Social Studies at P.S. 120

Using a Reading Strategy-Based Approach to Social Studies Content Instruction

In an effort to increase interdisciplinary/cross-curricular teaching at P.S. 120, teachers have been modifying curriculum to thoughtfully and effectively integrate Social Studies and literacy instruction.  

Passport to Social Studies K-5:

P.S. 120 follows the NYCDOE Passport to Social Studies program, which is a comprehensive instructional curriculum that integrates the Common Core Learning Standards (CCLS) / Next Generation Learning Standards and the New York State Social Studies Framework to support strong social studies teaching and learning. While knowledge of content is very important, it is equally important to engage our students in historical thinking. This program challenges students to think like historians and encourages them to raise questions, think critically, consider many perspectives, and gather evidence in support of their interpretations through the practice of chronological processing, decision-making, and historical research and analysis

Interdisciplinary Units of Study:

Passport to Social Studies is organized around newly developed units of study, each guided by essential questions. Teachers at P.S. 120 work collaboratively with their grade teams to use these units of study to plan coherent instruction that considers relevant skills (in both Social Studies and literacy), practices, and knowledge objectives for deep understanding. Teachers adapt and modify the curriculum to meet individual students’ needs and structure units to support high quality social studies and ELA instruction that will engage students in historical thinking and interdisciplinary literacy and enhance robust and rigorous social studies instruction.

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Teachers at P.S. 120 are currently modifying ELA curriculum following the methodology of Understanding by Design developed by Grant Wiggins and Jay McTighe to better align with Passport to Social Studies and the Next Generation Standards / Common Core Standards. Teachers are striving to routinely develop lessons that enable students to practice close reading complex text, using academic vocabulary in conversation and writing, thinking like historians, and building social studies content and knowledge. Within each unit of study, our teachers use a variety of print and digital resources and documents, trade books, and primary sources as part of the classroom package to support rigorous instruction and student inquiry.


Departmentalized 4th and 5th Grade:

P.S. 120 consists of departmentalized 4th and 5th grades. There are separate instructional blocks where students are taught Social Studies and ELA. In efforts to consistently support students in acquiring knowledge in a meaningful way, however, Social Studies and ELA teachers work together to keep instruction cohesive and coherent.

Partnership with DELLSS:

In 2017-18, P.S. 120 partnered with the Division of English Language Learners (DELLSS) to showcase Academic Conversations in an ELA/Social Studies classroom. Throughout the year, Mrs. Anastasia Difino, a 5th Grade ELA/ENL teacher was supported by Dr. Jeff Zwiers, Senior Researcher at Stanford Graduate School of Education, Maria Friedland, Director of Middle School Literacy & Language Development (DELLSS), and Earnestine Sweeting, Senior Instructional Specialist for the NYC DOE Department of Social Studies.