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Getting Started…. In teaching a successful and engaging social studies lesson, thoughtful planning and preparation is the key. . What prompts the teacher to teach in the way he/she teaches?. Philosophy of education Perceived value of social studies Understandings of social studies

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Getting Started…

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Getting Started…

In teaching a successful and engaging social studies lesson, thoughtful planning and preparation is the key.

What prompts the teacher to teach in the way he/she teaches?

  • Philosophy of education

  • Perceived value of social studies

  • Understandings of social studies

  • Knowledge of effective teaching strategies in S.S

  • Experiences as a teacher of S.S

  • Experiences as a student of S.S

How do we teach Social studies?

  • Identify what students should leave the class knowing and being able to do

  • Combine and overlap material

  • “Map out” your teaching

  • Unpack the contents in the teaching standards

Thematic Teaching

  • Provides opportunities to include multiple real world examples under a theme (examples include writing a Personal History, Mapping Your Past by accessing on-line maps of places important to you).

  • Allows teachers to integrate social studies across curriculum- reading, language arts, visual and performing arts, even science

  • National Social Studies Standards (NCSS, 1994) include 10 themes…

NCSS and Its 10 Themes

  • Civic Ideals and Practices

  • Culture

  • Global Connections

  • Individual Development and Identity

  • Individuals Groups and Institutions

  • People, Places, and Environment

  • Power, Authority and Governance

  • Production, Distribution, and Consumption

  • Science, Technology, and Society

  • Time, Continuity, and Change

Conceptual Teaching

  • Abstract yet able to encompass a variety of examples, facts, and ideas.

  • Allows reinforcement and activation of prior knowledge, while also drawing connections to contemporary events absent from the textbooks. (Power of Place video series is based on this method.)

Teaching Big Ideas

  • Examples include Democracy, Equity, Discovery, Ecological Awareness

  • Used to Introduce and encompass or connect units of study

  • May serve as goals for students to “uncover” during their studies

Historical Thinking and Analysis Skills

If a topic is not analyzed, students will most likely only memorize the information.

ONLY memorizing key points about history will lead to forgetting concepts after the exam since information has not been stored in a student’s long-term memory.

Instructional Strategies that Work

Generating Interest

These are ways to motivate learners and capture the attention of students…

Read Aloud an excerpt from a primary source, historical novel, or newspaper article.

Find text selections that are highly visual, intriguing, humorous, or that relate to issues that your students face.

Storytelling is an effective strategy for gaining attention and focusing students.

Fables, cultural tales, tall tales, real-life stories and your own personal anecdotes can be well told to engage student interest and thinking about a topic.

Alter or recreate the learning environment and place students in new roles to generate interest through participation in studies.

Conduct a treasure hunt

Introduce the topic, concept, or big idea for the unit, then brainstorm with students the kinds of information they think will be important to find and learn about.

Mysterious Artifacts will gain the attention of students. It should help students pay closer attention to the details that over time hold a great deal of information and generate a number of questions in the mind of a historian or archaeologist.

Political Cartoons grab the attention of students. Historic as well as contemporary examples of cartoons and comic strips often provide rich mining ground for perspectives, opinions, beliefs, and misconceptions.

Predictions can be used to generate student interest. Provide the topic, concept, or big idea and engage students in discussions. Offer clues through the unit vocabulary or titles from the chapters.

What will happen as a result of the Civil War?

KWL Chart

A KWL Chart is an extremely useful graphic organizer that asks students to specify what they know about the topic in one column, what they want to know in the second column, and then what they learned in the third column.


Create a KWL Chart for

the Personal History Assignment

What you already KNOW…

What you WANT to learn…

What have you LEARNED so far…

For example, you could introduce a unit on the Constitution and the Bill of Rights by stating, “We are going to hold an election in class, but only the girls can vote.”

Work with students to identify the issues they have with your statement and use their often-heated opinions to frame and introduce the unit.

Provocative or startling statements can be used effectively to introduce a topic.

Provocative questions can be used in much the same manner. Introduce students to a curious, overarching, or essential question from/about the unit.

For example, ask students what they do when they encounter someone who looks or sounds differently than they do. This will lead into a discussion about European explorers’ contact with Native Americans.

Inquiry-Based Learning

Inquiry-Based Learning

Questioning and critical thinking promotes reading, research, discussion, analysis, and evaluation among students.

Questions can serve to access prior knowledge or draw connections between the students and people of the past.

(Example: Personal History assignment)

Cooperative Learning


  • When you want students to answer a question, learn a vocabulary term, analyze a photo, or share ideas, instruct students to first think about their response, then turn to a partner, pair up, and share their responses.

  • Finally, call on students to share what they learned from their paired sharing.

Jigsaw Reading

  • Working together in pairs or groups, students divide the reading into sections so that each becomes responsible for reading and sharing information with the group.

  • Each student is responsible for learning about the entire reading.

  • Listening to group partners & asking clarification questions are important skills that students are learning to practice.

Cooperative Projects

  • Assign each group a project to complete requiring the collaborative efforts of all team partners.

  • Groups may research a historical character or event and design a poster depicting the important features of that person’s life or that event.

  • Groups might be assigned to develop and present an oral or dramatic performance. Emphasize content accuracy as well as working together.



  • Create opportunities for students to be placed in situations where they think, discuss, evaluate, and make decisions.

  • You can create situations where your students must follow laws or practice customs of the people they are studying.

Musical Chairs: Use International Music


There are many strategies that you can use to effectively teach social studies in the classroom.

What you are teaching will determine the best way to teach.

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