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Social Studies in Action: A Methodology Workshop, K-5

Teaching Social Studies

Why do we teach social studies? This session focuses on the relevance of teaching social studies and discusses strategies for helping students gain a deeper understanding of social studies content. The onscreen teachers review standards and themes developed by the National Council for the Social Studies (NCSS) and view video clips from the Social Studies in Action video library to identify examples of powerful teaching and learning.

Teaching Social Studies

This introductory session addresses two fundamental questions, Why do we teach social studies? and How can we bring social studies concepts to life for students? Because teaching social studies entails creating effective citizens, teachers need strategies to help students understand its relevance in their lives.

To help you improve your teaching, in this session you will:

  • Explore reasons for teaching social studies.
  • Distinguish between deep and fragile knowledge.
  • Analyze lessons using NCSS themes and best-practice methodology.
  • Incorporate content and methods in your own teaching.

 

Learning Goals

At the end of this session you will be able to:

• Define teaching for deep understanding.

• Connect content with methodology

• Apply elements of powerful teaching and learning.

Engage

1. Getting Started

Watch the video introduction to familiarize yourself with the workshop series, the participants, and this session.

 

You’ll find this segment at the beginning of the video. Watch for about 18 minutes.

2. What Do You Know?

In this session, you will identify teaching strategies that bring concepts to life for your students; but first, consider how you learn. Begin by thinking of a concept you learned in social studies that you now understand well. Then, think of how you developed that understanding, and how you demonstrate it.

View the activity as a PDF.

3. Reflect on Your Work

When you have completed the activity above, review your steps to deep understanding and consider the following questions:

  • When would you say you had achieved deep understanding?
  • What do you notice from your own method of learning that might be applied in your teaching?

Explore

Key Concepts from Glossary

Social studies

Fragile knowledge

Deep understanding

NCSS themes

Powerful teaching and learning

Readings
Read each of the articles listed below to learn how key concepts apply to students’ deep understanding of social studies. As you read, look for these concepts, their definitions, and examples of each.

After you read the articles, write answers to the following questions. You can use the Reading Questions (PDF).

  1. What are the key elements of the NCSS definition of social studies?
  2. What is the role of social studies in the general curriculum?
  3. Briefly describe the 10 themes of social studies. What academic discipline(s) provide the foundation for each theme?
  4. Describe the difference between deep and fragile knowledge.
  5. Describe performance-based understanding and explain how it provides evidence of deep understanding.
  6. Briefly describe the five elements of powerful teaching and learning.

Save your written work to submit as an assignment.

Articles
What is Social Studies?(PDF)
Defines social studies and describes its role within the curriculum.

National Council for the Social Studies. “What Is Social Studies?” Expectations of Excellence: Curriculum Standards for Social Studies.

NCSS Curriculum Standards (PDF)
Outlines organization and use of the 10 themes of the social studies standards.

National Council for the Social Studies. “Executive Summary.” Expectations of Excellence: Curriculum Standards for Social Studies.

Deep Fragile Knowledge (PDF)
Summarizes the elements of deep and fragile knowledge.

Perkins, David. Smart Schools. New York: Simon and Schuster, 1993.

What is Understanding? A Deeper Look (PDF)
Explores the relationship among teaching, learning, and understanding.

Active Learning Practices for School, What Is Understanding? A Deeper Look. Harvard University Graduate School of Education and Project Zero.

Powerful Teaching and Learning (PDF)
Describes the elements of powerful teaching and learning.

National Council for the Social Studies. “Principles of Teaching and Learning.” Expectations of Excellence: Curriculum Standards for Social Studies.

Explain

The NCSS themes outline content and standards that encourage deep understanding. They give teachers a basis for deciding what to teach and the content students are expected to understand. The following video segments illustrate classroom examples of the themes as well as elements of powerful teaching and learning. Print the Viewing Chart (PDF) you will use to analyze the teachers’ content goals.

