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Social Studies and the Young Learner

The goal of Social Studies and the Young Learner is to capture and enthuse elementary teachers across the country by providing relevant and useful information about the teaching of social studies to elementary students.The teaching techniques presented are designed to stimulate the reading, writing, and critical thinking skills vital to classroom success. SSYL is published quarterly: September/October; November/December; January/February; and March/April. Members who receive SSYL also get two issues of Social Education—the May/June issue (which includes the Notable Trade Books for Young People list) and the September issue.

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Including ALL Students in Powerful Social Studies


We are excited to share with you our guest editor’s issue of Social Studies and the Young Learner with its theme of inclusion. We are all familiar with the “back-benchers,” the students who, for whatever reason, are not fully engaged in the social studies classroom. However, social studies may be the very subject to open doors for all students to discover a sense of success and competence.

Three years ago, we (Margit McGuire, a professor and social studies specialist and guest editor of this issue; Bridget Walker, a consultant in special education; and Thomas Grant, a special education teacher and doctoral candidate) began a project to examine the engagement of students with social/emotional challenges in powerful social studies teaching and learning (see our article in this issue). Collectively, we believe a sense of belonging is fundamental to meaningful learning and that each student should have access to rich and engaging social studies lessons. The social studies classroom is a place where all students can be successful—practicing the democratic process, participating in role-plays and classroom discourse, demonstrating special skills and unique talents, and developing their individual identities through learning about the experiences of others.

Unfortunately, in too many schools, students will be routinely pulled out of social studies class to attend some other (often, a special education) class. These students may return in the middle of the social studies lesson. Anytime we walk into the middle of an ongoing event, it is confusing. We ask ourselves, “Where do I fit in? What have I missed? What’s going on? I don’t understand!” Under such conditions, it is not surprising that some students become “back benchers” and disconnect from social studies content. In addition, popping students in and out of a lesson communicates (to students, their parents, and other teachers) that social studies and your class are not important. As we considered articles for this issue of SSYL, we were firmly committed to highlighting those strategies that placed social studies front and center in the learning process for all students. We advocate that students be “pulled in” to social studies, rather than “pulled out,” and we hope you will join us in that effort.

Social studies can open up a world of possibilities and excitement for learning by ALL students. We must continue to consider “what” we teach and “how” we teach to ensure we are authentically engaging our students in meaningful learning. By providing opportunities for students to grapple with issues of fairness and difference, we can foster a greater appreciation for the social world and each student’s place in it. The theme of this issue of SSYL brings together a variety of articles that address strategies teachers can use to engage ALL learners in powerful social studies learning.

In our article, “Engaging Diverse Learners with Academic and Social Challenges,” we explain how social and emotional learning can be integrated with high-quality social studies content in a unit on the Civil War using Storypath, a constructivist approach to teaching social studies.

Dixie D. Massey, in her article “Pictures First: Using Historical Thinking with All Learners,” provides four concrete ways teachers can promote historical thinking to extend literacy and provide test-preparation materials to improve student outcomes in social studies, and other subjects.

In “Revisiting the Power of Integrated Learning Centers,” Heather Hagan and Theresa Simpson advocate for differentiating lessons and integrating literacy while maintaining a focus on social studies content. Their article provides handouts in the form of a four-page Pullout in this issue of SSYL.

In “The Shoe Project: Meaningful Learning in an Inclusive Preschool Classroom,” Kathleen Artman-Meeker and Kiersten A. Kinder discuss how a project-based learning activity involving shoes can capture the excitement and interest of preschool students while teaching them important social studies concepts.

Author Katherine Schlick Noe offers a brief piece, “Living with Courage and Hope: Reaching All Learners through Story,” in which she shares how the characters in her novel, Something to Hold, resonate with young people, encouraging them to reach out to those who may be perceived as “different.”

In their article “Show Me! A Strategy for Building Creativity, Confidence, and Competence,” Beth Corrigan, Nancy C. Patterson, and Dawn M. Shinew explain how to personalize complex social studies concepts with the use of concrete objects, in an activity based on the Universal Design for Learning (UDL) teaching model.

In “Growing Citizenship: Confronting the ‘Civic Empowerment Gap’ with a Garden Project,” Jessica B. Schocker, Caitlin Zook, and Deanna Hummel model how young children can participate in projects that inspire positive civic engagement through the creation of an urban garden project.

