Chapter 15: Science and Social Studies

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Upon completion of this section the learner will:

  • Describe and apply strategies for adapting textbook/content-oriented approaches in science and social studies such as content enhancements, semantic feature analysis, and mnemonic strategies.
  • Identify criteria for selecting and adopting textbooks for your class or school district.
  • Evaluate and implement strategy instruction for using content area textbooks such as text organization, text structure, and essential information in content textbooks.
  • Describe and evaluate methods for adapting textbook materials to accommodate diverse learners in the classroom.
  • Discuss considerations and adaptations to science activities and ways to make appropriate adaptations for teaching process skills.
  • Provide methods and strategies for adapting activities in specific science content areas, including life science, earth science, and physical science activities for diverse learners.
  • Describe and apply methods for adapting social studies with students with special needs.
  • Discuss ways for adapting inquiry-oriented approaches in science and social studies.

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Part 2: Summary of Ideas

Science and social studies present unique challenges to teachers in that they must adapt their instruction, materials, and procedures to accommodate students with special needs.


Much learning in science and social studies takes place in the context of textbook learning. In order to address the needs of diverse classrooms, teachers should evaluate their texts for "considerateness."

Content enhancement devices are means for increasing recall and comprehension of content information, and include use of graphic organizers, study guides, diagrams, visual spatial displays, and mnemonics.

Familiarization with text organization and structure can help students understand text content. Students can be taught to incorporate analysis of text structure into their study strategies. Highlighting, outlining, and study guides are also helpful.

Textbooks can be adapted for students with reading problems with such methods as audiotaped texts, Braille or enlarged-print versions, simplified texts, or modified presentations.

Before assigned readings, students can be prefamiliarized with new vocabulary and provided with advance organizers such as visual spatial displays, timelines, or concept maps.

After assigned readings, students can be provided with reviews and summaries of the readings, practice with peers, and extra help sessions.

Activities-oriented instruction can be helpful for students who have reading problems, or who benefit from the enhanced concreteness and meaningfulness afforded by such instruction.

A variety of adaptations are available for accommodating special needs in such science activity areas as balancing and weighing, activities with plants and animals, anatomy, microscope activities, weather, rocks and minerals, and activities involving sound and light. These adaptations address specific need areas, and also can serve to enhance comprehension of the associated concepts.

Adaptations can also be incorporated into social studies areas, including role-play, simulation activities, and field trips.

Inquiry-oriented approaches to science and social studies, found in both textbook and activities approaches, can also be adapted for students with special needs. These adaptations include use of hands-on materials, carefully structured questioning, redirecting attention, and reinforcing divergent, independent thinking.


Go to Part 3- Chapter Activities

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Chapter Activities

Students with special needs may require explicit instruction in the use of effective study strategies including: information outlining, lesson organizers, and interpretations of illustrations/charts.




Read Chapter 15 in the text. Use the Chapter 15 Graphic Organizer to "see" the big ideas in the chapter. Fill in blank sections of the graphic organizer. Add the graphic organizer to your class notebook.


Examine the following World Wide Web links and consider their perspectives based on information from Chapter 15. Print out useful information and add it to your class notebook.


Schools of California Online Resources in Education: Science


Schools of California Online Resources in Education: Social Studies



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