Learning Social Studies By Dr. Stacy Haynes, Ed.D., LPC, ACS
Social studies as a class subject was integrated into education by the National Education Association in 1916. The goal was to integrate history, geography and political science to help school children understand our American heritage and acquire skills to participate in our nation’s democratic system. Black students less proficient in Social Studies than other students when looking at subjects like History, Civics, and Geography.
The National Council for the Social Studies (NCSS) defines social studies as
…the integrated study of the social sciences and humanities to promote
civic competence.… The primary purpose of social studies is to help
young people develop the ability to make informed and reasoned
decisions for the public good as citizens of a culturally diverse,
democratic society in an interdependent world. (NCSS, 2010, p. 1)
Social studies classrooms use an interactive, problem, and project approach to learning. Jerome Bruner. In The Process of Education (1960), explored the idea of inquiry based teaching to help children understand the world around them by asking questions and having children “do” the solving of the question together.
Students who are engaged in problem-solving or project-based learning actually improve their meta cognition skills by exploring problems presented and comparing to their own knowledge and experiences. Skills like independent thinking, analyzing problems and problem solving are key for a student to find success in social studies classrooms.
The National Council for the Social Studies (2002) created thematic standards for content for teachers for social studies in classrooms while covering the disciplinary standards of history, geography, economics, psychology and civics and government:
Culture and Cultural Diversity
Time, Continuity, and Change
People, Places, and Environments
Individual Development and Identity
Individuals, Groups, and Institutions
Power, Authority, and Governance
Production, Distribution, and Consumption
Science, Technology, and Society
Civic Ideals and Practices
Tips for Early Learning and Elementary Age
Tip- Teach your child their own culture. Make sure children experience an understanding of their own culture through music, arts, language, activities, and traditions.
Tip- Decorate your home. Think about small artifacts or symbolic pictures you can use in your home to talk about your culture or other cultures.
Tip- Write a letter. Have your child write a letter to a friend or family member. We can focus on the idea of community and connection with others.
Tip- Teaching social concepts. Children are very self-centered at this age and it can be helpful to teach them about others in your community and in their lives. Concepts like Democracy, Civic Responsibilities etc can be taught at an early age.
Tip- Map it out. Like Dora the Explorer, make a map of your neighborhood and community. Highlight key terms like landmarks, locations and directions.
Tip- Have a globe. Having a physical globe at home can help your child visually see where countries are located in the world. Take the time to talk about countries and different parts of the world using your globe.
Tip- Visual vocabulary. Use pictures to show social studies concepts and to introduce new ideas to your child. You can turn these words into visual pages and create a picture book with the social studies vocabulary on each page.
Tip- Teach your child about money. Teaching your children about how jobs work in our community, about spending and saving money and how our economy operates.
Tips for Social Studies Middle School and High School
Tip- Watch the movie. Many historical events have been made into motion pictures for the big screen. Let your child watch the movie and compare notes to what really happened and maybe what the movie directors added to history.
Tip- Watch mini lessons. Studies show that students do well with visual learning of social studies concepts through videos or interactive learning modules. Websites like the National Archives or National Geographic or Youtube can provide great short videos to reinforce historical concepts.
Tip- Ask their opinion. Ask your child their opinion about what they are learning in social studies. Many classroom lectures in middle and high school follow a conversational/debate format. This will help your child learn the material and be able to discuss in class.
Tip- Class is about notes. Many social studies classes require students to maintain notes on the classwork. Students often struggle with the amount of notes in class. Let kids take pictures of notes on the board or use talk to text technology to scribe notes from their textbook.
Tip- Dates matter. Students are often tested on dates and have a hard time remembering important dates in history. Try to use creative ways like making a song to remember important dates.
Tip- Study daily. Social studies is a course that becomes overwhelming with information for students. The key is to review notes daily and to try to understand history, not just memorize the dates.
Tip- Watch the news. Part of succeeding in social studies classes is being aware of current events. Children are not necessarily wanting to watch the news but watching it occasionally will help them to understand the current social climate and concerns.
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