Teacher resources and professional development across the curriculum

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LINK: Social Studies in Action Home Image of an elementary school student.
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Classroom Profile | Lesson Background

Read this information to better understand the lesson shown in the video.

Content: Civic Ideals and Practices
Whether building a model town, as Cynthia Vaughn's students did, or establishing a set of rules for classroom behavior, young children can actively engage in the democratic process. In fact, learning how to be a responsible citizen in a democratic republic is as basic to a child's education as learning how to read and calculate. The National Council for the Social Studies lists the civic ideals and practices that all students should be taught in school They include the following:

  • Ideals of a democratic form of government, such as individual human dignity, liberty, justice, equality, and the rule of law
  • Rights and responsibilities of citizens
  • Civic discussion
  • Citizen action to influence public policy
  • Public opinion as it influences personal decision-making and government policies
  • Public policies that address public concern
  • Citizen action to strengthen the "common good"

However, abstract concepts like democracy and civic responsibility need to be taught using hands-on, experiential activities that allow children to come to an understanding by hearing and using the language of civic practice and by building on their prior knowledge.

Teaching Strategy: Using Graphic Organizers
For young students, understanding different levels of community (city, state and country) and the different government functions at each level can be difficult. The graphic organizer Ms. Vaughn used gave students a concrete, hands-on activity in which to identify and compare otherwise abstract concepts. In this activity, students:

  • located squares on the grid to place pictures (mayor, governor, and president),
  • read the grid across or down to gather information, and
  • repeated the activity in pairs at their desks.

Graphic organizers encourage students to think aloud about the attributes of concepts, how they fit into appropriate categories, and how the concepts relate to each other. This activity lays the foundation for students to organize data into appropriate categories for themselves.

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