Category Archives: Common Core Standards in Social Studies

Common Core Social Studies

Common Core Social Studies How to Identify Key Steps in a Text’s Description of a Process

Common Core Social Studies CCSS.ELA-Literacy.RH.6-8.3: Reading for Sequencing

The Common Core Social Studies Standard CCSS.ELA-Literacy.RH.6-8.3 encourages students to identify key steps in a text’s description of a process related to history/social studies. Basically, the Common Core Social Studies Standard is asking students to read and write down a sequence.

This Common Core Social Studies Standard brings a basic skill into the middle school setting. Sequencing has always been an important basic skill in social studies. It can be implemented when learning about wars, processes of government, cause and effect and chronological timelines.

In my experience, by the seventh grade, most of the students in a class are able to read a text and decipher the steps or a process or events. When I started writing this article on the Common Core Social Studies Standard CCSS.ELA-Literacy.RH.6-8.3, it came to my attention that I never really put much thought into how I taught students who hadn’t mastered this skill or I just assumed that they were on a lower reading level and had them focus on just getting through the text itself. I know that I was never taught how to teach sequencing in college. I have always considered it to be a skill that elementary teachers would teach which could then be used in middle school and above. My research on the subject seems to agree with me. The research that I conducted for this article on the Common Core Social Studies Standard CCSS.ELA-Literacy.RH.6-8.3 pointed me in an elementary education direction which I had to modify for the middle school grade levels.

Common Core Social Studies: What Background Knowledge is Needed for Sequencing?

Students first need to know what sequencing is. This may come up in a middle school classroom with second language learners. Other students may just need to be reminded. Sequencing is when events or actions are put in order. For example, chronological order, the order of steps or cycles.

Secondly, students need to know the signal or transition words that can help them identify a sequence and master the Common Core Social Studies Standard. A list of some of the common words students will see are provided for you in the chart below.

Signal/Transition Words for Recognizing Sequence

First, second, third, etc. At the beginning
Finally Prior to
Afterwards Shortly thereafter
While Subsequently
Soon Next
Simultaneously At the same time
Then Following that
When Later
Now Soon
During At (in) the end
The first/next/last thing Before
Last After

(Chart from Cassandra York, Department of Multicultural Education, Palm Beach County)

Common Core Social Studies: How can you Check for Understanding when Teaching Sequencing?

Once the signal/transition words have been presented, the teacher can read a passage aloud pausing to ask students to identify the words used to signal the sequence. Then, students should read a passage and try to circle or highlight all of the signal or transition words that are used. I recommend that the teacher writes the passages themselves using the content they are covering in class because as middle school teachers we cannot afford to lose a day of content teaching to teach a basic skill covered in elementary school. This practice should help teacher solidify the basic common core social studies skill.

Common Core Social Studies: What activities help students practice using text to identify a sequence?

Obviously reading is the first step in all of these activities but teachers don’t need to give up creativity in the second part of the activities.

1. Creating Lists: As the student reads, they can write a list of the steps in the sequence. Teachers can differentiate instruction on the assignment for different ability levels. For enriched students, you can simply tell them to create a list as they read. Average students may need to know how many steps should be included in this list. Lower ability level students could be provided the steps cut into strips. As they go through the text, the should put them in order. Once they are sure the steps are in the right  order, they can tape or paste them on their paper or just have the teacher check them. Another option for lower ability level students is to provide slotted notes for them to use that help the steps be revealed to them as they read. The last option I have for lower ability level students is to provide a list that is out of order. After they read or while they read, they can place a number next to each of the steps to place them in the correct order.

2. Sentence Strips: Have students put the sentences in order as they read or after they read. This can be turned into a fun group activity too. Teachers could divide the students up into groups and provide the same passage to each group to read. You can either provide the groups with sentence strips on construction paper that include the steps or events in the sequence or you can have the students write down the steps as they come across them in the reading. Once the reading is completed, the students should stand in the order they believe their steps or events belong and hold up their construction paper. The group that is in the correct order first, wins the game.

