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Skills and Best Practices

Cooperative Learning

Cooperative learning is used to help students share the work in researching a topic. However as this Eric Digest Document points out, this is only part of the benefits of using cooperative learning strategies. Others benefits include:

  • All students in the group “buying into” the process
  • Being a part of a heterogeneous group with a variety of talents
  • Equal participation and equal opportunity for success for all students
  • Positive interdependence
  • Face-to-face interactions
  • Positive social interactions
  • Access to must-learn information
  • Extended time on task
  • Individual accountability
  • Public recognition for group success

Graphic Organizers

Graphic organizers are an excellent way to organize information on a given topic. For this activity, we could use a simple chart like the one that follows.

Printable Student View

Compare/Contrast Matrix

Name 1 Name 2
Attribute 1
Attribute 2
Attribute 3

We could also use an organizer that allows us to do some additional branching:

Used to describe a central idea: a thing (a geographic region), process (meiosis), concept (altruism), or proposition with support (experimental drugs should be available to AIDS victims). Key frame questions: What is the central idea? What are its attributes? What are its functions?

Writing in the Social Studies Classroom

“The Writing Report Card: Writing Achievement in American Schools, a recent study by the National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP), directly links writing effectiveness to the development of skills in critical thinking.” This quotation comes from an ERIC Research Document and supports the notion that writing is as much a social studies skills as it is a language skill. Every opportunity should be taken to have students improve their thinking skills by using writing to organize their thinking and to reinforce their learning. This document further points out:

  • How writing is linked to learning
  • What approaches to the teaching of writing in social studies offer the most promise
  • Which of these approaches works best
  • How we can include writing in the social studies curriculum

Use of Primary Sources

Often primary sources or sources that require a higher level of thinking are avoided because of their high concept load. However, as this activity suggests, these sources can be made accessible to students if students first develop an understanding of the social studies vocabulary used the vocabulary in context. In addition, if students are shown how to break the article into smaller elements, they feel less intimidated by it.

Teachers need to challenge students to make greater use of primary sources so that they can draw their own conclusions about specific events in history. This site will lead your students to a multitude of primary sources on early American history:

Updated July 11, 2024 4:28pm