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Tool: What makes a good social studies unit topic? 

My unit topic/title:


My initial ideas for major activities and projects:



Purpose and rationale: A statement that justifies what you are teaching and why you are teaching it. Why does this topic matter?  Explain why it matters in terms of its meaning to students, the value of the subject content, opportunities for inquiry and its importance to the community and to society. 

The purpose of this unit is to….
…is important to study because

Through this unit children will become……



I’m clear on ...

    1. What I want the students to know (facts, information, processes, skills)



    2. What I want the students to understand (Big Ideas, concepts, principles, generalizations)



    3. What I want the students to be able to do as a result of this learning experience

    4. Assessments: What sorts of evidence will I accept that they have learned 1-3?

 What will be selected as the major unit projects and products?


    5. Scaffolding, sequencing and preparation: What is the sequence of experiences (lessons) that will propel students from 1 to 4? What will students need to know to do the major projects and gain the major understandings?


Rate each possible unit topic on the following scale:  1 = no, 2 = somewhat/sometimes, 3 = yes

Is it worthwhile from the perspective of students?

_____  Is the unit topic intrinsically interesting to students and to you, the teacher?

_____  Does the unit topic offer the opportunity for collaboration?

_____  Does it stem from prior understanding and interests?

_____  Would working on the unit topic help develop student confidence and empowerment?

______ Can the topic be related to present-day experiences or events?


Is it worthwhile from the perspective of content?

_____  Does the unit topic lead students to explore important material/subject matter?

_____  Is the unit topic central or important to understanding a field?

_____  Does the unit topic incorporate worthwhile aspects of various subjects?

_____  Does it allow you to address many content standards?

_____  Does it help disclose fundamental patterns?

_____  Could the unit topic reveal similarities and contrasts?


Is it worthwhile from the perspective of inquiry?

_____  Is the unit topic open-ended?

_____  Does the unit topic have no absolute yes/no answer?

_____  Are there opportunities to explore the unit topic through various creative forms of inquiry, such as different projects and activities?

_____ Can it be approached at several levels of complexity?

_____ Can it provide a basis for progressing to the next level of understanding?

_____  Does anything about the unit topic provoke dialogue?

______ Does it involve perspectives and issues worth discussing or even arguing about?

_____  Does the unit topic stimulate further curiosity?


Is it worthwhile from the perspective of community and society?

_____  Is the unit topic potentially significant to students and social issues regarding students?

_____  Is the unit topic related to the real world?

_____  Can tangible and local resources be used to learn the subject matter?

_____  Can you explore aspects of your unit topic in a hands-on way in your local community?

_____  Can you involve experts from the local community?