A Unique Approach in Teaching Social Studies

Interview made to Miss Petersen, Main Grades Educator in Trinus.

How do you engage your students in social studies lessons?

It depends on the age of the students. Currently, I am teaching grade 6 and a big way of engaging them is through discussions- By asking and listening to their opinions of the content that was brought.

We do debates where children have to back up their opinions with reasons e.g. I divided the class into 2 teams: Spartans and Athenians; then each had to argue why their way of life was the best.

Encouraging them to ask questions

Helping them see how EVERYTHING IS CONNECTED

In geography I always try to connect it to the children’s country e.g. “The population is 4 times bigger than that of Guatemala” This is a great way to help them connect and engage with content

Lots of artistic work: drawings, Maps, acting out the Greek myths, songs, poems, even making forms out of clay, etc

Lots of humor and jokes

Stories that stir emotional reactions AS MANY EMOTIONS as possible


How do you apply real-world relevancy to the lessons?

Connecting content to the children’s own country; making comparisons with things the children know and see in their environment

Connecting to  BIG WORLD news stories e.g. while learning Greece we could link that to the Olympics being canceled because of the pandemic

By making a BIG deal of how something that happened long ago still affects us today e.g. “the Olympic event Marathon is called this because it’s the distance ran….. “ I get very excited when I point things like this out to the children, I act like it’s so cool as if I’m hearing this for the first time like them. This makes history alive and current for children, to hear and learn things like this

By letting them ASK QUESTIONS

Having experts come in where possible to discuss this in greater detail, share more knowledge, and answer questions

What examples do you have of incorporating the arts into social studies lessons?

Map drawing as an art- where possible we draw maps freehand

Paintings- painting a desert landscape or a Greek fleet sailing for Persia

Clay modeling: we made monsters from Greek myths

Drama-acting out stories

Recitation- learning poems

Singing- learning songs from a culture

Writing- even if this can be artistic work that we create together, the Athenians valued the power of speech

Poetry- writing poetry e.g. an ode to the river, learning poetry from that era

Waldorf book

What strategies do you use to create learning experiences that activate students’ prior knowledge?

Before I start a social studies block I always ask children to tell me something they already know about the topic, or I give them a blank map to fill places in. Then at the end, we review this and there is that cool moment when they see how much MORE they know now

I ask specific guiding questions to relate it to something they have already seen

Ask “Can anyone think what this is connected to?”

Encourage them to make predictions of what COULD happen so they can open to thinking in this cause-and-effect way which is ESSENTIAL IN SOCIAL STUDIES

Fun pop Class quiz to see who remembers

Generate excitement

Giving students time to think

Encourage them to ask questions!


Miss Petersen

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