Florida Council for the Social Studies Conference Sessions

Have we mentioned that the Florida Council for the Social Studies Conference is coming soon (and that you should register)? No? Well, it is and you should! And we are happy to share with you information on sessions that will be taking place at the conference! Take a look at the matrices below for Saturday and Sunday, and then click here to get a description of each session: 2016-fcss-session-descriptions!



Through out the next few weeks leading up to the conference, we will be highlighting sessions of interest, and just why you may enjoy them. Please be sure to take a look at the session descriptions (2016-fcss-session-descriptions) and of course register and join us for a great weekend in Orlando! 

The FJCC Is Looking For Script Writers!

So, as you may or may not know, our popular Escambia Civics Review site is going to be undergoing a significant transformation over the next few months as we develop new and more effective resources for both review and instruction. One of these resources will be a set of brand new student friendly videos, one for each of the assessed benchmarks, that are between 5 and 7 minutes long. They will draw on our Student Friendly Readings as a foundation, and include reflection questions throughout the video.

So, here is the thing. We do not have the ability to knock out 35 scripts in two weeks. So we need your help. If you are a current or past quality civics teacher here in Florida, we would love to hire you to write some scripts for us. We are looking for a small group of high quality teachers for this, perhaps ten or so. You would earn 100 dollars per script, and the turn around time for each would be no longer than 3 or 4 days, at most. You will be assigned benchmarks to write for following a brief and required webinar around the process, and we would of course recognize your contribution at the end of the video. We are really looking for some good, student friendly, engaging scripts that can cover the content well while also making viewing enjoyable.

If this is something that interests you, please shoot me an email and let me know of your interest! Please include your name (obviously), your district and school, and how long you have been or taught civics in Florida. We hope to hear from you soon!

UPDATE: If you have experience with Powtoon, we are also looking for video developers!

Florida Council for the Social Studies Awards Overview!

Every year at the annual conference, the Florida Council for the Social Studies gives out a number of awards that recognize excellence in social studies education and service to the social studies community. I just want to take a few minutes and provide you with an overview of those awards. I hope that you will consider registering for the conference and attending the awards banquet in order to help recognize your colleagues!

We are excited also to welcome Dr. Gwendolyn Zoharah Simmons as the keynote speaker at dinner! Dr. Simmons has been proclaimed as an original Black Power feminist and a grassroots leader of the Mississippi Freedom Summer. Dr. Simmons will present her experience and role in Freedom Summer ’64 working to build schools, libraries and registering voters in black communities in the Mississippi Delta as part of the Civil Rights Movement. She will reflect on how these experiences were the start of a life of…“Putting communal goals before individual goals.”

The Doctor Theron Trimble Florida Teacher of the Year Award is to recognize exceptional social studies teachers for grades K-6, 5-8, and 7-12, and to encourage participation in the NCSS Teacher of the Year program at the national level. Nominees must be a former or current district-nominated FCSS Teacher of the Year, and a current member of FCSS. Nominees may apply in only one category (teaching social studies regularly and systematically in elementary settings, and at least half time in middle/junior high and
high school settings).

The Harry Tyson Moore Award is named after a teacher who championed the advancement of civil rights in Florida. Founder of the first branch of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP) in Brevard County, Moore and his wife, Harriet Vyda Simms Moore, paid the ultimate price for their activism when their house was bombed on Christmas night, 1951. In sponsoring this award, Nystrom Education hopes to inspire future generations of Florida’s students to civic action with the story of Harry T. Moore, who declared, “Freedom never descends upon a people. It is always bought with a price.”

The Gilder-Lehrman Institute of American History awards the Florida American History Teacher of the Year in conjunction with the Florida Department of Education annually in its effort to promote the study and love of American history.

The Doyle Casteel Outstanding Leadership Award is given to an individual for his/her continuous leadership in a supervisory or administrative capacity. Their leadership in FCSS has promoted cross cultural understanding, mentoring of classroom teachers, and advocating the importance of social studies education. This award is sponsored by McGraw Hill Education.

The Warren Tracy Beginning Teacher of the Year Award, sponsored by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, is to recognize and celebrate the accomplishments of social studies teachers new to the field of education, who engage students in meaningful lessons to increase student awareness, who are involved with school/ community activities, and who are leaders on behalf of education.

