BPS Partners with Primary Source to Craft Innovative Common Core Approach to Elementary Social Studies Curriculum

22 January 2014

Common Core CurriculumAt Primary Source, we thrive on creating long and fruitful relationships that advance global learning while helping school districts meet state standards, and Boston Public Schools (BPS) is no exception. Building on a relationship that began over a decade ago providing summer institutes to BPS teachers, we were thrilled to expand to district-wide social studies curriculum design at the elementary level, truly an unmet need. "Elementary social studies curriculum faces a real challenge," says James Liou, Senior Program Director of History/Social Studies for BPS. "Our schools lack not only the teaching resources but the instructional time."

Looking for ways to infuse curriculum units with high-quality instructional resources and meet the demands of the federally mandated Common Core State Standards, BPS reached out to Primary Source to design lesson activities for grades 2-5 involving close readings of informational texts. Each lesson contains an age-appropriate primary source, supporting materials for teaching about the text, and student-ready text-dependent questions. In an effort to take a more practical Common Core approach to teaching history and social studies, BPS requested close reading activities that matched the standards for each grade level, and allowed teachers to lead their students through intensive text analysis involving multiple and dynamic re-readings. "It's a way to offer teachers both the high quality materials they lack, and the professional development they need," says James Liou. "It's all about integrating these approaches to help our teachers do what they do even better."

With multiple units needed to achieve a depth and breadth of content, our curriculum design approach was two-fold: adapt what we do to meet the needs of BPS while instilling our passion for global education. BPS now has curriculum resources that meet Common Core standards, reflect the diversity of their student population, and develop students' historical thinking skills. Accessible via a district-wide website, these supplemental materials fill a real gap and are now available to all BPS teachers in grades 2-5, providing them with targeted resources and support. "Our work provides an equitable base of social studies materials across BPS and we couldn't be more pleased about that," says Ann Marie Gleeson, Primary Source Program Director and author of the grade 4 materials. As we continue to refine units and create new ones, the response has been one of appreciation. "Primary Source is such a valued partner to BPS," says James Liou. "We truly appreciate the level of scholarship and quality you bring to the creation of integrated elementary social studies curriculum. It has been a wonderful collaboration."


Image credits:
Flat Iron Building, Fifth Avenue and Broadway, New York, 1902, Library of Congress
Manco Capac, First Inca, 1 of 14 Portraits of Inca Kings, Brooklyn Museum 
President Barack Obama, First Lady Michelle Obama, daughters Sasha and Malia, and Marian Robinson tour the Martin Luther King, Jr. National Memorial before the dedication ceremony in Washington, D.C. Oct. 16, 2011. Official White House Photo by Chuck Kennedy



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