Social Studies CRAs

Mon, 03/24/2014 - 15:30 -- Anonymous (not verified)

This entry marks the fifth and final blog in our series exploring the College Readiness Assignments (CRAs) in each of the 5 subject areas in which they are housed. Like the CRAs in the other subject areas, the Social Studies CRAs address the TEKS and CCRS.  You’ll find a chart in each of the assignments that lets you know which TEKS and CCRS are covered in that assignment.

The Social Studies CRAs are similar to the English/Language Arts CRAs in that they are versatile, and you can adapt many of them to incorporate the particular content you are working with.  This means that CRAs are not “additional material” you must cover during your busy school year; they work with the material you need to cover and address the standards that are required. While many of the CRAs provide a recommended text for the assignment, you can easily use the structure of the CRAs to explore other Social Studies content. 

As we here at CRAfT have expressed, the important feature of CRAs is the approach to learning they bring.  You can use the content you want, while still ensuring students are developing the key cognitive and foundational skills necessary for college and career.

Below we look at three examples of Social Studies CRAs: two for use in a traditional classroom setting and one of the Independent Study CRAs, which is fully online and available for students to do on their own for practice or even extra credit.  Be sure to check out the entire list of Social Studies CRAs here.

Music: A Sign of the Times

This CRA has proven to be a favorite among students and teachers alike.  It’s no wonder, given that the entire assignment centers on popular music.

Victor Hugo once said, “Music expresses that which cannot be put into words and cannot remain silent.” The most memorable songs are the ones that capture an unspoken truth and make people see their world in a different light. However, the truths needing this intense exposure are often products of the times in which they are generated, making music a lens for observing a generationʼs triumphs and trials, almost as if through a time capsule. Therefore, this assignment asks students to examine two different songs, one a remake of the other, to uncover the “truths” captured by each songwriter about his era.

In addition to the lyrics for both Stevie Wonder’s “Pastime Paradise” and Coolio’s “Gangsta’s Paradise,” students will also find songs from Radiohead and Nirvana in the Student Handouts section of the CRA.  After wrestling with reflection and analysis questions about each of the songs, students write a comparative essay, discussing the audience, historical context, and implications of each of the songs.

This CRA can easily be adapted to address a particular historical period or movement.  As the instructor, you can find covers and remakes of other songs that are relevant to the content you are teaching and ask students to compare those songs’ effectiveness in highlighting issues or problems in a time period.

Are You Getting the Whole Truth?

Media literacy is an imperative skill in today’s world in which there are dozens, if not hundreds, of news outlets presenting competing versions of news events.  In “Are You Getting the Whole Truth,” students are challenged to read two different versions of the same news event.

In the Instructor Task Information of the CRA, you will find several resources to help you and your students find both current and historical presentations with differing points of view.  Working in groups, students will not only write an essay summarizing and evaluating what they learned through the assignment, they will also create a digital slideshow presentation reporting what they found during their research.  Students in groups reading competing viewpoints will be surprised to discover the bias presented in their news articles.  This assignment is an excellent tool for developing critical reading skills in students.

As an instructor, you can use this CRA to cover current events, as is suggested in the Instructor Task Information, or adapt it to cover a particular historical event you are studying.  For instance, in the CRA, you will find resources to investigate differing presentations of the Vietnam War, but you could easily find sources covering NASA’s space program or even differing views on the Revolutionary War.  Again, the CRAs are meant to hone students’ skills across several domains, including reading, writing, and research.  You can adapt each CRA to meet the content needs of your curriculum.

Protests from Berkeley to Kent State – Independent Study CRA

This CRA asks students to investigate two protest movements during the 1960s in the United States: the student movement and the antiwar movement.  In this Independent Study CRA, students have access to several resources that offer photographs, narratives, and protest music of the era.

Apart from the importance of learning about and understanding these events that happened in United States history, this assignment challenges students to develop a skill that instructors in college and supervisors in the work place value a great deal: evaluation.  Students are asked to supplement their expository writing about the movements by including an evaluation of the movement they choose to write about.  This is to say that students are not just responsible for summarizing and presenting information; they also have to offer a sustained evaluation of the movement: whether or not they believe the movement was effective and why.

The skill of evaluating is one that is frequently missed by high school students yet highly valued by college instructors.  “Protests from Berkeley to Kent State” will help students think beyond memorization as they decide for themselves how these events affected the history and culture of the United States.


Remember, many of the Social Studies CRAs are very flexible and can be adapted to address the content you are covering in your class.  A quick look at the scoring guides for CRAs will show you that the key cognitive and foundational skills, apart from content mastery, are equally important for preparing students for college and career.

As we complete this series exploring the 5 primary areas of College Readiness Assignments (Cross-Disciplinary, English/Language Arts, Math, Science, and Social Studies), the CRAfT team would like to remind you that all of the original 50 CRAs were field tested by high school, community college, and university faculty to make sure that educators are not burdened by including them in their curricula and that students actually benefit from using them.