The Outstanding Citizen Award recognizes an individual in the state of Florida who has done the most to promote the growth of social studies throughout the State.

The Excellence in Teaching History Award, sponsored by Pearson Education, is to recognize and celebrate a Florida teacher of history who encourages an appreciation and respect for history, involves students in the historical process, and evidences mastery of the subject matter.

The Agnes Crabtree International Relations Award recognizes the FCSS member who has, through teaching, research or community activities furthered the cause of international, intercultural relations. It is given in honor of Agnes Crabtree, a Miami-Dade teacher. Agnes was active in NCSS and FCSS, and the United Nations Association, serving as NEA international relations consultant.

The B. J. Allen Social Science Professional Award is given to an outstanding FCSS educator who has served the professional organization in a comprehensive way. The award honors service to FCSS and to social studies during the year or years immediately past. Dr. B.J. Allen, Florida State University Professor, and President of the organization.

The J.R. Skretting Leadership Award honors an outstanding FCSS educator who has served with distinction during the year or years immediately past. J. R. Skretting was head of the Social Studies Education Department at Florida State University, the first Executive Secretary of FCSS and provided outstanding leadership for the organization.

The Wilma Simmons Golden Service Award recognizes a member who has been active for many years and has made significant and lasting contributions to the council. Wilma Simmons, former Social Studies Supervisor in Duval County, was one of the original founders of FCSS.

awards-sponsorsWe hope that you will join us to recognize the winners of these and the district Outstanding Teachers of the Year that will also be brought on stage! Register now for FCSS! 

Resources for Constitution Day and Freedom Week


Here in Florida, we are required by state statute to teach about the important documents of this country during Freedom Week at the end of September. This is in addition to what is expected for Constitution Day. Over the past year, the Florida Joint Center for Citizenship, in collaboration with teachers and leaders from some counties and with the National Archives, has been working on a new set of lessons and materials that include primary sources. We wrote about this effort here. We are happy to announce that as of this week, we have a number of new lessons that target grades 2-12 and are intended to help teach our state benchmarks that can be connected to Freedom Week and Constitution Day!   You do, of course, need to register on our main site in order to access these new free resources. You can visit each lesson directly from the links below. Each one is intended to give students some hands on experience with primary sources and everything you need for instruction is provided for you (though you do need to use your own technology!).


Thinking Through Timelines: Inching Toward Independence

A Short Activity for Second Grade

Question: Why do we celebrate Independence Day?

Thinking Through Timelines: Creating the Constitution

A Short Activity for Third Grade

Question: Why do we celebrate Constitution Day?

Guidance on Government: State Edition

A Short Activity for Fourth Grade

Question: How does the Florida Constitution organize the government?

Guidance on Government: Federal Edition

A Short Activity for Fifth Grade

Question: How does the U.S. Constitution organize the government?

Decoding the Declaration, Celebrate Freedom Week Part I

A Short Activity for High School and Middle School

Question: What did declaring independence say about the importance of rights?

Intentions for Independence, Celebrate Freedom Week Part II

A Short Activity for High School and Middle School

Question: Were the colonists justified in declaring independence?

Rhetoric of Revolution, Celebrate Freedom Week Part III

A Short Activity for High School and Middle School

Question: How does language intensify the message of the Declaration of Independence?

Forward to the Future, Celebrate Freedom Week Part IV

A Short Activity for High School and Middle School

Question: How are the ideas from the Declaration of Independence connected to our government today?

In addition to our original lessons, We have also created brand new lessons that feature the work of legendary cartoonist Clifford Berryman! These are intended to be used at the 6-12 level. 

Anyone Home?

A Short Activity for High School and Middle School

Question: How does this political cartoon illustrate the lawmaking process?

Picturing Separation of Powers

A Short Activity for High School and Middle School

Question: How do the political cartoons relate to the concept of separation of powers?

Suiting Up

A Short Activity for High School and Middle School

Question: How does this political cartoon illustrate the concept of checks and balances?

Why Attend the Florida Council for the Social Studies Conference in October?

We know that as teachers, you have a great many draws on your attention, but I want to encourage you to consider attending the Florida Council for the Social Studies state conference. The theme, ‘Survival in a Changing World’, is incredibly relevant to our work as social studies teachers in a climate that is increasingly divisive and difficult, and many of the sessions at the conference on that upcoming fine October weekend will provide you with ways to survive in this changing world.

