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Social studies lesson are supposed to have lasting value and think about the themes of the discipline.

What makes this a good issue to discuss? The issue is highly topical. It is used often in the current political world and it is often used incorrectly. If students are going to be able to debate whether or not Obamacare is socialism, they need to know what socialism is.

The lesson is appropriate to these standards in grades 9 and up. The controversies of socialism are easily handleable by a ninth grade audience. They often get the holocaust this year or the year before.

Is it of “enduring social importance”? Yes. Socialism has been with us in many incarnations for hundreds of years. Joint ownership has been used by peoples all the way back to the bronze era and modern socialism maintains a significant role in international politics as well as maintaining a presence at home.

I thought I would make a lesson where we could actually discuss Socialism. This is the first piece which talks about the basic ideas of social ownership. Later lesson will talk about the second definition. These two plans first define and then discuss socialist systems.

so·cial·ism [soh-shuh-liz-uhm]


1. a theory or system of social organization  that advocates the vesting of the ownership and control of the means of production and distribution, of capital, land, etc., in the community as a whole.
2. procedure or practice in accordance with this theory.
The definition doesn’t seem all that tricky, but for many students there is a miasma of “badness” surrounding the word and very little actual information. This leads to newscasters throwing the word around for anything bad. And I feel like this:

Concept label: Socialism

Critical Attributes: Public Ownership, Democratically controlled by owners, For the good of the owners

Objective: Students will be able to identify and recall attributes of socialism, Identify examples and nonexamples of socialism, justify their answers based on critical attributes

Opening: “Today we are going to study a system of public ownership. Public ownership has been in the news a great deal lately and so I thought we could really dig in and study these complex systems. If we are going to really understand conflict in modern society we must first acknowledge that most conflict stems from who owns what. Ownership is important.

 “So today we are going to develop this concept by a process called concept formation. This is a way we can all work together to come to a greater understanding of our concept and by the end of our lesson you will be able to identify examples of the concept and nonexamples and be able to justify your answers.

1. Data gathering: I am going to give each pair (table mates) a data gathering sheet with three examples of the concept to be formed. Then I will be using the sticks (popsicles sticks which generate random students) to ask how your group answered be prepared to answer for your group. You will have 15 min. Set “Giant Timer” (Data Gathering Chart Below)

2. Report Information: Now that all the teams have completed the charts let’s report back. Call Ss using sticks until entire chart discussed

3. Noting differences: Based on what you heard what are some differences you notice about these examples? Write on board. Use sticks (hone in on Ss you want As from/lie)

4. Noting Similarities: Alright now that we know how they are different, what do they have in common? What is the same? Use sticks/proximity as a way to ensure participation

5. Synthesize: Alright, now in your notebook individually I want you to make a sentence that includes all of these attributes. The sentence should begin “These examples all describe and economic system that…” Give Ss 7ish minutes to work

6. Labeling: Now take the sentence you wrote and boil it down into a two word label that best describes the economic system and write it below it in your notes.

7. Labeling: Alright guys thanks for humoring me in this little brain exercise, now would you like to know the label placed on this concept by society? They throw it around in the news all the time. Socialism. Yep. That’s what Socialism is.

 8. Guided practice: Now that we have an idea of what socialism is we are going to look at an example together. teacher reads aloud:

In my country, rather than leaving each individual responsible for protecting their own home from fire, everyone pools their money together, through taxes, to maintain fire and police departments. It’s operated under a non-profit status, and yes, our tax dollars pay for putting out other people’s fires. It is absurd to think of some corporation profiting from putting out fires! It’s more efficient and far less expensive to have government run fire departments funded by tax dollars.

I will give you a moment to decide. When you decide put your hand on your desk if it is socialism and put your hand on your chin if it is not.

Alright (take answers) now I am going to ask for some volunteers to justify their answers. (Take explanations from 4 students, try to split between the two answers if there is a split, ask students to consider what they heard and re-answer) ask anyone who changed their answer for a reason why, take one answer)

Closing: (Homework or classwork depending on time, they may work in pairs) Now I am going to give you the end of the assignment if you work diligently in pairs and stay on task you should be finished with most of it by the end of class. I don’t need full sentences but i do need full justifications. What you do not complete is homework.


Data gathering chart:

Example Who owns this system? Who makes the decisions that affect it? Who are the decisions supposed to benefit?
A family buisness hand makes stained glass windows in rural Vermont. One day the eldest daughter discovers the method they use to seal the windows produces a toxic byproduct that is contaminating the stream that runs through their land. After a family meeting, they decide to change the process they use to seal the windows.
Over the last ten years the Clark County Community Soccer League has grown by leaps and bounds. It is now too big to host its tournament on the county municipal field and still have every team play. In the end they put up a collection amongst the teams to reserve a private field large enough for everyone to play.
Union Cab Video http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=TFYdVfp9Nj0



Concept Formation: Socialism

Example or Non-example?

Decide whether or not the situations below are examples or nonexamples of Socialism. Write or Highlight examples of the essential elements of Socialism or contradictory elements in the text. use them to provide a reason for your decision. (2-3 sentences each)

1. In 1919 a company was founded and was named after a local meat packing plant. The company then made a series of public stock offerings. In 1950 1,900 local residents each put up $25 a share to buy the company. It then became publicly owned. It has been a non-profit corporation since. Today a total of 4,750,937 shares are owned by 112,120 stockholders — none of whom receives any dividend on the initial investment. The corporation is governed by a board of directors and a seven-member executive committee.

