Miss Trina and Mrs. Yolanda work as a teaching team at a large, urban child care program. Their 3- and 4-year-olds come and go throughout the day depending on their family members’ work schedules. Trina and Yolanda provide many opportunities for the children to get engaged in productive, interesting play with the teachers facilitating—sometimes playing right alongside the children, engaging them in conversations, asking questions, or sometimes sitting quietly and observing. During a team meeting, Trina and Yolanda discussed how much the children enjoy dramatic play and get involved in the roles they act out. They realized that this is really a form of social studies for preschoolers. The children are attempting to understand adult roles, whether they be mommies and daddies or workers of some sort. Recently, a group of children were enacting what happens at the grocery store. Trina and Yolanda posted a sign on their Family Bulletin Board asking for empty food boxes, clean cans, and paper shopping bags to enhance the children’s play. They pulled out a toy cash register from their storage area and worked with the children to set up the grocery store. The group decided on a name for the store, “The Food Place,” and some children volunteered to make a sign. Others made play money for the cash register. The teachers led the children in discussions about different roles to play in the store: cashier, bagger, shelf stocker, and customer. As children joined in the play, they determined who would play what role and how they would do their job. Of course, cashier was the most popular! One day, Trina commented to Yolanda, “Look at the Food Place, today. We have 10 ‘customers’ waiting patiently in line to check out.” It was true. The children were acting out the role of “waiting customer” with no problems whatsoever. Yolanda and Trina were truly amazed that in dramatic play, the children could practice what it means to be a good citizen and member of the classroom community!
The domain of Social Studies includes Preschool Benchmarks in: Concepts Related to Citizenship, Economic Systems and Human Interdependence, and Awareness of Self, Geography, People, and Families
Social studies is defined as the “part of a school curriculum concerned with the study of social relationships and the functioning of society” (Merriam-Webster). The knowledge and skills learned through social studies prepare children to become informed and engaged citizens of their country and the world. Including social studies in the educational curriculum of the early childhood years provides an opportunity for adults to support children as they are developing a sense of self and an awareness of their family and community. While preschool programs may not have a formal social studies curriculum, many everyday preschool experiences provide a foundation for social studies skills.
Initially, young children’s focus is on themselves and their family. As they enter preschool, their world widens to include the school or caregiving environment. And as children grow and develop during the preschool years, they begin to understand that though they are individuals, they exist not only within a family and school but also within other larger contexts, such as their neighborhood and community. They begin to see that they have a role to play within each of these contexts: They are a son or daughter, a sister or brother, a student or friend, a neighbor or community member. Young children learn how to act as a member of these wider communities, being loving, helpful, respectful, and contributing to the greater good.
At the same time, they are becoming aware that there are other members of these communities who make contributions to their own well-being and that of the other community members. They are fascinated by police officers and firefighters. They imitate doctors, nurses, grocery clerks, and teachers. Preschool teachers can lead them in studies of topics within their community, including businesses, community services, and the jobs and responsibilities of adults. These studies enable children to develop the intellectual habits of investigation and inquiry as they learn how to transform their curiosity into questions and then represent what they have learned using developing skills in language, fine arts, and play.
As children learn about broader communities and their members, their sense of geography expands. They become aware that there are other neighborhoods, other cities, and a larger country. They begin to see how these spaces and locations can be described and studied using maps, pictures, and diagrams. As they enter the primary years, their world will widen even more, and they will begin to understand that other communities exist in other environments. Their investigations in these early years enable children to have confidence and enthusiasm for finding answers to the compelling questions of the social sciences as they continue in their schooling.
By incorporating social studies in the early years, teachers are establishing the foundation for a democracy. They help preschool children to develop group participation skills, such as social negotiation and problem solving, communicating about one’s needs, and making decisions as a group. Experiences in social studies provide a foundation for the skills needed to become an active and productive citizen.
Goal 14 Understand some concepts related to citizenship.
