New TEKS for Social Studies

New TEKS for Social Studies

The beginning of the 2011-2012 school year marks the official implementation year of the new Social Studies TEKS approved by the State Board of Education.  The Social Studies program consists of elementary, middle school and high school courses.  Elementary grades learn about various communities, Texas history and United States history.  Middle school grades address contemporary world cultures, Texas history, and United States history from early colonial period through Reconstruction.  The high school courses, which may be taught in any order, are United States History Studies Since 1877, World History Studies, World Geography Studies, United States Government, and Economics.  Social Studies additionally has four electives that can be offered in high school: Psychology, Sociology, Special Topics in Social Studies, and Social Studies Research Methods.

For some areas the change is minimal.  For example, the grade 8 US History TEKS do have greater specificity and rigor changes, but overall only experienced the addition of one new student expectation.  The high school Economics with emphasis on Free Enterprise System and its Benefits course, on the other “invisible” hand, has been altered from its previous form.  The course is now characterized by three Social Studies strands (Economics, Financial Literacy, Social Studies Skills) instead of the previous eight, and has twenty-one new student expectations.  Other courses such as Social Studies Grade 2, US History, and World History also experienced a significant increase in the number of student expectations.  As you plan for the upcoming school year, take the time to examine the changes associated with the courses you are preparing for.  Pay close attention to the changes in the introduction to each course.  Changes include statements about “including” (reference content that must be mastered) and “such as” (reference content that is intended as possible illustrative examples), the U.S. free enterprise system, constitutional republic, Celebrate Freedom Week, and evaluating the ideals of the founding documents.

When examining the new TEKS, pay close attention to the verb identification and content specificity in each individual Student Expectation.  Carefully study the Student Expectation to evaluate the cognitive level that is expected of the student.  The following examples may provide greater clarity:

 

Social Studies, Grade 2: 2(8) Geography (C) identify ways people can conserve and replenish natural resources.

 

According to Bloom’s Taxonomy, the verb identify would be considered lower level cognitive application for the second grade student.  Remarkably, the term natural resource doesn’t actually appear for the first time in Grade 2.  It first appears in Kindergarten, continues in Grade 1, and repeats in successive grade levels and courses.  By studying the content specificity over time, we can see how material builds in early grades to provide a foundation for students at advanced grade levels. An example of this vertical progression can be seen in high school World Geography as students are expected to:

 

World Geography Studies: Geography 8(C) evaluate the economic and political relationships between settlements and the environment, including sustainable development and renewable/non-renewable resources. 

 

The verb in this Student Expectation is requiring students to evaluate, thus requiring students to think critically about the information they are learning.  Because greater specificity is not provided to the teacher on exact settlements, you have the freedom to choose from various resources and examples to accomplish this over the school year.

Social Studies teachers will need to apply significant time to become familiar with the changes in the specific subjects that you teach.  This includes examining the increased or decreased level of rigor pertaining to the Student Expectations, newly added historical individuals, and applied content changes.

Teachers should re-examine units and lessons taught from the previous years and consider the following:

  1. How will I restructure my pace and sequencing this year?
  2. How did the new changes impact the units and lessons I taught last year?
  3. Are some of my lessons obsolete because they don’t necessarily match with the new TEKS?
  4. How will I change my lessons to meet the new expectations?
  5. What new resources will I need to meet the requirements of the new TEKS?

Although it may be easier to revert to “the way we have always done it,” Social Studies teachers are responsible for incorporating the new changes this school year. The change in the state Social Studies TEKS should be seen as a positive opportunity for all educators to start fresh and reevaluate the lessons taught and learned in the classroom.

 

 


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