How to Teach for Understanding



Now that we have examined the components of developing understanding with our students, we now have to begin analyzing and creating effective teaching strategies that accomplish this goal. Effective instruction that fosters understanding requires students to be actively engaged with the content and materials of the lesson. This can be achieved through particular instructional strategies that require students to apply their knowledge of a topic, then implement their metacognitive skills to transform this knowledge into understanding. Remember, when a student understands content they can perform a full analysis of the matter at hand and then apply this understanding to multiple applications. Simply standing in front of the class as the know-all teacher will not accomplish this crucial goal in education. Though direct instruction is imperative at certain times, our students must be given opportunities to thoroughly explore the content at hand. Effective instructional strategies within the realm of social studies stray away from didactic (facts driven) components, and lean more towards implementing the reflective (analyzing and applying) and affective (considering morals and values) components.


  • demonstrate effective strategies by developing activities for classroom instruction that foster understanding


For this unit, you will be required to read and analyze two written sources that examine effective teaching strategies that foster understanding specifically within the realm of social studies. The first reading is a website titled "Strategies for Teaching Social Studies" which has been created by the Delaware Social Studies Education Project. This website provides you with a list of multiple instructional strategies, then gives you a detailed explanation of the purpose and process of each strategy. Please take your time to look at each strategy provided on this website. After you have completed examining these strategies, the second source you are to read is the article titled "A Study of the Teaching Methods of High School History Teachers." This article examines three high school history teachers and the strategies that they employ in their classrooms to foster student engagement and understanding. The final source that you are required to examine for this unit is a video titled "A Standards Overview." This video is #22 under the Social Studies in Action: A Teaching Practices Library, K-12 program. This video uses the ten standards that the National Council for the Social Studies, a professional organization devoted to the improvement of social studies instruction across the country, have established as a basis to examine effective social studies instructional strategies.

Your written assignment for this unit is to choose any four (4) instructional strategies that were presented in the readings and the video. Once you have chosen four instructional strategies, you must apply content from the New York State Social Studies Core Curriculum (that we examined during the previous unit) to these strategies. Please indicate the subject and grade level in the Social Studies Core Curriculum where you chose the information from. You are developing instructional strategies that you will be able to implement in the classroom during your educational careers that supports understanding. For each instructional strategy that you develop, you must include a brief reflection and analysis to demonstrate how the strategy fosters understanding within students.

  • Again, once you have completed your required tasks for this unit, visit our discussion space to collaborate about the development of effective instructional strategies in social studies with your peers. Feel free to visit the discussion space at any time throughout this unit to see what your peers have contributed and developed.


1) Strategies for Teaching Social Studies

2) A Study of the Teaching Methods of High School History Teachers File:Teaching Methods.pdf

3) Video #22: A Standards Overview, 9-12


O'Malley, F. (2008). Strategies for teaching social studies. Retrieved from Delaware Social Studies Education Project Web site:

WGBH Educational Foundation. (Producer) (2003). A standards overview, 9-12 (VoD). Washington, DC: Annenberg Media.

Wiersma, A. (2008). A study of the teaching methods of high school history teachers. The Social Studies, May/June 2008, 111-116.


Advance to Unit Four: Lesson Development

Return to Unit Two: Generative Topics in Social Studies

Go to Teaching Socials Studies for Understanding Discussion Space

Return to Teaching Socials Studies for Understanding