Social education for the youngest students is an important means of preparing them for their role in society. It helps them become productive citizens. Social education is the basis of history, geography and political studies. Through history, students develop a sense of time and learn where they fit, in the development of human kind. They begin to consider how they can shape their future. They develop, through geography, an interest in the world in which they live and the specific features of their immediate locality. Through other aspects of this subject area, they learn about those who rule and govern their country and about how their country operates. They learn to listen and consider the views and ideas of others and how to negotiate amicably, all within a safe and supportive environment.
The most effective way of supporting children’s progress in social education is through first-hand experiences and play-based social interaction. Teachers should plan activities where three or four students, through specific topics, have focused and worthwhile opportunities to talk together as they play.
A good starting point would be about their immediate and extended family. This gives students a sense of belonging, as they learn about who they are and where they are placed within their family. Encourage them to re-enact and talk about significant past events in their lives. This might be a recent celebration, a holiday or a special visitor to their home. Ask parents to send in photographs of the students as a baby to promote relevant discussion about changes to themselves over time. Plan visits to local museums and places of immediate historical interest and choose interesting historical aspects to act out in role-play.
Encourage students to talk about where they live and their journey to school. Create a large floor map of the journeys some students make. Create a map of the position of classrooms near to their own and talk about how they would proceed from one class to another. Use correct directional vocabulary. Older students may draw or paint the countries that constitute the Middle East. They can learn where they are in relation to each other and to the Gulf and other oceans. They need to know the names and locations of the major cities. They can compare the differences between city life and life in the desert.
Students should learn about the region’s heritage and culture. Visits to cultural centres will have a strong impact on children’s understanding of the Bedouin lifestyle, traditional sports, music and dance. Through practical activities focused around customs, food and clothing, students will develop an understanding of their own family heritage. They also begin to understand and accept differences within their society. This broadens children’s horizons and extends their thought processes.
Make sure children know the relevance of important facts. These must include the current ruler, the national flag, national symbols, the names of their region, the words of the national anthem and the local currency.
- Provide a good range of role-play and practical activities to help students develop a sense of the past and the present.
- Encourage students to be curious about where they live and the natural world around them.
- Help students develop a sense of similarities and differences in the society in which they live.
- Develop students’ understanding of local and national cultural heritage.
- Make sure students develop a sense of who they are and where they fit, within the school family.
Geography in the Early Years by JA Palmer and J Birch (Routledge Falmer, 2004)
History in the Early Years by H Cooper (Routledge Falmer, 2002)
By Gianna Ulyatt
Gianna has extensive experience as a teacher, principal, and inspector. She is a consultant with expertise in KG and has spoken at conferences in Hong Kong, Spain and the U.K. She sometimes works in the UAE. To connect with her, email giannaulyatt@ hotmail.co.uk.