Building Social Studies Skills

Grade 6
Tips for Parents

  • Watch the television news together regularly. Let the events on the news -- human interest stories, hurricanes, elections, and the peoples and circumstances of other countries -- become a basis for conversation. You might also watch documentaries about historical figures with your child; biography is a good basis for helping children learn about history. Such documentaries are becoming more common, especially on public television and certain cable networks. Documentary programs are also available on videocassette and can be checked out of libraries and rented from many video stores.

  • Ask what would happen if the oil-producing countries agreed to sell only one-half as much oil as they now sell. (The price of oil and of many other goods would probably increase dramatically.)

  • Many cities have nicknames. Can your child identify the following: the Motor City (Detroit), the Windy City (Chicago), the City of Angels (Los Angles), the City by the Bay (San Francisco).

  • Children in intermediate grades will notice and ask about the problems that they see around them: homelessness, drugs, conflict. It is good to talk about these issues. Ask your child whether he or she is discussing such topics in school. Does your child have unanswered questions?

  • See what your child has to say about why countries need laws, and about why people and countries fight.

  • Inquire about the work of demographers (specialists who keep track of population growth, habits and beliefs, trends, and the like). Look at some census data about your community and discuss its meaning. What does it tell you about race? Income? Education?

  • Have your child place various events into chronological order. Try the following events: the Renaissance, the Middle Ages, the Reformation, the Roman Empire or the Babylonian Empire, the travels of Marco Polo, the city-states of Athens and Sparta, the Punic Wars between Carthage and Rome.

  • See if your child can identify some of the following names related to the ancient civilizations of Egypt, Greece, and Rome: Hippocrates, Homer, Julius Caesar, Aristotle, Alexander the Great, Moses, Osiris, and Isis.

  • Sixth graders study religious traditions. Ask your child to tell you about the Old Testament source of the Ten Commandments, monotheism and the Hebrews, Muhammad and the Koran, Jesus and the origins of Christianity, and Guatama Buddha and the origins of Buddhism.

  • As part of your child's study of the ancient world, he or she will learn about the civilization of early Egypt. Ask about the Egyptian practice of preserving the bodies of the dead (mummies). How were mummies prepared? (With surgery, chemical solutions, and cloth wrappings.) Why did the Egyptians do this? (They believed that people would need their bodies in the afterlife.)

Reprinted from 101 Educational Conversations with Your 6th 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.

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