14.A Understand what it means to be a member of a group and community.
|Engage in conversation with teacher about fairness and sharing when a conflict needs to be resolved.||Participate in discussions about fairness and sharing in general conversations.||Demonstrate an understanding of fairness and sharing (e.g., accepts the need to wait for a turn with a toy).|
|Participate in activities that benefit the group as a whole, such as cleaning up after play or watering an early childhood environment plant.||Participate in making group rules and/or rules for routines and transitions.||Display awareness of role as a member of a group and that rules are made to benefit the members of a group (e.g., explain that hitting isn’t allowed because someone might get hurt).|
14.B Understand the structures and functions of the political systems of Illinois, the United States, and other nations.
14.C Understand ways groups make choices and decisions.
|Demonstrate preferences and choices when the group votes to make simple decisions.||Participate in discussions about how voting works (e.g., that the majority vote wins).||Demonstrate an understanding of the outcome of a vote (e.g., recognize and accept that the majority vote wins).|
14.D Understand the role that individuals can play in a group or community.
|Assume simple leadership roles (e.g., take on role of line leader).||Take responsibility in simple leadership roles (e.g., as snack helper, ask about and perform the necessary tasks).||Assume the role of teacher’s helper (e.g., table helper; person who waters the plant; pass out plates, cups, and spoons for snack).|
|Identify roles that children play in the group (e.g., line leader, person who selects the afternoon story).||Act out various roles that a person might play within a group (e.g., pretend to be a teacher, student, parent, or child during dramatic play).||Identify and describe roles that children play in the group (e.g., line leader, person who selects the afternoon story).|
14.E Understand United States foreign policy as it relates to other nations and international issues.
14.F Understand the development of United States’ political ideas and traditions.
Goal 15 Explore economic systems and human interdependence.
15.A Explore roles in the economic system and workforce.
|Identify commonly known community workers and the services they provide (e.g., describe the work of firefighters, nurses, mail carriers, doctors, and police officers).||Act out roles of commonly known community workers in dramatic play (e.g., pretend to be a cashier in a grocery store).||Identify tools and equipment that correspond to various roles and jobs of commonly known community workers.|
|Participate in a discussion about jobs their family members may have.||Participate in a discussion that relates work to earning money.||Participate in a discussion that relates work to services provided (e.g., to teach, to take care of people, to take care of cars, to manage a business).|
15.B Explore issues of limited resources in the early childhood environment and world.
|Participate in a conversation about taking turns with materials when there is not enough for everyone to have their own.||Recognize equal distribution when sharing a snack, materials, or toys among a group.||Contribute to a community service activity of the class (e.g., collecting food for the needy, recycling early childhood materials).|
15.C Understand that scarcity necessitates choices by producers.
15.D Explore concepts about trade as an exchange of goods or services.
|Engage in trading with peers (e.g., trade two pretzels for two crackers at snack or two small cars for one big truck during play).||Understand that money is needed to obtain goods and services (e.g., while playing store, ask other children to pay for goods; explain that you must pay for things that you get at the store).||Demonstrate understanding that payment or money comes in different forms, such as coins, money, credit cards, and bartering goods (e.g., while playing store, offer to pay for goods with credit card, check, or cash).|
15.E Understand the impact of government policies and decisions on production and consumption in the economy.
Goal 16 Develop an awareness of the self and his or her uniqueness and individuality.
16.A Explore his or her self and personal history.
|Answer questions such as “How did you get to school today?” or “In what centers did you play today?”||Draw or write about something that happened at school.||Use phrases that differentiate between events that happened in the past and are happening in the present (e.g., describe events that took place yesterday or are happening today).|
|Discuss things that s/he likes and dislikes.||Demonstrate awareness of self at a younger age (e.g., bring in picture of self as an infant).||Participate in discussions about his or her past (e.g., explain that “When I was little, I could not ride a tricycle, but now I can”).|
16.B Understand the development of significant political events.
16.C Understand the development of economic systems.
16.D Understand Illinois, United States, and world social history.
16.E Understand Illinois, United States, and world environmental history.
Goal 17 Explore geography, the child’s environment, and where people live, work, and play.
