Early childhood social studies - the role of literature...
Early childhood social studies, like all other areas of the curriculum, is best taught with real experiences, literature, play, role playing, drama, music, modeling and puzzle and picture making.
Connect early childhood social studies to literature to enrich social studies and other concepts.
Use books such as Peter Spier's "People" to teach about world cultures, Ted Lewin's, " Market" to learn about market places where traders buy and sell products and Joan Sweeney's, " Me on the Map", to teach mapping skills.
Use "Wolf Island" to teach about the food chain
A great story to enhance an early childhood social studies program is Wolf Island by Celia Godkin. It is a tale about a family of wolves that leave their island home. Before the wolves leave, the island is a healthy environment for all the animals living there. After the wolves leave, the delicate balance of the food chain is altered and the story demonstrates the consequences.
This story is beautifully illustrated and introduces young children to the dependence of each animal to the other. Take about two weeks for the activities below, adding one or two concepts at a time.
Wolf Island Activities
Early childhood social studies mapping activities to follow "Rosie's Walk" mapping activities:
- Make a big chart drawing of the main land and island
- Have children color in the water, draw trees, rocks, caves, etc.
- Have children draw and cut out the animals in the story and glue them onto the map
- View posters showing geographical terms and post them in centers for students to look at
- Provide map puzzles for children to assemble, map sticker activity sets, and other social studies toys
When teaching early childhood social studies concepts be sure to keep experiences concrete. Don't assume that children have had previous experiences with chains or the term food chain.
- Bring a piece of chain into the classroom before talking about the food chain
- Help children understand the terminology - talk about what a chain is, show them what a link looks like and how each link is connected to the next link
- Make a class chart showing each animal mentioned in the story (photocopy from the book). Have the kids draw pictures of what each animal eats and tape them near the animals.
- Introduce the idea of a food chain and that each animal is linked because it provides food for another animal
- Talk about what happened on Wolf Island when the wolves left
- Introduce the following terms as you read and reread Wolf Island: environment, herbivore, carnivore, omnivore, predator, prey
- Show pictures of other environments like a desert or jungle. How are they different? the same?
Keep early childhood social studies concepts simple for young children:
- A food chain is easier to understand than a food web. A food chain follows a single path as animals eat each other. The grass is eaten by a grasshopper. The grasshopper is eaten by a frog. The frog is eaten by a snake. The snake is eaten by a hawk.
- Food webs are more complicated. They show how animals and plants are interconnected. Trees produce pinecone seeds that are eaten by mice and squirrels. Insects in the pinecones are eaten by birds. Hawks and owls can find food as there are lots of birds and small animals to eat. The animals and plants are interconnected by different paths. The sun is introduced as a source of energy.
- Books about food chains
Compare and contrast a wolf with the familiar...
Studying wolves goes against my preference about keeping preschool and kindergarten themes to topics that the children can touch and feel! As there are not too many friendly wolves around for kids to handle, substituting dogs is another way to go.
My students enjoyed listening to the Gunniwolf, Wolf Island, Rosie's Walk, Lon Po Po and Little Red Riding Hood stories so much, I tried to develop activities that allowed for investigation, problem solving and inquiry.
To make wolf stories more meaningful to the children, introduce the dog as the wolf's relative.
- Arrange a policeman with a police dog (German Shepard) to visit the school to talk about stranger safety
- Prompt the children to ask about the dog's needs
- Later discuss how a wolf is similar or different to the police dog
- Have the children draw and record their observations in their journals
- Similarities/differences suggestions:
appearance, needs - water, sleep, shelter, food
- If allowed, take a paw print of the dog's foot with paint. Compare the dog foot print with a lifesize picture of a wolf footprint.
- Stranger Safety Books from Amazon.com
Math - Graph "My favorite book"
- Graph all wolf and fox stories mentioned by placing the actual books on a graphing map and have children place a block on the row to signify their favorite story
- Count and record how many children liked each book
- Use terms such as more children liked and fewer children liked...
- Read more graphing tips ...
All Social Studies pages:
TEACHING SOCIAL STUDIES
Kindergarten social studies - how to teach it and what skills do children need to learn?
Kindergarten social studies topics - what topics should I teach?
What resources are available? Recommended kindergarten and preschool social studies products
Social studies educational carpets
CONNECT SOCIAL STUDIES & LITERATURE