Engaging 21st-century learners in social studies through the practical application of historical concepts.

by James E. Ford

Grades 9-12


All good teachers know instinctively how important it is to get to know your students as people and as learners and use that as a starting point for building lesson plans.

I also know that many students don’t enjoy social studies because of its reputation as being all about dead people and dates. So it’s incumbent on me to make history relevant for students so that they know why it’s important to their lives.

I tell my kids that history is not a line – it’s a circle. As such, history is about:

-Making them informed citizens who know how to learn from mistakes and not repeat them,

-Finding relevancy in their own lives and using the diversity of their experiences as a launch pad for deeper investigation, and

-Immersing yourself into an environment where you can actually feel what it was like to live and breathe in another time and place.

This sort of highly customized approach to social studies is definitely more work up front. But eventually, if you’ve carefully planned your lessons, you will have succeeded when you see that the students are working much harder than you are.

About James E. Ford

James E. Ford is the Program Director at the Public School Forum of North Carolina. Prior to this, he served as the 2014-15 North Carolina Teacher ...

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