From preschool through high school, social studies crosses content areas and includes subjects such as civics, geography, political systems, culture and history. The overriding theme of a social studies curriculum is to promote civic competence, according to the National Council for the Social Studies. While school districts and states vary when it comes to social studies standards, the NCSS provides teachers and administrators with goals and objectives that meet national general knowledge requirements.
Growing Civic-Minded Citizens
Civic ideals and practices are main themes in social studies content, according to the NCSS. Developing into a civic-minded individual means that students need to meet goals in an array of content areas. These include understanding the U.S. government, other world governments, law, democracy and economics. Instead of having students memorize facts or random pieces of political information, teachers should set goals for their students to think critically about these areas. Objectives are often more specific, and would include grade-level content expectations. For example, Rhode Island's Grades 3 and 4 civics standards include objectives such as understanding the purposes of government by giving examples of services that states offer their citizens.
Creating Cultural Competence
Culture and cultural diversity are primary points that a social studies education needs to provide, according to the NCSS. General goals may focus on learning that cultures evolve over time, cultures are often both the same and different or that people can share aspects of their cultures. Students should also learn that they are part of a culture. More specific objectives may include identifying key parts of a specific world cultures, recognizing that language plays a role in cultural communities or explaining how religion, politics and culture interact.
Generating Geography and Globe Knowledge
Learning about different places and environments helps students to understand the connections that people and cultures have to one another, according to the NCSS. Goals and objectives for "place" themes fall under geography knowledge. A general goal for a beginning social studies student may include identifying the Earth and pointing out the different continents. Specific objectives may focus on learning the different parts of the globe or a map. For example, Georgia's social studies standards include objectives such as using a map key, using cardinal directions and understanding scale. As students develop more sophisticated critical thinking skills and move into the upper grade school years and beyond, objectives may include comparing political or cultural features of a map or connecting geographic regions to historical events.
Understanding Economics, Production and Comsumption
Economic content in social studies classes should cover both personal and global financial responsibilities, according to the Ohio Department of Education's learning standards. The basic goals may feature concepts such as understanding production, distribution and consumption. As students develop a better understanding of economic principles, objectives can shift to comparing financial systems, identifying the impact that factors such as technology have on economic growth and recognizing the value of the worker within a society.
- National Council for the Social Studies: National Curriculum Standards for Social Studies: Introduction
- National Council for the Social Studies: Revitalizing Civic Learning in Our Schools
- Rhode Island: Rhode Island Grade Span Expectations for Social Studies
- National Council for the Social Studies: National Curriculum Standards for Social Studies: Chapter 2 -- The Themes of Social Studies
- Georgia Department of Education: Social Studies Skills Matrix
- Ohio Department of Education: Ohio's New Learning Standards, Social Studies
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