3. Graphic Organizers:

Common Core Social Studies

Social Studies Common Core CCSS.ELA-Literacy.RH.6-8.3

Teachers can have students use a flow chart graphic organizer. As students read the text, they can fill out the flow chart. Teachers can differentiate instruction for lower ability level students by providing a word box on the graphic organizer to help guide them. You can find a bundle of flow charts ready to help you differentiate instruction by clicking here.

Timelines are also considered flow charts. Timelines are a great tool for placing things in chronological order. They can be very simple and just include the events or they can become more complicated by adding things like descriptions of the events, date, and a drawing of the event to bring in the spatial multiple intelligence. Teachers can provide the timeline to students and have them write in the information or they can have students create them. 

4. Recording: Have students read the passage and then retell the events or steps in order while being recorded. They can then listen to the recording while they check or self evaluate the steps in the text. While self evaluating, they should think about whether they included the most important sections, if they should have included anything else that could support the steps or events, and if their retelling would make sense to someone else who hasn’t read the passage.

5. Write a play: After students read the passage in a group setting, they should agree upon and then write down the steps or events. Then they could write a short play about the steps. This allows students to create something new while learning the content and practicing sequencing.

6. Charts: Either supply or have students make a chart that has a beginning, middle, and end section. Teachers can add questions in the text to break up the reading into sections to help lower ability level students.

7. Outline:

Common Core Social Studies


Teachers could combine the Social Studies Common Core Standard for sequencing with the Writing Common Core Standards. As the student reads, they should fill out an outline (average students if this is an introduction to the skill and lower ability level students) or they could create an outline on their own (enriched students and average students after they have been introduced to the skill). Once the outline has been created, students can then write the sequence in paragraph form in their own words to practice expository writing. Teachers can find a leveled expository writing system that I created by clicking here.

8. Pass and Add: This is a group activity that starts with the group reading the text. After they have read it, they take turns writing down a step or event until all are accounted for. They will then review them as a group to make sure they are in the right order and nothing has been left out by rereading the text aloud.

The Commo n Core Social Studies Standards may change the way the teachers teach. I am not a reading specialist. I never took a course on how to teach reading and I think it’s safe to assume that most secondary education teachers haven’t either. Yet, the Common Core Social Studies Standards are demanding that we do just that. We need to increase our own knowledge through self education. We need to do research and we need to share what we learn because as I talked about in the beginning, what we assume to be true, might not be at all.

Follow the link below to learn more about the Common Core Social Studies Standards and how to teach them in the middle school classroom.

web sources used for my Common Core Social Studies Article:,


Written by,

Kasha Mastrodomenico


Common Core Social Studies

Common Core Standards Help Teachers Enrich Their Lessons


The Common Core Standard CCSS.ELA-Literacy.RH.6-8.2 encourages the social studies teacher to go beyond the curriculum or content in a lesson with the inclusion of primary or secondary sources that may add knowledge or conflict with the knowledge they’ve acquired during a mini-lesson or from reading their textbook.

To use the CCSS.ELA-Literacy.R.H.6-8.2 Common Core Social Studies Standard in class, the students must read, analyze and summarize the primary or secondary source explaining how the source is different from what they knew or how it differs with their own opinion. This Common Core Standard brings in high level critical thinking. It helps them connect the content they are learning with their background knowledge. This Common Core Standard also helps them connect the content with themselves. Connecting content to self and background knowledge has long been known to help students retain information.

When I taught in GA, the students learned about Andersonville prison. It was a POW camp during the Civil War with extremely poor conditions and a high death rate. Until I brought in a primary source from a POW camp in Elmira, NY, the students thought that the Confederacy was the only side that had POW camps in the Civil War. Both camps had horrid conditions. When I teach this lesson again, I will provide the same questions that helped students analyze the document. I will add onto what I did before by including a section for students to summarize the document and then another section where they can write about how it conflicted with what they knew or with what their opinion had been before they read the primary source.

