Instructional Practices

​​​​​The Four Dimensions highlighted below center on the use of questions to spark curiosity, guide instruction, deepen investigations, acquire rigorous content, and apply knowledge and ideas in real world settings to become active and engaged citizens in the 21st century 

Readiness for college, career, and civic life is as much about the experiences students have as it is about learning any particular set of content, concepts, or skills. Thus the learning environments that teachers create are critical to student success. Students will flourish to the extent that their independent and collaborative efforts are guided, supported, and honored.

Developing Questions and Planning Inquiries

With the entire scope of human experience as its backdrop, the content of Social Studies consists of a rich array of facts, concepts, and generalizations. The way to tie all of this content together is through the use of compelling and supporting questions.

Compelling questions focus on real problems, issues, and curiosities about how the world works.  

Teacher and student generated questions are central elements of the teaching and learning process. These should be both intriguing to students and intellectually honest. Developing compelling and supporting questions is challenging, and teachers need to provide guidance and support to help students learn how to craft them.

Teachers use big ideas and essential questions to guide units.​

Applying Disciplinary Tools and Concepts

​Learners of all ages, typically begin proposing solutions to compelling questions based on their experiences. Because Social Studies content is based in human experience, students develop hunches about the questions under study. Rich Social Studies teaching pushes beyond student hunches by offering students opportunities to investigate those questions more thoroughly using disciplinary (civic, economic, geographical, or historical) and multi-disciplinary means.

Examples of thinking like an historian would include the habits of:

  • Connecting the past to present
  • Describing how an individuals' view of the present shapes their interpretations of the past.​

Teachers model democratic values as part of a system that simulates and/or provides actual civic engagement opportunties. Key values include:

  • fairness
  • political equality
  • autonomy
  • political literacy
  • mutual respect
  • friendly disagreement
​Controversial issues are presented in a way that protects the dignity of students


Communicating Conclusions and Taking Informed Action

Students need diverse opportunities to work individually, with partners, in small groups, and within whole class settings. 

Formats include: Individual essays, group projects, and other classroom-based written assessments, both formal and informal. Students should not be limited to those avenues alone. Other means by which students communicate their preliminary and final conclusions tinclude: discussions, deliberations, policy analyses, video productions,  Document Based Questions, and portfolios.

Often mastery of content no longer suffices. Active and responsible citizens identify and analyze public problems; deliberate with other people about how to define and address issues; take constructive, collaborative action; reflect on their actions; create and sustain groups; and influence institutions both large and small. Teaching students to act in these ways—as citizens—significantly enhances preparation for the workplace, as well as college and civic life.

Students should be affored opportunities to practice respectable discourse about real world issues focused on the goal of gaining deeper understandings.

Examples include:

  • Philosophical Chairs 
  • Socratic Seminars 
  • Structured Academic Controversies 


Evaluating Sources and Using Evidence

As a discipline, Social Studies is evidence-based.

Students learn how to fill in their knowledge gaps by learning how to work from sources and evidence to develop claims and counter-claims. Helping students develop a capacity for gathering, analyzing, and evaluating sources, and using evidence in disciplinary ways is a central feature of social studies instruction.

Sources come in many forms, including historical and contemporary documents, primary and secondary, data from direct observation, graphics, economic statistics, maps, legislative actions, objects, and court rulings.

Students must be mindful that not all sources are equal in value and use.  Sources do not, by themselves, constitute evidence. Helping students develop a capacity for gathering and evaluating sources and then using evidence in disciplinary ways is a central feature of this dimension.

Other key considerations:

  • Multiple perspectives and sources
  • Identifying bias
  • Contextualizing
  • Reasoning


Guiding Questions​

​These are the kind of questions Cherry Creek Students should be engaged with during their High School years. Aspects of these questions begin as early as Kindergarten. 


  • ​How does the point of view of a historian affect how history is interpreted?
  • Why are historical questions important?
  • How do historical thinkers use primary and secondary sources to formulate historical arguments?
  • How might historical inquiry be used to make decisions on contemporary issues?
  • How does society decide what is important in United States history?
  • What ideas have united the American people over time?
  • How does diversity affect the concept of change over time? Is change over time a matter of perspective?
  • What if the belief “all men are created equal” had not been written in the United States Declaration of Independence?
  • How have different cultures influenced world history?
  • How do historians work from/with cultural assumptions to decide what is important in world history?
  • How does cultural, political, economic and social diversity affect the concept of change over time?
  • How are human rights respected and defended in a world of different nations and cultures?
  • What is the author's perspective? Is it reliable? Why? Why not? When and where was the document created? What claims does the author make? What evidence does the author use? What language (words, phrases, images, symbols) does the author use to persuade the document’s audience? How does the document’s language indicate the author’s perspective?​​
  • How might the circumstances in which the document was created affect its content?


