Engaging Social Studies Curriculum Shows Promise for Improving Social Skills in Students with Emotional and Behavioral Needs

In Counselors, Educational Strategies & Tips, Educators, Social Skills, Social-Emotional, Special Education by Rachel Wise

Storypath offers a structure for organizing the social studies curriculum and an instructional strategy for teaching it. The strategy is based on the belief that children learn best when they are active participants in their own learning. When students have to create, role-play, come up with ideas, problem-solve, etc., they learn the material from the inside out. The structure and teaching strategy work together to ensure that students feel strongly motivated and have meaningful and memorable learning experiences.During a Storypath lesson, students will learn about a concept by following the steps of creating a story. The steps are as follows:
  • Creating the Setting
  • Creating the Characters
  • Building Context
  • Critical Incidents
  • Concluding Event
Student’s use hands-on materials to depict their stories. They will role-play with the characters they create, make decisions as a team, and bring their story to life. Books with key questions are provided to use as a guide.Originally developed in Scotland during the 1960s, Storypath draws support from decades of experience with teachers and students. The approach has its roots in the following beliefs about children and learning:
  • The world is complex and includes many layers of information. Children know a lot about the world already.
  • Children have a wealth of knowledge that is often untapped in classroom settings.
  • When children build on their knowledge through activities such as questioning, investigating, and researching, new understandings are acquired.
  • Problem solving is a natural and powerful endeavor. When students are engaged in problem-solving, they take ownership of their learning.
  • The story form utilized in Storypath integrates Common Core literacy Standards to help children apply their learning in meaningful activities, which allows them to gain a deeper, more complex understanding of what they are learning.
  • When children construct their own knowledge and understanding of their world, their learning is naturally more meaningful and memorable.
  • When children research life skills within the context of Storypath, they develop critical thinking skills along with social-emotional learning.
Social-Emotional learning is described as “the process through which children and adults acquire and effectively apply the knowledge, attitudes, and skills necessary to understand and manage emotions, set and achieve positive goals, feel and show empathy for others, establish and maintain positive relationships, and make responsible decisions.”Research indicates indicate that:
  1. Students with significant emotional and behavioral needs, can successfully engage in less structured and more challenging academic activities and use social-emotional skills effectively within the context of Storypath Lessons.
  2. Integration of social-emotional learning opportunities into meaningful, well-planned and engaging academic instruction (like Storypath) provides students with an opportunity to authentically learn and practice key social and academic skills, thus allowing them to more effectively internalize and generalize the skills as a natural part of everyday learning and social interactions.
Additional research supports the use of Storypath as an effective academic tool for encouraging student participation. For instance in a 2010 study a group of students created a small town faced with a proposed shopping mall. Students, in their roles as townspeople—business owners, employees, and elected and appointed officials (mayor, city council members, and planning commission members)—actively participated in determining what was best for their town.Below is a sample lesson in which students are asked to work together to save a tropical Amazon rainforest reserve.
Here are some sample projects created by students participating in Storypath lessons:
Check out this video below where students connected their Storypath Community to real current events in their own community, learning how people must work together to solve problems and challenges in their community.

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