Tuesday, August 05, 2008

On Changing Curriculum Standards

As I prepare my syllabus for fall I am reviewing the new standards for social studies the the state of Virginia has passed and will fully implement during the 2010-2011 school year. It's important for me to begin the process of introducing students to these standards now, as most of them will likely begin their careers as classroom teachers during that year.

The state of VA is on a seven year review cycle for curriculum standards, so social studies was last revised in 2001. I am taking stock of the newest changes and thinking about how I will address them with my preservice teachers. I am also trying to anticipate the questions they will ask. Here are some of the changes (in red) and my thoughts/questions about them (in orange).
Kindergarten - Most of the changes in K deal more with wordsmithing than substance. The economics standards are in much friendlier (age appropriate) language. No worries here.

Grade 1
The history standard on timelines and sequence of events has expanded from past and present to include future.

Eleanor Roosevelt has been added to the standard that asks students to "describe the stories of American leaders and their contributions to our country." Before the change no women were included here. The men emphasized are George Washington, Benjamin Franklin, Abraham Lincoln, and George Washington Carver.
I'll have to do some hard thinking about books here. Most of the biographies are written for older readers (ages 9-12 or grades 4-8). I haven't seen many good read aloud choices. I do LOVE Barbara Cooney's book Eleanor. It's a wonderful portrait of the woman before she became the wife of FDR. The Afterword briefly discusses her efforts on behalf of the poor and disadvantaged. I've got high hopes for the Sneed Collard book coming out this fall entitled Eleanor Roosevelt: Making the World a Better Place.

The economics standards asked students to describe how people are both buyers and sellers of goods and services. This language has changed to consumers and producers.

Grade 2
The history standards introduce three Native American tribes--Powhatan, Lakota, and Pueblo. The word Sioux has been dropped from Lakota. Most importantly, this standard has added a statement about comparing "lives and contributions of three American Indian cultures of the past and present."
I'm thrilled to see that emphasis has been placed on current cultures.

The geography standards will now focus on locating the five oceans of the world.
What? Five, you say? YES. In fact, in the spring of 2000 the International Hydrographic Organization established the Southern Ocean and determined its limits. This means that the five oceans of the world are the Arctic, Atlantic, Indian, Pacific and Southern. The southern ocean includes all water below 60 degrees south. Like the Arctic Ocean, some of it is frozen.

Students studying the contributions of ancient China and Egypt will now need to know about the role of the Nile River and Huang He in the development of these civilizations.
The Huang He is also known as the Yellow River. I think pronunciation will be an issue here, and one that must be addressed, since some students will undoubtedly take state assessments in which test items are read to them.

Grade 3
Students study the exploration of the Americas with an emphasis on the explorers themselves, as well the reasons for exploring and the results of the travels. Now students will also be asked to discuss the "impact of these travels on American Indians."
The curriculum framework document that outlines the content of the standards focuses on these three outcomes (impacts).
  • Deadly diseases were introduced
  • Exploration later led to settlement.
  • The settlements led to relocation of the American Indians from their homeland.
It's a start, isn't it? I'm hopeful that the expansion of this standard will lead to a more balanced approach to the study of exploration.

The economics standards in this grade have also been wordsmithed for the better.

One of the civics standards is focused on the basic principles that form the foundation of our republican form of government. As part of this standard, students are asked to identify the contributions of certain individuals, including George Washington, Thomas Jefferson, Abraham Lincoln, Rosa Parks and Martin Luther King, Jr. César Chávez has been added to this list.
The Library of Congress has some good background information on Chávez. Harvesting Hope: The Story of César Chávez, written by Kathleen Krull and illustrated by Yuyi Morales, is a terrific book. The book of poems César: ¡Si, Se Puede!/ Yes, We Can!, written by Carmen T. Bernier-Grand and illustrated by David Diaz, is also an excellent resource.
Okay, that's what I have for grades K-3. More on grades 4 (Virginia studies) and 5-6 (U.S. history) later. If you have any resources you think will be useful for these new additions, please let me know.

1 comment:

  1. I had no idea that we had a "new" ocean. Thanks for the heads up! These curriculum changes sound pretty progressive to me. Very interesting. I don't know if CT has the same...