Meaningful Social Studies
Today many classroom teachers are faced with the challenge of delivering meaningful and powerful social studies lessons to their students. This paper will explain how the learning cycle can help students gain a better understanding when learning new concepts. This paper will also give an example of a Native American Indians unit can be taught in a 4th grade classroom, covering the following contents: Location; Movement/Migration; and Individuals Groups, Institutions. In addition this paper will address the 4th grade performance objective(s) and Georgia social studies standards used in this unit. Additionally, this paper will explain and justify the use of various instructional strategies that could be used for the learning cycle and the phases of the learning cycle which can help students construct their understanding of these concepts and support these beliefs from three peer-reviewed articles.
According to Sunal & Haas, 2011 the learning cycle is comprises of the following three phases: (a) The exploratory introduction phase; (b) The lesson development phase; and (c) The expansion phase (p.37). According to Bevevino, Dengel, & Adams, teachers using the learning cycle format can create a series of activities that are personally meaningful to the students and give students opportunities to practice critical thinking skills. These authors go on to explain that the goal of the learning cycle is to allow students to apply previous knowledge, develop interests, and initiate and maintain a curiosity toward the materials at hand" (1999).
During the exploration introduction phase students are required to use prior knowledge and experience to solve a problem or series of problems (Bevevino, Dengel, & Adams, 1999). It is important during this stage, that teachers plan activities that would aid students in using their prior and background knowledge skills in order to construct or revise this understanding of the content being taught. Some ways that teachers can implement the exploratory introduction phase in a lesson or unit is by, (a) asking students questions to prompt their recall of relevant prior knowledge learned; (b) using the K-W-L technique (what the students know, want to know, and what the students have learned); (c) or having the students make comparisons connecting the new concept to concepts the students already know (comparisons charts).
The second phase of the learning cycle is the lesson development phase. In this phase students are exposed to new ideas or skills that can lead students learning to practice new skills and in using new content. The instructional strategies used in this phase may range from expository through
the inquiry-based problem solving and decision making. Meyerson & Secules, 2001 explains that, “inquiry learning approaches, students are put into situations that require critical thinking and encourage the internalizing of major concepts. Inquiry activities can also...