One of the more remarkable business stories in American history, the company is kept viable by its shareholders. They love the product so much they never want the business to leave town. The company has survived during the current era, permeated by free agency of similar businesses. Although it is a very competitive field, where top employees are paid very well, this business is still deemed a desirable place to work and it has a salary cap. Fans have come to the business’ financial rescue on several occasions, including four previous stock sales: 1923, 1935, 1950 and 1997. To protect against someone taking control of the team, the articles of incorporation prohibit any person from owning more than 200,000 share.

 2. A heavily militarized country had a very low tax rate even though they were in the middle of a large war. In order to maintain their economy they acquired new territories then these new territories were made to sell natural resources and farmed products to the country’s businesses at extremely low prices. Wages and prices were controlled by the government. Businesses became larger and larger monopolies. As big business became increasingly organized, it developed an increasingly close partnership with the government. The government pursued economic policies that maximized the profits of its business allies, and, in exchange, business leaders supported the government’s political and military goals.

 3. A religious group existed where all the believers were united in heart and mind.They felt that what they owned was not their own, so they shared everything they had. There were no needy people among them, because those who owned land or houses would sell them and bring the money to the church leaders to give to those in need. For instance, there was a man who sold a field he owned and brought the money to the church leaders so they could give it to the poor. .

 4. A government that tries to make sure that people buy and sell fairly, and that businesses do not hurt workers too much. Because the government takes a lot of money in taxes, it also buys a lot of things and gives a lot of money away. It spends money on guns and ships for the military, on science research in universities, and on schools and libraries. It also gives money to people who do not have jobs, and to businesses that the political leaders think are important.

5. Find or make up an example of socialism (use the internet, books, make one up) and explain why it is using the definition we came up with. Be sure it includes all three attributes.

6. Below is an nonexample of Socialism change it so it is socialism.

An economic system which grants benefits to most participants. This system is based on private single person or small group ownership of property, businesses, and industry, and directed towards making the greatest possible profits for successful organizations and people.

Discussion Lesson

1. Students will be discussing/exploring the concept of Socialism

2. Lesson objective

Intellectual: Students will utilize debate norms (listening when others are talking, making sure points are clear, Listen to other participants and respond to them directly, use academic language)

Academic students will come to consensus style decisions about the four examples they were given yesterday. They will evaluate the examples and as a group share their ideas and synthesize their reasoning into a group decision. (80% must consent)

Their reward will be to know what these systems are.

3. Rationale:

What makes this a good issue to discuss? The issue is highly topical. It is used often in the current political world and it is often used incorrectly. If students are going to be able to debate whether or not Obamacare is socialism, they need to know what socialism is.

How does it fit in with the curriculum? The students are studying current events as part of their civics, economics, and social studies skills curriculum. The lesson is appropriate to these standards in grades 9 and up.

Age appropriate? The controversies of socialism are easily handleable by a ninth grade audience. They often get the holocaust this year or the year before.

Is it of “enduring social importance”? Yes. Socialism has been with us in many incarnations for hundreds of years. Joint ownership has been used by peoples all the way back to the bronze era and modern socialism maintains a significant role in international politics as well as maintaining a presence at home.

4. Procedures:


good morning class please take out your homework from last night. Today we are going to discuss your answers and come to a consensus. A consensus is a decision where all parties consent. This means they all agree to stand by the decision of the group. Today we are going to use a supermajority as a decider. Before we can move on we must be %80 in line with the group decision.

Today we will discuss the four groups from yesterday, and you will be sharing what you thought and wrote down.

We will be using our debate norms (see above) and we will be using academic language to discuss our ideas.

Here are some sentence stems I brought to get you all started using these phrases or to give you a jump start if you get stuck. I will only be asking questions and guiding. You will have to come to a decision on your own.

On a transparency/doc cam

To better understand

One point that was not clear to me was …

Are you saying that …

Can you please clarify?

To share an idea Another idea is to …

What if we tried …

I have an idea, we could try …

To disagreeI see your point, but what about …

Another way of looking at it is …

I’m still not convinced that …

To challenge How did you reach your conclusion?

What makes you think that?

How does it explain …To look for feedback What would you do to improve this?

Does this make sense?

How could my idea be improved?

To provide positive feedbackOne strength is …

Your idea is good because …

To provide constructive feedback The argument would be stronger if …

Another way to do it would be …

What if you said it like this …

Students will discuss each situation like so.

1. Students will be asked to grab only their paper and a pencil. then to tidy their desk space. (Tuck everything in and out from underfoot)

2. Then they will be split, if they thought the example was a nonexample they will go to one side of the room and to the other is they thought it an example.

3. They will then be asked to huddle up and go over their decisions. Get their points in order. (5 min) teacher floats to see which students are offering answers, notes it. Will compare to discussion notes later and to student handouts. (noting changes of opinion, in particular. You have to learn something in order to change your mind)

4. We reconvene in a group. The Example side always goes first. Guide them to use sentence stems. Allow nonexample to explain itself. use the critical attributes to frame questions for students.

Discussion Questions
Which do you think this is?
Does it have (critical element)?

Where in the text can you find this element?

To the opposition.
Do you think this is an example of critical attribute? Why/why not?

After a ten minute interval (supposing they have not done so on their own) ask them to have a re-vote if they meet consensus move to the next example. If not ask what key elements are missing for the protesting students and what the others could do to convince them. If consensus cannot be reached teacher may provide students with additional facts about the situation tailored to give facts to the remaining demands.

As consensus is reached for each situation is reached reveal the identity of the players.

1. Green Bay Packers

2. Nazi party

3. The Early Christian Church

4. Canada

Guide questions:
Who makes decisions in the system?
Who do they benefit?
Who owns it?

The prep work here was all
done the night before in homework. As the night before was a heavy homework load I have not given them additional readings to come at socialism one day one. On day two students will be divided into three group to begin an inquiry discussion on the different brands of socialism.

Update: I finished fleshing out the whole unit plan that goes with this. It is available here.