Thematic Guiding Questions Pertinent to Adolescents

 by Andi Stix Ed.D. and Frank Hrbek

© 2004  Social Studies Strategies for Active Learners, published by Teacher Created Materials

Oftentimes teachers struggle with whether or not to teach Social Studies chronologically or thematically. Well, the teacher can easily do both, using their sequential course of study as a primary strategy coupled with a thematic study as a support strategy! We examined different themes that are pertinent to adolescents and generated a list of choices from which teachers can choose. A teacher may decide on one or two themes that are addressed throughout the year. For each theme, we have generated questions under three subheadings; historical content, how it affects the students personally, and how it affects their school or community. This is easily implemented and can be integrated within the curriculum.

Thematic QuestionsIn the beginning of the school year the teacher along with the students pick and choose from the list below what they would like to examine in depth during the school year. The theme along with the questions are posted in the classroom. Of course, we recommend that the teacher and students write them in their own words and modify them so that students feel ownership in the process. After each book or each major portion of the book, the teacher and students revisit the theme and chart the results. You will be surprised that sometimes you will be able to answer a question in detail and other times you will not be able to answer the question at all. This is a good reflection task that will bring unity to the year and to the curriculum. Your goal is to present and examine these big ideas and connect them throughout the year’s study of history.

I. Identity 

Content: Describe in detail what makes this period in history have its own identity. Describe in detail what makes this identity different and unique. Describe in detail what makes the period in history similar to others.

Personal: In what ways does the time in history or the culture affect the way you identify yourself or give you understanding of whom you are today?

Community: In what ways does studying this period in history influence how you view your community or school identity?

II.  Independence

Content: Describe in detail the different ways this period in history or this culture proved to be dependent, interdependent, or totally independent on other cultures.

Personal: Describe in detail what you have learned from this period of time that can help you become more independent or interdependent in terms of working with your peers or adults.

Community: In what ways did this period of study influence how you view your community or school as independent, interdependent or dependent on other communities, schools, institutions, or levels of government?

III.  Tension/Stress

Content: Describe in detail the different ways tension is caused, formed, and cultivated during this period in history or within the culture just studied.

Personal: Describe in detail what you have learned that can help you understand the tensions you encounter from time to time are common to others who have lived during different times in history or who are derived from different cultures.

Community: In what ways are existing tensions in your community or school either similar and/or different from those of the particular period in history or the culture just studied?

IV. Conflict Resolution

Content: Describe in detail the different ways conflicts are resolved during this period in history or within the culture just studied.

Personal: Describe in detail what you have learned from this period of time that can personally help give you strategies to solve your own conflicts.

Community: In what ways are existing conflicts resolved in your community or school either similar and/or different from those of the particular period in history or the culture just studied? In what ways can you help to decrease conflicts in your environment?

V. Peer and Cultural Pressure

Content: Describe in detail the different ways cultural or peer pressure is used during this period in history or from the culture just studied.

Personal: Describe in detail what you have learned from this period of time that can personally help give you strategies so that you do not succumb to negative peer or cultural pressure when you don’t personally believe in it or are uncomfortable with what is being presented.

Community: In what ways did this period of study influence your view of how your community or school is influenced by peer or cultural pressure? Is your community or school similar or different than those from the period in history or from the different culture being studied? Describe in detail what you have learned to help spread words of wisdom in your community or school as a positive form of peer or cultural pressure.

VI. Human Rights

Content: Describe in detail the different ways human rights are abused and curtailed, or encouraged and improved during this period in history or within the culture being studied.

Personal: Describe in detail what you have learned from this period of time that can personally help give you strategies to stand up for your own human rights.

Community: In what ways does this period of study influence your view of how you can help and support others in your community or school to fight for human rights?

VII. Change

Content: Describe in detail the different ways the social or geographic environment, people, government, or economics changed during this period in history or within the culture just studied.

Personal: Describe in detail what you have learned from this period of time that can personally help you to understand or recognize the physical, mental, social, or environmental changes in your life.

Community: In what ways does this period of study influence your view of how you can make progressive and fruitful changes to help and support your community or school?

VIII. Alliances and Communication

Content: Describe in detail the different alliances of friends, community, political affiliations, or acquaintances that influenced and changed this period in history or within the culture just studied.

Personal: Describe in detail what you have learned from this period of time that can actually help you to become better at making and keeping personal friends and acquaintances.

Community: In what ways does this period of study influence your view of how you can make, keep, and support acquaintances and affiliations in your community or school?

IX. Loss

Content: Describe in detail the different ways the social or geographic environment, people, government, or economics declined and weakened during this period in history or within the culture just studied.

Personal: Describe in detail what you have learned from this period that can personally help you get through a difficult time in order for you to heal, understand, or recognize physical, mental, and social anguish or loss in your life.

Community: In what ways does this period of study influence your view of how you can help and support your community or school when a tragedy or loss occurs?

X. Gains

Content: By examining the achievements of this period in history or within the culture just studied, describe in detail the different ways the social or geographic environment, people, government, or economics was increased and strengthened.

Personal: Describe in detail what you have learned from this period of time that can personally help you celebrate and respect the physical, mental, social, or environmental gains in your life.

Community: In what ways does this period of study influence your view of how you can help and support your community or school when celebrations, acts of random kindness, or achievements occur?

XI. Meeting Goals

Content: During this period in history or within the culture just studied, describe in detail the strategy that was formulated, implemented, and made successful.

Personal: Describe in detail what you have learned from this period of time that can personally help you form and test out a strategy that will allow you to meet a goal in your life.

Community: In what ways does this period of study influence your view of how can you help establish a strategy to meet a goal in your community or at school?

XII. Decision Making

Content: Describe in detail how the culture or people during this period in history identified a problem, generated choices, collected data, evaluated and prioritized them and made a selection for sound decision making.

Personal: Describe in detail what you have learned from this period of time that can personally help you understand and use strategies for good decision making.

Community: In what ways does this period of study influence your view of how you can help and support your community or school so that sound decisions can be made?

Do you have other themes that are pertinent to adolescents? Please share them with us and tell us how thematic questions has helped you tie your unit or units or study together.  (To reply, please click on the comment link next to the title or scroll down.)

Andi Stix is an educational consultant & coach who specializes in differentiation, interactive learning, writing across the curriculum, classroom coaching and gifted education. For further information on her specialties or social media, please email her on the Contact page.

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6 Responses to Thematic Guiding Questions Pertinent to Adolescents

  1. cialis says:

    I liked these general themes and how you broke them down into three categories. It would be easy to select any piece of literature and find at least 3 themes that would apply. Thank you.

  2. Greg says:

    Content, personal, and community. I liked how I could take any theme and direct it accordingly. Do I want my students to understand the content? Do I want them to make a personal connection or do I want to encourage community service? A good resource.

  3. Celeste says:

    Awesome post…I might ask each cooperative group to select a theme and weave it into their analysis.

  4. Elina says:

    I might use this list of themes for our Arista group, an honor society for high school students here in NYC. Maybe they could choose one theme and apply it to their community service and reflect on it in their journals.

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