What do we want in a social studies teacher?

Recently, the National Council for the Social Studies released its National Standards for the Preparation of Social Studies Teachers guidance document for public review. If you are a parent, pre-service social studies teacher or teacher educator, current or former teacher, or, honestly, simply an engaged citizen with a concern for the future, I encourage you to check it out and provide them with feedback. The document, which runs about 23 pages, provides an overview of five core competencies that are important in social studies teacher education.

5 core competenciesEach section of the report dives deeper into each of the core competencies. No doubt, there will be some comments raised about the inclusion of ‘social justice’, knowing that that particular term was once removed from standards of the National Council for Accreditation of Teacher Education (now the Council for the Accreditation of Educator Preparation), for good or ill. I do appreciate the emphasis on inquiry, skills, and knowledge as having an equal role in teacher preparation, though the references to C3 could be an issue in states where that program is (unfortunately) not adopted.

As a civic educator, I cannot help but notice that there is a HUGE amount of attention paid to varying elements of civic education and competency. Obviously, if we consider that social studies is at the heart of instruction in good citizenship, this is important, but it’s ultimately necessary that these standards make clear that civics must necessarily connect to other content areas in our field, and I think they do that adequately.

You can review the standards here, and I encourage you to do so and reflect on them before you complete the survey here.

NCSS 2016 Conference!

The National Council for the Social Studies 2016 Conference is in Washington, DC this year. And this being an election season, with the Conference just after the election, you KNOW it will be FUN! Last year’s conference in New Orleans was fantastic, and I have no doubt there will be a plethora of great sessions again this year. I admit, however, that I am really hoping for more elementary-oriented civics education session. So if you have some good ideas, submit a proposal! Conference information and proposal submission guidelines are below. Note: there continues to be an emphasis on the C3 Framework, so a proposal that integrates elements of the 4 Dimensions of the C3 would probably get more attention! Information below is provided by NCSS. You can submit your proposal here. 

Theme: Civic Learning and Cultural Inquiry in a Changing World

Presentation Types

You may propose a presentation in any of the following formats:

  • Pre-Conference Clinic (3 or 6 hours)
    Ticketed half-day or full-day explorations of specific topics. All clinics will be held on Thursday, December 1, prior to the main conference program.
  • Session (1 hour)
    Informal presentations that include opportunities for audience participation. All sessions will be presented on Friday and Saturday
  • Poster presentation (1 hour)
    An opportunity for presenters to illustrate an innovative lesson, teaching strategy, or research result. All poster presentations will be offered on Friday and Saturday.
  • Power session (30 minutes) New for 2016!
    Short, focused, specific presentations that need little introduction. Power sessions will be presented on Friday and Saturday.
  • Workshop (2 hours)
    A more intensive format with time for hands-on experiences. All workshops will be presented on Sunday morning, December 4.


As you draft your proposal for the 2016 NCSS conference, consider how your presentation might address one or more of the conference sub-themes.

Inquiry in civic learning and historical and current issues

Does your proposal examine ways civic learning can be woven into the study of both historical and current issues facing our students today?

Inquiry in current pedagogy of the social studies

Does your proposal examine new ways to teach all disciplines of the social studies from a lens of inquiry-based learning?

Inquiry in global learning in today’s classroom

Does your proposal examine ways to help students in social studies classrooms develop an understanding of the world and complex global issues?

Inquiry in social justice and cultural diversity

Does your proposal examine cultural diversity in our country and globally as well as issues of social justice that arise in pluralistic societies?

Inquiry in the future of social studies

Does your proposal examine the threatened value of social studies across the country and what educators can do to promote a quality social studies education for all students?

Before You Click Submit

Please review our tips on Writing a Winning Proposal

You can also watch this short demonstration on how to craft a conference proposal.

Historically, the acceptance rate for sessions has been approximately 50 percent. For workshops, the acceptance rate has been lower, and for poster presentations higher.

Presentation slots are limited. For this reason, presenters may not appear on the program in more than two presentations.

All proposals will be reviewed blind (with no names attached) and scored by multiple reviewers. The Program Planning Committee will make its selection from the top ranked proposals. We encourage you to volunteer to be a proposal reviewer. There is no better way to hone one’s submission skills.  Remember, reviewers get a discount on conference registration!

