How Does an Eighth-Grade History Class in Public School Look Today?

How Does an Eighth-Grade History Class in Public School Look Today?

Tracy Middleton posted this experience in her eighth-grade history class on her personal Facebook page. Her experience as a classroom social studies teacher provided a model for excellence in social studies teaching. Thank you, Tracy, for sharing this glimpse into your classroom.

Today's Public School Eighth-Grade History Class

by Tracy Middleton

Inside the classroom, there is chaos. The room is noisy, as students are talking, arguing with one another, and some are roaming around the room while others stay at their tables and focus on the task at hand. The teacher is bouncing from table to table putting out fires and asking students questions that are forcing them to think more deeply.

Eighth-Grade History Class

Another project: creating Constitution Alphabet Books

An outsider walking into the room for the first time might believe the teacher has no classroom control, and for a moment, the teacher may think she has little classroom control. But when the teacher gets a time to step back and take a breath, she sees what is happening. The room is chaotic, but not because students are off task, but rather, the chaos is constructive chaos as all students are on task and thinking beyond what they ever thought they could.

They are arguing their points, asking each other questions, getting frustrated with one another because their partner can't seem to find the words to express him/herself. Some were wandering around the room to get their brains thinking, and some were visiting other tables to see other people's work.

Eighth-Grade History Class

Zeal for history displayed in another Constitution Alphabet Book

Creation, the Highest Level of Thinking and Learning

That was my classroom today as my students were on day 2 of creating illustrative metaphor posters on the different principles of the Constitution. Yesterday was the research day, and it was quiet as students were watching short videos related to their assigned task and taking notes. It was so quiet and peaceful, but today was so different as kids were asked to do some deep thinking to find a metaphor.

It was fun listening to them try to explain their thinking to teammates, watching the frustration turn to "Ohhh, now I get it," and seeing some of the metaphors begin to take shape. Kids who typically struggle were engaged in some high-level thinking conversations and finding success for the first time in a long while. Kids were encouraging their team members.

It was hectic and noisy, but the room was full of thinking 8th graders. My favorite part of the day was listening to two special ed boys discuss what kind of metaphor they were going to use to explain the separation of powers. They understood their principle.

It was the perfect teacher day!

Eighth-Grade History Class

Tracy Middleton

Tracy has a B.A. in Liberal Studies with a minor in social science, and an M.A. in Education in the area of Leadership, Learning, and Instruction.  She currently teaches 8th-grade social studies at Del Dios Academy of Arts and Sciences in Escondido. She also provides professional development in the areas of historical thinking and the C3 Framework for Social Sciences.  Mrs. Middleton has presented at both the National Council for Social Studies and the California Council for Social Studies annual conferences.  Tracy has served on the CCSS Board of Directors for over six years, first serving as a Region Director before serving as the Southern Area Vice President.

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