Strategies for Teaching Social Studies to Special Needs Students

Instructor: Lori Sturdivant

Lori has a specialist's degree in Instructional Leadership/Mild Moderate and currently serves as the Lead Teacher for The University of Southern Mississippi's Autism Project.

Stop here for fun and engaging teaching strategies to increase academic achievement for students with intellectual disabilities! Specifically, we'll explore strategies for teaching social studies in a classroom that serves students with special needs.

Varying Your Instructional Strategies

You can create an inclusive setting for students with intellectual disabilities by using a variety of instructional methods to meet the needs of your diverse learners. This is not only beneficial for students with special needs; it benefits all students by providing different ways for students to succeed. Varying instructional methods can mean changing the way the material is delivered, what materials are used, what end products are created, and how students are assessed. The following are examples of how to add variety to your lessons.

Delivery of Instruction

First, we'll look at varying your delivery of instruction for this social studies example objective: Differentiate between civil rights and human rights in their historical contexts (e.g., the Enlightenment, American and French Revolutions, Colonial Independence Movement - such as the Free India Movement, or movements in Latin America).

Instead of simply lecturing, you could do the following:

  • Provide guided notes - These are hand-outs prepared by you about your lectures. There are blank spaces for students to fill in information, such as key concepts, facts, definitions, etc., as you lecture. This helps the students stay engaged and on task. The completed guided notes also serve as an excellent study guide.

  • Chunk the material - Chunking is taking large amounts of information and breaking it into smaller units, or 'chunks.' The smaller chunks are easier to commit to memory and easier to retrieve from memory.


Also consider varying your content. For instance, let's look at the following social studies example objective: Explore and formulate a plan for civic and community action (e.g., recycling, supporting the military and veterans, helping the elderly, etc.).

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