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Choosing Social Sciences Teaching Resources

Instructor: Nate Sullivan

Nate Sullivan holds a M.A. in History and a M.Ed. He is an adjunct history professor, middle school history teacher, and freelance writer.

In this lesson, we will learn about social sciences teaching resources. We will identify types of resources, and learn how they can be successfully used in the classroom context.

How Will You Teach?

''Congratulations, we here at Woodrow Wilson Middle School would like to offer you employment as our new social sciences teacher.'' You just received that phone call, and you are thrilled about your first teaching job. You've recently graduated college, so you've never taught before. How will you go about teaching? Specifically, how will you use social science resources?

The good news is social science resources are everywhere; the possibilities are nearly endless. In this lesson, we will learn about incorporating social science resources into your instruction. Before we go any further, let's just make sure we all understand what we mean by resources. Resources in the context of education are the tools used to teach. These can be physical objects, such as models, artifacts, globes, etc.; or visuals like photographs, video, or graphs; or even websites or online content. The term is pretty broad, but you get the idea: resources are the things you use in your teaching. Let's highlight some effective resources, and learn how they can be used effectively.

Physical Resources

We'll begin with physical resources. In this age of technology, it is important not to neglect good, old-fashioned physical resources like globes and maps. Globes will never go out of style. How fun is it to look over a globe and examine the locations of the world? All kinds of games and learning activities can be developed with globes and maps. One fun game is played where the teacher names an obscure location, and students have a certain number of seconds to find the location on the globe and shout it out.

Historical artifacts are another wonderful resource that brings history to life. Say you're teaching a lesson on World War II. This would be a great opportunity to bring in helmets, propaganda posters, medals, or maybe even a bayonet or two. Touching and examining actual historical artifacts is a powerful way to connect students with the past. Sometimes historical reenactors are even available to speak to students in complete battle dress. If you're teaching a lesson on the Election of 1960, ask around and see if anyone you know has any political campaign buttons to show your class. Try as hard as you can to make your classroom like a museum: a bust of John Adams here, a 1920s poster there. These kinds of artifacts really help engage students.

These German iron cross medals are just one example of the type of historical artifacts that teachers can bring into class.
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Games, puzzles, and artwork are other physical resources that can be used to enhance student learning. Of course, these are only a few examples of physical artifacts. Again, the possibilities are nearly endless.

Visual Resources

No student wants to hear his or her teacher get up there and just talk. Be sure to use visuals to enhance your instruction. Photographs are simple, but powerful. These are especially effective among students who are visual learners. If you're talking about the Election of 1948 between Harry Truman and Thomas Dewey, show the famous photograph of victorious Truman holding up the erroneous newspaper headline claiming Dewey had won. If you're discussing D-Day during World War II, show your students photographs of the invasion so they can actually understand what happened. If you're discussing the Wright brothers and the first airplane, show them a photo of the Wright Flyer.

This 1903 photograph of the first airplane can be used to enhance student learning.
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Perhaps better yet is video footage. Historic footage is fascinating and allows students to ''relive'' the past by seeing exactly what happened. Film documentaries are an excellent way to make learning interesting. Documentaries exist on almost every topic you would be covering in a history class. YouTube isn't just for silly videos. All kinds of historical documentaries can be found on the site. Many teachers will tell you YouTube has become a go-to resource. One word of caution, however: just be sure not to overdo it. Don't show a YouTube video every day all day, or students will become bored. Be sure to mix it up!

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