Final Project – Course 1

Embedded link for Word Document with Final Unit Plan for Human Rights (Social Studies) 8th grade:

Link to Final Project Plan:


Topic Selection:

  • 8th Grade Social Studies C3 focus is Conflict under which we have covered a Human Rights unit for the last two years. I taught this unit last year but realized many flaws:
  • Reasons for revamping last year’s HR unit:
    • I did not have enough checks at different stages to monitor the progress of students. Therefore, stronger students pushed themselves harder than others. This time I split the unit into 5 stages and they are being monitored at each stage with evidence of their work. This makes them more accountable.
    • Last year, I also emphasized making an end product that shows thinking outside the box however, students became so obsessed with ‘producing’ something that they did not do a lot of research. They spent most of their time thinking about their product (or wasting time) or making their end product. And grading creativity is hard! So, this time everyone is making a presentation.
    • Last year, I asked students to make practical suggestions for changing a human abuse situation in a country but they did not have any lens to look at it. Therefore, this year we went over economic, political and social terms addressed in this unit to provide a clear focus for students. I think it will give students more focus if they have to suggest political (the type of government, laws, law enforcement), social (traditions, religion, race, gender, culture) and economic (inflation, unemployment, resources) measures for a country.
  • The difference in Learning Experience:
    • Last year, students expected me to give them ideas of an end product or help them as much as possible.
    • This year, I find myself acting as a facilitator. I answer questions and guide students without giving answers. It gives the students more room to find answers on their own.
  • Technology Component:
    • I wanted students to learn a new app that would help them in the future. Therefore, they learned how to use Tiki Toki as an interactive timeline.
  • Most important influence from Course 1:
    • I realize that I have not learned everything that I need to become the best educator possible (my own standards of what is best). I think the need to keep on learning is clearer to me as well as the need to teach in combination with technology as that is what makes most of the material relevant to students.
  • Expected Outcomes
    • I expect students to know how to conduct a discussion rather than a debate
    • Students have learned how to use a new interactive timeline app
    • Students are able to look at new information through a learned lens of unemployment, inflation, resources, government type, laws, law enforcement, race, culture, gender, religion, and traditions.
  • Feedback:
    • I have not yet finished this unit but will do so next week. I will be collecting feedback then. There is a lot of frustration with me for not giving all the information that the students want from me. So let’s see what happens.
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From Theory into Practice

As I look at the reflection questions for Week 5, I realize that I do not consciously use learning theories in everyday practice. However, I have been discussing with students how to make linkages between abuses of human rights in countries that perform badly on economic indicators such as inflation and unemployment. They are unable to find the connection, either due to the introduction to new academic (economic) vocabulary or the absence of linking what they learn in school and its application to real life. This is scary if they cannot link what they learn in school to real life. 

Social Studies Human Rights Unit

However, when I completed a sample assignment to show the role of political factors (the type of government, citizen involvement, laws, laws enforcement), economic factors (inflation, unemployment, and resources), and social factors (traditions, culture, race, and gender) to view violation or protection of a particular human right, student understanding increased. They were able to understand how high unemployment and inflation causes protests in Iran. During the protests, mass arrests take place and people are put in detention centers where they are usually tortured, do not get a fair trial or are killed. This is a violation of the UDHR (Universal Declaration of Human Rights) article 10 which advocates for a fair trial for everyone.

However, in Finland, the unemployment and inflation rates are significantly lower so there are fewer protests. No one is arrested and even if they were Finland’s law enforcement has a set procedure that the police has to follow to remain fair. This is not the case in Iran where a revolutionary court is usually in charge of all those arrested in a protest and prisoners only get a state-appointed lawyer after one week. 

The sample presentation that I showed to the students allowed them to see political, social and economic linkages and human rights for different countries. Therefore, students constructed linkages after creating meaning from new concepts and their interrelatedness.

ELA Historical Fiction Unit

Similarly, for the Historical Fiction unit, the students and I decoded the Teachers College Narrative Writing rubric to pinpoint what needed to be done for 7th grade and 8th-grade writing. Students recognized the value of rubrics and the need to simplify for understanding, in this case, the complex rubrics. It taught students perseverance that if the rubrics are difficult to understand, you do not have to give up on them but you adapt them to your use. It teaches a valuable lesson to take things apart (instructions, rubrics) to make yourself understand them.

Difference in Teaching

I notice that I am withdrawing from directly teaching to the assignment now. I am focusing on providing rudimentary tools to students and encouraging them onwards i.e. becoming a facilitator or an observer. They are responsible for the research and finding their own answers to the questions that they have. The students are working harder, are more confused and frustrated but only because they are trying to find answers on their own. They still come to me for clarifications but not for answers anymore.


