Why more is not better with social studies.

picture courtesy of mycutegraphics.com

picture courtesy of mycutegraphics.com

Many of my teaching friends have noted that the social studies curriculum (even before the core) requires kids to remember LOTS of people, places and dates in a short amount of time.  I remember when my boys were in fourth grade and the long list of explorers and dates they were required to study, remember and connect made my head spin!  For our kids with language weaknesses and social language impairments, memorizing the information is tricky but understanding the historical significance of events and their connections to other people is especially difficult.  The curriculum requires our kids to be able to understand motivations as well as cultural and social climates to figure out WHY someone traveled across the world or intervened on behalf of another country. (I will be posting some graphic organizers to help compare, contrast and connect historical figures soon)

As with most concepts, I find that pairing visuals and simplifying language is helpful.  This is true across all academic content; more is not better.   Repeat that statement with me:  more is not better.   Kids with language and/or social impairments can easily lose the big picture in the midst of too much information.   They are already asked to be able to identify what the main idea is, what is important (and unimportant),  to compare and contrast, make inferences, sequence, accept other people’s opinions (especially when they differ from your own thoughts or beliefs) and be able to summarize information in their own words. Ow, I think I sprained my brain after processing all of that!!

Creating timelines is one way to hit the “highlights” of an important historical figure or event.  They can even be used for literature in establishing sequence/time of a story or major events with the characters.  What is important is to give a visual support with the concepts, like this one for Jimmy Carter:  http://www.scribd.com/doc/205672636/Timeline-SAMPLE

I have several timelines aligned to the social studies curriculum for Georgia posted in my TPT store including  FDR, a Civil Rights timeline, Georgia Becomes a Colony, Thomas Jefferson, Harriet Tubman, Lewis and Clark and a few more here:  http://www.teacherspayteachers.com/Store/Heidi-Britz

Share your thoughts and ideas on how to simplify the curriculum!  See you soon…

3 thoughts on “Why more is not better with social studies.

  1. Kimi Sewell says:

    great article Heidi……..I totally agree. I am teaching Fourth grade now and the curriculum is unbelievable. We teach everything through stories and power points. we break everything down for them, give them pictures and simplify it for them. The kids seem to love it and they typically have done really well with learning the content. We just did shadow puppet shows of the the events leading up to the revolutionary War….. it was awesome. 🙂 Miss seeing you. Keep the blogs coming. Kimi Plant Sewell

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s