Using the North Carolina Standard Course of Study - Ten Themes of Social Studies Standards

Using the North Carolina Standard Course of Study for the grade level that you currently teach or are most interested in teaching, discuss how it relates to the ten themes of Social Studies standards. What themes are represented in the NCSCOS that you teach or plan to teach? Briefly, discuss some units of study that incorporate the themes for that grade level.

10 Themes of Social Studies Standards:
Time, Continuity, & Change
People, Places, & Environment
Individual Development & Identity
Individuals, Groups, & Institutions
Power, Authority, & Governance
Production, Distribution, & Consumption
Science, Technology, & Society
Global Connections
Civic Ideals & Practices

The North Carolina Social Studies curriculum for 1st graders relates to “Neighborhoods and Communities around the World.” All seven of the first grade competency goals incorporate many of the themes of Social Studies standards outlined by the National Council for the Social Studies.
The following are the NCSCOS goals for 1st grade, with some examples of units of study that may be used to help meet each goal:

COMPETENCY GOAL 1: The learner will analyze how individuals, families, and groups are similar and different.
(i.e. Class Quilt: Students draw a picture of their own family in action (performing appropriate roles) and label each member. To creatively display students work samples, create a class quilt)

COMPETENCY GOAL 2: The learner will identify and exhibit qualities of good citizenship in the classroom, school, and other social environments.
(i.e. Creating Classroom Rules: Students will have the chance to connect their prior knowledge with new knowledge as they work with their peers to develop and discuss classroom rules. This activity will help develop a framework for future social interaction activities. This activity also encourages students to become contributing members of their classrooms. When students have the opportunity to make personal connections with their learning, a deeper understanding will occur.)

COMPETENCY GOAL 3: The learner will recognize and understand the concept of change in various settings.
(i.e. Comparing common household objects from the past to present: This will help students think about which aspects of everyday life—and the people who lived it--have changed and/or stayed the same over time. Students will describe how changes in the objects reflect a change in the way people live and work today.)

COMPETENCY GOAL 4: The learner will explain different celebrated holidays and special days in communities.
(i.e. Hanukkah: Students will actively participate in a variety of Hanukkah activities and lesson, including games, cooking, worksheets, art projects, and stories introduce students to this Jewish holiday.)

COMPETENCY GOAL 5: The learner will express geographic concepts in real life situations.
(i.e. Mapping the classroom: Students will practice their knowledge of the cardinal directions by figuring out the relative directions of other locations within the school in relation to the classroom.)

COMPETENCY GOAL 6: The learner will apply basic economic concepts to home, school, and the community.
(i.e. Distinguishing between needs and wants: After the class brainstorms together on the topic, students will individually sort different pictures of objects into groups based on whether it is a need or a want. Students will then work in cooperative groups to discuss why they put each item in the particular group.)

COMPETENCY GOAL 7: The learner will recognize how technology is used at home, school, and in the community.
(i.e. Key Pals: Students will use the Internet as a cross-cultural learning tool to exchange information and ideas with students from another country. This is an excellent way for children to use technology to communicate with a classroom community from a different part of the world.)

The following summarizes a comparison between the North Carolina Standard Course of Study for 1st grade Social Studies and the ten themes of Social Studies Standards outlined by the National Council for the Social Studies. Based on this information, it is easy to observe direct correlation between the national standards and the state standards for Social Studies.

Strands for 1st grade Social Studies:

(According to NCSCOS)
10 Themes of Social Studies Standards
(According to the National Council for the Social Studies)
Individual Development and Identity - Culture - Individual Development and Identity

Cultures and Diversity - Culture - People, Places, and Environment - Individuals, Groups, and Institutions -Individual Development and Identity

Historical Perspectives - Culture - Time, Continuity, and Change

Geographic Relationships - People, Places, and Environment - Global Connections

Economics and Development - Production, Distribution, and Consumption - People, Places, and Environment

Global Connections - Global Connections

Technological Influences - Science, Technology, and Society

Government and Active Citizenship - Power, Authority, and Governance - Civic Ideals and Practices

Our textbook mentions meaningful and powerful Social Studies learning several times. What do you think the elements of meaningful and powerful Social Studies learning encompasses? How will you ensure that such instruction takes place in your classroom?

