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Digging Deeper: Activities for Enriching and Expanding Social Studies Instruction K-12

reviewed by Jeremy Hilburn

coverTitle: Digging Deeper: Activities for Enriching and Expanding Social Studies Instruction K-12
Author(s): M. Gail Hickey & Jeremiah C. Clabough (Eds.)
Publisher: Information Age Publishing, Charlotte
ISBN: 1681238624, Pages: 237, Year: 2017
Search for book at Amazon.com

Digging Deeper: Activities for Enriching and Expanding Social Studies Instruction K-12, edited by M. Gail Hickey & Jeremiah C. Clabough, is a volume situated at the intersection of social studies education and gifted education. The editors suggest this volume is intended for those who wish to “promote challenging social studies instruction and enrich learning for gifted or interested learners” (p. 2). The editors and chapter authors make clear and convincing arguments for the alignment between the demands of social studies and the needs and strengths of gifted students.


The 15-chapter volume is divided into three sections. Following the introduction, Chapters Two through Six focus on elementary education (further disaggregated into lower and upper elementary grades). The following four chapters highlight middle grades education, while the final four chapters are intended for secondary audiences. Each of the chapters includes at least one lesson idea (and sometimes two or three). Chapters Eight and Twelve feature co-curricular programs aligned with the aims of social studies.


There is much to like about Digging Deeper. For the sake of brevity, I will highlight three major strengths. First, as a teacher educator who primarily works with middle grades preservice teachers, I appreciated the editors’ efforts to highlight the developmental levels in how they organized the chapters. Developmentally appropriate elementary, middle, and secondary lessons are often lacking in many edited works, but they are central to this volume.

Second, reading across the chapters, I appreciated the wide range of perspectives, including: in- and out-of-school enrichment activities, approaches to enrich instruction for gifted learners, and a nice balance between local and global perspectives. The authors of Chapters Eight and Twelve, for example, highlighted out-of-school co-curricular programs, including junior historian societies and the Doors to Diplomacy programs, as exemplary sites of social studies gifted education.

The other authors focused on in-class activities that could enrich the social studies experience for gifted learners, but there was a wide range here as well. Some chapter authors suggested differentiation strategies to enrich the learning of gifted learners. For instance, Wooten and colleagues’ superb Chapter Three promotes using “time travel novels” to better understand history. The authors provide some nice “gear up” options for gifted students, such as examining alternative dating systems in addition to a traditional timeline.

On the other hand, authors such as Lintner and Puryear draw on Universal Design for Learning (UDL) principles to promote student choice. Their Chapter Seven demonstrates an excellent approach for challenging students with contemporary issues through projects. Likewise, the chapters presented a nice balance between the local (Chapters Two, Six, and Eight) and the global (Chapters Five, Nine, Twelve, and Thirteen). In short, the wide range of perspectives in the volume makes the book a satisfying cover-to-cover read. Yet, each chapter is also strong enough to be a stand-alone reading.   

The third major strength of the volume is that the reader is treated to some very innovative practices, especially related to interdisciplinary and arts-based approaches. Carano and Baker’s Chapter Ten stood out as an exemplar of using music as social studies pedagogy. Their three methods, accompanied by examples and resources, are particularly helpful to readers who are unused to utilizing music in social studies. The authors also provide a table that aligns music examples to the NCSS 10 thematic strands. Turner’s Chapter Eleven provides some insightful suggestions for bringing drama activities into the classroom. Still other authors promoted using political cartoons (Haas’s Chapter Four) and historiography (Lovorn’s detailed and excellent lesson in Chapter Fourteen). Yancie and Clabough’s historical memes (Chapter Fifteen) is something I definitely plan to use next semester with my methods students.

These innovative practices are actionable and often accompanied by specific differentiation strategies. To illustrate with one example, Carano and Baker suggest analyzing historical perspectives with liner notes (the text paper that traditionally accompanied music albums). They suggest comparing textbook treatments of the transatlantic slave trade with liner notes, which can be retrieved from the Smithsonian Folkways Music website. Listening to music, reading the liner notes and textbook treatments, and examining photographs of musicians and their instruments, students are immersed in an interdisciplinary social studies experience.

Despite these considerable strengths, there are some limitations to the book. First, there were some gaps. Technology was not a key feature of the text. Also, co-teaching was not mentioned. Given the increasing attention that co-teaching receives in teacher education literature, this was surprising. Collaborations between social studies teachers and gifted specialists can often be incredibly rewarding and enriching for the students and teachers involved.

Perhaps the most significant gap is that the C3 Framework was not featured very prominently. While most chapter authors gave at least a nod to the C3, it was not central in many chapters, and in some chapters it wasn’t mentioned at all. An exception was Harshman and colleagues’ skillful Chapter Thirteen, in which they put C3 at the forefront and used the IDM blueprint to pair global competence education and gifted education through geography instruction. Centering their inquiry on water rights and water scarcity, the chapter authors encourage students to examine their own water consumption as well as the larger structural forces (e.g., policy, environment, economics, NGOs) that impact water consumption and scarcity, and the ways in which these intersect in terms of water rights.

Finally, while not a gap per se, the critical issues featured so prominently in contemporary social studies literature were not always taken up by the chapter authors. Issues of race, gender, sexuality, and the current political climate, for instance, were not given prominent status. While the volume cannot reasonably be expected to address all areas of interest, I do wish more emphasis were placed on these timely issues, especially as the stated purpose of the book is to enrich and extend instruction for gifted learners.

I will end this section with two minor stylistic quibbles. Including the term “gifted” in the title of the book might have helped with marketing and getting this book into the hands of gifted specialists and social studies teachers with a particular interest in helping gifted learners. Also, the table of contents in the paperback version could have delineated between elementary, middle, and secondary lessons to aid the reader. Otherwise, the book was well organized.


In summary, Digging Deeper is a welcome addition to the social studies literature. I recommend this book to social studies teacher educators, gifted specialists, and social studies teachers at all levels. Selected chapters (such as Chapters Eight and Twelve) could be beneficial to facilitators of co-curricular or extracurricular programs related to social studies. Preservice social studies teachers would also benefit from selected chapters as assigned course readings. Social studies methods instructors could enhance their courses by selecting teaching methods and materials from the volume to share with their students. And for teacher educators working at the intersection of social studies and gifted education, this volume is a necessary read.

Cite This Article as: Teachers College Record, 2018, p. -
http://www.tcrecord.org ID Number: 22378, Date Accessed: 6/19/2018 10:09:14 AM

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