How Do Rules & Traditions Shape Communities?

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This lesson is part of the following unit: Identity & Community: An Introduction to 6th Grade Social Studies In Lesson 6, students analyzed Suzanne Goldsmith's definition of community. Goldsmith explains that a group of people become a community when they have a shared goal. A class is a community of learners: The shared goal, or "common enterprise" is the intellectual, moral, and social development of students. In Lesson 7 students looked specifically at Memphis in order to identify some of the components of a geographic community. In Lessons 8 and 9, students read texts that explored how individuals within communities and between communities relate to one another, often by forming distinctions between we and they. Categorizing people is a universal aspect of human behavior. The important question is not how to avoid these categorizations but how to recognize when they are detrimental to the health of a community and its members. Eve Shalen recounts how divisions between the "in" group and the "out" group at her middle school resulted in the ostracism of particular members. Historically, we know that such distinctions have resulted in discrimination, and, in the most extreme cases, the labeling of some groups as subhuman has resulted in genocide. What leads some societies to deal with membership in ways that may result in ostracism, prejudice, and violence whereas other communities strive to prevent discrimination? To answer this question, we begin by looking at the customs nurtured by a community and how these customs are formalized into law. In this lesson, students will think about the relationship between customs and laws (or rules) as it relates to a safe, productive learning environment. They will consider the difference between laws and customs and begin to think about the rules they want to adopt in their classroom. By the end of this lesson, the class should have a contract that they can all sign as a symbol of their commitment to upholding the norms of the community. As students create their classroom contracts, the lesson
introduces them to some of the key building blocks of civilizations: customs, laws, rules, and contracts. Throughout their study of world history, students can reflect on how the rules and customs of other societies nurtured particular relationships among their members. Just as students attempt to establish rules to help the classroom community achieve the best environment for learning, they can investigate how societies throughout history developed customs and rules to achieve their own particular goals. Less

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    Grade: 5 to 9

    Topics: Humanities, Civics

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