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Critical Elements of Alignment

These modules model the process of curriculum alignment. They model alignment of curriculum (standards), instruction and assessment. As such, each of the components is integrally linked to other components in the module. This alignment process includes the following components.

National Standards

All of the modules are aligned to national standards. They each have a primary focus on history, economics, geography, or government/civics. In addition, they may have a secondary focus on any of the other social sciences and related social studies skills as identified by national standards. However, only the primary standard(s) is listed here. National standards are broad statements of what is to be learned in social studies. Often they are further subdivided into specific outcomes and indicators for each grade level.

State and Local Standards

States have used the national standards to define the content and skills to be taught at the local level. These standards are often referred to as “accountability standards” because they form the basis of assessment at the state level. States are encouraged to list specific state standards here that are directly related to the stated national standards covered by this module.

Essential Questions

Essential questions are derived from standards and go to the heart of the discipline. They ask “questions” about the big ideas and core concepts in the standards for the social studies content areas. Essential questions cross all grade levels and may call upon knowledge from the other social sciences and history. They may be addressed by this module using a variety of instructional strategies and by other modules using different strategies. Essential questions are addressed in every social studies classroom at every grade level at different levels of sophistication. In this module, instructional strategies to answer the essential questions are designed for this particular grade level(s).

Essential Content

The essential content of a module is the content needed to address the essential questions intelligently. No attempt is made to list all of the content that could be taught in the module; however, the module will contribute a core of knowledge to the discussion of these essential questions. As students move through other modules at this grade level, they will most likely encounter other content information useful in discussing these essential questions.

Essential Skills

A wide variety of skills are activated in any given module. The skills listed here are those for which there are specifically designed instructional strategies. However, a conscious attempt has been made to make connections to skills in other content areas. For example, reading and writing in the social studies is a reoccurring focus throughout the module.

Summative Assessment

The summative assessment can be referred to as the performance assessment for the module because it asks students to apply what they have learned in the module to a real life situation. It is designed to give evidence of student understanding of one or more of the essential questions and provides the student with the opportunity to do higher level thinking. In a summative assessment students demonstrate performance in a variety of ways. They may demonstrate understanding by writing or speaking; or they may create a product to demonstrate understanding. The summative assessment is generally scored by a rubric reflective of higher order thinking and allowing for feedback on how well the information and thinking were presented.

Instructional Strategies

To maintain the alignment of this module, each activity is aligned to a specific essential question. Knowledge and skills gained by students in doing the activity contribute to an understanding of the essential question. In addition, care is given to creating activities which move students from the more concrete levels of thinking to the more abstract. The goal is to move students to the higher levels of thinking required by the summative assessment. Instructional strategies are focused by the both the essential questions and the summative assessment.

Formative Assessments

For each activity, suggestions for formative assessments are given to encourage teachers to provide feedback to students on a regular basis. The assessment items for each activity are not inclusive and are only suggestive in terms of levels of thinking and the variety of items that can be used to provide immediate feedback to students. However, they should provide some indication to the teacher of how well students are progressing towards an understanding of the essential questions. The check for understanding is aligned to the instructional strategy and is another formative assessment for periodic monitoring of student learning.

Best Practices

Best Practices ties the suggested strategies to research. Wherever possible a link is provided for the teacher to learn more about the suggested strategy and to provide the research basis for the strategy. This link may also provide the teacher with a contact for additional information and links to other websites.