Integrating Social Studies into Math, Reading, and Writing

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Social studies time in schools has been reduced to increase time in reading, writing, and math. Here are some ways to successfully integrate social studies into other areas of the curriculum.

Social studies is one of the easiest subjects to integrate into other subjects. This is good, because often times it is one of the first areas of the curriculum to get pushed to the back burner due to an emphasis on Language Arts and Math. Although it would be great to have time every day to devote to social studies alone, sometimes it is not a possibility in every classroom.

One way that social studies can cross subjects is through reading. There are several non-fiction books, articles, and historical fiction books that can be used to teach both social studies and reading strategies. Content Area Reading by Richard T. Vacca and Jo Anne L. Vacca says “Picture books provide students with background knowledge about people, places, events, and experiences. They can ground students in cognitive concepts critical for understanding a variety of content area subjects. In addition, they can provide rich opportunities for promoting cultural diversity because picture books with a multicultural focus are increasing in availability.”

Writing is another great way that social studies can be taught. For instance, after reading a book about the Boston Tea Party, the students could write a letter or journal entry about the events that took place from both viewpoints, encouraging higher-level thinking. To make the journal/letter look old, the students could crumple or tea stain it, which would also allow art to be integrated into the lesson. Poems are a creative way to retell a historical event as well.

Social studies plays a big role in science. Scientists are historical figures, and their contributions are significant to science in many ways; for example, astronomers who discovered how the earth fits into our solar system, and Thomas Edison’s many inventions that advanced both science and humanity. Geography and the study of natural resources and land forms are closely tied and can be taught together as well. Science holds many possibilities for learning social studies.

Math and social studies may be two subjects that one may find hard to relate. Just as all of the other subjects, social studies fits right in. For example, when studying economics, math plays a big role in trade and value. Although economic principles could be taught without math, I believe that it ties it in to real-life situations, allowing students to see how the information will be relevant to their lives.

Another way that social studies can fit into a busy school day is through centers. I have a habit of asking kids what their favorite part of school is, and besides recess and lunch, center time seems to be the most popular time of day. Social studies centers can easily be developed with some creativity, or even purchased from educational suppliers. After each student has rotated through the center, it can be changed out for a new topic that supports the grade level expectations (GLEs) in social studies. Webquests are becoming more and more popular, which often center around social studies topics.

Social studies is part of our every day life whether or not we realize it. It is also a part of science, reading, writing, and even math. So is it necessary to have a designated time for only social studies? Many may argue that it is one of the less important subjects in elementary school, however we need to think about what it would mean to not have it in our schools. Without social studies, how would students learn about citizenship, government, map skills, geography, history, resources, economics, family and community, and culture, among several other things? It seems that the only option is to offer time for the subject. Rather than be left feeling that time has been stolen from other subjects like language arts, science, or math, it would work equally as well to blend those subjects into the social studies lesson during its designated time.

In my opinion, social studies must be the easiest subject to integrate since it pertains to practically everything that we do in life. Some of the important aspects in social studies do, in fact, tie in with other subjects well, but some topics are taught better when the focus can be solely on that topic. So do I believe that social studies can be integrated? Of course. Should it be? Yes. Should we use integration of social studies as the primary way to teach the social studies curriculum? In my opinion, no. Sadly, time has been taken away from social studies, so teachers must find the best possible ways to teach their students what is most important. It would be ideal to have a designated time for social studies on a daily basis, but unfortunately it doesn’t always work out that way. With creativity, teachers can cover all of the social studies GLEs even if it seems like social studies time is cut short.

 Image Credit: Lusi

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Posted on Jan 26, 2011