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Teaching the American Revolution Through Collaborative Dialogues and Reading


Andrea and Lysette are middle school social studies teachers who co-teach six different ICT classrooms. They work in a culturally and linguistically diverse school in Jackson Heights Queens. Together, they created learning experiences for their students that allowed for choice, offering multiple ways for students to engage in the social studies content presented. This particular unit on the American Revolution includes centers and examples of culturally relevant pedagogy.

Below, read their descriptions of their school context and follow a narrative of their classroom curriculum:


Our 7th and 8th grade social studies classes have 30 students. In each class, 12 of the students currently have IEPs. Besides the students who are currently identified as needing an IEP, many other students used to have IEPs or have been referred, some are ENL students and many are former ENL students. Jackson Heights is one of the most diverse neighborhoods in the city, so the students come from all over the world. All of our classes are linguistically, culturally, and academically diverse. We wanted to adapt our curriculum to better meet the needs of all of our students.
In this curriculum unit, we first identify students who were struggling to make progress and were difficult to reach--either academically or socially. We believe these students will give insights into a broad range of learning needs. After considering their strengths, we present here the different ways in which we offered more choices or options for these students to engage with the content. Our ultimate goal was to have our curriculum offer more ways for students to discuss and work in social settings. We also wanted to make sure that our curriculum was more culturally relevant. By considering all of these different variables, we began to consider ways in which we could modify our instruction.



Kevin’s reading and writing are close to grade level but his behaviors have kept him in more restrictive environments. He does not stay in his seat. He will refuse to comply with basic directions, like entering the room or not running in the class. While Kevin is friendly with other students, he has not developed appropriate peer relationships with his classmates. Kevin is not motivated by grades, and often engages in conversations with himself or mumbles curse words under his breath. These distractions often limit him from finishing the given tasks.


Jun has an IEP and is an ENL student. His IEP calls for him to have a 1:1 language paraprofessional but there is not one available who speaks his home language. Jun’s learning disability has led him to struggle with language acquisition. He struggles with vocabulary and language both written and verbal but he is a very compliant student. In class, he will ask teachers for help but often will not discuss with his peers. 


Sophia has an IEP and is a former ENL student. She works hard in school but struggles with reading and writing. She is quiet and struggles with oral expression. She is very quiet when talking to adults and only talks to a few other girls in the class. She does not fully participate in turn and talks or other academic forms of discussion. 


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There were a number of challenges when we began redesigning our curriculum. While we knew that our ultimate goal was to make our curriculum accessible for all of our learners. But it was difficult to choose which students we would focus on when adapting our unit. We wanted to pick students that encompassed a majority of our students so that our modifications would benefit as many students as possible. The biggest challenge we faced when designing our instruction was finding a way in which we could balance a very literacy rich curriculum with activities that met the kinesthetic needs of our students.

Ultimately, we wanted to engage our students in multiple ways because we were finding that they were often restless, disinterested and unmotivated. Thus, we began designing activities that had students engaging with the content in a number of different ways. Student-centered curriculum designed has changed our experience with teaching and has impacted our students both in and out of our classroom. Our students have demonstrated excitement and a deep and detailed understanding of content. Seeing them eager to learn has inspired our instruction and expanded our teacher tool-kit. In turn, our students now benefit tremendously from some of our new learning strategies and adaptations.