Guest Teacher Post: Developing Critical-Thinking Skills with Adaptive Lessons


Editor's Note: Justin Allar teaches social studies at Clay-Battelle Middle/High School in Blackville, West Virginia. In this guest post, he describes how Curriculum Pathways resources meet the critical-thinking needs of his social studies students. This is the second in a series of blog posts written by West Virginia educators sharing how they have integrated digital content in their classrooms. This series is part of a larger collaboration between Curriculum Pathways and SETDA, one that includes this October 2017 webinar.

I've used Curriculum Pathways lessons for many years -- in middle school, high school, and Advanced Placement social studies classes -- and my students find the resources fun and engaging. I particularly like how teachers can adapt a lesson to fit what we want the kids to learn. The technology serves my needs; it doesn't force me to conform to some pre-set pattern.

Especially important is how Curriculum Pathways resources develop critical-thinking skills and make my social studies classroom come alive. In the document analyzer series, for example, students learn about historical issues through video clips and then analyze primary-source documents related to these kinds of focus questions: Should Congress pass the Indian Removal Act of 1830? and Should President Johnson increase the United States' troop commitment to South Vietnam in 1965?

Johnson and the Vietnam War explores America's growing involvement in the conflict to answer this question: Should President Johnson increase the United States' troop commitment to South Vietnam in 1965?

Teachers can easily tailor all lessons to their specific needs and goals. I may have one class that watches the movie clips and fills in the movie notes and another that watches the movies and then goes into detail analyzing the primary-source documents. Curriculum Pathways allows so many layers to my instruction.

I love the lessons that provide interactive practice activities before quizzing students on their knowledge. I especially like the interactive activities that then force students to think about material they have just learned and apply it to a hypothetical situation.

As teachers, we are always strapped for time. These activities were built with that challenge in mind: they come ready to implement. As an added bonus, the ones with practice and quiz sections grade the material for you.

I cannot speak highly enough about this site. I integrate these lessons into my classroom almost every week.


About Author

Lee Ellen Harmer

Outreach and Collaborations Manager

Lee Ellen Harmer is a member of the Social Innovation Division at SAS, a team committed to finding innovative ways to apply SAS® technology to the world's most pressing needs. While focused heavily on global sustainability issues, the Social Innovation team also works to support the next generation of innovators, introducing young learners to data, how it can be used to better understand global issues, and how to turn those insights into action in their own communities. Lee Ellen's role encompasses marketing, communications, and Data for Good partnerships, all focused on education. She also facilitates awareness and adoption of SAS's K12 education outreach programs, promoting learning for all, with the goal of building a global community of innovators. Lee Ellen has a Bachelor of Science degree in Business with a marketing concentration from Wake Forest University (Winston Salem, NC).

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