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Skills and Best Practices

Activity 1: Skills and Best Practices

Cooperative Learning

Cooperative learning is a strategy which involves students in established, sustained learning groups or teams. The group work is an integral part of, not an adjunct to, the achievement of the learning goals of the class. Cooperative learning fosters individual accountability in a context of group interdependence in which students discover information and teach that material to their group and, perhaps, to the class as a whole. The teacher’s role changes as Alison King (1993) says “from sage on the stage to guide on the side.” Although they learn in groups, the students are evaluated individually on the learning they have achieved.

There are many factors that separate cooperative learning groups from the traditional small group activities designed simply to have students interact in groups.

  • Cooperative learning is structured
  • Cooperative learning creates a classroom community
  • Cooperative learning is a sustained approach
  • Cooperative learning requires and enhances student communication skills
  • Cooperative learning balances interdependence with individual accountability
  • Cooperative learning responds to classroom diversity

Use of Surveys

How to Conduct and Utilize Oral Interviews

Oral history is the process of collecting an individual’s spoken memories of his or her life, of the people he or she has known, and the events which he or she witnessed or participated in. Oral history is another primary source technique historians use to help them interpret the past. Oral histories can be used to supplement written records, complement secondary sources (what has been written by historical scholars), and to provide information that would exist in no other form.

This site also provides suggestions for:

  • Preparing for the Interview
  • Selecting Individuals to be Interviewed
  • Scheduling the Interview
  • Research Prior to the Interview
  • Being Comfortable with any Equipment Connected with the Inverview
  • Dressing for the Interview
  • Conducting the Interview
  • Post-Interview Suggestions
  • Evaluating the Interview

Activity 3

Activity 3

Essential Question

What factors sometimes lead nations to restrict and limit free international trade?


Countries are said to conduct free trade when international trade is not limited by their governments. Economics and political factors are some of the factors that sometimes lead countries to restrict international trade. Commonly used trade barriers include embargoes, import quotas, tariffs, and voluntary trade restrictions.

Instructional Strategies

Strategy 1

Computer Research

Review good computer research strategies with students prior to going to the computer lab or using the in-class computers. Be sure to discuss the following concerns:

  • Web sites differ. Some are better then others in terms of reliability and accuracy of information.
  • Web sites come and go. Be sure you are using a web site that continues to provide accurate information over time and is not there for a single purpose.
  • Reliable of information is important. Establish criteria for what you determine to be reliable information.

Choose one of the following websites to determine the criteria for reliability. Put the criteria on chart paper and display it every time you take the students to the computer lab.

Check for Understanding

  • Choose several other websites at random. Use the criteria to assess the reliability of the site.

Strategy 2

KWLH Graphic Organizer

Discuss with the class the importance of “active thinking” when doing research. Talk about the importance of linking prior knowledge to what they want to learn about a topic.

Review the steps in the KWLH graphic organizer with the class. Remind them of what each step in the process stands for:

  • K – what they KNOW about the topic
  • W – what they WANT to learn about the topic
  • L – what they LEARN about the topic as they do research
  • H – HOW we can learn more about the topic

Provide each student with a chart to record their prior knowledge and connect it to what they learn in their research.

Printable Student View










Strategy 3

Group Research

Set the purpose question for the research by discussing the following issue:

Governments control, limit, or restrict trade in order to protect the economic interests of their citizens as well as to prevent trade partners from getting an unfair advantage in the market at the expense of their own industries.

Pose the following questions:

  • What are the advantages and disadvantages of restricting trade in order to protect our own economic interests?
  • What are the various types of trade barriers that governments use to restrict trade?
    • List the advantages and disadvantages on chart paper and display them in the computer lab and the classroom for future discussion.
    • List the trade barriers on separate chart paper and display them.

Divide the class into work groups. Assign each work group a particular trade barrier that a country might use as part of its trade policy. Have them research this policy using the KWLH chart to record the results of their research.

Check for Understanding

  • Research one of the following global trade organizations:
    1. NAFTA
    2. EU
    3. CARICOM
    4. APEC
  • Decide if any of the policies of the group could be called restrictive. Explain.

Activity 2

Activity 2

Essential Question

Why is international trade important to a nation’s economy?


A basic assumption in economics is the one that suggests that people are motivated by the desire to improve their situations. A method that both people and nations use to fulfill this desire is trade, specifically international trade.

