practice), and activities.

    Lab report. Used in inquiry learning experiences, the lab report provides structure for students when reporting inquiry results. A lab report helps students communicate their ideas and consists of three parts: the conditions (before), the results (after), and ideas or interpretations.

    Leadership. An individual's ability to lead a group toward a common goal.

    Learner-centered instruction. A type of instruction in which more emphasis and responsibility are put on the learner and the learning process. Learner-centered instructional models include the following: less-directed instruction, discovery learning, problem-based learning, and inquiry.

    Learning centers. A form of differentiation, these are designated places in the classroom that contain a collection of activities or materials designed to reinforce or extend a skill or concept. Unlike the learning station, students do not rotate with learning centers. They spend all their time at one center. Also, learning centers are completely or mostly self-sufficient. Students should be able to go to a learning center and complete the activities there without a great deal of additional instruction.

    Learning contract. A form of differentiation, this is a written agreement between a student or group of students and the teacher. It specifies what students will learn, how they will learn, how they will demonstrate their learning, and the time frame for completion. Learning contracts come in various forms and can be adapted to the ability or interest of particular students. They can also be used as the alternative learning experience (ALE) in compacting and differentiation for gifted learners.

    Learning disability. A discrepancy between a student's expected ability and his or her achievement in one of seven areas: basic reading skills, reading comprehension, listening comprehension, oral expression, written expression, math calculation, and mathematics reasoning.

    Learning stations. A form of differentiation, these are designated places in the classroom used to practice, reinforce, or extend a skill or set of related skills. The stations are used simultaneously with the whole class. Here, the teacher designs four to eight short mini-lessons related to a skill with guided and independent practice. Small groups of three to five students go to each station. On a signal (classroom lights flashing or a bell), the small group rotates to the next station. This continues until the whole class has worked through all stations. Stations can be set up to be done independently or in the form of a cooperative learning activity.

    Least restrictive environment (LRE). A part of IDEA, which states that students must receive special education services in the least restrictive environment possible. This means that to the greatest extent possible, students with special needs are to be educated in a general education classroom.

    Less-direct instruction. Sometimes referred to as indirect instruction, this form of learner-centered instruction can be defined as any lesson or episode in which an experience or activity occurs first, with instruction occurring during or after. This enables students to put instruction in a meaningful context. Less-direct instructional strategies work best for teaching concepts, theories, patterns, and abstractions.

    Lesson plan objectives. Specific descriptions of what students will learn or be able to do as a result of their exposure to instruction.

    Listening skills. Receiving skills that enable a person to fully attend to what another person says with honest intent.

    Literature as text. In an integrated study, the literature or trade book becomes the primary text used.

    Mainstreaming. This is the act of putting special needs students in a general education classroom and then providing help for the student to adapt to the curriculum. Here, a variety of strategies are used to help the child fit the curriculum. Most in education today do not see mainstreaming as a pragmatic option for meeting special learning needs in a general education class; rather, inclusion is preferred (see inclusion).

    Mastery learning. A form of teacher-centered instruction in which units or skills are broken down into a series of specific learning objectives. Students must demonstrate a level of mastery before they move on to the next objective or engage in enrichment activities. Students who do not demonstrate mastery are provided with remediation until they can.

    Meaningful verbal learning. The type of learning that occurs when new information being presented connects with learners’ existing knowledge to create meaning. The opposite of meaningful learning is rote learning, which is learning without meaning.

    Means-end analysis (MEA). A problem-solving strategy in which you first describe the desired outcome or end state and then list the goals necessary to reach the end state.

    Modified assignments. A form of differentiation, these are assignments that are shortened or made more concise for special needs learners. You can also modify assignments by breaking them into smaller, more manageable steps.

    Multicultural education. Educational practice that uses the diverse backgrounds of all students to enhance or expand their learning. This approach embraces and celebrates the variety of cultures within a school setting.

    Negative character traits. Qualities or dispositions that serve to take from or harm oneself and others. These include such traits as selfishness, sloth, greed, anger, hatred, ignorance, and pride.

    Norm-referenced test. This form of indirect assessment uses a standardized test to quantify students’ performance and compare it to a group norm. Norm-referenced tests, associated with a bell-shaped curve, describe how far away the test taker is from the average.

    Open-discovery learning. A type of discovery learning with little or no structure. Here, students make all decisions related to all aspects of learning, and they come to their own conclusion based on data or experience with no input or guidance from the teacher.

