Clay has been used for many things throughout history, including writing surfaces, money, cooking vessels, and building materials. Archaeologists use ceramics as a tool for dating cultures, which can be impactful to note in the social studies classroom. Teaching the evolution of tiles, ceramics, and clay throughout various cultures can inform students about how civilizations utilized these materials and advanced throughout history.
“The camera doesn’t lie” is often assumed to be true about historical photographs, even though we know that maxim is certainly not true in the twenty-first century. This phrase first began to be used in the late nineteenth century when new technology allowed photographs to be printed in books, magazines, and newspapers.
Adam Smith and his famous book The Wealth of Nations often make lists of things to know about the eighteenth century in economics and history classes. How can teachers explain his impact instead of making Smith just another factoid to memorize? Adam Smith was witness to and influenced by three major movements: the Enlightenment, the American Revolution, and the Industrial Revolution. Associate Smith’s economic thought with these larger events to make him memorable.
Most times a movement promotes a direct change in society. A revolution creates a volcanic chain reaction that leaves an indelible mark on the world.
The skills and content taught in science and social studies are often relegated to a secondary importance when compared to literacy and math. We can see this in how districts allocate funding and what states decide to test. However, while social studies skills are often taken for granted, the current political climate in the United States demands that we revisit, analyze, and update the skills that students will need not only to be successful in their future workplace but most importantly to be able to contribute to a healthy social dialogue as active citizens. We need to be able to have civil conversations about how we want to live together as a nation, what values we want to give priority to, and how we understand our past in order to promote a robust and healthy national future.
Writing has become an integral part of the social studies curriculum. Students need to know that this activity strengthens their reading skills as well as helps them to embrace the content more fluidly. When writing about specific historical events, oftentimes students must research their topic to gain factual knowledge. This is an important aspect to documenting and understanding historical events accurately.
Throughout the years, teachers have used music in instruction, such as the ABC song, to teach the alphabet, and “The Hokey Pokey,” to teach body parts and directions. As one of Howard Gardner’s multiple intelligence areas, music is a great tool to use to teach social studies. The pattern and rhythm of songs encourage memory, movement, and creativity with students. Music is a part of children's daily life and therefore a connection to real-world learning.
As the end of the first semester during COVID-19 approaches, I wanted to take a moment to reflect on how the experience has gone and what I can do going forward to make the school year a better experience for the students and myself.
Keeping students at the secondary level engaged in the virtual environment is difficult. Sitting in front of a computer anywhere between four to eight hours a day can be draining and taxing on a student’s mental health and overall brain power, but you can make virtual learning fun!
Teaching online is a unique experience for everyone—teachers, students, and parents alike. Some students are thriving in the online environment, and others are struggling. For our English language learners (ELLs), this new medium can provide even greater challenges to accessing the curriculum, but sound teaching practices will help them (and you) get through this successfully.