17.A Explore environments and where people live.
|Follow directions to find objects or materials in the early childhood environment (e.g., can find crayons if told that they are next to the glue).||Engage in basic mapping activities (e.g., place pictures of common household items in a map showing the correct room, such as placing the toaster in the kitchen and the bed in the bedroom).||Discuss a diagram of the early childhood environment showing where various features of the room are located.|
|Participate in a discussion about maps and diagrams.||Comment on a diagram showing how mats are arranged at naptime.||Describe basic topographical features, such as hills, rivers, and roads.|
17.B Analyze and explain characteristics and interactions of the Earth’s physical systems.
17.C Understand relationships between geographic factors and society.
17.D Understand the historical significance of geography.
Goal 18 Explore people and families.
18.A Explore people, their similarities, and their differences.
|Distinguish boys from girls.||Notice differences in physical characteristics between self and others.||Describe similarities and differences in physical characteristics between self and others (e.g., comment on characteristics such as hair length, skin color, age, and height).|
18.B Develop an awareness of self within the context of family.
|Compare photos of families and identify members of own family.||Compare photos of families and discuss the variety of family structures.||Role-play a variety of family members in dramatic play.|
18.C Understand how social systems form and develop over time.
Goal 14: In the K–12 Illinois Learning Standards, Goal 14 reads, “Understand political systems, with an emphasis on the United States.”
Standard 14.A: In the K–12 Illinois Learning Standards, Standard 14.A reads, “Understand and explain basic principles of the United States government.”
Standard 14.C: In the K–12 Illinois Learning Standards, Standard 14.C reads, “Understand election processes and responsibilities of citizens.”
Standard 14.D: In the K–12 Illinois Learning Standards, Standard 14.D reads, “Understand the roles and influences of individuals and interest groups in the political systems of Illinois, the United States and other nations.”
Goal 15: In the K–12 Illinois Learning Standards, Goal 15 reads, “Understand economic systems, with an emphasis on the United States.”
Standard 15.A: In the K–12 Illinois Learning Standards, Standard 15.A reads, “Understand how different economic systems operate in the exchange, production, distribution and consumption of goods and services.”
Standard 15.B: In the K–12 Illinois Learning Standards, Standard 15.B reads, “Understand that scarcity necessitates choices by consumers.”
Standard 15.C: In the K–12 Illinois Learning Standards, Standard 15.C reads, “Understand that scarcity necessitates choices by producers.”
Standard 15.D: In the K–12 Illinois Learning Standards, Standard 15.D reads, “Understand trade as an exchange of goods or services.”
Goal 16: In the K–12 Illinois Learning Standards, Goal 16 reads, “Understand events, trends, individuals and movements shaping the history of Illinois, the United States and other nations.”
Standard 16.A: In the K–12 Illinois Learning Standards, Standard 16.A reads, “Apply the skills of historical analysis and interpretation.”
Goal 17: In the K–12 Illinois Learning Standards, Goal 17 reads, “Understand world geography and the effects of geography on society, with an emphasis on the United States.”
Standard 17.A: In the K–12 Illinois Learning Standards, Standard 17.A reads, “Locate, describe and explain places, regions and features on the Earth.”
Goal 18: In the K–12 Illinois Learning Standards, Goal 18 reads, “Understand social systems, with an emphasis on the United States.”
Standard 18.A: In the K–12 Illinois Learning Standards, Standard 18.A reads, “Compare characteristics of culture as reflected in language, literature, the arts, traditions and institutions.”
Standard 18.B: In the K–12 Illinois Learning Standards, Standard 18.B reads, “Understand the roles and interactions of individuals and groups in society.”
Visit the Additional Resources page for IELDS Resources.
Links to resources for the Illinois Early Learning and Development Standards created by the Early Childhood Center of Professional Development in Arlington Heights.
This webinar provides a short overview of the Illinois Early Learning and Development Standards. It also provides a tour of the resources available on the Illinois Early Learning Project website that can support the use of the early learning standards in practice and at home.
llinois Early Learning and Development Standards for Preschool (ages 3 to kindergarten enrollment age)
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