“The National Council for the Social Studies defines social studies as “the integrated study of the social sciences and humanities to promote civic competence.” The National Council also states that the primary purpose of social studies education is to help our children and young adults “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.”
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Thoughts On Our Discipline
Social studies promotes engaging participatory citizenship where global awareness of civic issues such as financial literacy, healthcare, domestic affairs, foreign policy and the environment are actively monitored and influenced by all citizens interacting internationally for the benefit of all mankind.
Social studies teachers and history aficionados now have a repository of resources to enhance learning about our state, nation, governments, world and culture -and indeed life itself! Use this site to gather tools to help others learn about our world.
Every aspect of all that is around us stems from the social sciences, and no matter what area drew you into teaching in this discipline you can use what sparked you to ignite learning in others. Those of us in the social sciences tend to have broad interests, and it often seems to us that all other subjects stem from our content. It is time for us to utilize the fact that we mesh so well with other disciplines to cross curricular boundaries to reach out and connect with all learners- no matter their interests.
The College and Career Readiness standards (SocStuStandards2016) allow us to “shove the dusty tomes aside” as we seize upon the use of materials that “make sense” as they are the very basis of our content. With a bold focus on primary and secondary sources, as we facilitate learners in to discovering the “why of what humanity” we will engage students in learning from their own perspective. Moving from the gregorian chant of “lecture-worksheet-test” will cause our classes to awake from a drowsy routine as they now will search for meaning when the task before them makes a connection. Supply learners with the facts and evidence and guide them to discover why our world developed as it has.
Remember that to our students in our classes “9/11” is just a page in history, as their young lives have centered around more modern newslines. What we personally have lived thorough is just a story to them, and we need to help students see the connections that occur in the timeline of history. We know nothing happens in isolation, but they have yet to discover that. Making figures and events of the past relevant to the learners of today is not difficult, as the key points of the past still shape what is happening round all of us daily. As we engage learners in these key points they will “dig up” the details that we normally would be lecturing on (and failing to reach many of them) and they will succeed as they will be learning by doing. We test differently, as memorization has given way to being able to problem solve, and this will be enhanced as we move to “Smarter Balanced Assessment.”
As we look at the new standards we see that ELA and social studies have meshed readings of primary and secondary documents and it is powerful to collaborate here to lead to genuine learning. It rests upon us all to be “reading and writing teachers” and we must convey to learners that it is within their ability to succeed. It is paramount that we make our content relevant to launch them into genuine learning, form which many will wander in a greater depth than they would have garnered from a well worn text. At our fingertips is a wealth of information that goes far beyond the dusty library shelves and encyclopedia volumes of yesteryear. Do not fear engaging them in discovering truths of the social sciences that we may not have memorized ourselves. Show them that we are all lifetime learners and return to the wonder and passion that drew you into the social sciences.
The burden of learning rests with the learner and it is our task to guide them in genuine higher order work. Change with the times or the times will pass you by! Our students of today have grown up in a different world from us, and if we are to best serve them we must be willing to speak a language they understand.
Secondary Education Curriculum Specialist
Fayette County Schools, West Virginia
Social Studies IS literacy.… Since Literacy is one of the driving forces of our discipline, it reflects how our content area meshes so well ELA with this initiative. When our last standards were introduced we began to really stress the importance of literacy in our content … we worked with the 5 Standards of Social Studies- LITERACY! Under our new “College and Career Readiness Standards” we need to continue to emphasize Literacy in our classes, as our discipline is “counted on” to support Literacy across the curriculum. We use primary & secondary documents as our foundation, and our lessons can impact learning throughout the year. Continue to emphasize reading and writing in our content area to allow our subject to be relevant and realistic to learners. Have students involved in writing in our content to support our standards, as we “write to learn.” As we have long known, no matter the subject, everyone is a reading teacher! In our schools social studies teachers are encouraged to mesh what we do with the English Language Arts teachers as their new standards contain documents rooted in history. This will be great opportunity for us to work across the curriculum to maximize literacy with all of our students! Here are some materials to use as a resource in advancing literacy in your classes.
DBQ- Document Based Questions
One driving force for us in social studies is to genuinely incorporate Document Based Questions (DBQ’s) into our lesson flow. With the new evaluation system now in place when we use DBQs it will punctuate and drive learning as well as being a great tool for us to provide evidence of the great things you are doing with your learners.
Resources can be found at https://wvsocialstudies.com/dbq/