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Social Studies and the Young Learner





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In any elementary school classroom, a teacher will occasionally observe students involved in activities that seem neither honest nor ethical. What can teachers do to stimulate moral reasoning skills and principled attitudes in the elementary grades? This article suggests that situational learning is ideal for developing moral reasoning in today's young learners. Situational learning allows students to choose their own situations and structure personalized outcomes that may or may not be predicted by the teacher. There are no right and wrong answers or anticipated outcomes; the process entails risk-taking and uncertainty, for teacher and students alike. Situational learning permits individuals to explore and express their own understanding as they apply new knowledge to their own socio-cultural context. The authors describe three effective teaching strategies for empowering students in situational learning experiences using moral dilemmas applicable throughout the social studies. Each strategy is described (briefly touching upon curriculum, instruction, and assessment), while incorporating selected children's literature. Teachers are encouraged to try these strategies, modify them to meet their own students' needs and interests, and add their own selections of children's literature. For each of the three strategies, an overview of the purpose, procedures, materials, and assessment of a situational learning activity is included. Situational learning can be used to examine civic decisions, economic dynamics, social geographic relationships, and historical events found throughout the social studies curriculum. (Contains 7 endnotes.)


Children’s literature; Conduct of life – Study and teaching (Elementary); Curriculum planning; Moral education (Elementary)


Library and Information Science | Other Education | Reading and Language




Copyright National Council for the Social Studies. Used with permission.

Publisher Citation

Gallavan, N. P., & Fabbi, J. L. (2004). Stimulating moral reasoning in children through situational learning and children's literature. Social Studies and the Young Learner, 16(3), 17-23.

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