After years of sitting on the margins of instructional practice, social studies is getting a makeover. The Common Core is calling for the teaching of literacy through the integration of fiction and non-fiction into our instruction. In August 2013, the National Council for the Social Studies published the complementary College, Career, and Civic Life Framework for Social Studies State Standards.

Both the Common Core and College, Career, and Civic Life standards support a different approach to teaching and learning social studies than what we saw as part of No Child Left Behind. Instead of focusing on memorizing specific content measured by multiple choice tests, students are now being asked to do social studies – to think historically, to solve problems, to read, write, and communicate. As teachers, we are being asked to find a balance between foundational knowledge and the authentic use of that knowledge.

But it can be difficult. What does that balance look like in actual practice?

the C4 Framework can help

The C4 Framework with its four elements – Collect, Collaborate, Create, and Communicate – gives you a structure for planning and implementing a cohesive instructional arc that supports this balance. Created by nationally known social studies consultant  Glenn Wiebe, the Framework provides specific teaching and learning strategies and tools that you can immediately put into practice.

Glenn has created multiple cards for each element in the Framework. Each card has one specific strategy or resource aligned to both the Common Core Literacy standards and the College, Career, and Civic Life standards.

You can purchase these cards in sets of four. For example, you might purchase four Collect cards or maybe four Collaborate cards. Heck. You might want to get cards from all four elements. No matter what you decide, you know you will have practical tools aligned to national standards. You can’t miss!

what are the elements?


In the first element of the Framework, students and teachers work to collect and organize data and information. This usually means strategies and resources for helping students gather the stuff needed to answer questions and to solve problems. Using graphic organizers and primary source analysis worksheets to make sense of raw data are examples of strategies students could use during this stage. The use of Dropbox or EasyBib to organize collected data would also be a great example of the Collect stage.

Teachers can also take advantage of the Collect element when they utilize sites such as Teaching History, ThinkFinity or Ted-Ed. The Collect element is the first step of the Framework and supports the gathering of the necessary information for thinking historically, answering questions, and solving problems.


To be successful in college or careers, your students must be able to work effectively with others. During this element, you will find a variety of strategies for working together and sharing information. Activities such as Fence Sitter and Emotional Timelines provide opportunities for your students to practice these important skills.

The Collaborate element gives your students the chance to join forces with other students, outside experts, and mentors while addressing authentic questions.


Gathering data and working with others to solve problems is not the end. Successful citizens are skilled creators of new products and ideas. This element of the Framework supports the generation of these new creations. Practical tools such as Scratch and strategies such as Story Maps provide an outlet for your students’ creative process.

The Create element is the “project” part of the process – the stage where things get made.


Students aren’t finished when their products are finished. Students are also expected to share their solutions and products with others. This could mean a variety of activities including assessments such as debates, portfolios, online publishing, and mobile app creation or building conversations outside the classroom with other students and adults.

The Communicate element encourages authentic learning and the application of knowledge by asking students to think beyond the classroom.