Where Are We Going, and How Are we Going to Get There?

Resources, Workshops, and Lesson Plans for Social Studies

by Michael Robinson, 2019 West Tennessee Teacher of the Year and high school social studies teacher at Houston High School in the Germantown Municipal School District

Population pyramids, indigenous peoples, Freedom Riders, Sun Studio, multiple scales, and GPS/GIS are all found in the new 2019-20 Tennessee social studies standards. These are just a few examples of the content social studies teachers are expected to teach. The new state standards provide a type of roadmap for teachers to follow as they plan what they are going to teach their students each school day.

With new standards comes the need to create new lessons, adjust and adapt existing lessons, and find new resources. This can take up a tremendous amount of a teacher’s time and energy. In order to help lighten the load for teachers, below is a selection of free, already-made lesson plans, flyers for summer workshops, and website resources that address the new standards in social studies.

Many of the webpages below can also be used in cross-curricular instruction across grade levels from elementary to high school as well as in our most advanced AP and dual enrollment social studies courses.


Workshops and Lesson Plans

Tennessee Council for the Social Studies has a list of upcoming events for teachers that includes summer workshops in the state of Tennessee. One of the listed summer opportunities is a one-day workshop sponsored by the Tennessee Geographic Alliance entitled History and Geography: Making It Work. This workshop is for social studies teachers in grades 3-12, and each of the sessions focuses on new material found in the new social studies standards. In addition to the sessions on the new standards, there will be five sessions for teaching AP Human Geography. 

Since 1998, The University of Tennessee at Chattanooga Asia Program has been providing teachers with excellent seminars, resources, and lesson plans for teaching about Asia. The website has over 75 lesson plans for teaching about Asia, with most focused on East Asia. Recently, 14 multi-day lessons, 2018 NCTA East Asia Teaching Modules, have been added to their website. These teaching modules were developed to specifically address many of the new Tennessee social studies standards that focus on Asia.

Historical and Geographical Graphs and Charts Websites

OEC: The Observatory of Economic Complexity

The OEC: The Observatory of Economic Complexity is a website from MIT that allows the user to see a country’s trading partners, imports, and exports. Click on Visualizations to see the colorful detailed charts for each country. Use Chrome or Firebox browsers as it does not work with Mac’s Safari browser. Harvard University has a very similar website,  The Atlas of Economic Complexity

Where We Came From and Where We Went, State by State

The interactive graphs, Where We Came From and Where We Went, State by State, from the New York Times charts where Americans have moved between states since 1900. In the example above, Tennessee in 2012 had 61% of the population born in Tennessee, 16% born in other southern states, 9% born in the Midwest, etc. The graphs allow teachers to see the patterns of migration in each state and region of the United States.

The Demographic Statistical Atlas of the United States

The Demographic Statistical Atlas of the United States has demographic information  about a state, city, census tract, zip code, etc. It has detailed graphs, maps, and charts on housing, education, occupations, and much more. In the example above the population pyramid, types of jobs, income, and education is shown for Germantown, Tennessee.

Population Pyramids of the World: 1950-2100

The Population Pyramids of the World from 1950 to 2100 shows how a country’s percentage of males, females, and age cohorts have changed over time. In the example above from the website, the United States in 2019, when compared to 1969, has a significantly smaller percentage of the male and female population below age 15 and a much higher percentage above age 60. By 2069, almost all age cohorts will have close to the same percentage of males and females. If you want to read more about analyzing population pyramids, the US Census has an article called America’s Age Profile Told Through Population Pyramids.

Maps and Mapping Websites

The Atlas of the Historical Geography of the United States is a primary source of an atlas that was first published in 1932. The online digital version has the almost 700 maps from the original atlas. 

World Mapper

World Mapper is a website of cartograms from a wide range of topics ranging from languages and religions to avalanches and measles. Cartograms are maps where the territory of a specific location is resized according to the subject being mapped. In the example above, the subject being mapped is the English language. Most of the world’s countries are extremely small with the exception of where English is the main language. The United States, United Kingdom, Australia, and New Zealand clearly show up on the map, and the size of each country is based on the number of English speakers.

The New York Times has an additional map showing racial and ethnic segregation called Mapping Segregation.

To learn more about how to use GoogleEarth and GoogleMaps in the class room, explore the Google Earth Outreach webpage. National Geographic also has a webpage, Teaching With Google Earth, for teachers to learn how to use GoogleEarth with their students.

Get Started with Map Viewer will help teachers learn how to create their own maps, and the website also has GIS lesson plans.

Mapping the 2010 Census

The Mapping the 2010 U.S. Census maps on the New York Times website has US maps showing county data for population density, ethnic and racial groups, and housing. These high quality maps allow teachers to look at the concept of scale, moving from a state view to a census tract view. In the above example it appears in the first map that Tennessee has all areas with less than 20% Hispanic populations, but after changing the scale of the map, it can be seen that Census Tract 91 in Shelby County has a 44% Hispanic population.

The Mapping the 2010 U.S. Census maps on the New York Times website has US maps showing county data for population density, ethnic and racial groups, and housing. These high quality maps allow teachers to look at the concept of scale, moving from a state view to a census tract view. In the above example it appears in the first map that Tennessee has all areas with less than 20% Hispanic populations, but after changing the scale of the map, it can be seen that Census Tract 91 in Shelby County has a 44% Hispanic population.

History Websites

We Are Teachers has a link to 25 Best Social Studies Websites for Kids and Teachers to Learn.

Common Sense Education has a link to the Best U.S. History Websites for Students.

ThoughtCo.

ThoughtCo. has an article, Architecture Timeline of Important Historic Periods, showing how western architecture has changed over time.


As summer quickly approaches there are many sites across the state of Tennessee to visit to give teachers new insights, ideas, and resources to take back to their classrooms in the fall. Many of these locales are represented in the new social studies standards. From historic Fort Loudoun, one of Tennessee’s fifty-six state parks, to local farm tours and solar farm tours, as well as tours of Sun Studio, the Birthplace of Rock ’N’ Roll, Tennessee has great variety of fascinating destinations just waiting to be explored.  

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