Elements of Meaningful and Powerful Social Studies Instruction Include:

Real-World Connections
Field Trips
Guest Speakers
Relating History to Today
Current Events
Active investigation of issues, problems, consequences and successes people encounter in the social world
Community Links
Discovering relevance to students’ lives
Realizing interconnectedness of our world
Real-life knowledge and experiences

Effective Teaching Methods
Creative Lessons
Challenging Learning Experiences
Learning Centers
Social Studies Kits
Questioning (relevant, open-ended, engaging)
Cooperative Learning
Clear Examples
Integrating with other Curriculum (including the arts)
Encouraging Group Projects and Group Learning
Group Discussions
Class Activities
Encouraging Independent Work
Hands-on Experiences
Linking concepts to prior knowledge
Using Literature to Expand on Main Ideas
Using timelines to show changes that have occurred
Dressing in Character (make characters come alive!)
Role-playing & Simulations

Teaching Respect for Different Cultures
Global Awareness
Multiculturalism / Cultural Diversity
Interviews with people of different cultures
Discovering differences AND similarities with people of other cultures

Using Technology to teach Social Studies
Active investigation of how technology affects modern life
Interactive websites

A constructivist approach to teaching Social Studies is built upon the understanding that students must construct knowledge in their own minds in order for it to be meaningful to them. It is also important to help students relate facts and concepts to explain the world, which will allow them to learn constructively and meaningfully. I will carefully plan and assess the lessons so that content is challenging, integrative, and value-based.
There are three important components of good Social Studies instruction. Among these components include effectively organizing content knowledge, knowing where and how Social Studies information can be obtained when necessary, and having a wide range of engaging and active teaching strategies. Two strategies I will apply to ensure that thought-provoking and engaging Social Studies instruction takes place in my classroom are questioning and cooperative learning.

Questions should be relevant to the topic, open-ended, and engaging. They should be planned in advance, and therefore included in the lesson plans. It is also imperative to give students enough “wait-time” to think and respond to questions.

Cooperative learning will be at the heart of my teaching because students respond so enthusiastically to this approach. Cooperative learning is designed to encourage student cooperation during learning. This strategy helps students develop a positive self-image and also an improved attitude towards their peers. Cooperative learning also helps accomplish four goals:

Groups establish positive interdependence when they work together to achieve success and rewards.
Students are individually accountable for their own learning and also for the learning of other group members.
Students are able to develop more effective interpersonal and small-group communication skills. Through cooperative learning, they accept and support each other, resolve conflicts, and learn more about each other and the subject matter.
Students become aware of the need for group processing. Group processes include group formation skills, group achievement skills, and group interaction skills.
Think about the behaviors you want children to exhibit in your classroom and in the community. Describe how Social Studies can encourage and help children increase their performance of pro-social behaviors and reduce or eliminate those behaviors that hinder or destroy individuals, families, and communities.

Part of my role as a teacher will be to help students develop morals, values, and pro-social attitudes. Social Studies curriculum and the strategies used to teach it can encourage children to increase their performance of pro-social behaviors while reducing or eliminating undesirable behaviors. It also encourages students to investigate and explore their social environment, which may promote active, responsible civic participation. It is possible for teachers to help children develop pro-social attitudes, such as accepting and respecting people of different backgrounds and cultures.
I will encourage every member of the classroom community to be self-disciplined, respectful, and caring about everyone with whom he/she comes in contact. I believe in fostering a climate of mutual trust and support in the classroom. I will strive to support the development of future adults with strong character who will influence his/her society in a positive way. It is important to create a strong sense of classroom community that will enable students to become responsible, productive citizens in the community.

Developing pro-social attitudes is important in both learning Social Studies and also becoming a responsible citizen in our society. Some of the attitudes I want children to exhibit in the classroom and community include curiosity, open-mindedness, and perseverance. I would also like my students to be willing and able to consider and respect conflicting ideas, engage in critical thinking, and be mentally flexible.

