Background Knowledge and Social Studies

She said, "I have to admit, though, that I'm starting to find this stuff a little bit interesting."

I didn't exactly do back-flips, but it was so much better than the "I really, really hate social studies" of three weeks ago that I may have done a small mental jig.

How'd it happen? As with most of these things, partly by accident.

I've long known that I've lacked plain language resources that explain the basics like how government works or what Joseph Howe was on about. Without adequate background knowledge, even good readers struggle with the Social Studies portion of the GED test.

So, how to get them that background knowledge. I've brought books from the public library, with limited success. I've made handouts now and again. I've yakked at people, narrating illustrated stories (see artwork above) to mostly no avail. This year, I even stretched a time line across one wall. That generated some interest - one learner even created her own. Still, learners weren't getting the information they needed in an effective, timely manner.

Then I got called out of town for several days for some professional development.

One evening, while out of town, I got over to the bookstore Chapters and found - in the parenting section, oddly enough - a workbook called Canadian Government Grades 4-6, published by The Popular Book Company (Canada) Ltd.

It was pitched for school children, but I figured it could be adapted for class. So, once I got back, I started cutting the workbook up, rearranging pages, throwing some stuff away and fitting other stuff in, swapping adult appropriate illustrations for the childish pictures. I put the end product in a three-ring binder, and then I handed it around for a couple of learners to test out.

"I see..." they said.

"I remember you talking about this..."

"Okay. Now this makes sense."

And, after a couple of weeks, one of them announced, "I have to admit, though, that I'm starting to find this stuff a little bit interesting."

Well, good. Now let's get you ready for that GED.

No comments: