Recently, the Washington Post published the article, “School reading classes still in a slump without more Social Studies.” This got the entire Kids Discover team talking. What does Social Studies really look like in an elementary school classroom? Thinking of my seven years as a public school teacher, I obviously have a pretty firm opinion and can speak of my own experiences. Social Studies matter! It belongs in every classroom and is more important now than ever!
This mindset goes back to my own days as a student. I had the most amazing teachers growing up, serving as the inspiration for myself becoming an educator. I especially think of my 5th grade teacher, Mrs. Burchardt, and her unit on the Civil War. Obviously, it can be a heavy topic to discuss with 10 year olds, but she made it come alive. Even 20 years later, I vividly remember her group activities, differentiated book clubs, and class discussions. The same can be said about my 4th grade teacher, Mrs. Flood, as she taught state history, and my 3rd teacher, Mrs. Entringer when we learned about US Presidents and Native American tribes.
These three women made me want to be a teacher, and as I tried to incorporate Social Studies throughout my own classroom, I modeled after them.
Our students crave for more Social Studies and it’s so much more than memorizing dates from the Civil War or state capitals. It helps students understand our past, it teaches them to process what’s happening in the present, and it makes them excited for the future. In a time where test scores are everything, it also has been shown to improve reading achievement. In a study from the Fordham Institute of 6,829 students, students with 30 minutes of Social Studies a day outperform their counterparts without Social Studies in reading.
If your school district offers little time for Social Studies in exchange for more time in an ELA block, the number one recommendation is incorporating it in your reading curriculum. There are countless books about social studies topics that you’re students will devour either independently or in a whole group setting. Fill your classroom library with them. Hype the books up or praise your students when they read one. Use your reading standards as an opportunity to share fictitious and non-fiction accounts of a real-life event or person. If a student has a burning question, detour from your scheduled lesson to explore what’s interesting to them.
Kids Discover Online offers countless opportunities for you to incorporate more Social Studies in your classroom… From Geography to Historical Figures to World and American History. If you want to begin the steps to become more Social Studies focused, this is a great place to start!