However, all nations, like all people, are not equally blessed with the resources necessary to meet the wants and needs of the specific situation. So, trade is an option to acquire what is lacking, while exchanging what is abundant for what is scarce or desired highly. The ability to produce all we need is limited, the ability to want more is not. Since all nations differ in their resource allocation, it is no surprise that they also differ in their ability to make a variety of goods and services as well.

Instructional Strategies

Strategy 1

Application to Real Life

Put the following question on the board:

  • What absolute advantage do you have over other students who have never studied economics?

Talk about what absolute advantage means in terms of their special knowledge of economics. Talk about how they are better able to share this service with others in terms of cost–time needed to gather the requested information. Discuss how others might want to come to them for this specialized information.

  • Might you want to trade your information with others who have information in other areas? For, example, might you need information in math and science from others who have “specialized” in these subjects?

Have the class move into four groups based on their strengths in math, science, social studies, and English. Discuss:

  • Why are some groups larger then others? Do some nations have more resources and/or skills then others?
  • How does your group represent a factor of production: “capital skill”?
Check for Understanding:

  • What would be the advantages and disadvantages of forming a “homework” club in which each group would exchange expertise in doing assigned homework? Would these same advantages and disadvantages apply to trade among nations? Define absolute and comparative advantage in each situation.

Strategy 2


Discuss the following idea with the class.

  • Sometimes people or countries specialize in producing the same product or providing the same service. How do we decide from whom to buy the product or service?

Divide the class into two groups:

  1. The Producers
    • Domestic Producers – These producers will produce jeans at a cost of $60-$100. (The cost will be represented by 10 slips of paper ranging by 10’s from $60-$100. The group will make a duplicate set so that there will be two $60 two $70, etc.)
    • Foreign Producers – These producers will produce jeans at a cost of $10-$50. (The cost will be represented by 10 slips of paper ranging by 10’s from $10-$50. The group will make a duplicate set so that there will be two $10, two $20, etc.)

    Note: Put the cost of the jeans from both groups in a box. Have each member of the group draw from the box. This is the subgroup you belong to and the amount you are charging for your jeans.

  2. The Consumers
    • The consumers will create money to buy the jeans. Using two different colors of paper, they will create money from $20-$120, by fives. Put the money in a box. Have each member of the group draw from the box – this is the maximum amount you are willing to pay for a pair of jeans.

Conduct one trading period. Your goal is make the best deal/trade you can.

  • If you are a consumer, your score is your saving – the difference between your maximum price and your actual price.
  • If you are a producer, your score is your profit – the difference between your cost to make the jeans and the price at which you sold it.
    1. Consumers and producers meet to make deals.
    2. Each student can sell or buy one pair of jeans in a trading period.
    3. The trading period ends when no more pairs of producers and consumers can make a deal.
    4. The teacher records the deals.

Conduct two more trading periods

  • In the first trading period, place a tariff of $20 on each pair of imported jeans. This cost must be added to the price of foreign-made jeans.
  • In the second trading period, a ban has been imposed on imported jeans. Foreign producers cannot play in this round.
Check for Understanding:

  • In which trading period were the most jeans sold?
  • What was the impact of the tariff on foreign producers? How did the domestic producers react?
  • Thought Question: Would it be a good idea to ban the foreign import of jeans? Why or why not?

Activity 1

Activity 1

Essential Question

How does international trade influence the lives of American citizens within an increasingly global economy?


Trade has occurred for thousands of years, from within a local area or city, across all continents and involving many, if not all peoples on earth. Lord Macaulay in 1824 said, “Free trade, one of the greatest blessings which a government can confer on a people, is in almost every country unpopular.” So if trade has been so common, how can it be unpopular? How can a government get involved with free trade when it is unsupported by many individuals, groups, or nations?

The influence of global trade on Americans is without question. From the clothes we buy to the cars we drive, the majority of Americans prefer imported goods. There are both benefits and consequences to this growing dependence on imported goods.

Instructional Strategies

Strategy 1

Cooperative Learning

Have the class move into their cooperative learning groups. Have the class review the procedures and roles for cooperative groups.

Ask each group to complete the following chart.

  • Label one column: Product
  • Label one column: Nation in which it was produced

Printable Student View

Nation in Which it was Produced

Ask students to work in their groups to identify products and where they came from. Have each student in the group select a product such as a watch and tell the other members of the group where it was made. Record this information on the chart.

Have each group share their findings with the rest of the class.

