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Grade 6 Social Studies Primary Source Essay Prompt Frameworks 6.6
6.6 MEDITERRANEAN WORLD: FEUDAL WESTERN EUROPE, THE BYZANTINE EMPIRE, AND THE ISLAMIC CALIPHATES (ca. 600 C.E. – ca. 1450)
Re-tooling for the New York State Social Studies Frameworks should not be just about the new Regents exams in Global Studies and US History. Instructional changes need to take place in the elementary and middle school levels as well. This product is my part of my attempt to do just that.
The Primary Source Essay is an important standard feature of my unit plan for grades six through ten, a centerpiece in my approach to teaching social studies. This task takes about one hour for students to complete. Students write the same basic essay form each month, only applying the standard format to different primary sources. My students complete this assignment once the series of textbook readings and lectures is complete.
I consider this a centerpiece for a number of reasons. Firstly students practice document analysis. They annotate the source and must face unfamiliar words and archaisms. They must offer a competent summary of the source. Secondly, students must consciously bring in historical context that gives meaning to the source. Thirdly, and possibly most importantly, students reflect on the reliability of the source through the lens of possible purposes the source could serve for an historian. This essay task is a powerful tool to teach the social studies standards. Although designed for the New York State social studies frameworks, it is based on foundational social science skills. This task is a highly effective strategy because it brings together into one place a variety of interconnected skills and because it is done repeatedly, month after month. I work in a small K12 district where I have students for four to six years in a row. I begin training this in grade eight. It develops in students habits of mind that are desirable in critical thinkers and social scientists.
This product includes the following elements:
1. Student version of the task. This includes source citation, some background to consider when composing the historical context, a graphic organizer to help write the essay, followed by the source text. When the standard translation of the source is out of reach of the grade 6-8 text complexity Lexile range, I have re-written the text myself down to 900-1000L.
2. The teacher version of the task. This includes the complete reference to New York State Frameworks and the Common Core State Standards. In addition, there is a model of an essay that would earn full credit and there are teaching notes from my experience.
3. The grading rubric that I use in grades six through ten. (The demands for grade six are less than this rubric indicates. See teacher's notes.)
4. The topic / unit plan from my local curriculum so you can see where this kind of task fits in a larger unit plan.
During the early primary source work in grade six, I like to present students with some representative samples of original material that illustrate differences in language and writing system. That is why this source includes some actual hieroglyphic and transliteration. One of my early lessons in grade six deals specifically with languages and translation as it affects source meaning and reliability. I realize that this can tend to "muddy up" the presentation of the task to students because they are faced with text elements that few of them will actually use in writing their essay. However, in my judgment the cost is small for the gain in student understanding of source material. Language is an important issue in a world civilization survey class such as this.
I customarily include a standard translation of the source followed by a "kids version" that I have translated down to a Lexile range of 900L-1000L. I am aware that this is the upper end of the Lexile bands in the Common Core Standards for text complexity for this age group. However when "translating" these texts down, I felt that too much was lost approaching the 600L-700L range. It is my custom to do these tasks as independently as possible in class and then to "debrief" students later. However, I am aware that many students may have difficulty comprehending even the lower text complexity version that I composed for them.
This particular task should not offer many challenges to most students. As the fourth such essay of the course, this one should be done very independently (though I do answer questions about the meanings of unfamiliar words in cases where the student actually needs the word and if the student had made an effort to guess meaning from context.)
My custom is to complete one of these tasks in each topic. My unique position teaching all social studies grades six through ten in a small, rural school permitted me to maintain consistency across the years. This task is a scaled-down version of a task I assign throughout middle and high school courses.
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Created by David Jones © Innovation Assessments