Using Stories for Teaching Primary Social Studies, pp. 5 of 8

On Day 2, teachers will recapitulate the story read the day before by re-reading the text for the third time. There will be explicit teaching of one or two teaching points and how the parts fit together to make the whole, that is, to construct meaning for the story. Activities can be constructed to help students deepen their understanding of the story, theme, character application of linguistic/vocabulary items, connect writing with reading and allow for building on story language and sentence structures. Examples of these activities include writing, painting, group murals and mask making for drama.    

Although SBA emphasizes the development of young students’ literacy skills, the approach can be modified for teaching primary social studies with a different emphasis. Instead of foregrounding the teaching of literacy skills, it will be the development of students’ understanding of core primary social studies concepts and generalizations or the big ideas as the primary teaching goal. The way to achieve this goal is through asking questions targeted at developing students’ conceptual understanding of the big ideas identified in the story books, and these big ideas should be aligned with the Ministry of Education (MOE) primary social studies syllabus.

Role of Questions in Conceptual Teaching

Questions on children’s literature need to be carefully crafted to promote the learning of primary social studies concepts and generalizations. Many types of questions can be asked and they can serve different purposes. Questions can assess students’ understanding, focus their attention, guide their thinking, follow up on their responses and facilitate class participation (Parker, 2012). Research conducted on classroom questions show that teachers often use low-level recall type of questions which begin with who, what, when and where.  They involve memory work and although they are important, they do not promote high-order thinking that require students to apply, analyse, synthesize, interpret and evaluate information (Parker, 2012).

Whatever the purposes, in general, questions should as far as possible be clear, focused and open-ended to encourage diverse views and promote thinking. According to Bloom and his colleagues (1956), questions that promote thinking can be classified into five categories, namely, questions for knowledge, comprehension, application, analysis and synthesis. In McTighe and Wiggins’ (2004) “Six Facets of Understanding”, they have identified “thinking”     questions     that     ask      for explanation, interpretation, application, perspective taking, empathy and self -knowledge. See Figure 2 for the different types of questions.

An example of a social studies lesson using the story entitled, “The Tale of the Magical Seeds” based on a modified SBA approach and questioning is presented in the Strategy Example 1 below.

An Inspiring Quote

"[Open-mindedness] includes an active desire to listen to more sides than one; to give heed to facts from whatever source they come; to give full attention to alternative possibilities; to recognize the possibility of error even in the beliefs that are dearest to us."

~ John Dewey, How We Think

Newsletter Subscription

Subscribe to our newsletter and stay up-to-date with new journal issues!