Click Here to Volunteer to be a Reviewer

Presenter Registration

All presenters are required to register for the conference by the advanced registration deadline. Online registration opens in June 2016. NCSS does not reimburse conference presenters for travel or hotel expenses.

Presentation Materials and Audio-Visual Equipment

Presenters are responsible for providing any materials they plan to use or distribute in their presentation. They are also responsible for the costs of any A-V equipment needed. You will find those costs listed on the proposal form. If your proposal is accepted, NCSS will confirm your audiovisual needs and you will be billed for the options you choose.

Commercial Solicitation

Commercial solicitation is prohibited at all presentations. If you are representing a commercial interest, your presentation must be educational in nature. If the essential purpose of a proposal is to promote books, materials, or services for sale, it will not be accepted.


Acceptance/rejection notification will be sent via email to the primary presenters by the end of May. It is their responsibility to relay that information to all co-presenters. Scheduling information will be sent to all participants during the summer.

Submission Deadline

The submission deadline is February 16, 2016. No proposals will be accepted after this date.

Submit your proposal here. 

NCSS-CUFA Call for Proposals

The National Council for the Social Studies (NCSS) College and University Faculty Assembly (CUFA) invite proposals for scholarship to be presented at its Annual Meeting, which will be held on November 30-December 2, 2016 in Washington, D.C. The theme of this year’s conference is “Civic Learning and Cultural Inquiry in a Changing World”. CUFA’s program will include individual paper sessions, symposia, contemporary issue dialogues, invited speakers, as well as CUFA/NCSS co-sponsored Research in to Practice (RIP) sessions.
Accepted proposals will be linked to the presentations through the open conference system. Authors will have the option of uploading their completed papers to replace the proposal after the program is finalized.

Scope of Program
We invite you to submit original work related to social studies: 1. educational research (qualitative and quantitative), 2. theoretical perspectives, 3. teacher education and professional development, and 4. advocacy/outreach efforts. CUFA envisions the social studies as central to democratic citizenship education broadly defined and including the various disciplines of history, sociology, political science, geography, and political science. As such we encourage colleagues from a variety of disciplinary perspectives to submit their work.

Topics of Particular Relevance
Based on a membership survey conducted in the Fall of 2015, we encourage researchers to submit symposia, contemporary issues dialogue sessions, and paper proposals about the following topics:
Contemporary issues relevant to the conference theme of civic learning and cultural inquiry in a changing world.

  • Ways to engage in and promote social studies research that informs educational policy and practice.
  • Ways to cultivate a more just society through social studies education/teacher education activism and pedagogy.
  • Methods for disrupting gender norms in social studies education/social studies education research.
  • Building the capacity of social studies education/social studies education research to empower LGBTQ youth.
  • Ways in which social studies education/social studies education research can access cultural funds of knowledge and global understanding to promote powerful social studies teaching and learning for diverse student populations.

The complete call for proposals can also be found on the submission site: www.socialstudies.org/cufa2016. The submission deadline is Tuesday, March 1, 2016 by 11:59pm PST. No submissions will be accepted after that time and date.
If you are a Twitter user and would like to tweet about the conference, the official conference hashtag is #CUFA16
If you have any questions about the call, proposal submission process, or reviewer sign-up process, please contact Dr. Brook Blevins, program chair, at cufa2016@baylor.edu.

Social Studies and the Young Learner Interest Survey

Our good friend Dr. Scott Waring, Program Coordinator and Associate Professor for the Social Science Education Program at the University of Central Florida, is the new editor for the National Council for the Social Studies’ journal focusing on the teaching of social studies in the Pre-K-6 classroom, Social Studies and the Young Learner.  The goal of Social Studies and the Young Learner (http://www.socialstudies.org/publications/ssyl) is to capture and enthuse Pre-K-6 teachers across the country by providing relevant and useful information about the teaching of social studies.  The teaching techniques presented are designed to stimulate the reading, writing, and critical thinking skills vital to classroom success.  SSYL is published quarterly: September/October; November/December; January/February; and March/April.
Dr. Waring has asked for help as he assumes editorship of the journal. If you have a few minutes, please complete this short survey that will allow him to plan future issues and give practitioners what they desire in SSYL.  Any guidance you can give on what you would like to see would be much appreciated!
If you wish to share with others, the link is also below!

