Revolutionize Your Social Studies Classroom with Depth and Complexity

Whether your social studies standards center on communities, history, geography, or economics, the easiest way to transform students’ learning experience is with the Depth and Complexity framework. Best of all, it is simple to integrate Depth and Complexity into your existing curriculum, so there is no need to throw the baby out with the bathwater. Follow these three steps to revolutionize your social studies classroom.

A fundamental skill in social studies is students’ ability to analyze the content. A quick and painless way to investigate a concept is with a frame. We like to place a core question in the middle of a social studies frame to guide students as they consider the topic to construct their perspective. Next, students explore a resource – primary document, video, article, textbook selection – and work around the frame, documenting their analysis using iconic lenses of Depth and Complexity or Content Imperatives. Click HERE for your free copy of our Social Studies Frame with drag-and-drop icons for a naturally differentiated activity.

Once students have thoroughly analyzed the content, a natural next step is to discuss their ideas. An easy entry into a purposeful discussion to ask students to share specific pieces of their analysis frame with a partner or group. Another option is to hand students our Q3: Depth and Complexity Question Stem Cards and have them ask their group members discussion questions. To ensure their time is spent wisely, set them up for success with clear expectations around what makes a meaningful discussion. We love using THIS discussion rules poster. 

Finally, a fantastic culminating activity is helping students to find real-world connections to the content they have analyzed and discussed. Our favorite way to get students thinking globally is to integrate Thinking Like a Disciplinarian (TLAD). Not only does this strategy ask students to apply their knowledge in new ways, but it also helps them to reframe their thinking. When students “become the expert,” they use the language, tools, thinking skills, and products inherent in that discipline. Better yet, if you have students assume different TLAD roles to consider the content, your class is full of great connections and perspectives. 

Take a look at a few TLAD tasks that will enrich your students’ connections:

  • Thinking like a historian, judge with criteria the ethics affecting the cause-and-effect relationships of the War of 1812.
  • Thinking like a geographer, describe the trends of migration during Westward Expansion. 
  • Thinking like an economist, defend the English government’s view on “taxation without representation.”

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