What is Social Studies Skill Builder? SSSB is an approach where students work in pairs to work on fast-paced, skill oriented tasks to learn and practice key social studies skills.
Skills such as mapping, categorizing, analyzing primary sources, graphing and interpreting graphs, and reading a timeline are a vital part of any middle and high school social studies course. Without these skills, students will not fully grasp many concepts. • Why teach about the Proclamation of 1763, for example, if students cannot locate the Appalachian Mountains on a map? Why compare and contrast ancient Greece and imperial Rome without first teaching students how to use a simple matrix or Venn diagram?
Important Skills • Despite the importance of teaching these basic social studies skills, many instructors reserve little time for—and apply even less creativity to—this task. • In the words of one high school history teacher, “I don’t have time to cover social studies and teach skills. Students should come prepared from the lower grades. Besides, when I do teach skills, my students say it’s boring.”
WHY? Skills such as mapping, categorizing, analyzing primary sources, graphing and interpreting graphs, and reading timelines are a vital part of any middle and high school social studies course. Without these skills, students will not fully grasp many concepts.
EXAMPLE You can create an activity about America’s rapid industrialization by providing teams an image and line graph that together illustrate aspects of industrialization in the early 1900’s (raw steel produced, railroad track, etc.). Teams would use the information to answer questions. This gives students the opportunity to interpret charts and information.
BENEFITS • Turns traditional rote tasks into dynamic interactive activities • Students have the chance to practice the skill repeatedly • Students receive immediate feedback • Used for many key social studies skills including mapping, reading charts, identifying perspective, and interpreting political cartoons.
STEP 1 Use engaging tasks to teach social studies skills.
HOW? • Use stimulating resources that lend themselves to multiple ability tasks • Challenge students to use multiple intelligences • Encourage student pairs to work as a team • Spiral from basic to complex
STEP 2 Teach the skill through modeling and guided practice.
HOW? Introduce the skills by demonstrating and explaining the steps your students are to follow as they develop the skill on their own.
STEP 3 Prepare students to work in pairs.
WHY? • Working in partner pairs requires the use of multiple intelligences. • Pairs of students have more opportunity for interaction and tend to easily stay on task. • Also, having student work together as a pair will help ensure that each partner has something of value to contribute and that the interaction is equitable.
STEP 4 Set clear expectations, allow students to practice the skill repeatedly, and give immediate feedback.
WHY? • Checking work and awarding points as students progress through an activity will motivate them to work quickly and conscientiously. • It also assures that students create high-quality products because they know you are checking every answer.
STEP 5 Debrief the lesson to help students make connections to key social studies concepts.
HOW? To ensure that all students have access to the same content, ask students pairs to take turns reporting their findings.
Methods to debriefing • Political Spectrum • Values-Orientation Spectrum • Moral Continuum • Chronology • Logical Categorization
Advanced Tips Have the class complete the student handout on a transparency. Call on different pairs to come up to the overhead and fill in one section of the handout until all sections have been completed. To save time when working with matrices, you can make a transparency of the matrix, cut it into strips, and give each pair a strip to complete. Then, call pairs to the overhead one at a time to place their transparency strip on top of a blank matrix. Have pairs become station or placard “experts.” When you see that time is running short, find out which pairs have completed (or nearly completed) their handout. Name them the “expert pair” for a particular station or placard, where they will share their information with classmates. For those pairs who have not completed most of the handout, split up the partners: one student will remain at a station to serve as an expert; the other goes around to the remaining stations or placards to learn from the resident experts. Have students circulate among the stations until their handouts are complete and then share their findings with their partners.
Have pairs take a “gallery walk.” Another way to ensure that everyone gets all the content in the time remaining is to have students transfer their answers onto a piece of butcher paper placed next to each placard or station. This creates a written “gallery” of their responses. After at least one response has been recorded for every station or placard, have pairs go to the stations or placards for which they need more information. They can refer to the responses on the butcher paper to complete their handout. Students who have already completed their handout should circulate among the stations or placards as well, referring to the butcher paper to check, clarify, and, if necessary, modify their answers. • Have pairs engage in a “New York Stock Exchange.” An engaging variation on pair sharing is to set up a Stock Exchange. As student pairs mingle around the classroom, one partner shouts the name of the placard about which the pair needs information, while the other partner shouts the name of a placard about which they can provide information. When students find another pair that can help them, they go off to the side of the room and share information. You could also conduct a quieter version of this, called Secret Sharing, in which students must whisper the names of the placards.
PUT THIS IN YOUR LP… • Here are some tips for Social Studies Skill Builders: • Teach each skill through modeling and guided practice. • Prepare students to work in pairs or small groups. • Set clear expectations, allow students to practice each skill repeatedly, and give immediate feedback. • Debrief the activity to help students make connections to key social studies concepts.