Carving out time for social studies in the elementary classroom, can seem daunting. With all of the standards, continual testing, and more that is placed on teachers, making time for social studies (especially if it isn’t a subject tested on the state exam) can be difficult to make a priority.
Changing Our Mindset
I believe that a change in mindset must occur in order for social studies to be better embraced in the classroom. We don’t “carve out time” for math each day, or “fit in” reading "if there's time." Teachers plan time for those subjects, and it is just an expected chunk of our day. But subjects like social studies are often just “fit in” once a week, or happen when we have"extra time.” The problem is when we have the mindset of just “fitting in” time for subjects, then it doesn’t become a priority. The Council of Chief State School Offices found that "research consistently demonstrates that social studies receives the least amount of instructional time in the elementary grades when compared to the time afforded to other core content areas." (CCSSO.org) I taught in a school where social studies in the elementary grades was not a priority. Even though this was a large district, no curriculum was provided. While the district mandated specific time requirements for math and ELA (90 minutes a day, for example), there were zero mandates for social studies. While some teachers taught this subject in their classrooms, with no curriculum most teachers did not teach any social studies at all. This is a huge disservice to our students. Those in our classrooms are our future leaders, and we can make an impact on our next generation of voters in a significant way if we embrace social studies.
How do we fix this?
1. View Social Studies as a Core Subject Again
Be intentional about implementing social studies in the classroom. I am all for cross-curricular instruction; books, informational texts, and educational websites can offer some great practice and review. But please don’t think that “fitting-in” a reading passage here or there is enough, because it’s not. We need to be intentional about viewing social studies as a core subject again.