The Keynote Speaker on Saturday is Dr. Murali Balaji of the Hindu American Foundation. I personally have known Dr. Balaji for a number of years, and he is engaging and dynamic speaker. You can find out more about Dr. Bajali at our earlier post on his selection as the keynote. We also have some quality preconference sessions lined up to engage early arrivers! We are especially excited that we will be joined by both the DBQ Project and Dr. Charlie Flanagan of the National Archives for an excellent time!


Another thing to think about, and this is VERY significant, is that this is an adoption year for social studies. You know what that means don’t you? It means that publishers will be all over the exhibit hall, and they will be VERY VERY VERY eager to make sure you sample their materials. There will, no doubt, be a great opportunity to get some free stuff and make some contacts!

Speaking of the exhibit hall, on Friday night, Nystrom (yes, the same folks who put on that great dance at NCSS!) will be sponsoring a ‘trick or treat’ event in the exhibit hall. Dress up as a civic or historic figure or concept and get some free swag from folks in the hall. Shoot, you don’t even have to dress up! Just take part in the fun!

Sunday will be a day focused on Advanced Placement and meeting the needs of our colleagues that are dealing with some huge changes to both APUSH and AP World History. There will also be sessions available for all disciplines and grade levels. Dr. Stacy Skinner will be providing valuable information regarding the Social Studies End-of-Course Assessments.

CUFA-FL, under the leadership of UCF’s own Dr. Scott Waring, will also be hosting a number of good sessions led by leading social studies scholars. Well worth your time !

There are so many other reasons to attend the conference. The schedule of events is below, and the matrix and program will be available soon.  Please consider joining us this fall, especially if you are a new or pre-service teacher, and network with colleagues, make new friends, learn some stuff, and, most importantly, have some well-deserved fun! Register today! 


Pre-Conference Fun and Learning at FCSS in October!

While the schedule may still be a bit flexible, we are excited to announce the current line up for the pre-conference events at the Florida Council for the Social Studies Annual Conference in October.


The Center for Legislative Archives at the National Archives will be facilitating a half day, afternoon, pre-conference session.
  • Developing Disciplinary Literacy Skills With Primary Sources & Political Cartoons
    Looking for ways to engage students with primary sources and assist with content comprehension and analysis skills? Dr. Charles Flanagan from the National Archives Center for Legislative Archives will provide participants with pedagogy and classroom-ready resources to bring primary sources, specifically political cartoons, to life in the classroom.  
The DBQ Project will be facilitating a full day pre-conference session.
  • DBQ Mix It Up:  DBQ Online in the Blended Classroom
    The session is designed to help teachers conceptualize ways to deeply engage students in the analysis of historical texts in a blended classroom. Join us and let’s mix it up.
The Florida Diagnostic & Learning Resources System (FDLRS) will be providing a full day pre-conference session.  
  • Teaching Strategies for All Struggling Readers in Social Studies Classes·                Content and ESE specialists provide professional development to meet the needs of all learners, particularly struggling readers, in Social Studies classes.  This session is focused on introducing strategies and resources to seamlessly engage all students.  Workshop will be UDL aligned and introduce technology resources to enhance learning.
Florida & National History Day professional educator experts will be facilitating a half day, morning, pre-conference session.
  • Increasing Success & Engagement for History Day
    Florida professional educators will share valuable information, tips, hints, and suggestions for Florida & National History Day based on what they learned during the national institute this summer in Washington, D.C.

You can register for the conference here. And don’t forget about our awesome keynote speaker, Dr. Murali Balaji!

Trick or Treat at FCSS in October!

Hey! Don’t forget that the Florida Council for the Social Studies conference is rapidly approaching! The weekend of October 28th will be quite the weekend, with some excellent sessions, a fantastic keynote speaker, and considering this is an adoption year, lots and lots of vendors! The Florida branch of the College and University Faculty Assembly will also be sponsoring a number of excellent sessions featuring prominent scholars in social studies education! On Sunday, we will be having a number of sessions devoted to Advanced Placement teachers (including some excellent speakers and authors). But let me tell you about Friday. Friday is going to be awesome.