Use the following questions to summarize the data:

  • Are their particular nations from which we receive many of our products?
  • Are some products coming from particular regions of the world?
  • Are some parts of the world not represented on our chart at all?
Check for Understanding

  • Using a blank map of the world, identify the nations with which we seem to trade and draw lines to make these connections.

Strategy 2

Conducting a Survey

Review strategies for conducting a survey with the class. Help with how to conduct a survey and developing the survey form is available on a number of websites.

Divide the class into three member teams. Each team is an action research team, organized to explore the imports used by students and their family and friends.

Ask each team to survey for:

  • 10 entertainment goods they use
  • 10 items of clothing
  • 10 types of automobiles

Have them record their data on their survey/data collection sheet:

Printable Student View


Have each group process their data by sharing their survey results with the rest of the class. Use the following questions to help students process their information:

  • What nations sent the most exports to the United States?
  • What types of products were most commonly used by students and others?
Check for Understanding

  • Use the data from the surveys to construct a map showing imports to the United States. Color code the map to show how much is imported from other countries.
  • Ask students to write two generalizations using information from the color coded map.

Formative Assessment

Activity 3: Formative Assessment

The student should practice extracting needed facts from more generalized information by using highlighters in order to have the necessary tools to draw logical conclusions.

Have students fill in the Data Acquisition Chart below on the positive and negative impacts of the dam.

As an option you may allow students to use the note-taking sheet during culminating performance assessment.

Printable Student View

Data Acquisition Chart: Impacts of Three Gorges Dam

Government Perspective




Local Residents
along the Yangtze River

















Scoring Guide

Skills and Best Practices

Activity 3: Skills and Best Practices

Cooperative Learning

The “essential elements of cooperative learning in the classroom” are listed and defined in an Eric Digest Document. (A link to this document needs to be provided.)

Cooperative learning is used to help students share the work in researching a topic. However as this Eric Digest Document points out, this is only part of the benefits of using cooperative learning strategies. Other benefits include:

  • All students in the group “buying into” the process
  • Being a part of a heterogeneous group with a variety of talents
  • Equal participation and equal opportunity for success for all students
  • Positive interdependence
  • Face-to-face interactions
  • Positive social interactions
  • Access to must-learn information
  • Extended time on task
  • Individual accountability
  • Public recognition for group success

Simulations/Role Play

Larry Sorenson, a classroom teacher says:

Learning Simulations are all around us. The military uses them. Video games are simulations, with one of the most popular ones called by a shortened version of the word “simulation” itself. Teachers at all levels use them. You may remember one or two from your own school days. Why are they so popular (especially with students)? Because they work!

This site has some great ideas for skits you can try in the classroom, In addition, Mr. Sorenson provides some great tips on developing your own skits – all from a teacher’s point of view:

Some Helpful Hints:

Start with the end in mind.

  • As in all teaching strategies, the better planned, the greater the chance of success.

Have a specific educational objective.

  • Sometimes less IS best. Trying to take on more than one main concept can kill a good simulation.
  • A wonderful side effect common to simulations is that other ideas may grow out of it in parallel, be flexible to allow such learning gems.

Use what works year after year, but let it grow, evolve, never stagnate.

  • Be ready to make adjustments on the fly, and for the next time.

Share! –A teacher is only as good as the one he/she steals from, copyrights excluded.

  • Other teachers may be conducting great simulations in your building that you’re not even aware of. Beat the isolationism, one project at a time.
  • Other good teachers will want to hear what works for you. They will adapt what you do to fit their own needs.
  • Boldly go…

Formative Assessment

Activity 2: Formative Assessment

Printable Student View

Write a paragraph in your “Speculation about Effects Journal” basing it on the geographic information presented so far…the maps you have viewed, the pictures you have seen, and the article you have read.

Discuss what inferences can you draw about the impact of the dam on 1) the people living in the area and 2) the habitat of the area.

Speculation about Effects Journal

What Happened?
What Could Happen Because of this?










Scoring Guide

Skills and Best Practices

Activity 2: Skills and Best Practices

Gathering Information for Problem Solving

Gathering information for problem solving is part of the research cycle. When providing sources of information for students it is necessary to keep in mind that students need to gather information using questions to guide their search, and carefully planning how they will gather the information they need to solve the problem, make the decision, or analyze the issue.

Working with the Oak Harbor library media specialists, we examined several models such as the standards and rubrics emanating out of MCREL, and then we decided to draft our own rubrics to match a seven-step research cycle (McKenzie, 1995) that we expected students to employ. We agreed that the rubrics should be user-friendly in order to invite the broadest possible coalition of teachers and librarians to employ the research cycle.