Before you watch each classroom segment, review the 10 themes and recall from your reading what they are designed to teach. As you watch, check off the themes that are most relevant in each lesson. Then compare your answers to those of the workshop participants as they discuss their findings.

Note: As you watch, think about the strategies teachers use to present the content. This will help prepare you for an upcoming activity.

View Video Segment: Identifying Themes in Classroom Examples

You’ll find this segment approximately 19 minutes into the video. Watch for about 30 minutes.

This segment provides a review of the NCSS themes and the elements of powerful teaching and learning, illustrated in two classroom lessons. In the first lesson, Darlene Jones-Inge’s fourth-grade class explores how they can make a difference in their world and community. In the second lesson, Cynthia Vaughn’s first-grade students study the relationship among citizens, community, and leaders.

 

Now that you’ve read about and identified applications of themes and powerful teaching and learning, answer the following questions.

  1. Select one of the two classroom segments you viewed. How do the themes and methodologies used in the lesson help students gain deep understanding?
  2. What content and methodologies are most relevant to your teaching? Why?

Save your written work to submit as an assignment.

Apply

Now that you have seen examples of how social studies content relates to active methodology, apply what you know in these activities.

1. Analyzing Methodology

This activity takes a closer look at examples of powerful teaching and learning in the classroom video segments. Read the description of each segment, then identify up to three elements of powerful teaching and learning best represented in the segment. Once you’ve identified the elements, explain your answers.

Powerful Teaching and Learning

A non-interactive version of this activity is available as a PDF document.

2. Developing and Analyzing a Lesson

In this activity, you will begin to develop a new unit, incorporating the NCSS content themes and elements of powerful teaching and learning. Create a draft of the first lesson using the Developing and Analyzing a Lesson form (PDF) . Once you’ve completed the draft, write your answers to the following questions.

  • Which theme(s) provide the basis for the content in your lesson?
  • What elements of powerful teaching and learning will you address in the lesson? How will you use them?
  • How does the lesson help students gain deep understanding of the topic?
  • How might other subjects be incorporated into your lesson?

If you are taking all eight sessions for credit, you may continue to work on lessons and materials for this unit in subsequent sessions. Save a copy of your work.

Save your written work to submit as an assignment.

Evaluate

What Did You Learn?
You began this session by examining why you teach social studies, and how you can make social studies come to life for your students. Watch the final video segment to learn how workshop teachers responded to these questions.

View Video Segment: Sum-It-Up Panel

You’ll find this segment approximately 50 minutes into the video. Watch for about 8 minutes.

Now write a Summary (PDF) of what you’ve learned. Be sure to include:

  • the relevance of social studies in students’ lives;
  • teaching strategies you will use to ensure deep understanding;
  • how NCSS content themes can inform your teaching; and
  • how you might incorporate elements of powerful teaching and learning in your practice.

Save your written work to submit as an assignment.

 

Refer to the Assignments section below to be sure you’ve completed all assignments for this session.

Resources

Print

Perkins, David. Smart Schools. New York: Simon and Schuster, Inc., 1993.

National Council for the Social Studies, Expectations of Excellence: Curriculum Standards for Social Studies. Washington, D.C.: National Council for the Social Studies, 1994.

Hartoonian, Michael H., and Margaret A. Laughlin, Succeed with the Standards in Your Social Studies Classroom. Portland, ME: J. Weston Walch, 1997.

 

Websites

Active Learning Practices for Schools
Provides information about teaching and understanding.

National Council for the Social Studies
Contains excerpts from the Expectations of Excellence: Curriculum Standards for Social Studies.

 

Assignments

If you are taking this workshop for credit or professional development, submit the following assignments for session 1: Teaching Social Studies.

  1. Explore: Read the articles and respond to the questions that follow using the Reading Questions form.
  2. Explain: Watch the video segments, complete the Viewing Chart, and answer the questions that follow.
  3. Apply: Complete the Developing and Analyzing a Lesson activity.
  4. Evaluate: Summarize what you’ve learned.

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