Middle School Social Studies

Grade Level Specific Middle School Social Studies Curriculum Information
6th Grade
7th Grade
8th Grade

The Michigan Grade Level Content Expectations define what the state expects students to know and be able to do in the Social Studies at the end of each grade level.  Social Studies Alive! and History Alive! is the published program the Ann Arbor Public Schools has adopted to provide students with the Social Studies instruction and experiences they need to reach expected grade level targets.

Discipline Strands in Middle School Social Studies

  • Geography: The World in Spatial Terms, Places and Regions, Human Systems, Environment and Society
  • Civics/Government:  Purposes of Government, Values and Principles of American Democracy, Structure and Function of Government, Role of the Citizen in American Democracy
  • Economics:  Market Economy, National Economy, International Economy
  • History:  Living and Working Together, Michigan History, United States History
  • Public Discourse, Decision Making, and Citizen Involvement

The following features characterize Ann Arbor Public School's Elementary Social Studies curriculum:

Theory- and Researched-Based Active Instruction

Lessons and activities are based on five well-established theories: Understanding by Design, Nonlinguistic Representation, Multiple Intelligences, Cooperative Interaction, and Spiral Curriculum.

Standards-Based Content

Dynamic lessons build mastery of the Michigan Grade Level Content Expectations (GLCE's). Units integrate hands-on active learning in order to achieve a consistent pattern of high quality social studies instruction while aligning to state standards.

Preview Assignment

A short, engaging assignment at the start of each lesson previews key concepts and activates students' prior knowledge and personal experience.

Multiple Intelligences Teaching Strategies

Multiple Intelligences Teaching Strategies incorporate six types of activities: Visual Discovery, Social Studies Skill Builder, Experiential Exercise, Writing for Understanding, Response Groups, and Problem Solving Groupwork.

Considerate Text

Carefully structured reading materials enable students at all levels to comprehend. Expository text reading instruction involves four stages: previewing the content, reading, taking notes, and processing the content or reviewing and applying what has been learned.

Graphically Organized Reading Notes

Comprehensive graphic organizers are used to record key ideas; in order to further help students obtain meaning from what they read. Graphic organizers help students to see the underlying logic and interconnections among concepts by improving their comprehension and retention in the subject area.

Processing Assignment

An end-of-lesson processing assignment, involving multiple intelligences and higher-order thinking skills, challenges students to apply what they've learned. These assignments help students synthesize and apply the information they have learned in a variety of creative ways.

Assessments to Inform Instruction

End of unit tests encourage students to use their various intelligences to demonstrate their understanding of key concepts while preparing them for standardized tests.

Capstone Research Projects

Both Social Studies and English Language Arts GLCE's require a research paper at each grade level in the middle school.  Projects for each grade are written at the district level and require joint planning and execution on the part of Social Studies and English Language Arts teachers.  Media Specialists' teaching standards for media literacy and research instruction are also addressed for these projects.

Topics for Capstone Projects

Grade Level


Essential Questions



Societies have formed in many parts of the world.  What caused people to migrate to new settlements, what were the challenges they faced and what benefits resulted?


Population Growth and Resources

How does population growth affect resource availability?


Sustainable Agriculture

How did sustainable agriculture change societies?


Economic Development

What impact did economic development have on societies (one society or many)?



What economic and political consequences arise from the international movement of people?


Global Climate Change

What will be the impact of global climate change?  What significance will this have for human/environment relations?



What is the significance of globalization and what will its impact be on international and political relations?


Human/Environmental Interaction

Investigate how policies form the past and their implementation have had a negative or positive consequence for the environment of the future.


Balance of Power

How has the nation addressed tension between state and federal government power (e.g. Articles of Confederation, U. S. Constitution, state’s rights issues)


Liberty vs. Security

How has the nation balanced liberty issues with security issues?  (e.g. Alien and Sedition Acts, suspension of habeas corpus)


Government and Social Change

How have governmental policies, acts of reformers, economics, and demographics affected social change?  (e.g. abolitionist movement, women’s movement, reconstruction policies)


Movement of People

How has the nation addressed the movement of people into and within the United States (e.g. Native Americans, immigration)