Building Social Studies Skills
Tips for Parents
Watch the television news together on occasion. Let the events on thenews -- human interest stories, hurricanes, elections, and the peoples andcircumstances of other countries -- become a basis for conversation. You mightalso watch documentaries about historical figures with your child; biography isa good basis for helping children learn about history. Such documentaries arebecoming more common, especially on public television and certain cablenetworks. Documentary programs are also available on videocassette and can bechecked out of libraries and rented from many video stores.
Children in intermediate grades will notice and ask about the problems thatthey see around them: homelessness drugs, and conflict. It is good to talk aboutthese issues. Ask your child whether he or she is discussing such topics inschool. Does your child have unanswered questions?
Look at photographs together. Family pictures showing you and your child atdifferent ages are a good choice. Ask, "What can you remember about theseearlier times? What is different now?" You will find that your child willnot tire of looking at pictures of family members.
Ask your child about how we know the actual shape of North America, SouthAmerica, and the other countries. This is a way to see what your childunderstands about mapmaking, and it also offers an opportunity to discuss andexamine maps and satellite photos of the earth.
Using a map of the United States, discuss each region: its topography, itslargest cities, its industries or economic activity, its populationdemographics, the historical events that happened there, and so on. You mightstart with a region where your family has lived in the past, or where a relativeor friend lives, and then branch out into other regions.
Have your child place various events into chronological order. Try thefollowing events: the voyages of Christopher Columbus, the Mayflower Compact,the establishment of Jamestown Colony by the British, the Norse exploration ofNorth America, and the development of Native American societies.
The era of European exploration -- roughly the 15th through 18th centuries-- fascinates children. You and your child can discuss many questions related tothis era: Why were the European governments so interested in exploring theworld? What was Columbus's purpose in sailing west across the Atlantic Ocean?What did people know about the world when Columbus set sail? Why has Columbusbecome so controversial?
Children study the American colonies in considerable detail in the fifthgrade. There are many ways to get your child to share what he or she islearning. You might inquire, "How much religious freedom did theMassachusetts Puritans allow? Why did they take the position they took onreligious freedom? What were some of the differences between the colonies? Whydid slavery take hold in the Americas? What have you learned about the MiddlePassage?
The American Revolution is covered in fifth-grade social studies. Seewhether your child knows why some colonists were opposed to the revolution andremained loyal to Britain.
Reprinted from 101 Educational Conversations with Your 5th Grader by Vito Perrone, published by Chelsea House Publishers.
Copyright 1994 by Chelsea House Publishers, a division of Main Line Book Co. All rights reserved.