Elementary and Secondary Education Act Renewal: Help Needed!

Putting aside how one feels about the role of the federal government in public education, I think that we can agree that social studies must remain a priority in our schools. It is the first step students take down the path towards good citizenship, and it is vital to our health as a nation.
As you may be aware, the Elementary and Secondary Education Act is up for renewal soon, and the House version of the bill is significantly lacking in support for our beloved and important field. To address this, Congressman Ross of Florida and Congressman Cicilline of Rhode Island have drafted and distributed a bipartisan letter urging their colleagues to adopt the social studies provisions in the Senate’s version of the bill, which include the following:

  • Section 2302 provides competitive funding to LEAs to improve the teaching of history and civics.
  • Section 2303 establishes intensive academies for teachers and students to learn more about history and civics
  • Section 2304 authorizes grants to non-profit organizations to make a range of innovative, engaging approaches to engaging underserved students in history, civics, and geography available to local schools and school districts
  • Section 1005 allows parent engagement funds to be used to support financial literacy activities.

I encourage you, as a supporter of civics and social studies in the schools, to send your representatives a note or call or email encouraging them to ensure that these provisions are in the House version of the renewal. The National Council for the Social Studies has provided an excellent template and suggestions for communicating with your representatives on this issue. Be an advocate, and live the civics that we teach our students!

Welcome Back! Resources for Civics Teachers

As we go into the new school year, I just want to take a few minutes and welcome folks back, and to welcome those that might be new to teaching civics here in Florida. This post will share with you some of the resources that are available for teaching civics in this state. Some of these might help those of you teaching civics and social studies in other states as well. An overview of some excellent primary sources for social studies and civics education is also available! Certainly, this is only a very small list; throughout the year, we will continue sharing new resources, spotlighting excellent resources, and discussing ways in which they may be used in your classroom.

The Florida Joint Center for Citizenship
fjccFor obvious reasons, we start with the Florida Joint Center for Citizenship. As an organization, the FJCC offers free resources and professional development to teachers, schools, and districts, centered around civic education. Most recently, we worked in collaboration with Miami-Dade county teachers to create elementary civics lessons (‘Civics in a Snap’), which will be shared with you as soon as our NEW site goes live later this week! Our most accessed resource, the 7th grade Applied Civics Resources, provides lesson plans, content background videos, benchmark specifications, and assessment items that teachers can use to teach the benchmarks. Please note that in order to access most resources on the site, a free registration is required.


icivicsiCivics is perhaps one of the most well known and loved civics resources in the nation. The site provides games, writing tools such as Drafting Board, lesson plans, and other resources for teachers to better teach that next generation of citizens. The FJCC has worked closely with iCivics in developing resources aligned with the Florida Benchmarks, which we have integrated into our lesson plans, though their curriculum and resources are intended for a national audience. Free registration is required, but it is well with your time, and I have never known a teacher to say a negative word about iCivics. Just be sure that you make sure whatever resource you are using fits your state’s standards! Here in Florida, folks from the Florida Law Related Education Association lead the iCivics effort across the state, and are themselves worth a look.

The Center for Civic Education
center for civic edThe Center for Civic Education is perhaps one of the most well known and important national civic education organizations. Their ‘We the People’ and ‘Project Citizen‘ materials are incredibly popular, and they do an excellent job in helping students understand the foundations of citizenship and to start them on the path toward civic engagement.

The United States Youth Senate Program
youth senateThe United States Youth Senate Program is a unique educational experience for outstanding high school students interested in pursuing careers in public service. The 54th annual program will be held in Washington, D.C., from March 5 – 12, 2016. Two student leaders from each state, the District of Columbia and the Department of Defense Education Activity will spend a week in Washington experiencing their national government in action. Student delegates will hear major policy addresses by Senators, cabinet members, officials from the Departments of State and Defense and directors of other federal agencies, as well as participate in a meeting with a Justice of the U.S. Supreme Court. All transportation, hotel and meal expenses will be provided by The Hearst Foundations. In addition, each delegate will also be awarded a $5,000 College Scholarship for undergraduate studies, with encouragement to pursue coursework in history and political science.To apply, please contact your state selection contact. Here in Florida, the contact is Annette Boyd-Pitts of FLREA.

