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Sequencing Middle Grades Social Studies

April 4, 2010

The Social Sciences encompass a number of different fields that must be woven together to provide the learner with an accurate understanding of the discipline. Teachers must be well versed in geography, history, culture, economics, and politics and government and sequence the knowledge appropriately so that the course does not haphazardly jump from topic to topic in an arbitrary manner while losing the learner in the process.

Guidry and Carson (2010) have identified the difficulty that many teachers have in sequencing their course appropriately which forces the instructor to rely on the textbook as a sole means of instruction rather than a tool to facilitate learning. In this article, the authors produce a middle school social studies sequencing framework to assist new teachers in conveying the wide range of content that comprises the social sciences in a manner that is effective and hierarchical to ensure fluidity and comprehension.

Research Summary:

The framework constructed by the researchers begins with a study of geography and ends with the economics of the unit. Curriculum should start with a study of geography (using the five themes) begin to assess how geography has shaped history. The instructor must decide between teaching the history component through a chronological, thematic, or conceptual framework while guiding students towards a deeper understanding of how history has influenced culture.  From this point, a study of culture (as a lived experience of place) should commence and guide itself into a discussion of how unique cultural features have given rise to political and governmental institutions. The course should then proceed to a study of politics and government by analyzing the governmental institutions of a region and moving towards an understanding of how the economic system is a byproduct of the political and governmental institutions. The unit of study would end with an analysis of the economics of the region using base concepts. The last day of the unit should offer a comprehensive look that ties together all aspects of the social sciences covered in the framework with the teacher working to fit all pieces together and assess what they have learned.

Classroom Implications:

The sequencing framework offered by the researchers provides logic and structure to all teachers (novice and experienced) with a guide to simplifying a complex subject that contains a number of intricacies. In addition, the questions that guide the teacher from one topic to another offer opportunities for overlap and transfer that will increase retention among learners. Finally, this type of framework will offer confidence to the instructor who is wary of abandoning the textbook for fear of teaching content in the wrong sequence.

Reference:

Guidry, A., & Carson, J. (2010). A sequencing framework for middle grades social studies instructional unit. Social Studies Research & Practice, 5(1), 105-118. Retrieved from http://www.socstrp.org/issues/PDF/5.1.10.pdf

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One Comment leave one →
  1. April 4, 2010 10:03 pm

    Really like this post. I think how to organize units and even years is often overlooked by teachers. We must not only carefully plan each lesson, but how to bridge each lesson to the next. When I think about how I might apply this to science, I think about moving from observable phenomena toward more abstract or theoretical thinking. The geography of an area is something that can be seen, and students could propose ideas about how certain features might affect how people interact with the land. In science, I show students a golf ball that floats and one that sinks and ask them to start thinking about why. Importantly, both of these approaches common ground is that students use some initial observations to make predictions and begin to actually think about the content!

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