The articles in this issue of SSYL show how an elementary-level social studies lesson can be the time of day when young students “discover the joy in learning and in relating effectively with others.” (p. 8) We can encourage each other and allow ourselves—teachers and students alike—to be “pulled in” to social studies.

—Margit, Bridget, and Thomas

Call for Manuscripts for Social Studies and the Young Learner

If you are an enthusiastic elementary teacher or teacher educator with great ideas that you have implemented in the classroom, we invite you to share your work. Here are upcoming themes. We also welcome pieces that do not fit these particular themes, as well as reviews of children’s literature and books for teachers.

Teaching with Primary Sources

Description: Many social studies educators argue that primary sources are at the heart of what we do in social studies and can be utilized in amazing ways, especially in the pre-K-6 classroom. Within this special issue, authors document, in a variety of ways, how social studies educators are using primary sources to engage young learners in authentic and meaningful ways to convey social studies content and bolster skills needed for college, career, and civic life. Dimension 3 of the C3 Framework, Evaluating Sources and Using Evidence, specifically focuses on ways in which teachers can provide the skills students need to analyze information and come to conclusions during authentic and engaging inquiry opportunities, as well as on gathering and evaluating sources, developing claims, and using evidence to support those claims.

Submissions: This issue is now closed.
Issue: September/October 2016

World History and Geography for Young Learners

In our interdependent world, there are numerous ties between the local and the global, and between the present and the past. Questions and contradictions that affect us have often affected others in different times and places. Manuscripts may focus on geography and world history; on cultural, linguistic, and socioeconomic diversity; or on global issues (e.g., hunger, poverty, environmental challenges) and the utilization of GIS, Skype, and other emerging technologies.

Submission Deadline: June 15, 2016
Issue: November/December 2016

Cultivating Civic Life through Studying Current Events

How do we help elementary students explore current events (local, national, and global) in ways that support their civic development? How can we present multiple perspectives in ways that make sense to young learners? What methods can we employ to instill interest, hopefulness, and civic agency? In this issue we ask authors to share ideas for connecting civic life in and out of the classroom through the study of current events. Articles should be no more than 3,000 words.

Submissions Deadline: July 15, 2016 Please send your manuscript to Guest Editors Kathryn Obenchain and Julie Pennington at for this issue only. Issue: January/February 2017

Agency and Empowerment with Younger Learners

Young children often willingly and enthusiastically discuss and act upon issues of fairness and unfairness. How can social studies educators help young learners see themselves as agents in greater capacities? This issue examines and presents ways in which children have been agents in various locations throughout the world and at different points in time. What strategies and approaches have you used to empower your younger learners and facilitate their capacity to become agents?

Submissions Deadline: November 15, 2016
Issue: March/April 2017

Please contact the editor at if you have any questions or ideas you would like to share.

Scott Waring, Editor
Social Studies and the Young Learner
Associate Professor and Program Coordinator,
Social Science Education
University of Central Florida—Orlando


Guidelines for Contributors to SSYL

The goal of Social Studies and the Young Learner is to a) capture and enthuse elementary teachers across the country; and b) provide relevant and useful information about the teaching of social studies to elementary students. The editor especially encourages submission of manuscripts authored by K-5 classroom teachers themselves, or co-authored by professors and classroom teachers.


E-mail your manuscript directly to the Editor (listed below). Expect an acknowledgement of receipt within a week. Manuscripts submitted for a particular theme issue are due four months prior to publication. Final decisions are usually made within one year.


The first page should contain the title, word count, and contact information for all authors: name, title, position, complete mailing address, e-mail, phone, and fax. Identify the lead and/or corresponding author. The authors' names should appear only on this page for purposes of blind peer review.

Include a statement that the manuscript has not been submitted or published elsewhere. The second page should begin with the title and start the main text. With regard to citation notes, follow The Chicago Manual of Style, 14th ed. (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1993) as closely as possible (not APA style). See examples of notes in the journal.

Margins: 1 inch top and bottom and 1.25 inch sides
Font: 12-point, Times New Roman
Length: Double Space, 1000 - 3000 words

Images and Examples

Follow up your e-mailed submission by mailing photocopies of examples of student work and learning, if possible—writing, photos of projects, art, or other media. Submit tables, graphics, photos, etc. as separate files by e-mail, not embedded in the text. If the manuscript is accepted, we will request high-resolution image files or glossy prints. Please set your digital camera at high resolution. Authors must obtain parental permission allowing publication of photos of students, as well as permission for the reprint of copyrighted materials used in a lesson.

