Top Ten Reasons to Include Social Studies in Your Instructional Day

Article excerpt

It is 11:35 p.m. Exhausted from another day on the job, the teacher drifts off to sleep while in the distance the television drones on. David Letterman steps forth into her dream as Letterman begins to announce another one of his "Top Ten" lists. But this list is different; it is, "The Top Ten Reasons to Include Social Studies in Your Instructional Day".

10. It's on the test.

9. It's in the book.

8. While students learn to read, they can read to learn.

7. While students learn to write, they can write to "show what they know".

6. It's all about TIME.

5. It's all about PEOPLE.

4. It's all about PLACE.

3. To prepare for the future, learn from the past.

2. Be PROUD to be an AMERICAN.

1. Social Studies can be fun!

In her dream, Letterman begins, "Let's take a closer look at the 'Social Studies Top Ten' and analyze the rationale for each item on the list."

Number 10. It's on the test.

While, some people would list the test as the #1 reason to teach social studies, the test is only one small reflection of a students' knowledge. For this reason, the test is located at the bottom of the list as a reason to include social studies in your instructional day. Testing is not considered the most critical goal, nonetheless, it is an important consideration.

In California, students are not tested in social studies until Grades 8, 10, 11 and 12. A familiar adage says, "What gets tested, is what gets taught." Why then should an elementary teacher worry about including social studies in the instructional day? The secondary teachers cannot be held solely responsible for all of the content measured on their students' tests. They stand on the shoulders of those elementary teachers who have come before them.

The California History-Social Science Framework provides a sequentially developed comprehensive curriculum for each grade level that builds upon content learned in the previous years. In Kindergarten to Grade 2, students learn the fundamental concepts of geography, history, economics and political science. This instruction lays the foundation for success in the grades that follow. Local History is studied in Grade 3, California History in Grade 4, and American History follows in grades 5, 8, and 11. World History, which is taught in grades 6, 7, and 11, is subsequently followed with Economics and Government in Grade 12.

If any one rung in this sequential ladder is skipped, the later grade levels are adversely affected. The neglect shows up on the test. (For information about the content included on the California History-Social Science tests, refer to the California Department of Education website: www.cde.ca.gov. Once there, click on STAR, then Program Resources. From this page you can access blueprints for each of the tests and the released questions from past tests.)

Number 9. It's in the book.

This year, most school districts in California have selected new social studies textbooks for students to use in Kindergarten to Grade 8. Millions of dollars of taxpayer money has been spent with the expectation the new materials will be used in the classroom. A list of the adopted textbooks and resource materials for California can be accessed at hrtp://www.cde.ca.gov/ci/hs/im/sbehssadop.asp

Textbooks play a useful role in the social studies classroom, but they should not be the "only" books to teach the subject matter. Seek out literature that is based upon historical and fictional figures. Identify sources that recount history and events as "stories well-told". Find sources that draw from historical documents such as eye-witness accounts, oral histories, diaries, photographs, and newspaper accounts. A diversity of resources invigorates the social studies program at any grade level. One reference book, Pages of the Past, aligns numerous children's literature titles to History-Social Science Standards. …