Character education will help students habitually display good behavior. As a teacher, I will model desirable character traits for my students, such as honesty, courage, perseverance, loyalty, caring, civic virtue, justice, respect, and responsibility. I will also incorporate into the classroom the rules and philosophies outlined in The 55 Essentials by Ron Clark. Many of the rules in Clark’s book stress the importance of good etiquette, manners, and interpersonal communication skills. He explains that his rules will help foster respectful interactions between students and other members in the community. For example, some of the “55 Essential” rules that encourage pro-social behaviors are as follows:

Rule #2: Make eye contact
Rule #3: Congratulate a classmate
Rule #4: Respect other students’ comments, opinions, and ideas
Rule # 9: Always say thank you when given something
Rule #11: Perform random acts of kindness
Rule #25: Greet visitors, and make them feel welcome
Rule #55: Be the best person you can be

In considering a climate of respect in your classroom and in your school, briefly discuss the following topics and how you will be proactive in handling them: jealousy, fears, aggressive feelings and conflict resolution, bullying, friendship, and self-esteem.

Jealousy is a natural emotion that is especially apparent in younger students. It can be expressed in various ways, including aggression, immature behavior, and bragging. As a teacher, if I notice that any students displaying any of these behaviors more frequently than their peers, I will try to help them learn how to cope with their feelings of jealousy. For instance, I may encourage students to discuss their emotional concerns privately and as part of a classroom discussion. This would hopefully help students analyze their behavior. I may also find opportunities to discuss with children instances in which jealousy is portrayed in children’s literature. And, instead of having contests that result in winners and losers, I would try to encourage more cooperative group efforts in which each student contributes his/her own personal strengths.

Children often experience fears, which can result in anxiety, suspicion, dread, dismay, anguish, wariness and panic. The best approach in handling a child’s fear is to listen to the student, openly discuss the fear with him/her, and show sympathy and understanding towards the student. Then, I would then work together with the student to invent strategies to help him/her recognize and cope with his/her fears.

Aggressive Feelings and Conflict Resolution
Oftentimes, aggressive students have not learned how to react to frustration in a positive, pro-social manner. Examples of pro-social reactions to frustration include sharing, cooperating, and talking. One way to reduce aggression in students is to teach students that aggression is not rewarding. Enforcing a “time-out” for students who exhibit aggressive behavior may be one technique for reducing aggression. Students must realize that less aggressive behavior will result in approval, affection, and positive attention. Students will benefit greatly from learning how to resolve conflicts peacefully and interact positively with others. Cooperative learning is an excellent learning approach to use to help reduce aggression. It is also important for students to learn how to monitor and control their own behavior. As a teacher, I would plan group discussions about possible solutions to aggression.
I would teach children assertiveness and negotiation skills, as well as conflict resolution. Conflict resolution encourages students to resolve disputes peacefully themselves. The focus of conflict resolution is teaching and modeling problem-solving skills, such as mediation, negotiation, and collaboration. Programs that use conflict resolution can prevent violence by working to solve problems before they escalate to violence.

A Charlotte-Mecklenburg School posted the following song on their website as part of their conflict resolution program:

Peacekeepers Song
(sung to the tune of “If You’re Happy And You Know It, Clap Your Hands”)

If you’re angry and you know it, then cool down.
Accept responsibility all-around.
You should listen to each other,
Talk it out with one another.
Move yourself away and find some peaceful ground.

Teachers must be proactive in handling bullies and their victims. For instance, if it came to my attention that there was a bully in my class, I would tell the bully that his/her behavior is unacceptable and will not be tolerated. I would also coach the bully in anger management strategies to help him/her with impulse control. In addition, I might get the child’s parents involved for additional support.
It is essential to address the needs of the victims. Bullying can be reduced by training victims in how to be verbally assertive. Supporting victims can help them protect their rights, appear more confident, and better interpret social cues. In addition, helping victims form friendships can prevent them from getting bullied in the future.

Children who make and keep friends know how to initiate interactions with their peers, maintain ongoing interactions, and resolve interpersonal conflicts. As a teacher, I can be proactive in helping students develop these valuable social skills through teaching four strategies:

Greeting another student directly
(“Hi! My name is Maggie. What’s your name?”)
Asking appropriate questions (“What’s your favorite book?”)
Giving information (“I have two dogs and a hamster.”)
Trying to include the new friend in their activities
(“Do you want to sit with me at lunch?”)

