social studies

Where to Start: Mapping Social Studies with the C3 Framework

By Sarah Brandt, Rubicon International

There are a lot of moving parts mapping with the College, Career and Civic Life (C3) Framework. As social studies teachers, we may already be using standards and a textbook in addition to the framework. Not to mention, it’s important to stay on top of current events in the world and in your community. It can be difficult to determine how to begin, so here I will show you one approach to mapping using the C3.

Pre-Work:

Familiarize yourself with the overall purpose and structure of the C3 and the Inquiry Arc: The C3 is organized into dimensions designed to help you contextualize and make the historical content in your units relevant. The Inquiry Arc is intended to mimic the process a historian would take – asking questions before researching content and developing conclusions. Each dimension is a step in the Inquiry Arc:

  • Dimension 1 focuses on forming Compelling Questions – the questions that will drive your unit of study.
  • Dimension 2 provides content and disciplinary concepts.
  • Dimension 3 looks at the methods for researching the content to answer the compelling question established in Dimension 1.
  • Dimension 4 guides the formation of actionable items that enable students to display what they’ve learned as it is relevant today.

Gather your materials: In my case, this includes my state’s Social Studies standards for grade 8, and the C3 Framework for Social Studies for grades 6-8. For the standards and the C3, I have printed out my own copy of each and brought a pencil and highlighter so that I can make notes as I analyze each of them.

Determine your structure: Will units be primarily drawn from school/district-prescribed material (like a pacing guide), the textbook, or social studies standards? It is important to familiarize yourself with your materials to start to thinking about how they will be used in conjunction with one another as you are creating units.

Getting Started:

For the purposes of this post, I approach mapping from the perspective of a teacher who is starting from scratch, although you may likely already have some curriculum developed that you are working to update. Previously developed curriculum can be a great foundation, but, at the same time, starting from a clean slate (and retroactively tying in older materials) can provide a fresh perspective on what you’ve been doing in the classroom.

If you’ve already been working with the C3 and, in incorporating it into your units, have developed a different approach than the one that we’re going to share here, feel free to share it with us via Twitter or Facebook! There are many ways you can go about mapping, and this is just one avenue.

STEP 1: Create unit topics.

I chose to create unit topics by analyzing and grouping my state’s social studies standards to form buckets of knowledge I want to address with my students. You may choose to draw your unit topics from different sources, for example a textbook or district-approved standards. It is helpful when using this approach to review your standards with a highlighter and pencil to jot notes as you start making connections and grouping the standards.

STEP 2: Align to standards in Atlas.

After reading through the standards and taking notes, I grouped them directly in Atlas by drafting unit topics and aligning to standards. After the unit has been rounded out with compelling questions and aligned to the C3, I will go back and create more interesting unit titles.

STEP 3: Form Compelling Questions.

Here, I created the compelling questions for my units. Compelling questions should be at the heart of what you want your students to take away from the unit. After creating the questions and pairing them with the buckets created in Step 1, I came up with unit titles that represent the broader scope of my units, not just the topical content. This was also the point at which I aligned with Dimension 1 of the C3 in Atlas.

STEP 4: Align Dimensions 2, 3 and 4 in your units.

At this point, I scanned through Dimensions 2-4 and aligned to what I thought I could cover in each unit. The C3 framework is intended to help us consider the content we’re hoping to teach and begin to think about what skills our students should use when uncovering their answers to the Compelling Questions.

Once I had my Compelling Questions, I started thinking about and gathering the sources I’ll have my students use. This illuminates the specific content they’ll need to know (Dimension 2) as well as the type of skills they’ll need (Dimension 3). Finally, I consider what I’d like my students to be able to do with the information they’ve gained (Dimension 4). After aligning to the remaining dimensions, I have an overview of what will be occurring in the rest of my unit, without diving too far into it yet.

STEP 5: Meet with your team and make sure everything is covered.

The C3 is robust, but it is also grade banded. After I’ve gone through and selected what I can foresee covering in my class, there could be gaps. But my colleagues may already be covering them in a different grade. It’s important for my team to get together and make sure there aren’t any gaps in the curriculum.

The standards analysis report in Atlas helps accomplish this by looking specifically at which C3 standards in my grade band have not yet been covered. My team can then go through and add the missing standards to the units where they make the most sense. If it makes sense for your team to meet during the initial planning process, you can also collaborate on the progression you’d like students to follow to reduce redundancy as well as eliminate gaps as they’re moving through grade levels.

Things to Consider:

How do we as team decide who’s teaching what in the C3? Dimensions 1, 3 and 4 all contain fewer standards and you will likely end up using them multiple times in your course because they are so critical to the Inquiry Arc. Dimension 2, on the other hand, is more content-specific and may have more gaps in your school. After running a report to see which standards are not yet aligned, take a look at each teacher’s units in your grade band. Assess which units make the most sense to incorporate the remaining standards.

Do I need to include the full Inquiry Arc in all my units? Not necessarily. In fact, it might make more sense to focus in on portions of the Arc for your first few units to help familiarize students with the process of thinking like a historian or social scientist before going through the whole Arc in one unit. Ultimately, the goal is to be able to traverse the full Arc in a single unit.

What do I call the compelling questions or the actionable items when teaching students the Inquiry Arc? Depending on the age of your students, you can use the language of the C3 when teaching the process of the Inquiry Arc. Be sure to first teach what the terms mean and make them available to your students – for example, a poster in your classroom defining the terms. You can also display your compelling question for that unit at the front of the room to help students stay focused on the goal of the unit. With younger students, it may help to use a different phrase (i.e. Critical Question, Essential Question, Big Question).

How many compelling questions should my units have? Generally, it is best to have a limited number of compelling questions for each unit. Remember, the compelling question is the main point students are expected to explore and revisit throughout the unit. You want to make sure it is focused enough so they don’t get overwhelmed. Consider adding additional supporting questions that scaffold and supplement your student’s ability to work through the compelling question. If you have more than one or two strong, compelling questions within a unit, you may want to think about breaking that information into more than one unit.

Mapping, especially with a new standards framework like the C3, can seem daunting when you first begin. Just remember that you are probably already incorporating the ideas and practices of the C3– driving instruction with questions, emphasizing research methods, and applying findings in a relevant, present-day format–in your classroom. The C3 is simply a way to structure and emphasize that method of instruction so we can become more purposeful with how we introduce those skills to our students.

Want to see the “finished” product? Here is a draft of my calendar in Rubicon Atlas, with units aligned to standards. Note that this is still a work in progress—I can always come up with more exciting names and fine-tune my units down the road! You can also view my sample C3 template.

Want more PD on C3? Email us at pd@rubicon.com. And, see the other posts in our “Where to start” series here!

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