Social Studies/ Social Science, or the study of Geography and History, can sometimes be intimidating to children and parents alike. It’s a content area full of facts and details that go back centuries! How do we teach Geography and History to a child who struggles with reading, or retention of information? I explain how to begin with the basics in this post.
Why Social Studies may be a challenge for children with special needs
- Children with cognitive delays may not be able to orient themselves in terms of space and time.
- Children with reading disabilities may find the content and vocabulary of Social Studies difficult to decode.
- Children with a memory deficiency may have trouble retaining the information of Geography and History.
A word about Social Studies
I like to look at Social Studies in this way: Geography is the story and make-up of the earth, while History is the story and make-up of its people. When you look at this subject as a collection of stories, then you realize that it’s easier than you thought to tackle it.
Suggestions for teaching Social Studies
- Tell the stories. There are many books on the market today that are aimed at children and target your province or state’s geography or history. Invest in a few and share the stories they tell. You can also find some online and tell them in your own words. Your child will begin to understand History or Geography through stories about real people and places.
- Display a timeline. Somewhere prominent in your home, set-up a timeline. It could be as simple as a string of yarn from one end of the wall to the other. Along the line, pin-up important dates like the year we’re currently in, your child’s birthdate, his siblings’ birthdates, his parents’, etc. Talk about how far away they were born from this year. Then, as you go along, add important dates from your stories to the timeline. This creates a concrete, visual resource for your family to refer to that helps your child understand the concept of time.
- Study the calendar. You can talk about the days, weeks, months, and years using a calendar, in addition to the timeline.
- Explore space in terms of your child’s street, neighbourhood, and city. Take walks along the street, talk about what you see and draw it. “Oh, look. This is our house. I’ll draw our house. This is Mr. Smith’s house. It’s next to our house. See?” and so on. You can then make a model with playdough or construction paper of your street. If your child is ready, draw the map, or find it online. You may want to explore Google Earth and Google Streetview to make it semi-concrete.
- Spend time with the elderly in the family. Your family has so much history. Have the elderly tell stories to your child about their childhood. Grandma can share stories of her as a little girl and then her as your mother. It might be difficult for your child to comprehend, but … that’s a great time to introduce the family tree!
Does your child struggle with the learning of Social Studies? What are you working on and where are the challenges?