Tuesday, August 21, 2012

Common Core Social Studies activity for 11-12

Continuing with our posts (my colleague Michael Milton ( and I), below is a sample activity for 11 and 12th graders using the Social Studies Common Core Literacy standards. 

I decided to make use of John Locke's Second Treatise of Civil Government, particularly his views on Natural Law in Chapter II, because that helps our students to see how the Enlightenment thinking practically impacted the creation of the primary documents of American government.  These could be directly used in any US history course, AP US, or AP Government, and indirectly could be useful in AP World History and AP European History course. You can, of course, use more or less of the document as you see fit and to fit the needs of your curricular standards!

Once again, I am breaking down the standards into our Green Circle, Blue Square and Black Diamond levels, and incorporating some technology into the activities. However, each of the activities could be done with no technology at all; just good old pen and paper would be fine!

At the end of the activities (linked as before to the standards) I will include links to the documents I would use as supporting these lessons. These do not necessarily translate well to the 9-10 or 6-8 Common Core standards, but, with some creativity and alterations, they could be adapted to those levels.

Key Ideas and Details (Green Circle)

RH.11-12.1. Cite specific textual evidence to support analysis of primary and secondary sources, connecting insights gained from specific details to an understanding of the text as a whole.

1. What is the overall purpose of Locke's Second Treatise? How do you know? Compose a 5 sentence paragraph on your blog in which you describe his purpose and state your evidence in your own words.

RH.11-12.2. Determine the central ideas or information of a primary or secondary source; provide an accurate summary that makes clear the relationships among the key details and ideas.

2. What is the most important idea of Locke's Second Treatise? A) Compose a paragraph in which you support your answer with 2-3 pieces of evidence. B) if you feel ambitious, distill his idea into a 140 character tweet.

RH.11-12.3. Evaluate various explanations for actions or events and determine which explanation best accords with textual evidence, acknowledging where the text leaves matters uncertain.

3. Is Locke correct in his descriptions/depictions of how people act when left to their own devices? Provide three real-world examples in the behavior of teenagers that proves or disproves Locke’s ideas.Tweet your examples (in words or pictures) with the hashtag #stateofnature

Craft and Structure (Blue Square)

RH.11-12.4. Determine the meaning of words and phrases as they are used in a text, including analyzing how an author uses and refines the meaning of a key term over the course of a text (e.g., how Madison defines faction in Federalist No. 10).

1. Locke states in Chapter II, Section 6: “But though this be a state of liberty, yet it is not a state of licence: though man in that state have an uncontroulable liberty to dispose of his person or possessions, yet he has not liberty to destroy himself, or so much as any creature in his possession, but where some nobler use than its bare preservation calls for it.”

          A. Based upon your understanding of the document create a near definition (which means you may not use a dictionary or word defining app of any sort to reach a definition) of the following terms in the context of the author’s work.

          B. Using your new understanding of the terms above, rewrite the sentence that begins Chapter II, Section 6. Post the near definitions and your new sentence on your blog.

RH.11-12.5. Analyze in detail how a complex primary source is structured, including how key sentences, paragraphs, and larger portions of the text contribute to the whole.

2.  Read Chapter II, Sections 7 and 8. Explain in a blog post: how do they both lead to the final sentence of section 8?

3. In a paragraph you post to your blog, answer the following question: Why does Locke conclude Chapter II, Section 15 with the statement “But I moreover affirm, that all men are naturally in that state, and remain so, till by their own consents they make themselves members of some politic society; and I doubt not in the sequel of this discourse, to make it very clear.” Is this consistent with how he began Chapter II, Section 4?

RH.11-12.6. Evaluate authors’ differing points of view on the same historical event or issue by assessing the authors’ claims, reasoning, and evidence.

4. Show, using educreations or showme, how do the documents (Second Treatise of Civil Government and Document 3) define the State of Nature? Do Locke and Hobbes use the same concepts to reach their definition(s)?

Integration of Knowledge and Ideas (Black Diamond)

RH.11-12.7. Integrate and evaluate multiple sources of information presented in diverse formats and media (e.g., visually, quantitatively, as well as in words) in order to address a question or solve a problem.

1. Use Document 2 to compose a blog post in which you demonstrate why Christianity's creation myth supports the notion of a state of nature for human beings.

RH.11-12.8. Evaluate an author’s premises, claims, and evidence by corroborating or challenging them with other information.

2. Read Document 3. Compose an argument for/against Locke’s explanation of natural law and either write on your blog or record yourself (using audioboo or your iPad's camera) giving it. You must use the contents of Document 3 and at least two examples from current events to support yourself.

RH.11-12.9. Integrate information from diverse sources, both primary and secondary, into a coherent understanding of an idea or event, noting discrepancies among sources.

3. Read the selection from the textbook pertaining to the writing of the Declaration of Independence, and the Declaration of Independence (Document 5) itself. The textbook claims that Jefferson was heavily influenced by Locke’s work and beliefs. First, find two selections from the Declaration of Independence that support this claim and post them to your blog. Then compose answers to the following: Are the authors of the textbook correct in making this statement? Why does the textbook place Jefferson in the same context as philosophers like Locke, Hobbes, and Rousseau? Is this comparison valid? Why or why not?

Second (or as a separate activity), explain in a blog post why would Jefferson not embrace Hobbes’ views on the state of nature and natural law? What events in America’s early colonial history would predispose the Founders to reject Hobbes and embrace Locke?  If they had embraced Hobbes, how would the Declaration of Independence have been written differently?

Document 1: John Locke's Second Treatise of Civil Goverment, Chapter II, sections 4, 6, 7, 8, 15. Document is available at:

Document 2: Painting of Adam and Eve, by Lucas Cranach the Elder (1472–1553). A digital copy of this image is available at:

Document 3: selections from leviathan, by Thomas Hobbes, CHAPTER XIV, section 1, 2, 3, 4 available at:

Document 4 is selections from your own textbook account of the writing of the Declaration of Indepenence. (If your book doesn't have this, or, fortunately for you, you don't use a textbook, you can use wikipedia's entry on the subject.)

Document 5 is the Declaration of Independence, located at:


  1. We would like to use these lesson ideas and send the website link.

    Could you consider changing the dull gray-blue text color under the standards? It is not readable with the background.

  2. Hi Lazz04-

    Feel free to make use of it. I've been trying to get the html code to accept a different color, and it takes for a bit, but for some reason is reverting to the dark grey. I've updated it again, so hopefully it will stick!