Peer Review

SSYL is peer reviewed. If a manuscript is considered for publication, the author must be willing to work with the editor on revisions. SSYL is published by the National Council for the Social Studies.


Authors of published manuscripts receive up to 50 complimentary copies of the journal in which the article appears, courtesy of NCSS. Authors are not paid for contributions.

Please feel free to contact Editor Scott Waring (University of Central Florida), at

Who May Submit an Article?

Anybody may submit an article to Social Studies and the Young Learner. The editors especially look for manuscripts co-authored by classroom teachers and professors, or authored by K-5 classroom teachers alone.

What are Good Topics?

Articles in Social Studies and the Young Learner show how social studies (history, geography, civics, economics, anthropology, etc.) is taught in the pre-K-6 classroom. The lead article often provides background on the theme for that issue. A children’s literature piece describes how to use quality books in the classroom. A pullout usually includes a lesson with handouts.

See the call for manuscripts tab to see themes of upcoming issues of SSYL (but you may also write on a topic that does not fit a theme).

How Will My Paper Be Judged?

This checklist shows the features that editors and reviewers will be watching for. Read your own paper against this checklist.

  1. I have described the basic setting (grade level, time required to teach each activity, materials and resources needed)
  2. The social studies content is strong (students learn history, civics, geography, economics, or anthropology, etc.) See the themes I-X in Expectations of Excellence: Curriculum Standards for Social Studies
  3. I have included examples of classroom experience (what students said, how they responded, and pedagogical pitfalls that arose and how to avoid them)
  4. I have included examples of young students’ work (writing, art, quotes, photos of students in action)
  5. Other teachers could use these ideas and methods (Can this lesson or activity be applied to other classrooms, in other states, with a low budget, and with a reasonable commitment of time and materials?)
  6. There is a clear assessment of student learning. (How is student learning measured at end of the lesson? Are discussion questions or test questions included?)
  7. I have linked the subject matter in my paper to state and national content standards and to the required curriculum of my school for this grade level.
  8. I have avoided using the passive voice.
    Right: The teacher corrects and grades the papers. Wrong: Papers are corrected and graded by the teacher.
  9. I follow the the Chicago style handbook for notes, and do not use Endnote or Reference Manager programs.
  10. My notes follow this style-
    BOOKS: Alfie Kohn, What to Look For in a Classroom (San Francisco, CA: Josey-Bass, 1998), 45.
    ARTICLES: Bruce E. Larson, "The Makah: Exploring Public Issues During a Structured Classroom Discussion,"
    Social Studies and the Young Learner 10, no. 1 (September/October 1997): 10-13.
    WEBSITES: "Creating the United States," (Library of Congress),
  11. When citing online resources, I recommend specific, student-friendly websites, avoiding Wikipedia and Google.
  12. I kept my reading audience in mind. (Will classroom teachers, who are the primary audience of SSYL, eagerly read this from start to finish? Will they find it useful to their actual practice?)


Ask a colleague to read your paper and check it for grammar, organization, and writing style.

Who, When, and How?

Be sure to follow the basic advice found at the “Guide” tab to Social Studies and the Young Learner when you format text, type references, shoot photographs, write a cover letter, and submit your manuscript.

Other Questions?

Please feel free to contact Editor Scott Waring (University of Central Florida), at

The Editor of SSYL is Scott Waring (University of Central Florida). Contact him at

Editorial Board

​Janet Alleman, Michigan State University (MI)
Michelle Bauml, Texas Christian University (TX)
Elizabeth Bellows, Appalachian State University (NC)
Lisa Brown Buchanan, University of North Carolina, Wilmington (NC)
Mary Fortney, The Children's Museum of Indianapolis (IN)
Jesus Garcia, University of Nevada--Las Vegas (NV)
Eric Groce, Appalachian State University (NC)
Lynda A. Herrera, Marymount University (VA)
Elizabeth R. Hinde, Arizona State University (AZ)
Barbara Knighton, Winans Elementary School (MI)
Paul Nagel, Northwestern State University (LA)
Kim D. O'Neil, Liverpool Elementary School (NY)
Ellen Santora, University of Rochester (NY)
Christina Tschida, East Carolina University, Greenville (NC)
Cynthia Tyson, The Ohio State University (OH)
Patricia D. Watson, Educational Consultant (DC)

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