I like this switch and am already planning a unit in Peacekeeping and Conflict Resolution that will interlink ELA and Social Studies for richer learning. I really like the idea of linking to other schools for the Peacekeeping and Conflict Resolution unit through skyping (Cofino). I will be searching for schools in the Middle East due to time differences.


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Planning for Tech Rich Lessons

I found Cofino’s video and the accompanying Complete Guide for Designing Tech Rich Units extremely informative. I am comfortable with Stage 1 which is the Exploration stage as I find that the students are adept at conducting their research. Sometimes they do have trouble with determining the exact problem that they are trying to define.

Students seem to have the hardest time relating to Stage 2 as it involves planning as they do want to rush into the project. I really like the idea of storyboarding for a video and will try out the storyboarding examples for Monster Inc. and the storyboarding ideas. The only time that one of my students seemed to make an attempt to storyboard was the video on Soviet-Afghan War that a student played the background music for on his guitar. It was poignant and thoughtful, the tone that he wanted to set.

Stage 3 where the students work and display/share their final product also works out well as students are eager to show off what they have done. However, by Stage 4 as Kim Cofino correctly points out, we, as teachers are eager to move on to the next unit. Most times, I do not have time to pause for more time other than to get quick feedback from students about what worked well and what did not. They share what they would like to do differently next time and we move on. Of course, as a teacher, I have noted what did not work and make a mental/physical note to not repeat that next time. I need to fix that and let students have time for a feedback assessment from their peers or self-evaluation as well.

I like the APLE Unit Planner because it allows a component of technology that is connected specifically to learning goals to be documented. It reflects the needs of today’s students. Second, the ability to use at least three standards (ISTE, College Readiness, and Content Standards) gives more room for teachers to document their goals.

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Learning Communities

I have had great difficulty gathering my thoughts for this topic as it is the area that I need to do the most work as a teacher. I have not brushed up on my technological skills to keep up with what I teach. Since the last two years, I have concentrated mostly on switching to a C3 curriculum in Social Studies that emphasizes critical thinking and student inquiry.

A Point of Difference

I also have an issue with using digital technology as an end product as I find that students are also losing the ability to ‘make’ anything. They are using the ability to wield any tools or to use their hands, manipulate shapes and put things together. Therefore, any activity that allows them to use digital technology to actually ‘make’ something be it: a brioche cake (for the French Revolution Project), or a strategy board game between Tolstoy and Lenin for the Russian Revolution. These are some examples of student projects to showcase their interests and talents.

Question to Ponder

I am divided between the ability of students to be tech savvy but not know anything about how to put things together be it a model of modernization of life in Irtibat (a village in Tunisia) after the Arab Spring.  Or a clay model project for the ‘Human Rights’ unit to show human rights abuses in Sri Lanka under the Security and Anti Terrorism law passed in 1979.

Researched recipe of a Brioche Cake – Conflict within Nations Summative Project – French Revolution

The above is a Strategy Board Game Between Lenin and Tolstoy – as a summative project for the Russian Revolution.

An oil painting depiction of the American Civil War

The Village of Irtibat in Tunisia after the Arab Spring with road and brick homes

Illegal detention and torture under the Sri Lankan Security and Anti- Terrorism Act 1979


The enthusiasm of students when identifying their passions and working with their hands after the research that they do opened my eyes to the possibility of having students work with their hands which they are not used to doing. It does not mean that they should not utilize digital technology as they will not survive in the future without it but it needs to go hand in hand with their ability to work with their hands.

I completed all the readings and watched all the videos for this week before coming to the above conclusion. Mimi Ito’s video, talk and writing on ‘Connected learning’ convinced me to try to play the XBox with my boys to understand the skills they are using and get a feel of what draws them in! It also showed me that the ability to make something may be a step towards getting students mobilized to take action in the bigger world.

I also used Cofino’s suggested lesson on our digital footprint as students googled their own names to find out about themselves on the internet. It got them thinking when a student found out that her instagram account was private but all the people she followed were available for everyone to see when she googled her name! So thank you Kim Cofino.

In conclusion, there is great value in having our students use digital technology but the greatest value in when it also forces students to use their mind critically and take action or learn how they can take action as future active members of society.