It is, of course, Halloween weekend during the FCSS conference, and what better place to trick or treat than at the conference! On Friday night, we (FCSS) will be hosting a special ‘trick or treat’ event in the exhibit hall. Dress up as a historically or civically important character and get some treats from vendors in the exhibit hall. Dressing in colonial era dress is especially encouraged! The Florida Joint Center for Citizenship will be there, and we will be joined by Uncle Sam and Columbia!

446px-uncle_sam_pointing_finger columbiastahrartwork

Following the trick or treat event in the exhibit hall, Nystrom will be sponsoring a special after event that will definitely be worth your time. If you have been to the National Council for the Social Studies Annual Conference, you are likely familiar with the great dance our friends from Nystrom always put on, so you know this will be good!

So come on down to Orlando in late October, learn some stuff, make some connections, and have some FUN! You can register for the conference here!

“Founders’ Week”: Preparing Kids for Civic Learning K-12

As we here in Florida approach another mandated instruction week around our nation’s founding documents and civic legacy, I want to give a chance for you to hear how some districts have integrated something similar at the K-12 level. Kelly Watt is the social studies supervisor in Clay County here in Florida. Clay County has been one of the FJCC’s strongest partners overall, and we are happy to provide Ms. Watt with a platform to share the great work she and her teachers are doing in Clay. Please note that she has shared with you links to materials you might adapt! Most of the post is below the fold because there are some fantastic pictures!-Steve


With a greater focus placed on math and ELA, it’s no secret that social studies has taken a hit nation-wide. The only core subject without a high stakes test in elementary schools in our state, social studies carries a lower priority in many K-6 classrooms throughout Florida.  Like many other districts in Florida, Clay has sought out creative approaches that provide students with opportunities to engage in social studies content and skills. We believe that an ongoing, solid exposure to social studies will produce the citizenry needed in our global society, eventually closing the “civic achievement gap.”

While we have found opportunities to integrate ELA and social studies through curriculum mapping, lesson planning and professional development, we realized we needed to also capitalize on what was already in place. Each year, according to state statute, Florida schools commemorate the Declaration of Independence during the last full week of September. And according to federal law, we should recognize Constitution Day on September 17. Then last year a bill moved through the Florida legislature designating September as Founders Month. While it didn’t pass, it did get our wheels moving. What if we could establish a celebration during the last week of September that promoted the spirit of our country’s roots and values, while bringing schools and community together for a celebration that was uniquely ours?

Last year was our first year celebrating what we called Founders’ Week. I began planning in the spring, before teachers left for the summer. My vision included all K-12 schools engaging in meaningful activities during the week that supported the understanding of our founding documents, individuals, and ideas. These events would be coordinated from a district, school and classroom level. After gaining approval from our school district’s leaders, I shared out the plan with  administrators at our monthly curriculum council. If this idea was going to take hold, it needed their leadership and support.

When teachers returned from summer break, I e-mailed them packets with information, lessons aligned to ELA standards and the Fisher and Frey Framework (our instructional model), and contest details. There was one packet for Elementary and one for Secondary. While they were expected to uphold state statutes, teachers were free to use their own materials as well.

Again, Founders’ Week provided us an opportunity for students to engage deeply in social studies content and skills. For this reason, each year we focus on a different theme. In our inaugural year, I chose the Preamble, since it serves as the foundational piece of our democracy.

Please read and see more below the fold!


We kicked off Founders’ Week at our September school board meeting, which also happened to be Constitution Day. A beautifully painted mural, designed by high school art students, covered the wall behind the board members. A high school ROTC led us in the pledge and presentation of the colors. Another high school’s choir sang the National Anthem as well as some World War II-era songs. Finally, a different high school’s drama troupe wrote and performed a comedic skit based upon the origins of the Bill of Rights. The student participants were outstanding, so proud to be there and showcase their programs.. At the same time, the students, board and audience gained exposure to social studies concepts, while sending the message to the community that these things matter to us.


(Video link)

Founders’ Week was underway the following Monday. While the participation levels varied across our 41 schools, it was hard not to notice that every school was doing something. In fact, in many schools, a major celebration was underway.

Founders Week in the Elementary Classrooms






Yes, we do know that Lincoln was NOT a Founder…but he IS important when discussing the ways in which freedom has been shaped by our history and founding!

