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         Instructional Technology – ICL – PYP – Project Zero – International Education

March 6, 2013

ESPRAT+G and Making Connections

“ESPRAT is an acronym for Economy, Society, Political Structure, Religion, The Arts, and Technology. It is used for analyzing six broad aspects of how human efforts shape their “culture.” Geography focuses upon natural landforms. By applying the questions and definitions linked in the left-hand menu for each category of ESPRAT+G, scholars can design and specify their inquiry into conditions faced by people in particular places or at a particular period in their history.” 

This description and approach to learning about social studies originates from the ESPRAT+G Web site that my wife and I created to help guide our students in their study of culture and societies. We came across the ESPRAT+G construct during our time teaching in Saudi Arabia back in the 90′s. Don Zimbrick, a social studies teacher, introduced it and guided us both as young social teachers to think about teaching our students to think not only as historians but also as economists, sociologists, etc. The ESPRAT+G analysis approach helped scaffold the learning for our students teaching them to not only categorize their learning but to also make connections.

Don was all about making connections. Helping his students see the influence of how each ESPRAT+G category influenced one another really made history come alive for all of our students. We grew as social studies teachers learning that the content was secondary to the connections students were making not only within ESPRAT+G but also to their lives, to other historical events and to the present day.

While providing categories for the study of social studies is not new, it is helpful to give students terms like we do in Language Arts with 6+1 Traits for Writing to guide them in how they think and speak when analyzing culture, societies and historical events. The teachers at my school use the History Alive textbook series which also provides similar categories in how the content is organized and taught.

ESPRAT+G can also be helpful in Language Arts as my wife Margaret reports in her work with LA teachers at the Thomas Jefferson High School for Science and Technology where she is the Library Media Specialist. Margaret reports that the ESPRAT+G analytical tool can be the connector which brings social studies and LA teachers together in collaboration. The English teachers often want to build a historical context for studying novels especially looking at social, political and economic conditions. Guiding the students to analyze the society and time period the novel is set in allows for more depth of understanding as the students make connections to what was happening in time and place.

Margaret uses our ESPRAT+G site with all of its questions to support the students in their LA classes dig deeper to better understand the messages from the novels they are reading. It is important to remember that even at a school like “TJ”, the students have not had full coursework in economics, sociology, political science, or art history let alone history classes to know which questions to ask.

After teaching the inquiry lessons using ESPRAT+G, Margaret then shifts to librarian mode to help guide the students to know how and where to search to find answers to their questions. She also leads students to resources on literary criticism to help them understand the elements driving a particular literary movement.

Margaret reports that the three way collaboration between herself, the social studies teachers and the English teachers is really paying off. Students are being tasked with choosing one category of ESPRAT+G to connect to an aspect of the novel. While they look through one lens in their research, the students are discovering how interrelated the ESPRAT+G disciplines are.

Third Graders at my school are also making connections using ESPRAT+G via the RegionsQuest WebQuest. Learning to categorize and make connections definitely can start at a young age. :)

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