    Open-ended checklist. A form of authentic assessment, this is a checklist that contains a list of skills with enough space for students to describe their ability, understanding, or usage of each skill.

    Open-ended questions. Questions for which there are no set answers or responses. There are many possible answers.

    Parallel study. The parallel study is a minimal approach to an integrated study where the literature or trade books related to a unit are used as part of reading class. Thus, the trade book is not referred to specifically in the integrated study but is incorporated into a reading or English class.

    Performance packages. A series of tasks that students must perform to demonstrate their level of mastery of performance-based standards.

    Performance-based standards. A defined set of skills to be mastered that describes what students should be able to do as a result of instruction.

    Picture books. Books that rely on pictures to carry the story. Usually used with primary students.

    Positive character traits. Qualities or dispositions that serve to nurture oneself, others, and the environment. These include such traits as honesty, generosity, courage, fortitude, acceptance, and compassion.

    Positive discussion elements (PDEs). A list of traits, skills, and behaviors that enable students to communicate respectfully in small-group discussion.

    Post-reading activities. Activities and assignments that are done after reading a text or chapter. The purpose is for students to manipulate ideas found in the text, reinforce or extend ideas, or make personal connections.

    Pre-reading activities. Activities that prepare students to read the upcoming selection.

    Problem. A situation in which the present condition, product, or performance does not match the desired condition, product, or performance.

    Problem-based learning. Real-life problems are embedded in all areas of the curriculum as well as social studies to enhance learning.

    Problem solving. The process of moving from the present condition to the desired condition.

    Product and performance assessment form (PPAF). A form of authentic or direct assessment, this is a rating checklist that can be used to analyze and evaluate any type of product or performance, such as inquiry projects, inventions, advertising campaigns, dramas, dances, presentations, creative writing, or service learning.

    Race. The classification of a human population according to specific physiological features or characteristics such as hair or skin color.

    Rating checklist. A form of authentic assessment, this is a checklist of desired traits in product or performance that allows the observer to assign levels of performance to each trait. This is similar to a rubric; however, whereas a rubric uses a sentence or more to provide a description of each level, a rating checklist uses one-word indicators.

    Reading workshop. This is an approach to reading instruction in which students choose the books they read. When used as part of an integrated study, the teacher gathers a variety of trade books related to the topic or theme. Students then choose the books they wish to read and read at their own pace.

    Receptive learning. Learning that takes place when information is presented to students in its final form through the use of lecture or other direct instructional methods.

    Reliability. The degree to which a study or experiment can be repeated with similar results.

    Rote learning. The type of learning that occurs when new information being presented does not connect with any of the learner's existing knowledge. Without these connections, there is little or no meaning.

    Rubric. A form of authentic or direct assessment in the form of a scoring guide that is used to describe specific traits desired for a student product or performance. Unlike the checklist, the rubric describes the various levels of performance for each trait.

    Scaffolded reading experience (SRE). Teacher strategies used to help students of all ability levels comprehend what they are reading. These involve pre-, during-, and post-reading activities.

    Science. System of acquiring knowledge that involves asking questions and collecting data to answer those questions.

    Shared reading. A strategy that enables readers of varying levels to have a discussion around a common book or text. Shared reading can be used to keep English language learners (ELLs) and students with learning disabilities (LD) from falling behind conceptually in a social studies class.

    Small-group conference. A form of authentic assessment, this is like a focus group used to gather data. The moderator uses questions as prompts and guides. The goal is to get students to carry the conversation as much as possible (see also student conference).

    Social language. Language that students use to interact with their peers in social settings apart from formal classroom instruction.

    Social studies. A study of human beings interacting with other humans, governments, communities, economies, and environments.

    Social studies education. The process of using knowledge and skills to study humans as they interact in local, national, and world communities.

    Sociocultural expectations. The types of language and behaviors that are appropriate when interacting with a particular social group or in a particular situation.

    Stand-alone approach. An approach to teaching cognitive processes in which thinking skills and problem solving are taught separately, apart from subject matter content. Here, a general set of thinking and problem-solving skills is identified and taught as a separate course or subject. Students are expected to be able to transfer the skills to various subjects and situations.

    Sternberg's triarchic theory of intelligence. Robert Sternberg's triarchic theory of intelligence recognizes three types of thinking that work together to solve problems, create products, or enable outstanding performance: creative thinking, which is the ability to generate ideas and make associations; evaluative thinking, which is the ability to monitor executive processes and analyze and appraise ideas; and pragmatic thinking, which is the ability to recognize the context of the situation and adapt the idea to that context.

