The William & Mary Social Studies units provide a major emphasis on concept development, critical thinking, and primary source analysis within the context of high-level content reflecting the focus of national standards in social studies on historical thinking and research as well as on the integration of major concepts across disciplines. The content meets the grade level standards as well as standards for two to three grade levels above that.
Rather than having students read about historical events, the William & Mary social studies units provide learners with primary source documents that serve as learning tools to develop historical perspectives. When analyzing primary source documents, students establish a context and intent for each piece (author, time written, related culture and events, purpose, intended audience), work to understand the source (issues/events and values reflected in document), and evaluate or interpret the source (reliability, representativeness, potential and actual consequences).When students encounter events within curriculum readings, the William & Mary units guide students in analyzing the situation by looking at different points of view. Students may reason through a situation using a graphic organizer to analyze an historical situation or event through multiple stakeholder perspectives. After analyzing a situation, students may be required to take a side or write a persuasive essay from the perspective of one of the stakeholders, thus, incorporating the additional advanced process of articulating the perspectives in a cohesive manner. Persuasive writing opportunities vary by unit content.
The William & Mary social studies units develop a broad understanding of concepts, such as systems and cause and effect. Students examine relationships to events and eras in history as an essential area of focus. Sample systems discussions include the exploration of the silk trade as a type of economic system, comparison of European colonist and Native American social systems, and comparison of the American political system with that of other democracies. Sample cause and effect discussions are: causes of the American Revolution, effects of the Declaration of Independence, causes of the stock market crash, and effects of the Dust Bowl.
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