National Council for the Social Studies
Essential Skills
[1989, 1994]

 NCSS Skills
 Writing & Composition


 Writing & Composition
 Essential Skills
 Civic Action Skills
 1990 Skills

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Following is a brief review of the Essential Skills of Social Studies, as found in the Appendix of the printed version of the NCSS document Expectations of Excellence: National Standards for Social Studies. As you review them, try to think about what students look like or how they behave when they are engaged in the demonstration and acquisition of these skills. Promoting the development of these skills in our students is dependent on carefully sequencing the activities of instruction. Clearly, some strategies are better at promoting engagement with a given skill than are others.

Soon you will be asked to consider which comprehension and content reading strategies are best at developing these skills in your students. You will do so in order to help create your own framework of conditional knowledge: if these are the skills, then when do I apply a given strategy? When you're ready, download and print the NCSS Essential Skills chart in order to fill in the strategies you think best correspond to the given skills.

Acquiring Information

The skill that might be considered a first among equals, the gathering of data in social studies is the foundation of intellectualizing our discipline. This essential skill is subdivided into the following categories:

  • reading skills
  • study skills
  • reference and information search skills
  • technical skills unique to electronic devices

Organizing and Using Information

In social studies, we look at our data and seek patterns and structure in them, and we seek to understand why those patterns are there. We develop concepts based on comparisons or interpretations or syntheses. We apply intellectual skills to the information at hand. But then we must decide what to do about our findings; this is where decision-making skills come into play. Finally, students in social studies are called to be metacognitive: to judiciously strategize (with a focus on knowing when to apply an action or take a course and to monitor one's own thinking and learning process.

  • thinking skills
    1. classify information
    2. interpret information
    3. analyze information
    4. summarize information
    5. synthesize information
    6. evaluate information
  • decision-making
  • metacognition

Interpersonal Relationships and Social Participation

Ah, but then what? After gathering data, intellectualizing it, and making decisions about it, we must then communicate those decisions to others. How we are changed by our encountering of the ideas plays out on the individual, group, and societal level. Social studies seeks to promote effective participation in our democracy at all three levels.

  • personal skills
  • group interaction skills
  • social and political participation skills


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This page was last updated on Sunday, 26-Aug-2012 04:42:00 EDT.
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