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Role Play: A Strategy For Teaching Social Studies

1779 words - 7 pages

Role-Play: A Strategy for Teaching Social Studies

One of the reasons social studies is viewed as a tough academic discipline is the result of force-fed historical dates and data. It is also one of the reasons that students think history is boring and irrelevant. Furthermore, their inability to relate to the culture and people of the past creates a what-does-this-have-to-do-with-me attitude early on in their education that directly influence their future performance. The misconception that social studies is about facts and dates is continuously supported by teachers who persist in using direct teaching and long lectures, believing that it is the most convenient way to teach students. Although lecturing is useful for presenting information, it does not provide students the opportunity to process and apply what they learn in class. Thus, a more effective teaching strategy in social studies classes, appropriate for all levels, is through role-playing. Role-playing is often overlooked by teachers because it is a student-centered learning strategy that requires teachers to be skilled in classroom management. However, there are many advantages to role-playing that can transform students' attitude and enhance their experience in learning social studies.

Direct teaching is a straightforward and time efficient approach to teach students. It is useful and appropriate when teachers need to provide students with specific dates and details. The disadvantage of direct teaching is that it does not allow students time to process and demonstrate that they comprehend what they have learned. In addition, direct teaching does not give teachers the chance to assess students knowledge and observe whether students have grasped the content. For example, students may have great memorization skills, thus allowing them to perform well on exams, but it does not necessarily imply that they comprehend the material. Because direct teaching focuses on the teachers skills, students do not learn basic social studies skills and concepts, such as cause-and-effect or problem-solving. These concepts, used in social studies classes, are especially important because they develop studentsf cognitive process in order to comprehend why certain events occur and how they happen. Hence, direct teaching is appropriate only when teachers need to convey specific information.

Role-playing, often over-looked as an effective and fun teaching strategy, is a more useful method that personalizes the information and makes it tangible for students. According to Strategies to Teach Social Studies, there are five main steps in role-playing: initiation and direction, describing the context, making roles, enactment, and debriefing. The initiation and direction stage is key to directing the success of the role-play because, in this step, the teacher identifies the topic and guides students in their exploration. During this step, the teacher sets up the situation of the event...

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