In one of our elementary schools, they held a Freedom Family Fun Night during the week, inviting families to enjoy complimentary hotdogs (distributed by President Lincoln himself), student choirs, children’s arts and crafts stations, letter-writing to service men and women overseas, students’ Declaration of Independence banners, as well as many other events. The school reported that it was the largest turnout for a family night in their school’s history. It was so exciting to see schools and community come together for something so positive…and so social studies!

Founders Week in the Secondary Classrooms

With classrooms very much content-based, the secondary world is more of a challenge in a district-wide celebration such as this. At one of our high schools, their academy coach worked with each of the school’s academies and departments to create a plan for integrating this content into their curriculum.  For example, in science class, each day they took an important word from the Constitution (such as “self-evident” or “unalienable”), discussed its meaning in it’s original context, then applied that meaning to the world of science. In their Early Childhood Education classes, students studied the roots of the Pledge of Allegiance in schools, while students in the Vystar Business academy looked at the impact of 9/11 on our economy. Throughout the week there were presentations on the announcements from clubs, classes and academies, promoting concepts central to Founders’ Week. On Wednesday of that week, the school welcomed a number of guest speakers, including a World War II veteran,  a wounded Gulf War veteran, and many members of all of the Armed Forces, both active and retired. Guests spoke of their service, their sacrifice and their dedication to our country. Reflecting on the week, teachers said it brought their large school together in a way they never expected. Students rallied around the spirit of civic values like it was Homecoming Week. For this week, we were all speaking the same language–the language of social studies, the language of democracy.

clay-elem-7 clay-elem-6


At the following month’s school board meeting we honored the elementary students who won the art contest, which was based on David Catrow’s We the Kids. Their work was recognized at our county commissioner’s meeting and is now displayed in our Teacher Training Center, which is also the site of our school board meetings.



This year, I have continued with many of our same plans –kicking things off at the school board meeting with high school performers, supporting teachers with packets when they returned from summer (Elementary and Secondary), providing district-wide contests and reaffirming our commitment to keep talking about social studies.

A few changes were made this year that I hope will make for an even richer experience. For one, each school designated an official Founders’ Week contact (“Founderellas and FounderFellas.”) These teachers are those who make sure everyone has access to the packet and spearheads the organizational effort at the school level.

Secondly, I wanted to provide more entryways for our community members. We have so many groups that are eager to support us, but aren’t sure how they can best be utilized. Back in April, I invited many community groups to a meeting with all of our school representatives. In the room we had leaders representing our historical societies, veteran groups, Supervisor of Elections and Clerk of Courts offices, as well as our local museums. Seated at round tables, these mixed groups brainstormed possible plans for supporting this year’s theme — Presidents. Each community group was provided time to present and share their group’s mission. Since then, many schools have contacted these groups for in-house presentations.

clay-fd-ideas-2 clay-fd-ideas-1

While last year didn’t instantly create a district of social studies-minded students, I think we planted the seeds. By the time a student reaches 7th grade, they have received at least seven weeks of instruction on the roots of our democracy since kindergarten. A graduating senior, likely old enough to vote, will have had three months of instruction, outside of their normal routine. We are working hard to close the gap so that one day our students will vote, volunteer, work on issues and become agents of change in their community. And while we are doing it, we are strengthening bonds with each other and our community.

If you are considering a similar celebration in your community, please contact me for more information: kelly.watt@myoneclay.net.

It is always exciting to see civics and social studies being done K-12 in schools, especially in a time when our field struggles to get more than lip service. Thank you, Kelly Watt, for an excellent post on the great things happening in Clay County! -Steve

Teaching in Turbulent Times is the Saturday Morning Keynote Topic for FCSS!

Hey, social studies folks! The time is fast approaching for the FCSS annual conference! PLEASE join us in late October (28-30) for what will be a great couple of days of sessions. We have made arrangements with some excellent folks to ensure that Sunday will be devoted at least in part to making sure the needs and desires of Advanced Placement folks are met! And I DO have some more exciting news to share about sessions and speakers and events, but I want to make sure that news about the keynote speaker for Saturday morning is out.