In WWI, most teachers will only teach about how the home front helped the war effort through the use of Liberty Bonds and Liberty Gardens, etc. What if a teacher then brought in a primary source about protests against WWI? I for one am excited to see what their responses to that will be.

The next question teachers may ask is how would they differentiate instruction for this type of work session that uses the Common Core Social Studies Standards? My two favorite ways to differentiate instruction are to use the Multiple Intelligence Theory to peak student interest and leveling so that they can learn the same content on their own ability level. To bring in both of these forms of differentiated instruction I would use a ‘Museum Walk’ with two ability levels using two different sides of the room. The average/enriched side would include the primary or secondary sources as is with the questions at the bottom of each source. The lower ability level side of the room would have the primary or secondary sources simplified and have alternate words in parenthesis for vocabulary that is higher than they can handle or for sections that are written so archaically that they would not be able to interpret the meaning. I would also split up the sources into different sections with a question following each section where the answer can be found to help them focus and not be overwhelmed.

During ‘Museum Walks’ students use the kinesthetic intelligence because students move around the room. I would allow students to work in similar ability pairs to bring in the interpersonal intelligence.  I would also offer students the choice of working by themselves in packet form to bring in the intrapersonal intelligence. I would include political cartoons, paintings, photographs or propaganda posters to include the spatial intelligence. Students will be reading the primary or secondary sources from the wall where they hang, discussing the answers with their partner and writing about them so that also brings in the linguistic intelligence. Another option is to have the teacher lead a group of lower level readers and learners with the lower ability level packet form of the activity in a small group to help them read, analyze and summarize the primary sources. The last option will be harder to do without a co-teacher because teachers will still have to pay attention to the partners moving around the room and announce when they need to move to the next source.

Go beyond your content and provide a primary or secondary source that will have your students conflicted and critically thinking about their own knowledge and how they feel about the situation in history in order to enrich your lessons. The Common Core Social Studies Standards encourage you to do this.

To find out more about and how to use the Common Core Social Studies Standards, click on the link here.



Written by,

Kasha Mastrodomenico

Common Core

Common Core: Cite specific textual evidence

Common Core

The Common Core Social Studies Standard  for History/Social Studies CCSS.ELA-Literacy.RH.6-8.1 demands that students cite evidence when practicing expository writing. Students need to use that evidence to support their analysis of primary and secondary sources. Specific evidence helps students prove why they believe their analysis of the primary or secondary source is accurate. Without proof, it is an ignorant opinion.

When first beginning to teach students how to cite, a teacher can introduce it as a matching exercise. They can provide students with five to ten short secondary or primary sources. Then they should offer the same amount of statements. Have the students find the primary or secondary sources that could provide the evidence to make each statement true. In order to differentiate instruction for this I would use the Multiple Intelligence Theory. I would allow my intrapersonal learners to conduct the activity the way I suggest above. For my interpersonal and kinesthetic learners, I would create small posters with the individual statements and the primary sources. The students could then search for the match with the other students that are going through the activity in this format. Once they think they have a match, I would have them come up to me and explain orally why they think it’s a match. They should say something in the realm of “We think it matches because…”. That statement will also help them gear up for the next Common Core Standard that I will be writing about in my next article.

Once students understand that they can cite evidence to prove an opinion statement, they need to practice writing their own opinion on the content and then write the reason a primary or secondary source helps to prove it. Teachers can have students practice this by providing a primary or secondary source for students to read and providing a question for them to answer about it. The question must contain a ‘why’ statement. The student should then answer the question and state the reason including a ‘because’ statement connecting their opinion with the factual evidence from the primary or secondary source.

When students are ready to move on, they should start using primary or secondary sources in an essay format, usually called a DBQ essay, there are three possibilities for citing specific evidence from the documents.