    Story map. A visual representation of the story plot. It lays out the story events so that you can see them in order. Story maps come in a variety for forms.

    Structured immersion program. An approach to educating English language learners in which classroom teachers adapt the curriculum and use differentiation strategies to teach content and skills in the general education classroom.

    Student checklists. Checklists that are completed by students to evaluate their own performance or the performance of the group in which they are working.

    Student conference. A form of authentic or direct assessment in which one or more students talk about their work or some aspect of classroom functioning. Conferences can be conducted individually or in small groups (see also small-group conference).

    Students’ products or performances. Samples of students’ work that are used as data sources for assessment and evaluation.

    Super word web. Strategy that uses a visual organizer to develop depth and dimension of word knowledge. This can be used to handle new vocabulary words as either a pre-reading or post-reading activity. For expository text, it is recommended as a pre-reading activity so that new words and concepts can be used to facilitate comprehension. For narrative text, it is recommended as a post-reading activity so that students can use the context of the story to enrich their word knowledge.

    Survey. A data source that enables you to get a variety of information from respondents fairly quickly. Surveys contain a pre-designed list of questions that can be either open-ended or closed-response.

    Teacher-centered instructional models. Instructional models in which the teacher designs and is primarily responsible for transmitting knowledge directly to the students in a very controlled, sequential manner, fully in control of all parts of the lesson. Models here include direct instruction, expository teaching, and mastery learning.

    Teacher checklist. Checklist designed for use by teachers to indicate exactly what skills have been introduced or mastered and when. Checklists can often be used to indicate the level of student performance for each skill.

    Thinking frames. Visual representations of the steps involved in a cognitive process such as thinking skills or problem solving. These should be displayed in poster form for easy access, teaching, and review.

    Thinking skill. Any cognitive process broken down into a set of explicit steps, which are then used to guide thinking.

    Tiered assignments. A form of differentiation, these are assignments that manipulate the same idea or input at different levels or tiers. The same lesson is presented to all students; however, two or more activities or assignments are designed at differing levels of complexity. In this way, each student still comes away with the important knowledge and understanding and at the same time is challenged at an appropriate level.

    Time-on-task. In a class, this is the time students are actively engaged in relevant learning tasks. Rather than sitting passively, students are doing something. They are actively engaged in discussion, small-group activities, practice, note taking, or some other educational activity.

    Trade book. A piece of literature for children or young adults, usually a paperback with chapters, appropriate for readers from 3rd to 12th grade. Trade books rely on text, instead of pictures, to carry the story.

    Traditional forms of assessment. This is the type of indirect assessment usually associated with written tests in which students read a question or a short paragraph and either select the best answer from two or more choices or else search their long-term memory in order to retrieve a particular response or predetermined answer.

    Validity. The degree to which a thing measures what it reports to measure.

    Values. A value is any trait, thing, or experience that one finds of worth or importance.

    Values clarification. A pedagogical strategy that can be effectively used within a character education context. Values clarification activities help students identify, analyze, and elucidate their own values. These activities usually involve defining, listing, ranking, or rating things that students value.

    Virtues. Positive character traits or dispositions that serve to nurture oneself, others, and the environment. Virtues include such traits as honesty, generosity, courage, fortitude, acceptance, and compassion.

    Wait time. The time between asking a question and calling on a student. This gives students time to think about and fully process the question. About 7 seconds is usually recommended for most questions; however, higher-level and more complex questions require longer wait time.

    Web site evaluator. A graphic organizer used to help students assess a Web site.

    Word wall. A large sheet of butcher paper or a bulletin board hung on the wall that is used to display vocabulary words in context. New or interesting words can be arranged in categories according to a particular letter pattern, concept, or story.


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    About the Author

    Dr. Andrew P. Johnson is Professor of Holistic Education in the Department of Special Education, at Minnesota State University, Mankato. He specializes in social studies education, literacy instruction, strategies for the inclusive classroom, and holistic education. He earned his PhD from the University of Minnesota in 1997. Previous to that, he worked for 9 years in the public schools as a second-grade teacher, wrestling coach, and as a gifted education coordinator before moving into higher education. His current areas of interest include action research, thinking skills, and academic and creative writing. For comment or communication, please visit his Web site at

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