The RESEARCH CYCLE (McKenzie, 1995)

  • questioning
  • gathering
  • sorting & sifting
  • synthesizing
  • evaluating


Comparing and Contrasting

Higher order thinking skills must be taught. This site suggest that if we carefully teach thinking skills, such as comparison, change, and causation, there is carry over into other aspects of the discipline.

The three C’s: Comparison, Change, and Causation

At present, considerable attention is focused on a type of thinking strategy that may be termed “discipline-based analysis.” This species of analysis will be considered shortly, but first, we’ll review three somewhat more traditional approaches to thinking strategies in school:

  • comparing and contrasting cultures
  • continuity and change over time
  • cause-and-effect relationships

Discipline-based Analysis

Bain said that comparative history serves several purposes. It can help students locate the significance in an event, help identify the common in the event that may be generalized to other situations, assist in uncovering the less obvious or hidden aspects of a situation that deserve attention, and, according to Bain, comparison does, indeed, stimulate higher-order thinking skills.


Formative Assessment

Activity 1: Formative Assessment

Ticket out the Door is just a short assignment such as a paragraph about something taught during that class period. Students have to turn it in order to leave. This allows a basic assessment of where kids are while not being as formal as a quiz or similar thing. If concept is chosen wisely it could also be a way to connect with students, such as asking how the days topic could affect their lives or how they see it being used in the future.

In cases where a formal assessment might be overkill, a “ticket out the door” could be more useful.

Printable Student View

Ticket Out the Door: Why should we build large dams?

Write a one sentence geographic argument for building big dams and a one sentence geographic argument against building big dams that are central to understanding how or why humans modify the environment.

Scoring Guide

Skills and Best Practices

Activity 1: Skills and Best Practices

Teaching to the Standards

Students learn more efficiently when they know the goals of a module and/or lesson. If students are aware of an intended outcome they know what to focus on. Critical thinking and production are enhanced when students have clear goals or targets as reference for their efforts.

Jay Mctighe and Grant Wiggins call for teachers to share the goal and/or standards with the students prior to teaching the unit. In the Understanding by Design Process they call for teachers to: “Inform students of the big ideas and essential questions, performance requirements, and evaluative criteria at the beginning of the unit or course.”

KWLH Technique

Students learn more efficiently when they know the goals of a module and/or lesson. If students are aware of an intended outcome they know what to focus on. Critical thinking and production are enhanced when students have clear goals or targets as reference for their efforts.

In order to engage in problem-solving or analyzing issues that will assist them in accomplishing their goals, students need to gather new information and link it to what they already know. This process is referred to as “constructing meaning.” Finding out what prior information students have about a topic/subject helps them bring meaning to any new information acquired. One strategy they can use to help them construct meaning is a strategy called the KWLH technique.

K – Stands for helping students recall what they KNOW about the subject. 
W – Stands for helping students determine what they WANT to learn. 
L – Stands for helping students identify what they LEARN as they read. 
H – Stands for HOW we can learn more (other sources where additional information on the topic can be found).

The KWLH Technique is just one of many graphic organizers that help students organize their thinking for decision-making and problem solving. This site will provide you with information on a number of other strategies:

Reciprocal Learning and Teaching

In the Reciprocal Learning Strategy, the emphasis is on collaborative rather than independent learning. Students are taught to help one another. In this strategy students work together as peer partners, each functioning in turn as the “doer” and the “guide” in completing the task. Peer feedback doesn’t mean students “grade” each other or score papers. Instead the goal is for students to clarify for each other what is correct or incorrect.

The Reciprocal Teaching Strategy is a dialogue between teachers and students.

Reciprocal Teaching is an instructional activity that takes place as a dialogue between teachers and students regarding segments of the text. In this activity, the teacher and the students take turns assuming the role of teacher in leading the dialogue. This technique can be used in all subject areas for content reading and was originally designed to teach poor readers to use reading strategies employed by good readers to enhance reading comprehension. Students interact with the text to construct meaning. Readers utilize prior knowledge and experiences, information presented in the text, and their stance taken in relation to the text to derive their interpretations. Reciprocal Teaching helps poor readers develop these skills through the use of predicting, clarifying, questioning, and summarizing.


Some education researchers believe providing feedback is the most powerful thing that a classroom teachers can do to enhance student achievement. Peer feedback is underused, yet is highly effective and flexible.