The diffusion of writing systems or materials was often determined by religion, politics, or economics. For example, the Latin script used to write the doctrines of Roman Catholicism and the Arabic script used to write the Koran were instrumental in diffusing writings and languages throughout the world.
When I ask students to read in my social studies classes, I always assign a customized reading guide created especially for the assigned text. The reading assignments may be textbook chapters, primary source texts, news articles, or even selections of relevant fiction. Many “generic” reading guides are available, but taking extra time to create a reading customized to a text as well as the larger lesson and unit objectives results in higher-level learning.
In the primary grades, maps are useful tools to help the young reader put stories into perspective and develop a sense of place. Place and space are important in describing the setting of a book. Sometimes the author may not include a map, but the words convey a mental image that can easily be translated into a map—and even the illustrations could be used to teach geographic skills.
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.
Teaching all sides of history and utilizing resources that aim to showcase diverse peoples is essential in the modern social studies classroom. Recognizing the unique struggles of people of color throughout history and empathizing with them takes precedence in learning, now more than ever.
Urban legends, referred to by folklorists as contemporary legends, are fictional stories claimed to be true. Myths and legends from throughout history often contain an underlying warning about a potential danger to avoid.
Contemporary literature gives readers a look at progressive writing styles that often reflect the world in which the works were written. Although often reserved for English or writing courses, recent novels can also be used in secondary social studies classrooms to teach about current events, political themes, economics, sociology, or even history.
Etymology, the study of the origin of words and how the meanings of words change over time, is just as relevant in social studies as it is in English classes. When words appear in a language, how words evolve and change, and when words are discarded tell a wider social, political, economic, or cultural story. For students learning social studies, the benefits of learning these words can be immense, and serve to build essential skills.
An impactful memoir has long-lasting effects on its reader. For high school students, a real story about the struggles of humanity and strength of the human spirit helps them connect with history and see the world from a different perspective.
Classic literature is often reserved for English or Writing courses, but in secondary social studies classrooms, historical novels written about specific eras and themes can have as much merit as a traditional textbook. Teachers can use the following examples as a guide to teach their students social studies themes, including politics, government, sociology, and various historical eras.