Unfortunately, social studies is often placed on the chopping block because teachers find that there is little time to integrate this subject area into the curriculum. My course on teaching social studies in elementary school has shown me how to integrate social studies in all subject areas using many great online tools. I cannot wait to teach social studies in my future classroom.
In the past, I really did not like learning about history. To me, history classes were just memorizing important events, but over the past semester (Spring 2014) I realized that it is basically impossible to know everything about history. Once I understood this concept, I realized that I could teach social studies to my students without making them rely on memorization. Instead, I want to use literature and activities to engage the students and teach them through doing and through experiences. Instead of having my students learn by simply reading a textbook, I want them to have access to primary documents from the Library of Congress. http://www.loc.gov/ I want my students to learn how to analyze a picture and make connections between the image and their current lives. Elementary school students may not be able to understand abstract concepts such as fighting for freedom, but they can watch a video like Might Times: The Children’s March and understand the role of children in the Civil Rights movement. (Please note that I would only allow students to watch portions of this movie and I would make sure that my principal and administration approved this movie before I introduced it into the classroom. There are some scenes in the picture that may be a bit frightening for children and I would not show these videos to my students.) By making history accessible through these means, I think that my students will have a better understanding of social studies and they will be more engaged.
There are a variety of great online tools that I learned about from my professor in my teaching social studies course. Some of these technologies are aimed at the intermediate grade levels but the teacher may be able to use some of them in a whole group lesson. One of my favorite websites is the Geography Glossary: This website contains an image of various landscapes and land forms. This would be a great tool to use to teach students about geography that they might not recognize such as fjords, mountains, desserts, etc. The students can click on individual terms and learn more by looking at maps, photos and illustrations of the specific land form. The students can also read facts. This website contains some assistive technology as well because the students can have the website read the information to them.
Another online tool that I liked is netTrekker. NetTrekker is an online search engine with results specifically related to content standards that are filtered by grade level. Teachers and students can use this tool to safely search the internet for sources. I really like this tool because students can perform research and find good, reliable sources that are age appropriate.
I also really enjoyed playing the ICivis game. This game allows students to understand rights based on the amendments to the constitution. This game would be best for intermediate students; however, the teacher can also have the class play this game together as a whole group lesson. The student would control a lawyer who decides whether or not clients have a right based on the amendments. The students partner up clients with the lawyer of the matching amendment to win course cases. I think this is a really great way for students to learn about amendments in a fun and engaging manner.
Social Studies can be integrated into the curriculum through interdisciplinary lessons with online tools that help engage and interest students. Social studies does not have to be about memorization; instead, students can construct their learning through fun activities and grant them a better and lasting understanding of the content.