Could anyone provide suggestions, ideas, or any other information that could help get me through teaching Sociology for 12th graders?
The biggest and most important thing you can do is to try and find links that effectively bridge the concepts and theories you are talking about into the lives of the learners you are teaching. How does a concept such as gender apply to them, or ethnicity? You could get them to research such questions to help them explore the relevance of such concepts to their own situation.
Engaging the students with concrete examples would definitely be a smart way to begin, rather than spouting theories. Unfortunately, unless you are dealing with a very high-level of students, the kids may not be able to rise to the occasion to care enough about theories to make it any more than an exercise in frustration for you. I hate to say it, but I feel that on a very basic level, educators are competing with (hate to say it in such a negative way) the Disney-generation. Students today want bells and whistles. AP students tend to be more serious about their studies, but a lot of honors kids know just how much they have to invest to get the grade they want. They play the numbers and get their GPAs up, and don't learn for the sake of knowledge. I'm a little idealistic, I know. However, I have let go of expecting that most of my students will learn simply because I put it in front of them and they want more. So, I have tried to fight "fire with fire" and provide lessons that are related to an aspect (for me, in literature) that grabs their attention. Yes, I use a "spoonful of sugar" with the less pleasant tasting tidbits I offer in the classroom.
If I were to teach this class, I would try to tap into things that concern the generation you're teaching (as I think is suggested above). If you want to have them discuss marriage, randomly pair students off and give them a questionnaire about things they like, what they believe, what they cannot live without, and pretend they are all in arranged marriages (as takes place in some cultures in the US and abroad). This gives them insight into who they are and what they believe. Because they like discovering who they are, this might introduce an aspect of sociology you want to address.
How they are manipulated as a segment of society by advertisers to spend their money would be interesting and informative for young people.
Creating an alien invasion scenario, perhaps students could identify the parts of society that are most precious to them by being confronted with losing those things. (Aliens may seem far-fetched, but more interesting perhaps than an invasion like the Germans planned in WWII, simply because they can't place their minds in that reality. I don't understand how aliens would make that easier, but it's been a while since I was a teen...)
Just thinking out loud...suggesting that whenever possible, think outside the box. Kids love surprises, and love to talk about things that seem to be about them!
I taught Sociology to seniors for about five years, several years back now. The biggest suggestion I have is to lose the textbook. College sociology concepts are going to be a difficult sell to seniors who can only think of graduation at this point.
Explore topics of sociology that do interest them, such as the school setting they are in. Educate them on primary and secondary groups and artificial societies. Study subcultures such as the tattoo or indie music scenes. Have them conduct sociology experiments, with clear limits and controls, in their own homes and school. Look at the institution of marriage or racism. I had a lot of fun teaching that class, but I had to lose the traditional curriculum.
I would say that you do a little research and get one textbook that students can follow. This will give you and them structure. In my opinion, this structure is important. What you can do also is supplement this material with current events or events from history that your students would be interested in. Finally, you might want to ask your old sociology professor for a syllabus. You can tweak this to suit your needs.
I have to agree that you need to get your students to interact with the theories presented in Sociology (pick and choose the ones with which your are most familiar and comfortable). By allowing your students to interact with the theories, you will deepen their understanding and move towards basic mastery (given that this is the objective when first introducing Sociology).
If you have any curriculum guidelines or requirements (either from your school district or from your state Department of Education) for sociology, be sure to keep those handy for reference as you plan your class activities. Any required topics become obvious subjects to be included in your lesson planning process.
Beyond that, I would agree with the above suggestions - get your students involved in real-world issues as much as possible. If you can find topics and have them locate and bring information that can be used to support class discussion, that involves the students, shows them real-life applications, and relieves some of the load from you.
One possibility is to get your students, as much as possible, to enact the theories, not just read about them. I have always found that the more I can get my students actually participating, the more involved they are and the more they remember. Another method is to prepare a chart that compares and contrasts the different theories according to common criteria (example: what does each theory say about x? what does each theory say about y?). These charts make ideas "visible."
The first thing I would do would be to try to get access to the website that goes along with your text. You surely need to be able to look at that so that you can know what your book covers and in what order. I can't see how you would plan your lessons without at least knowing that.
While you're in a bit of a bind, one good thing about sociology is that at least it is a subject with clear connections to the real world. I'd suggest that you make use of those connections. For example, you might consider finding out about major social issues in your area. This might be things like poverty or divorce or immigration. You could build units around those (some of them might even be presented as units in your text). You could, for example, look at them from the various theoretical perspectives in sociology (structural functionalism, interactionism, conflict).
When I teach sociology, I often do it in that way. I start with one issue and try to get students to think about how to explain it. That leads us into a discussion of the various sociological theories. We then try to apply these theories to other sociological issues as we go through the course.
Thank you all for the advice and suggestions. Somehow I survived the first week, but found out it will be awhile before I even receive a textbook. I'm sort of "winging" it for now. I've been focusing on what the kids are interested in, some theory, and have given an Identity project that will allow them to learn how they've been socialized so far. I have a very small class (6 students), so I'm surprised we are still running the course. However, having a small group seems to be working out well so far. If it all works out, I will be teaching this course again next year; hopefully with more experience, ideas, and a text book to help out with.
I appreciate all the responses. I will be referring to these notes many times I'm sure.