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Becoming a Researcher

As I read the UNICEF information paper on ‘Children in a Digital World’ I find it sobering (given serious risks for lower income users and less supervised users) and enlightening because of the learning opportunities it can provide. And as a mother of three children, I agree that limiting digital access is not possible as so much of the learning at school is now done digitally. However, there is too much time wasted at home digitally as a lurker rather than a contributor by most students who are busy finding meems or videos to watch. If this could be translated into more useful activity it would be wonderful.

More Active Adult Participation Needed:

I do think that increasing the educational value of students’ digital time also means more active involvement of teachers and parents in their students/children’s learning opportunities. As adults, we have to expose them to new apps that increase their interest in what they learn at school and ways to connect with their peers. Those two areas seem to be of most interest to students right now.

Apps That We Use as Teachers:

As a teacher, I have really not capitalized on great ways to use new apps that keep students more engaged in their studies and provide authentic learning experiences. I realize now that I need to do more.

I have only dabbled in which allows students to research topographical and route information around the world. We used this to find routes of travel for refugees during a unit on ‘Human Movement’ two years ago.

In addition, I use Ted Talks for our poetry unit and when I am looking for ways to inspire students during our morning meetings. Other than that, I encourage students to use tools to organize their thoughts using to identify their personalized note-taking strategies or to use and keep the handout in their folder to compliment their social studies note taking.

Furthermore, I have found interactive mind mapping tools much more useful to recommend to students such as than making an outline before beginning to write their essay.

Last, students in my class found interactive timelines like and very useful when making presentations in Social Studies on units ‘Conflicts Among Nations’ and ‘Conflict within Nations’.


Upon reflection, becoming more connected will allow us as teachers and parents to open more doors for our students and children. For example, for the new Social Studies unit on ‘Human Rights,’ I am already planning to introduce students to use as a way to curate information on the particular human right from the Universal Declaration of Human Rights that they want to research. They will use their research to identify the country they want to look at where the right is being violated and suggest ways to address it by looking at countries where the right is not being upheld.


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Lurker to Connector

After finishing the readings, I am reaffirmed in my belief that I am a lurker. I have always had an aversion to ‘putting myself out there’ maybe for fear of judgment or insecurities of not knowing enough. As a lurker, I agree that I have to know more or read more before I am comfortable enough to contribute. For me, it does not make sense to recreate the wheel again. However, as a lurker, I have to realize that the individualization of the lessons that I teach are not accessible to everyone and could be shared with others who may benefit from them. I also come from a very varied cultural, international background that colors all the lessons I teach.

It is sobering to realize that only 1% of internet users are actually creating new material. According to the article “What Does it Mean to Disconnect?’ about 10-15% internet users contribute to new material while only 1% creates (BBC) but everyone else just lurks. This fact bothers my conscience!

And as lurkers, we do benefit from the knowledge, methodology, unit plans and lessons posted by others. I do think that as ‘lurkers’ we should do more. I know that as a planner, teacher, and active learner I have more to contribute.

As Cofino comments, we as teachers can be the ‘real medium’ that students can find on social media within the spectrum of crazy, over the top superstars and people that they do not follow. We also have a duty to be out there on social media as our students are, to inspire them to do more and be more.

In conclusion, I know that I am not comfortable using Instagram yet (I have to work up to it although a student gave me a tutorial recently) but I can use Twitter to post what I learn and do in class and I plan to. But I am most comfortable using a blog to voice my thoughts as writing offers catharsis and a way to sound out my thoughts, which I am doing right now. I am glad that we will be blogging during this Coetail online course.

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My Communities

I am connected to all webinars etc. from Teachers College as I attended a week-long Readers/Writers workshop at Columbia in 2014. I am also part of the school wide Learner Agency Team and will be presenting with a co-presenter at NESA spring Conference 2019 in Bangkok on my practices as an ELA and Social Studies teacher. Last, I am part of the Social Studies team that is working towards vertical alignment of the Social Studies C3 curriculum across middle school and high school in all ISG (International Schools Group) schools (Jubail International School, Dammam International School, Dhahran Elementary Middle School, and Dhahran High School).




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Hello world!

This is the ‘Why’ part of the first unit.

  • Name: Saadia Munir Hammad
  • Originally from Pakistan/USA
  • Currently living & working: Al-Khobar, Saudi Arabia
  • Position: Currently 8th Grade Humanities teacher (ELA and Social Studies). I have previously taught 6th and 7th-grade Humanities as well:
  • Cohort: I am a classroom teacher who is looking for new ways to make learning relevant to students (and to keep up with students) while teaching a C3 Curriculum in Social Studies and using a Writers and Readers Workshop.
  • Twitter: @03_hamma
  • I am excited but approaching this course with some trepidation as well!
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