Social Sunday: What's the Big Idea

As a researcher, I get to spend a lot of time in other people's classrooms.  I learn A LOT in these classrooms.  One of my favorite experiences was visiting a kindergarten classroom.  There, not only did I find an excellent teacher, but also a very important teaching tool: the big idea.  

In this kindergarten classroom, the big idea throughout the year was "mindfulness."  I could see it in every aspect of the classroom regardless of the curriculum.  At the time I was there, the students were studying five philosophical teachers.  On the board were sayings students had come up with related to these teachings.  
My personal favorite:

The start of the school year is swinging around quickly again, and I'm thinking about the big ideas for my secondary students this year. I know that once classes get going, it is easy to get bogged down by the little stuff and lose perspective.  In my first couple of years teaching, it wasn't uncommon for me to get to the end of the year and wonder what my students had learned. I mean, sure, they had learned some skills and facts, but what did they get out of sitting in my class 180 days that was truly valuable. So, I started developing a few big picture ideas that I hoped by the end of each year would be ingrained in my students. 

My big ideas don't change much year after year even when my curriculum changes.  I don't have all of this year's big ideas pinned down yet, but it will be some combination of the following:

  • History and the present are entwined
  • Themes such as conflict, inequality, and social justice shape the world
  • Individuals impact the community, and the community impacts the individual.

As the year goes on, I'll share more on integrating these ideas into units of study.  What are your big ideas for the year?  Please share in the comments section.

Social Sundays is a bi-weekly post sharing tips, ideas, resources, and products for teaching social studies.  If you have questions or think there is something I should share, you can leave me a message in the comments below or at the store in the question and answer section.  



  1. We definitely learn a lot from being the guest in another classroom!

    What a great idea to have a few big ideas. One of mine would be to question the source of information (History teacher here). Students today have so much available via the Internet, but a lot of those sources are hogwash. Imagine if these kids grew up accepting everything at face value. :/

    I linked up to a product that definitely aligns with some of yours. :)


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