  • Why is “where” important?
  • What is the significance of spatial orientation, place, and location?
  • How have the tools of a geographer changed over time?
  • What can various types of data tell us about a place?
  • How can you support an argument with geographic evidence?
  • Why is “where” important?
  • How might the physical geography of Earth change in the future?
  • How might people and societies respond to changes in the physical environment?
  • Why might people choose to move or stay in their original location?
  • How does globalization influence the interaction of people on Earth?
  • How do cooperation and conflict influence the division and control of the social, economic, and political spaces on Earth?
  • What predictions can be made about human migration patterns?
  • How do technologies result in social change? For example: social networking and the speed of modern movement.
  • How can ma​ps​ and spatial data help us to understand the world and solve problems?​
  • How do  we recognize and interpret varying relationships of scale among patterns and processes?
  • Why is it important to characterize and analyze changing interconnections among places?
  • How do we define regions and evaluate the regionalization process?


  • How should we live together? How does government work? 
  • How do the three branhes of government operate at the national, state, and local level?
  • What is the meaning of civic participation in a democratic republic?
  • Why should you participate in government? 
  • How can citizens act individually and collectively as a check on government?
  • What strategies can citizens use most effectively to influence public policy?  
  • How do people resolve differences while remaining respectful of multiple perspectives? 
  • Why should you participate in government?  
  • How do effective citizens question established practices and study alternative possibilities?​
  • What are the most important democratic ideals and practices?
  • How does government best protect individual rights and the rights of minorities, yet have the majority rule?
  • What would United States government look like with no checks and balances or another mix of these limitations?
  • How has American federalism, the relationship between federal and state governments, evolved and changed over time?
  • How has the concept of American Democracy develop throughout history?
  • How have domestic and foreign policy impacted American Democracy?
  • Why should US citizens be informed of issues related to foreign governments?
  • How have voting rights changed over time? 
  • What are interest groups and how do they influence policy?
  • How have federal elections changed over time and how do the political parties view these changes?
  • How have political parties responded to societal changes over time? 
  • How has the participation of different demographic groups changed over time in the U.S. and how has this influenced American politics and the system of government?

Economics & Financial Literacy

  • ​How does the condition of scarcity affect our decision-making, whether individually or collectively?
  • How does competition affect the choices consumers have in an economy​
  • What factors are considered in economic decision making?
  • How are economic systems varied? 
  • Why do people trade?​
  • What is an opportunity cost?
  • How does the system of trade and exchange influence economic choices?
  • How are incentives influenced by values?  (For example, ethics, religious beliefs, cultural values)
  • How do various economic systems make decisions?
  • What are some costs and benefits of embracing a system of supply and demand as a basic allocation mechanism for society?
  • What are the pros and cons of various tax systems?
  • In what ways is the US standard of living different from past generations
  • What considerations should be taken into account when deciding to reduce the rate of inflation in an economy?
  • How might economics and politics intermingle when policymakers attempt to stabilize an economy?
  • How desirable are economic growth and improvements in productivity for a society?
  • What are some costs and benefits of globalization and international trade?
  • What are potential barriers that might impede an individual’s work routine, hinder the ability to get a job, or prevent career advancement, and how can an individual overcome the barriers?
  • ​How do employment decisions and career planning fit into an individual’s comprehensive financial plan?
  • What resources are available to individuals seeking help with career, employment and training?
  • How might changes in the economic cycle and market conditions affect future earnings on an individual's investments?
  • How does a consumer determine the accuracy and relevance of consumer information?
  • How might changes in the economic cycle and market conditions affect a household spending plan?
  • How might changes in lifestyle, income, or life circumstances affect a household spending plan?
  • When might it make sense to take on debt? 
  • When does it not make sense to take on debt?
  • How much will today’s purchase cost tomorrow?
  • What resources are available to individuals seeking help with financial hardships?
  • How does insurance fit into an individual’s comprehensive financial pla​


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Cherry Creek School District No. 5 does not discriminate on the basis of race, color, national origin, sex, age or disability in admission to its programs, services or activities, in access to them, in treatment of individuals, or in any aspect of their operations. The lack of English language skills shall not be a barrier to admission or participation in the district’s activities and programs. The Cherry Creek School District No. 5 also does not discriminate in its hiring or employment practices. This notice is provided as required by Title VI of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973, Title IX of the Education Amendments of 1972, the Age Discrimination Act of 1975, and the Americans with Disabilities Act of 1990. Questions, complaints, or requests for additional information regarding these laws may be forwarded to the designated compliance officer: District Compliance Officer or directly to the U.S. Department of Education, Office for Civil Rights, Region VIII, Federal Office Building 1244 North Speer Blvd., Suite #310, Denver, CO 80204.

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