Proposed Changes to the Virginia Studies Standards of Learning

The Virginia Studies Standards of Learning have been updated and revised, by the Virginia Department of Education, for the 2016-2017 school year. Find out the changes the major changes that are coming to Virginia Studies so that you can prepare!

Hello, this is Meghan from Vestal’s 21st Century Classroom! Throughout the past month, many of the incredible teacher bloggers for this site have been writing about the revised math standards that will go into effect at the start of the 2016-2017 school year. But, math is not the only set of Standards of Learning (SOLs) getting an update this year. The history and social sciences SOLs have also be been updated and revised. Today, I will provide an overview of the changes coming to the Virginia Studies SOLs and how you can prepare for them.

I think anytime we hear the Virginia Department of Education (VDOE) is planning to revise standards we cringe. The idea of revising standards has become associated with major changes to what is already being taught and more work for teachers. But, I find the revisions to the Virginia Studies SOLs to be nothing but positive. With changes throughout to the wording of the standards, such as “identify” being changed “describe” and “knowledge” being changed to “understanding,” it is clear the VDOE is not trying to completely change or add a bunch of standards. Rather, their goal is to help students gain a deeper understanding and go more below the surface of the current standards. I am excited that the updates to these standards will allow us to move past creating robots who can recite facts about history and move forward towards creating more 21st Century students capable of thinking critically, collaborating with others, communicating ideas, and creatively expressing opinions about events and people throughout history.

Standard VS.1-‘Skills’ has by far undergone the greatest number of changes from what was established in 2008. These changes incorporate three main ideas; tie in more concepts about economic decision making, examine and analyze more types of historical sources, and CRITICAL THINKING. I capitalize ‘critical thinking’ because almost every change made to the revised Virginia Studies standards has to do with incorporating more critical thinking. Previously, students were required to perform tasks such as sequencing events, interpreting historical documents, and discussing issues orally and in writing. Students will now be expected to perform tasks such sequencing events and then providing well thought out connections between each event. Other tasks include explaining different points of views throughout history and understanding what causes a person or culture to maintain those ideas. Students are expected to gain this deeper comprehension of history through the analysis of a variety of sources and conducting research. Since VS.1 has evolved the most, I have provided the entire updated VS.1 standards.

The student will demonstrate skills for historical thinking, geographical analysis, economic decision making, and responsible citizenship by

a) analyzing and interpreting artifacts and primary and secondary sources to understand events in Virginia history;

b) analyzing the impact of geographic features on people, places, and events to support an understanding of events in Virginia history;

c) interpreting charts, graphs, and pictures to determine characteristics of people, places, or events in Virginia history;

d) recognizing points of view and historical perspectives;

e) comparing and contrasting ideas and cultural perspectives in Virginia history;

f) determining relationships with multiple causes or effects in Virginia history;

g) explaining connections across time and place;

h) using a decision-making model to identify costs and benefits of a specific choice made;

i) practicing good citizenship skills and respect for rules and laws while collaborating,
compromising, and participating in classroom activities; and

j) investigating and researching to develop products orally and in writing.

Changes to standard VS.2, ‘Virginia: The Physical Geography and Native Peoples,’ have been minimal. While students are still expected to identify the same geographical features and Native American tribes, they will now be expected to make more connections between the two. Another positive change made is that students will no longer be expected to memorize a long list current state-recognized tribes and their locations. Rather, students will be expected to describe the lives of Native Americans in Virginia today. Removing mass memorization of specific facts is a major component to the revised standards. Below, you can see the wording for the parts of the standard that have been changed.

The student will demonstrate an understanding of the relationship between physical geography and the lives of the native peoples, past and present, of Virginia by

g) describing the lives of American Indians in Virginia today.

The changes to VS.3, VS.4, & VS.5, ‘Colonization and Conflict: 1607 through the American Revolution,’ have also been minor. The only significant difference made to the standards related to Jamestown and colonization (VS.3) is students will be expected to describe the geographic and economic influences for settling at Jamestown. Significant changes made to standards relating to the American Revolution (VS.5) include the addition of the Marquis de Lafayette to list of people students should know in VS.5d and the removal of the Battle of Great Bridge and the ride of Jack Jouett from the list of events students should recognize in VS.5c. Here is how these updated strands will now appear:

VS.3 The student will demonstrate an understanding of the first permanent English settlement in America by

b) describing the economic and geographic influences on the decision to settle at Jamestown;

VS.4 The student will demonstrate an understanding of life in the Virginia colony by

c) explaining the reasons for the relocation of Virginia’s capital from Jamestown to

VS.5 The student will demonstrate an understanding of the role of Virginia in the American Revolution by

b) identifying the various roles of American Indians, whites, enslaved African Americans, and free African Americans in the Revolutionary War era, including George Washington, Thomas Jefferson, Patrick Henry, the Marquis de Lafayette, and James Lafayette;

c) identifying the importance of the American victory at Yorktown; and

d) examining the reasons for the relocation of Virginia’s capital from Williamsburg to Richmond.

