I LOVE teaching Social Studies! I especially enjoy finding ways to make the historical part of it come alive for kids.  Teaching Social Studies to any elementary student can be challenging to make the facts and details of history become meaningful in today's world. Helping students with significant disabilities master these skills can often present  their own set of unique challenges when compared to other subjects. It is a subject that can seem unreal and complex to many students. What I try and do with Social Studies is to teach it subject in a simple, factual way so our students can comprehend it on their level with their disabilities.

Today, let's look at a few ideas that have worked in my classroom. Whether you work with students with disabilities in the general education setting or in the special education classroom with students that have more significant disabilities, making the concepts in Social Studies as real as possible is important.

 Do you work with students  with disabilities in the general education setting; modifying the curriculum to meet the needs of your students?
First you want to make certain you have considered the degree of  disabilities the students in your classroom have and how this will significantly impact  teaching the social studies concepts. Working with students in the general education classroom or in a classroom with students with significant disabilities is very different.  Here are just a couple of ways.


Social studies texts  can make it difficult to rely on them in teaching this subject.  The ones I have used; even those geared toward lower grade levels often presented information  at a much higher reading level than the grade for which they are intended. 

This makes it difficult for students without disabilities. Add to that, our students in special education that don't read on grade level even when looking at presenting it to students in general education classes with no disabilities. 

Many special education students receive their Social Studies instruction in the general education classroom with their peers. Others receive it in the special education classroom, but need to be working on similar concepts as their general education peers. Still other students receive social studies instruction in the special education classroom, but are working toward alternate standards and concepts. No matter where the instruction takes place, these ideas are for you!

Concepts in social studies often require higher level thinking skills to comprehend them.
How can we help our students with disabilities meet these challenges both in the general education classroom and in the special education classroom?


Here are a couple of ideas.
Music -
Songs  are a spectacular way to teach concepts. I find that songs set to well-known tunes work particularly well. The kids usually already know the tune so we can concentrate on the content.
Because of the familiar tunes of these particular songs, I found it leaves student able to concentrate more on the words and any visual that you may use to help the students learn the materials. Here are a few of my favorites I have used in my classroom.
Here's a song I used to teach continents

Europe, too
North America
South America
Seven Continents for you!

Set to the tune of the well-know Pop Goes the Weasel, this song has just the facts I wanted to teach, a tune the students were familiar with and it quickly became one of the kids' favorites that at times, we even heard it being sung in our classroom bathroom.

Cinco de Mayo
Cinco de Mayo,
Cinco de Mayo,
The fifth of May,
The fifth of May
Is the anniversary
Of a great victory
For Mexico.
For Mexico
To the tune of Are You Sleeping, this is a very basic song about Cinco de Mayo, but depending your the level of your students, you are still teaching when it is and the country it is associated with.
A mnemonic can be anything from an abbreviation, rhyme or even an image that can help you remember. We all know them and have probably used them from time to time. How do we remember the steps to use in long division? What about a mnemonic to remind us how to spell a word? ( i before e except after c) How do we remember how many days each month of the year has? (30 days hath September, April, June and November...) Have you used any of these? 

Here is one teaching the continents.

Eat An Apple As A Nightime Snack

The first letter of each word represents the name of a continent
North America
South America

There are so many ideas out there, I could go on forever. What are some of YOUR favorite ones to use?
We have a whole world of ideas and history to teach our kids. Find some song and rhymes that work for you and have fun!

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