Over the summer, Friends School of Minnesota teachers worked on revising the 3rd and 4th grade social studies curriculum and developing new benchmark assessment for middle school humanities.

3rd and 4th Grade Social Studies Curriculum

Andrew Rutledge and Kak Jarvis, 3rd & 4th Grade Teachers

Kak and Andrew spent several weeks this summer reimagining third and fourth grade social studies.

Over the past several years, we have split social studies topics into units. Kak taught all students about one topic,  then Andrew taught all students the next unit. This year we are moving to a model that will be classroom based. Andrew will teach social studies to the Tundra and Kak will teach social studies to the Bayou. This allows us to do three things.

  1. We can integrate social studies with language arts and more easily follow up and build on discussions from social studies during other times of the day.
  2. We can follow the kids’ interests and pace more naturally, as we will be less schedule-constricted and have fewer unit end times.
  3. We can create a year-long study which builds on itself as the year progresses
Year One

Year one is about discovering where we are geographically and developing a sense of place by exploring outward from school to neighborhood, to city, to state, to country, to world. We will investigate personal connections and connections to place, and do map work. The five themes of geography–place, regions, movement, location, and human/environment interaction–will be emphasized throughout our studies.

Year Two

Year two is about exploring in depth who we are, first as individuals, then using the settlers and Ojibwe of 1850 as a case study for understanding different cultural approaches, and finally, looking at the diversity of our community now. This year of study seeks to explore a deeper, multifaceted story of self and of culture through a variety of individual stories.

We are both excited for the year and eager to see how our work and ideas will live in the classroom.

–Andrew and Kak


Humanities Benchmark Assessment

Melissa Andersen and Rebecca Slaby, Middle School Humanities Teachers

We are excited about the new benchmark assessment system for our humanities classes. This summer we re-worked our benchmarks for reading, writing, speaking and listening, research, and social studies, and we will now be assessing student progress according to these benchmarks.

The goal of moving toward a benchmark grading system as opposed to traditional percentage-based letter grades is to provide a more accurate picture of each student’s progress in all areas of the humanities program. By showing progress on the specific reading, writing, listening and speaking, research, and social studies skills assessed in class, parents can have a more accurate picture of their child’s strengths and challenges, and teachers can be more informed as we plan differentiated lessons that meet students where they are.

FSM’s benchmarks are based on national and state standards in language arts and social studies and are broad by design in order to fit FSMN’s progressive philosophy, leaving room for a variety of topics and resources to be explored. Rubrics for grading individual assignments and projects include the relevant benchmarks in order to provide feedback along the way. Rather than letter grades, students will receive a number on a scale of 1-4 to show their progress on each relevant benchmark.

We are looking forward to implementing this system this year and are confident that benchmark assessment will provide a clearer understanding of each student’s skills.

–Rebecca and Melissa