Welcome to Social Studies No worries if you’re not a history, civics or economics expert. Apps allow you to draw on these topics to build your students’ language. App-titude
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App-titude  |   August 01, 2016
Welcome to Social Studies
Author Notes
  • Sean Sweeney, MS, MEd, CCC-SLP, is a clinician and technology specialist working in private practice at the Ely Center in Newton, Mass., and consultant to local and national organizations on technology integration in speech and language interventions. His blog, SpeechTechie, looks at technology “through a language lens.” sean@speechtechie.com
    Sean Sweeney, MS, MEd, CCC-SLP, is a clinician and technology specialist working in private practice at the Ely Center in Newton, Mass., and consultant to local and national organizations on technology integration in speech and language interventions. His blog, SpeechTechie, looks at technology “through a language lens.” sean@speechtechie.com×
Article Information
Telepractice & Computer-Based Approaches / App-titude
App-titude   |   August 01, 2016
Welcome to Social Studies
The ASHA Leader, August 2016, Vol. 21, online only. doi:10.1044/leader.APP.21082016.np
The ASHA Leader, August 2016, Vol. 21, online only. doi:10.1044/leader.APP.21082016.np
A few years back, I focused this column on using apps to provide treatment relevant to the science curriculum. Apps can provide an easy window to contexts such as life cycles, astronomy and biology, providing visuals and interactive experiences through which speech-language pathologists target clinical objectives.
Such use of apps jibes with our literature that points to the benefits of teaching language comprehension and expression in educationally relevant contexts: See Geraldine P. Wallach’s 2014 review of strategies such as TWA (“think before, while and after reading), all of which can be addressed using apps and printed texts.
As with science, the subject of social studies is ripe for use of apps in speech-language treatment. In a 2012 article promoting awareness of digital literacy, Zhihui Fang emphasizes that social studies topics tend to be highly chronological and causal—often areas of language difficulty for our students. In addition, social studies requires understanding different kinds of texts (maps, primary and secondary sources) and abstract vocabulary (government, justice). Again, apps can you help target these skills with your students, while working toward specific clinical objectives.
Review content
Use apps to help you emphasize vocabulary and expository text structure as you review social studies topics with students. For engaging social studies presentations, look to apps such as BrainPop (for grade 3 through high school) and BrainPop Jr. (for pre-kindergarden through grade 2), accessible via multiple platforms with a school or personal subscription, starting at $1.99 a month.
BrainPop’s short animated videos explore an ever-growing range of topics in history and civics, and feature follow-up activities such as concept mapping, quizzes and other potentially language-enhancing interactives. Or you can construct your own strategic post-video activity. Videos are organized into “units” such as the law, elections, geography, and U.S. and world history.
Another useful source for social studies content is Epic Books For Kids (available for multiple platforms and providing a complementary educator account). The app presents a wide array of picture books and videos reviewing social studies topics.
Show connections
Social studies topics also provide an opportunity to teach comprehension and organization strategies through expository text structures (list, sequence, cause-effect, description and others). Pair a BrainPop video with a pre-activity in which students activate their prior knowledge about the topic, along with a post-activity in which they elaborate on what they learned.
The Common Core-aligned Scootle Jam ($3.99 for iPad) contains graphic organizers supporting these structures as well as several guided social studies “projects.” “Mind mapping” apps such as Popplet Lite (free for iOS and on the Web) and similar resources available for Android (such as Simple Mind) present a blank slate for you to connect ideas or practice sentence construction. Students can elaborate on their ideas and use language skills to “show what they know” using free creation apps such as Pic Collage or Adobe Spark Video.
Provide interaction
Use interactive, context-based apps to construct activities for practice of strategies such as combining sentences and applying text structure. Ask your students’ social studies teacher for the topic map for the year, then line up apps accordingly. For example, iCivics produces a line of free interactive games targeting topics such as presidential elections and the U.S. Bill of Rights (for iOS and also available on the iCivics website); sequential, causal and conditional language is required to succeed.
For more social studies teaching opportunities, see apps such as TinyBop’s Homes, Cognitive Kids’ Ansel and Clair series and National Geographic’s series of apps.
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August 2016
Volume 21, Issue 8