The Ashbrook Center 
ashbrookThe Ashbrook Center is an excellent resource for both primary sources and teacher professional development. Perhaps more well known for the materials it provides through TeachingAmericanHistory.Org, Ashbrook has some nice resources for civic education as well, and their seminars on aspects of American government, civics, and history are excellent. I had the opportunity to attend one myself, and it was very well done, though reading-intensive. They are expanding more into Florida. Please keep an eye on this blog for information on upcoming seminar opportunities with Ashbrook.

The Bill of Rights Institute 
billofrghtsintPutting aside, for now at least, the somewhat controversial background of the Bill of Rights Institute , the resources provided by the BORI are worth taking a look at, especially the primary sources that are provided.

The National Archives and the Library of Congress
NARAThe National Archives and the Library of Congress have a wonderful collection of resources that any and every social studies and civics teacher should want to use. We have written about the new mobile app before, and the FJCC has worked closely with the National Archives in providing professional development to teachers at all levels of education.

Mock Elections 

Screen capture from http://electionsimulation.floridacitizen.org/

The FJCC/Lou Frey Institute Student Voting Election Simulation, while aligned with Florida’s Civic Benchmarks SS.7.C.2.9 and SS.7.C.2.7, can be used by anyone in any state as a way to have students engage in the process of voting. It is easy to use and pretty flexible in how you choose to use it. Registration IS required, but is as always free.

Civics Tutorials

tutorialThis Civics Tutorial site is aligned with the Florida Civics Benchmarks, and provides some excellent guided tutorial pieces for students to use within a flipped classroom model, as a remediation tool, or in preparation for 7th grade Civics EOC. An overview of the site can be found here. 

Escambia Civics Review Site

escambia aaThe Escambia Civics Review site is just what the name implies: a review site intended to prepare students for success on Florida’s Civics EOCA. However, it contains additional resources that can be used throughout the year. These resources include vocabulary games, connections to Discovery Ed (if you have an account with that specific resource), assessment items, a practice test, and, most significantly, student friendly readings. These readings are about a page long and are intended to be used by teachers to supplement instruction in the benchmarks. They have been rewritten recently to ensure consistency in the vocabulary and that all of the readings are appropriate for middle school students!

The C3 Framework
24250bbf-0fb5-4750-bded-853014aa88fdThe C3 Framework is a relatively new resource provided by the National Council for the Social Studies (and you should be a member; talk about resources!). It’s Four Dimensions lend themselves well to civics, especially the focus on asking questions and taking action. An overview of the C3 can be found here, and I encourage you to check it out, even if your state is not using it.

Florida Civic Health
civic healthThe Lou Frey Institute’s Florida Civic Health site allows you to compare Florida to every other state in a number of measures of civic health. While it is obviously using Florida as a starting point, you CAN use it to compare your own state to Florida, or to compare metropolitan areas within the state of Florida. Simply select your state on the map, as you see in the screenshot below.



countable clipCountable is a FANTASTIC new resource for teachers in social studies, and especially civics. It would be an injustice to summarize it in just a few words, so please take a look at the post we did on it here, or simply visit it yourself to explore it! The current topic for discussion? Birthright citizenship. Check it out!

The Civil Debate Wall 
the wallFrom the site: The Bob Graham Center’s Civil Debate Wall is a unique, innovative social media tool created by Local Projects for The Bob Graham Center for Public Service at the University of Florida and funded by a grant from the Knight Foundation. The Wall creates constructive dialogue by providing a physical social media tool that connects large touch screens, a texting system, and a website. These three synchronized components create a single, seamless interactive experience for the broader University of Florida community to actively engage in local, national and international issues. The website component of the Wall closely mirrors the physical Wall. The website attracts users who are not physically on campus. Providing the same features, the website gathers users from a broader population and allows users to keep track of debates.

These are just a few of the resources that are available for civic education in Florida and across the nation. If you have additional ones, please feel free to share them with me at stephen.masyada@ucf.edu, or leave a comment on this post. Please do the same if you would like professional development or any other help or support! Don’t forget to take a look at the overview of primary resource tools here, and be sure to check out the Florida Civics Teacher’s Facebook Page and the Florida Joint Center for Citizenship Facebook Page! Good luck in the new year, and thank you for the work that you do!