It is important for students to understand that they should continue to try to make friends, even if they are rejected.

Daily classroom activities, such as class meetings, can teach students certain social skills which will help them establish and maintain friendships. Some of these skills include: asking questions, smiling at others, making good eye contact, and taking turns. Children can also nurture friendships by being considerate, sharing with others, communicating well, and being a good listener.

Self-esteem affects a child’s motivation and his/her desire to learn. Students with high self-esteem often enthusiastically participate in group discussions and other activities more frequently than students with lower self-esteem. I would make an effort to help each student build confidence and a positive self-concept through appropriate instructional strategies and management procedures. I would also show respect and appreciation for each student’s unique abilities and cultural background in order to build students’ self-esteem.

When do our authors deem it appropriate to use the learning of facts in social studies instruction? The development of generalizations is the most powerful type of social studies content that students learn. Describe a lesson in which you teach a generalization in the grade level in which you are most interested in teaching.

Sunal and Haas claim that factual information is necessary for forming concepts. However, they add that most content is not acquired through the memorization of facts. This is because when Social Studies consists solely on memorizing facts, there is minimal impact on students. When recalling facts is necessary, the authors believe there are instances when it is appropriate to use the learning of facts in Social Studies instruction. An example of this would be memorizing the 50 states and capitals.

Strategies used for learning facts greatly differ from those used in learning other Social Studies content. Effective techniques for memorizing facts include games, rewards, and mnemonics. However, it is important to note that these rote memorization teaching techniques should make up only a small portion of time and effort in Social Studies curriculum. Sunal and Haas suggest that no more than 10 percent of instructional time should be devoted to these types of strategies. The reason for this is that students must understand the meaning of the facts they learn. Otherwise they will fail to make connections with what they already know about the world. Concepts are the basic component of constructivist Social Studies instruction.
Generalizations are “big ideas” that students form and understand. These ideas are based on students’ own direct experiences, and they relate to and affect their everyday lives. Students use generalizations to organize facts and make predictions about events and actions.

Teachers must plan activities that encourage meaningful understanding in order for students to develop generalizations. This requires different instructional strategies than the traditional methods used for memorizing facts. One type of instruction is called inquiry learning, which is designed to help students construct meaning and learn generalizations. For instance, a generalization lesson for kindergarteners may relate to recognizing and understanding the concept of change in individuals over time (NCSCOS Competency Goal #3, Objective 3.02).

COMPETENCY GOAL 3: The learner will recognize and understand the concept of change in various settings.

Observe and describe how individuals and families grow and change.
Evaluate how the lives of individuals and families of the past are different from what they are today.
Observe and summarize changes within communities.
Recognize changes in the classroom and school environments.

For this Social Studies lesson, I would incorporate active involvement of the students, both physically and mentally. This lesson focusing on a generalization would have the following phases of the learning cycle:
Exploratory Introduction
(Identify the problem or question related to the generalization. A possible question might be: “How are the lives of people of the past different from what they are today?” Encourage students to work in cooperative groups to relate their prior knowledge to this question.)
Lesson Development
(As a class, we will form a hypothesis about how the lives of families are different today than they were in the past. For example, a hypothesis might be, “When my grandparents were young, people had to work much harder and longer than people do today.” Then, students will explore the generalization. They will collect data by talking to relatives and/or other people in the community. After students gather information, the class will discuss and evaluate the data to determine whether or not the hypothesis is supported. This will verify the validity of the generalization. Students will draw a conclusion based on the analysis.)
(If the hypothesis is supported, students will apply the constructed generalization. If the hypothesis is not supported, students will then reconstruct a new generalization and test its validity.)

An important step to remember is that students must check the application of the generalization in different situations. In order for the students’ generalizations to become usable pieces of knowledge, they must use the generalization in various settings. There are situations when a generalization is appropriate and other situations in which the generalization should be reconstructed. The generalization will be verified each time students use it.


Sunal, C. S., & Haas, M.E. (2005). Social studies for the elementary and middle grades: A constructivist approach (2nd ed.). Boston: Pearson.

Clark, R. (2003). The 55 essentials. New York: Hyperion.