Discussion in 'Middle School / Junior High' started by tiredteacher, Jul 29, 2009.
Jul 29, 2009
Which is better. Topical or chronological approach to teaching Social Studies.
Our series does a combination but I would classify it as more topical than chronological. The book is chronological, but within a chapter the topics are not completely in order. I like it and find it to be more meaningful. However, it does take some getting used to for the students. Mine were used to everything being presented like a timeline and were bothered by some of the jumping around the text does.
I taught 5th grade social studies, and have taught various middle grades of ELA. If I were to teach Social Studies again, I would go topical or thematic. Some powerful things can happen when kids connect events in history. I do believe it is important to give them perspective as to when events happened though.
Good luck and let us know what you do!
I teach my 7th grade world geography class as topical. But my 8th grade American history class is a combo of chronological and topical.
I tried topical for a semester with just one class period as a bit of an experiment for myself, and frankly... I won't do it again. While I do feel that students likely connect events a bit better, that one class completely and totally lost all sense of time. And while I realize there is a big push against the memorization of dates, I think students need a sequence... perhaps not exact dates for every single event in history, but they should know the order of events.... that the Revolution came before the War of 1812, and so forth.
Yet, I had students asking which came first.... the Civil War, or World War 2? I had students ask if slavery was abolished during the civil rights movement? Etc. Etc.
Now I realize the first instinct on that is to say "well gee, maybe I just didn't really teach it well". And that may be.... but I don't think so. I won't claim that I did great, because I probably didn't.... but, I taught the content in a similar manner as my other classes, but structured it around major themes... like civil liberties, war and conflict, interactions with native Americans, etc. And I even made sure to mention dates, show timelines, and more.
But when it was all said and done, by the admission of the students themselves, they told me that they thought we "jumped around so much I had no idea when anything happened at all". I won't do it again. I will go in chronological order, but make sure to return and revisit themes that recur throughout the course.
I agree with Ron - there are just too many connected events. My most interesting discussions and papers I get from my students is discussing "how did we get here?" How did we get to the French Revolution? Without knowing about the Enlightenment, events like Deirdot writing the encyclodepia allowing access to knowledge, the American Revolution you can't really understand why the French Revolution began when it did. History is a progression of the lives of people and the events that impacted their lives. Just MHO
Jul 30, 2009
Thank you all so very much. I have been teaching it topically for two years now and I have never really been comfortable with it. As mentioned above, we jumped around too much and at times the students were confused. With the adoption of the new textbooks I think I am going to try and cover the material with a mixture of both.
History is something that needs to be done chronologically because it is based of cause/effect. You can cover topics or themes as you go along, and the kids can see how those topics change over time, but it still needs to be done as a timeline. It would confuse me any other way, therefore I know it would confuse my students.
Jul 31, 2009
My experience with teaching social studdies both topical and chronological has also left me thinking which approach is better. When I taught it topically, I found that I taught history from a more " big picture" approach and tried to make connections that were not always so clear cut to the students. Therefore, I found the students really had a very general view of history and had trouble with specifics like dates, and people. The positive to the topical approach is that you can cover a lot more material amd the topics that you do choose to cover you can cover them with more of a critical thinking approach and ask and answer the bigger picture questions.
The chronological approach definitely, based on my experience, gives the students a much more detailed view of history. I think that is do to the fact while I was teaching it, I would often refer back to previous lessons and since history builds on itself, I think the kids had a better sense of why events were happening. I think the biggest draw back to the chronological approach is it can take a lot longer to get through units because it is so important to give the students all of the information so that they can connect events to events.
I'm not sure which one I like better but the approach to teaching history can make the class feel a lot different and I think leaves the students with a much different sense of history.
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