Effective social studies teachers ensure that all students have the opportunity to develop essential social studies skills and know that skills and content should be learned together.
They provide students with opportunities to think and communicate in ways that will enable them to develop a working knowledge of social studies content.
Developing essential social studies skills can occur at every grade level. Some essential skills include but are not limited to:
Critical Reading Skills
Because the reading of textbooks plays such a prominent role in the content fields, critical reading should be a central skill where the students learn to evaluate, draw inferences and arrive at conclusions based on the evidence. The student is expected to:
- analyze the author's choices of content, language, and text structure.
- Critical readers are consciously aware of the act of choice underlying the content. They distinguish between assertions of fact, opinion, and belief. They are aware whether evidence consists of references to published data, anecdotes, or speculation, and they evaluate the persuasiveness of a text accordingly.
- Critical readers are aware of how language is being used. They notice whether someone is said to have asserted a claim (with confidence, and no need for proof) or floated a claim (without backing, as a trial balloon). They draw inferences from the choice of language they observe.
- Critical readers are aware of the text structure of a text, both in terms of the movement of ideas from beginning to end and in terms of the relationship of ideas throughout the text. They distinguish between assertions offered as reason or conclusion, cause or effect, evidence or illustration. They recognize patterns of contrast and distinguish whether contrasting ideas are shown to be dissimilar, competing, or contradictory.
- use and develop skills and strategies including, but not limited to, the following:
- Scan material before reading.
- Use text features (such as titles, bold print, italics, pictures, and graphs) to predict what the reading will be about.
- Predict what will happen next.
- Recall background knowledge.
- Summarize main ideas.
- Make text-to-text, text-to-self, and text-to-world connections.
- Stop periodically to summarize what has been read and how it connects with previous paragraphs.
- Make charts, webs, outlines, and record reactions.
Critical Communication Skills
Communication skills require the student to communicate in written, oral, and visual forms. The student is expected to:
- use social studies terminology correctly;
- use standard grammar, sentence structure, and punctuation;
- use expository writing to effectively explain, describe, discuss, analyze and evaluate social studies information and topics;
- transfer information from one medium to another, including written to visual and statistical to written or visual, using computer software as appropriate; and
- create and present written, oral and visual presentations of social studies information.
Critical Thinking Skills
The student applies critical thinking skills to organize and use information acquired from a variety of sources, including electronic technology. The student is expected to:
- differentiate between, locate, and use primary and secondary sources, such as computer software, databases, media and news services, biographies, interviews, and artifacts, to acquire information;
- analyze information by sequencing, categorizing, identifying cause-and-effect relationships, comparing, contrasting, finding the main idea, summarizing, making generalizations and predictions, and drawing inferences and conclusions;
- organize and interpret information from outlines, reports, databases, and visuals, including graphs, charts, timelines, and maps;
- identify points of view from the historical context surrounding an event and the frame of reference that influenced the participants;
- support a point of view on a social studies issue or event;
- identify bias in written, oral, and visual material;
- evaluate the validity of a source based on language, corroboration with other sources, and information about the author;
- use appropriate mathematical skills to interpret social studies information such as maps and graphs;
- use a problem-solving process to identify a problem, gather information, list and consider options, consider advantages and disadvantages, choose and implement a solution, and evaluate the effectiveness of a solution;
- use a decision-making process to identify a situation that requires a decision, gather information, identify options, predict consequences, and take action to implement a decision, and
- trace the important historical, political, cultural and economic developments of selected regions.