VS.6, ‘Political Growth and Western Expansion: 1781 to the Mid 1800’s,’ undergoes a few small revisions that will help students to think more critically about the time period. Most notably, is the addition of ‘technological advances’ to VS.5c, which previously only asked students to provide geographical reasons for westward expansion. For teachers, VS.5c also clarifies that students are only expected to understand westward expansion through the first half of the 1800’s.

The student will demonstrate an understanding of the role of Virginia in the establishment of the new American nation by

c) explaining the influence of geography and technological advances on the migration of
Virginians into other states and western territories in the first half of the 1800s.

Yay! There are hardly any changes made to VS.7 and VS.8, ‘Civil War and Postwar Era.’ Other than a few revisions made to the wording, which prompts students to examine the people and events of the Civil War with a more critical eye, no content has been added or deleted.

Finally, I think the VDOE did an excellent job of acknowledging how new history is made each day with the revisions made to VS.9 and VS.10, ‘Virginia: 1900 to the Present.’ Previously, the standards required students to learn about Virginia in the 20th and 21st Centuries. But, the wording of the standards has been altered so that students are required to learn about 20th Century Virginia and beyond. A new strand has been added to VS.9 that will require students to examine how national events of the 1900’s, such as women’s suffrage and the Great Depression, impacted Virginia. Also, many strands from VS.9 and VS.10 have been removed or revised in a way that makes more sense and will be easier on teachers and students. For example, students will no longer be expected to provide reasons for people coming to Virginia from other states and countries. Students will still be expected to know the products and industries for Virginia but they will no longer be expected to match those to specific regions. This strand has been modified so students will gain a deeper understanding of the products and industries and why they exist in Virginia, rather than just memorizing a list. I have provided all the revised strands for VS.9, since it is undergoing some significant revisions, but I have only listed the updated strands for VS.10.

VS.9The student will demonstrate an understanding of Virginia during the twentieth century and beyond by

a) describing the economic and social transition from a rural, agricultural society to a more urban, industrialized society;

b) describing how national events, including women’s suffrage and the Great Depression, affected Virginia and its citizens;

c) describing the social and political events in Virginia linked to desegregation and Massive Resistance and their relationship to national history; and

d) describing the political, social, or economic impact made by Maggie L. Walker; Harry F. Byrd, Sr.; Oliver W. Hill, Sr.; Arthur R. Ashe, Jr.; A. Linwood Holton, Jr.; and L. Douglas Wilder.

VS.10 The student will demonstrate an understanding of Virginia government, geography, and economics by

b) describing the major products and industries important to Virginia’s economy;

Overall, I think Virginia Studies teachers have little to fear and lots to be excited about with the revised standards. While these revisions will go into effect at the start of the 2016-2017 school year, the former standards will still be tested this school year. As you are preparing for the Virginia Studies SOL here are some of my favorite Virginia Studies resources from my store. Each of these resources have been updated to reflect the current recent changes to the standard and include lots of hands-on activities!

 Virginia Studies Bundle- Entire Year! {PDF & Digital Included}      Virginia Regions Unit VS.2a-c & VS.10b {Digital & PDF Included}      Jamestown VS.3 {Digital & PDF Included}

Revolutionary War "I Have, Who Has..."      Virginia Studies Task Card Bundle

Virginia teachers... are you looking for more resources and ideas specifically aligned with the Virginia SOLs? Be sure to sign up for my newsletter! When you sign up, you will be able to download my Ultimate Guide on How to Effectively Use Technology to Teach for FREE!

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The Virginia Studies Standards of Learning have been updated and revised, by the Virginia Department of Education, for the 2016-2017 school year. Find out the changes the major changes that are coming to Virginia Studies so that you can prepare!
Have a great day!


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