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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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Our conversation with you about “People at Work”…

For us, the theme of this issue conjures up one of those diamond-shaped yellow signs that used to say “Men at Work.” Happily, in our more enlightened and inclusive times, the language on those signs has changed, as has the range of jobs that people perform, and what we even designate as “work.” Until recently, our society didn’t describe what (mostly) women did in their own homes (child care, cooking, cleaning, organizing family life, etc.) as valuable work.

Today, we can and should talk about work inside and outside of the home, as well as what constitutes work in other cultures. As some of the articles in this issue make plain, we should also talk about income and income inequality and begin those discussions in the early grades as part of our commitment to financial (and societal) literacy.

As several of our authors make clear, it is worth bringing family and community members into our classrooms to have these discussions about work, responsibility, education, income, and standard of living, and their relationship to an equitable society. From children selling lemonade, to transportation workers on the night shift, to local musicians, to child caregivers, to farmers to the proprietors of the neighborhood store, our local, national, and global societies are supported by the labor of their people.

It is worth noting that we were apprehensive when we posted the Call for Submissions for this issue, as we did not know if primary teachers were focusing much on economic concepts. In actuality, we received many more manuscripts detailing lessons in the early grades than at the intermediate level. The primary teachers in this issue amply demonstrate that our youngest children can take the lead in inquiring about different jobs and analyzing their impact on society… which is good news for all of us.

Linda D. Davey and Rosebud Elijah’s article, “Writing Our Way to the Post Office: A PreK Unit of Study,” illustrates how multiple objectives can be achieved during activities in which young children experience the impact of postal workers on our everyday lives. The Post Office unit of study provides rich opportunities for social interaction and language and literacy development, as well as an introduction to the concepts of interconnectedness, responsibility, and communication in authentic, concrete, and multimodal ways.

Paula Rogovin’s article, “Kindergartners’ Questions Become the Curriculum” shows how students’ questions about their new school (e.g., “How did they make the cubbies? And how is the work on the 2nd Avenue subway—right around the corner—going?)” led to multiple ways of finding and verifying answers, including books, pictures, websites, videos, interviews, social experiments, and neighborhood field trips. Students’ research ultimately resulted in student-designed social action.

In “Work, Education, and Income: Economics and Financial Literacy in the Early Grades,” Bonnie T. Meszaros and Andrew T. Hill present lessons at both the primary and intermediate levels that address the interplay of work, education, skills, and income, engaging students with literature, surveys, community speakers, and reading data from a chart. Four handouts in their lesson constitute the Pullout for this issue

In “Work as Community Building: A Small-scale Barn Raising,” Angel M. Bestwick describes how a fourth grade teacher engaged her students in the study, through multiple texts, of a Pennsylvania Dutch barn-raising. Students reenacted a barn raising and learned, firsthand, that work can build a sense of community—whether the setting is a farm property or a classroom.

“Paper Bag City: Exploring Geography and Economics in the Primary Grades” by Peter William Moran, Kimberly Miller, and Genee Witte explains how second graders built a three-dimensional map. Then they interacted with their model downtown—as community members, consumers, and business owners, all engaged in economic exchange and decision making.

Andrea S. Libresco’s “Picture Books as a Springboard to Teaching about Labor Unions” highlights three terrific picture books and describes related activities that can help elementary students understand how collective bargaining works, what early labor advocates fought for, and how they did so, and how unions continue the fight today.

Valerie Struthers Walker’s piece, “A Transcultural Reading of My Grandfather is a Magician: Work and Wisdom in an African Village,” recounts second graders’ exploration of work as a cultural universal. Multiple representations of work in the lesson provide students with opportunities to recognize both similarities in how people define work and variations that reflect the different historical, geographic, economic, or cultural conditions in which people live. These varied lessons around people’s work raise the question…How do YOU tackle the topic of People at Work in your elementary classroom?

  • To what extent are your lessons on “people at work” hands-on?
  • To what extent are your lessons on “people at work” interdisciplinary?
  • To what extent do you use literature as a vehicle for exploring a variety of types of work?
  • To what extent does your study of People at Work link with geography? Community? Civics?
  • How much emphasis do you give to “work” as a cultural universal? In what other cultures do you examine work?
  • How much responsibility do you give students to learn about work? To what extent do you provide “jobs” for students in your classroom?
  • • To what extent do you invite members of the community into your classroom to share information about their working lives?
  • To what extent do you address income inequality?
  • o what extent do you address issues of workers’ rights, both historically and in the 21st century?
  • What economic concepts do your students find most challenging? What kinds of examples and activities help students grasp the concepts?
  • How important is it to you that students acquire economic conceptual understanding at the elementary level?
  • How much emphasis do you give to “work” when your students study history?
  • What primary sources do you use to address People at Work?
We look forward to the thoughtful conversation around all of these challenging topics at NCSS Connections. Please join us!—Andrea and Jeannette

An Invitation to Authors!

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.

Below are descriptions of themes for some of the upcoming issues, but we also welcome pieces that do not fit these particular themes.

Issue: November/December 2015

Have You Hugged Your Mother (Earth) Today? Fifty years after the publication of Rachel Carson’s Silent Spring, 45 years after the first Earth Day, and 100 years after the creation of our National Park Service, environmental issues remain compelling. How are you teaching students about the environment, the Great Outdoors, conservation, climate change, the consequences of severe weather, and preservation of the planet? We are seeking articles, lessons, activities, and book reviews that address teaching about these environmental issues that are more vital than ever.
Submission Deadline: August 15, 2015
Issue: January/February 2016

Including All Students in Powerful Social Studies We all know about the “back-benchers,” the students who, for whatever reason, are not fully engaged in the social studies classroom. But social studies may be the very subject that can open doors for all students to discover a feeling of success and competence. What instructional approaches, lessons, activities, or assessments have you developed that engage all students, including those who have disabilities or are learning English? What can we do to engage different types of learners in powerful social studies that is personally meaningful? Send submissions to the Guest Editor, Margit McGuire,
Submission Deadline: November 15, 2015
Issue: March/April 2016

For each issue, we would like to include a book review that may or may not be related to the theme. Have you recently read a piece of children’s literature or a book written for teachers that you would like to review? Have you implemented any of the NCSS Notable Books into your curriculum? Tell us about it!

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

Andrea S. Libresco, Ed.D.
Graduate Director of Elementary Education
Department of Teaching, Literacy and Leadership
Hofstra University
(516) 463-6543

Jeannette Balantic
Social Studies Coordinator
Garden City School District
(516) 478-2850

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 co-editors: Andrea S. Libresco, Hofstra University (Hempstead, NY), and Jeannette Balantic, Gardin City Public Schools (Garden City, NY), at 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 the editor by e-mail if you have a question at any time.

SSYL co-editor Andrea S. Libresco, Hofstra University (Hempstead, NY) and SSYL co-editor Jeannette Balantic, Gardin City Public Schools (Garden City, NY), at

Tips for Authors

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 “Invite” 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?
Feel free to contact the co-editors:

SSYL co-editor Andrea S. Libresco, Hofstra University (Hempstead, NY) and SSYL co-editor Jeannette Balantic, Gardin City Public Schools (Garden City, NY), at

The co-editors of SSYL are Andrea S. Libresco, Hofstra University (Hempstead, NY) and Jeannette Balantic, Garden City Public Schools (Garden City, NY). Contact them at


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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