Simulations encourage students to “learn by doing.” The goal in using simulations in the classroom is for students to understand a concept or historical experience by acting it out. Creating a kinesthetic experience isn’t quite the same as reading about something in a book.
Ask any teacher in any discipline at any grade level and they will tell you that literacy is one of their biggest concerns and challenges. What they mean by “literacy” can vary considerably, but generally we can take it to mean successful interpretation of the signs, symbols, and meanings someone else is trying to communicate. Literacy is often used to describe deciphering texts. In a child’s early years, basic phonics is the most common form of literacy, and as students get older, literacy comes to mean understanding the written word in all its variations.
Many students have trouble understanding the geographic context of United States history even though they can often relate the themes to their lives. When teachers move to world geography, the problem of relating to the content is compounded many times over. Students rarely have the background knowledge or geographic literacy to understand where things happened in the past. Thus, making the connection between distant places and history to modern society and their own lives can be very difficult.
I have the privilege of working with teachers across the country and I often hear the refrain that too many students are just not reading on level.
Using discussion boards can be an excellent way to engage students with important middle and high school social studies content.
Rapid advances in brain-based imaging teach us that students need meaning in order to recall information, according to Differentiation and the Brain by David A. Sousa and Carol Ann Tomlinson.