We all know that it can be difficult to teach social studies in a climate that does not often allow for deep discussion and discovery and where inquiry sometimes becomes a dirty word. Our keynote speaker for Saturday is coming to talk to us about that. Dr. Murali Balaji is the  Director of Education and Curriculum Reform for the Hindu American Foundation. In his role, Balaji works on empowering educators in culturally competent pedagogical approaches. He also serves as an advisor to numerous organizations around the country in promoting religious literacy and civic engagement. A Fulbright Specialist and former award-winning journalist, he has taught at Temple University, Penn State University, and Lincoln University, where he served as Chair of the Department of Mass Communications, overseeing assessment and curriculum building efforts. A longtime advocate of minority issues, Dr. Balaji is the author of several books, including The Professor and The Pupil (2007), and the co-editor of the seminal anthologies Desi Rap (2008) and Global Masculinities and Manhood (2011). A native of the Philadelphia area, Balaji earned his B.A. in journalism from the University of Minnesota and his doctorate in Mass Communication from Penn State.



Dr. Balaji will be talking about ‘Teaching in Turbulent Times: Navigating through the New Normal in Public Education’. I have had the distinct pleasure of attending Dr. Balaji’s sessions at conferences in North Carolina and nationally, and he is an engaging, witty, and insightful speaker on issues relating to public education, controversial topics, and the getting kids (and teachers!) to think critically and intellectually.

We are excited he is able to join us Saturday morning, and I look forward to his keynote!

Integrating Civics across the Curriculum and Into Reading!

One of the most difficult tasks for a social studies teacher to do is to effectively integrate our content into alignment with the expectations of state reading standards. Here in Florida, we use the ‘Language Arts Florida Standards‘ (or LAFS), which are a modified version of ELA Common Core.  Over at Citrus Ridge, Polk County’s new K-8 Civics Academy, Ms. Heather Paden, who works as a special education and reading teacher for grades 6,7, and 8, has worked to provide her fellows, and their students, with support in reaching the civic mission of the school while still meeting the expectations of the LAFS benchmarks.

Using the short readings that are available through ‘Achieve 3000‘, Ms. Paden has developed guiding PowerPoints that help the students think through the reading using a civics lens. These activities prompt students to develop their civic knowledge, skills, and dispositions while also working to ensure growth in their reading, writing, and speaking proficiency.

For example, one of the weekly reading tasks involves using a reading from ‘Achieve 3000’ that concerns the plight of refugees who are fleeing oppression in Myanmar. In this reading, with features Angelina Jolie discussing her visit to a long-term refugee camp in Thailand, students are exposed (at least on a surface level) to what it might be like to be forced to live without a true home to call your own. Throughout the reading, vocabulary terms are hyperlinked to better ease students to an understanding.

In the accompanying PowerPoint, NO PLACE TO CALL HOME 9-6, Ms. Paden provides students with an overview question that will drive their thinking with this reading throughout the week. In this case, that question is ‘How can we help others whom are homeless?’. She then introduces students to terms and concepts, particularly ones that can be related to the discipline of civics, through a variety of reading and writing strategies.

No Place Image 1

For me, the acronym activity is particularly powerful and capable of provoking deeper thought. As the example here suggests, students can connect their background knowledge and their reading to civic dispositions through this model.
acronym activity

After working on reading strategies with the students, such as locating key details, she asks students to make a prediction (an important skill that is relevant both for ELA and for Social Studies!) that is rich in civic meaning:


This question is capable of prompting a great deal of discussion, and serves to really get students to think about consequences and how actions of governments may impact the individual.

Using both graphics and text, Ms. Paden then works on building student background knowledge and their personal vocabularies to facilitate reading.


Finally, she finishes up on at least three days with a ‘Civics Connection’, ensuring that she connects to the underlying purpose of this wonderful civics academy at Citrus Ridge: integrating civic knowledge, skills, and dispositions wherever and whenever possible.

wrap up no place like home

These questions dive deep into the well of civic dispositions, having students consider ways in which they can facilitate change while connecting their classwork to their own lived experience!

Kudos to Ms. Paden for the work she has done and for her efforts on behalf of the students and teachers of Citrus Ridge. It is only with the hard work of teachers like her that the mission of Citrus Ridge, the creation of a strong generation of Florida citizens, will be realized.

If you or your school are doing excellent work in civic education, please shoot me an email or leave a comment. We would love to hear from you!