1. Students may summarize or quote what was stated in the document.

2. Students may summarize or quote and then write where they found the evidence.

3. Students may summarize or quote a document and then place the document number or title inside parenthesis.

Encourage students to create educated opinions by citing proof during expository writing. It will encourage critical thinking and increase confidence because they will be able to back up their opinions. Instead of just saying “I think it means this…,” they’ll say “It means this because…”. One of our goals as social studies educators is to teach our students the skills they need to be successful in life. This Common Core Social Studies Standard can help us accomplish this goal.

I have created an expository leveled writing system that can help social studies teachers differentiate instruction for their students. You can find it by clicking here: Leveled Expository Writing System

Click on the link below to find out more about how to use the Common Core Standards.

To find out more about the Common Core Social Studies Standards, click here. That page goes through the Common Core Social Studies Standards and simplifies them by giving examples and explanations.


Written by,

Kasha Mastrodomenico

Common Core Standards

Common Core Standards help to Encourage Civics

Common Core Standards

Common Core Standards

Common Core Standards for Social Studies

According to Anne O’Brien the Common Core Standards help to encourage civics and I have to agree. Her article does a great job showing how the standards are having a positive effect in our nation’s classrooms. We hear so many negatives that I thought I would post something a little more positive for you read about the CCSS. It may be a viewpoint that you haven’t heard before. Being a social studies teacher myself, I feel it is important to hear all sides of a debate and this one is heated. I have provided the link for you below and would love to see some comments made about it.

My site  also explains the Common Core Standards and then goes into how to differentiate instruction using them. In it you will find links to other articles that will give you even more insight about how to use the Common Core Standards in the middle school social studies classroom. It is well worth to time to check out.

Written by,

Kasha Mastrodomenico

How to bring in the Common Core to Social Studies Classrooms

Don’t freak out, the common core are here to stay. If you have ever used a primary source document in your classroom, you were doing what is now written in the common core. New York State teachers have been using primary source documents in as early as fifth grade for many years now because on the fifth grade state social studies exam, it was expected that students be able to interpret primary source documents and write an essay including the information in them. This is all common core; reading for information, interpretation, and expository writing.

If you teach your students how to read the expository writing in their textbook then you are following the common core. You can use different techniques to do this such as annotating using post-it notes or having them write it in their own words on a separate sheet of paper. What is important to extend to your students is that reading for information is different than reading for enjoyment. When reading for information, it is important for them to stop and think about what they read after each paragraph before they go onto the next. If they don’t remember what they have read, they need to reread the paragraph until they do. Expecting them to write the information in each paragraph or at least each section in their own words will help reiterate this technique. includes the common core by implementing primary sources into their lesson plans. Beyond that, they are leveled for differentiated instruction. I highly recommend my store for anyone who teaches middle school American History.

Written by,
Kasha Mastrodomenico


The Presidency of Lincoln Differentiated Instruction Lesson Plan

Where can I find the “Presidency of Lincoln” differentiated instruction lesson plan?

The Presidency of Lincoln Differentiated Instruction Lesson Plan

The Presidency of Lincoln Differentiated Instruction Lesson Plan

The Presidency of Lincoln differentiated instruction lesson plan provides different ability levels to help all students learn the same content on their own level. It is based on the NYS 7th grade social studies curriculum and standards.  It also brings in the Common Core Standards with the Gettysburg Address and Emancipation Proclamation interpretation activity. Did you just get tongue tied? To find out more about what is included in the “Presidency of Lincoln” differentiated instruction lesson plan, click here.


You can find the “Presidency of Lincoln” differentiated instruction lesson plan and PowerPoint by clicking on the links below:

Presidency of Lincoln differentiated instruction PowerPoint

Presidency of Lincoln differentiated instruction lesson plan


Written by,

Kasha Mastrodomenico

This video explains why we need Common Core Standards

This is a 3 minute video that explains why the United States needs the Common Core Standards. It is easy to understand and well put together.

Common Core Video uses the Common Core Standards to write middle school social studies differentiated instruction lesson plans.

Written by,

Kasha Mastrodomenico