“How do we maintain a just society?”
“How can my voice make a difference?”
“What can I do to bring about change?”
These are the kinds of questions we hope students are asking on the path to becoming responsible, involved citizens, actively engaging in civic life.
Asking questions, analyzing public problems, and taking collaborative action are important elements of both our democracy and the College, Career and Civic Life Framework, known as the C3 Framework for Social Studies. The C3 framework is not merely an add-on to instruction, but a real instructional shift. And, using compelling questions that lead to informed action is a key piece of the process.
“The arc of the C3 Framework follows what we as historians actually do…which starts with developing a question.”- Merry Wiesner-Hanks, University of Wisconsin.
Questions can be singular, designed by the teacher for a whole class, or formulated by students. Start with a compelling question, and incorporate 2-4 supporting questions.
Developing compelling questions in the classroom ties in with the 4th dimension of the C3 Framework, which is Informed Action. Tracy Middleton in From Past to Present: Taking Informed Action from the NCSS’ Social Education explained: “BOTH words in are crucial: students need to be well informed by a thorough analysis of credible sources, but they also need to connect their conclusions to the context in which they live.”
“Questioning is a type of literacy. Teach questioning. Social Studies teaches students HOW to question” – Anthony Roy, HS teacher and part of the C3 Literacy Collaborative Project.
Ralph Nader, presenting at NCSS, drew repeated connections between asking questions and taking informed action. Nader urged educators to ask students poignant, substantial questions and give them the tools to take action:
“What if students in Michigan as part of their course tested drinking water year after year…and reported it? Would Flint, Michigan have gone through what it went through?” Adding that, “Information is the currency of democracy. We must know how to get information from our own government.” By wrestling with questions and seeking answers, students will in-turn gain knowledge that will help drive subsequent inquiries and informed action.
What Does Informed Action Look Like?
- Teaching kids how to write to a public service agent, to know the names of their congressmen
- Writing a public service announcement, commercial or infographic
- Creating a classroom Twitter account or blog and share your findings
Tracy Middleton explains that “The way to apply taking informed action to my U.S. history curriculum is by teaching students to transfer their learning of historical events to current events.” The key here is relevancy. If students understand the relevance of history and how it relates to their lives today, they are more likely to want to take action.
C3 and Compelling Questions in The Classroom
- The Inquiry Design Model is a helpful graphic organizer, created by C3 Teachers.org to build C3 units and engage the Inquiry Arc.
- The Question Matrix provides layers of question prompts, from basic to complex.
As you keep developing your C3 process, consider Anthony Roy’s quote: “We ask questions to begin to wonder, to begin to know. The more you get kids involved in social studies, the more it helps them develop a passion for their world.”
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