Article | Defining Social Studies

Social Studies (Carla Bley album)

Social Studies (Carla Bley album) (Photo credit: Wikipedia)


Where can you find art, music, history, economics, language, dance and geography all combined in one place? Social studies, of course! Social studies is that area of the curriculum which allows us to look at where people live, how people live, why they live there, what they do to sustain themselves and who they are as a distinct people or nation. It speaks to the inter-connectedness of life – between humans and nature, humans and other humans, between a place and its surroundings – all examined through the eyes of many disciplines.

How might we use this video in a classroom – What is Social Studies?

It seems to be a very general piece, perhaps a great beginning to the term of study. But what else is it do you see in it? In deconstructing the piece, one could certainly stick with a basic level of Bloom and ask what images were presented. A list would be created. The next step for many teachers would be to jump right into having the students create a similar type of presentation, or perhaps a collage of images that represent their idea of social studies. In doing so, we would miss a wonderful opportunity to really examine what images were used, why they were used and how they were sequenced to gain maximum effect.

Let’s go back to the question – what else do you see in it? How could the students tackle this question? This will involve watching the video multiple times to identify the specific pictures within each section. Here is one suggestion done in some detail:

  1. Students are moved into any number of groups depending upon the size of the class. Each group is given a specific group of images to study i.e. Race/Language, Games/Entertainment, Religion/Rituals, War/Politics, Physical World.
  2. Each group would work to identify each of the images that appear in their part of the video. They should be listed in order. Why? It is possible that the videographer has a specific reason for the order. Students should examine that possibility and suggest reasons for it.
  3. Pose this question to the groups – what reaction do you have to the images presented in your section of the video? Each student should take two minutes to think of their ideas. Then paired with the person next to them, Whole group sharing then follows.
  4. The class can now postulate how a different generation – older or younger might react to those same images. Could our proximity to the event displayed change our reaction to the image? If so, how? What influences our reaction to the image?
  5. Having discussed the video from several different viewpoints, the students are ready to record their thoughts and reactions. Now they can move to that creative level of synthesis and display their own ideas – in words, in music, in media, in art, in dance.

We can see that in deconstructing the video, students are given the opportunity to identify personal and group reactions to a series of images. They have analysed these same images to understand their reactions and have examined their own metacognition. They have moved into the areas of synthesis and evaluation to create something of their own.

Through a simple activity, students of any grade can understand that social studies is all about them and their connections to the many faces of the world around them.

Susan Ward

Susan Ward

Retired elementary school principal. Currently a part-time instructor at Faculty of Education, Brock University, St. Catharines, Ontario, Canada. I work with teacher candidates placing them in schools and evaluating their teaching skills. I also teach a 20 hour course in social studies curriculum to teacher candidates. I have been an educator for over 35 years and am committed to having the best prepared new teachers we can develop, coming into the field.

You may also like...

%d bloggers like this: