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Social Studies Skills and 21st Century Skills

Lower elementary students should learn 21st century skills at a foundational level in order to use them throughout their education. Social studies courses provide an excellent platform for incorporating these skills at a young age. As we design our elementary heritage studies materials, we use these skills as a guide to incorporate the best learning standards for your students. Here are some suggestions for integrating 21st century skills into your elementary social studies course.

Learning and Innovation Skills

Creativity and Innovation

Social studies encourages creativity in students by exposing them to new ideas and perspectives. Stories such as biographical accounts of people who used their creativity to initiate change help students see how they can use their own skills. In-class activities should challenge students to find creative solutions to school or classroom issues, such as how to include other students who may feel left out. Through these activities, students will learn how to use their creativity to contribute to society. Social studies can also teach students that any career path, whether becoming a doctor, a veterinarian, or a government official, requires creativity and innovation. This work stems from our identity as image bearers of the Creator as we fulfill God’s command to subdue the earth in Genesis 1:28.

Critical Thinking and Problem Solving

Encourage students to identify problems in their community and find ways to solve them (e.g. cleaning up litter on the roadside or bringing meals to families in need). The reality of the Fall makes critical thinking very important for students to find truth and apply discernment in their everyday life. Assignments that ask about how to interpret current or historical events encourage students to ask these important questions for themselves. Another way to promote critical thinking is to have students analyze diagrams, artwork, and photos.


Communication is important in social studies as students learn to interact with their families, classmates, and communities. Students develop oral and written communication skills when they articulate thoughts and ideas clearly and effectively through speaking and writing activities. Journal assignments help students practice writing skills, while class presentations develop speaking skills. An important aspect of learning to communicate is to communicate things that honor God and encourage other people.


Students should learn to work productively with others. Social studies encourages students to be good Christian citizens by valuing the image of God in other people. Collaboration in group discussions or projects helps students learn to be sociable and interact well with others. In lower elementary, encourage collaboration during learning games and activities. When students collaborate, they learn to be flexible and cooperative and to take responsibility for their actions.

Information, Media, and Technology Skills

Information Literacy

Because social studies relies heavily on informational texts, students must learn informational literacy to succeed in the course. Teachers can encourage informational literacy by helping students work with informational texts in the textbook, by helping students evaluate information, and by supporting students’ recall through formative and summative assessments. Asking review questions orally in class and on written work pages will help students learn how to recall and process information. Comparing and contrasting texts, analyzing visual information, and creating graphic organizers from given information improve students’ informational literacy.

Media Literacy

Students should learn how information can change based on the audience. Teachers can highlight how students talk differently to their teachers, friends, parents, and siblings because they have different kinds of relationships. In media, information can be framed in different ways depending on the intended audience. Because information in media changes so frequently, it is important to remember that God’s Word is the standard for truth and we can always trust it.

ICT Literacy (Information, Communications, and Technology)

Students should learn to use technology appropriately for information gathering and digital communication. Teach them that technology is a tool that they can use as an aid for accessing and using information. Teachers can create guided research assignments for students to find biographical information using age-appropriate educational websites. Technology in a classroom should enhance and not distract from the students’ learning experience. Students should learn that God cares how people use technology, so they should use it with discernment. Technology can be a tool to know and serve God better.

Life and Career Skills

Flexibility and Adaptability

A social studies course can equip students to adapt to varied roles and responsibilities. Projects should encourage them to face new and potentially uncomfortable situations to help them work in diverse environments. Having students frequently participate in new classroom roles will foster adaptability and flexibility. An important aspect of flexibility and adaptability is learning to trust God’s control and love other people, even when plans change.

Initiative and Self Direction

Students should learn to take responsibility for their own work and practice developing an understanding of their abilities. Giving students assessments helps them evaluate their own progress. In class, hold them accountable for using time wisely, but also encourage them to work efficiently without supervision. When students take learning into their own hands, they are in the process of becoming lifelong learners.

Social and Cross-Cultural Skills

Teachers can encourage a classroom that appreciates and respects diversity. Create an environment in which each student is seen as a vital part of the classroom. A social studies assignment could have students share about their cultural background with the class. Students could present research about a different culture to broaden the class’s understanding of other cultures. Bridging cultural differences and inviting differing perspectives increase innovation and the quality of work and teaches students to understand that God values people from every culture. Students will learn to practice the respect for others that the teacher models.

Productivity and Accountability

Teachers should set appropriately challenging standards and goals for students. Consistently enforcing deadlines and time limits encourages students to display diligence and a positive work ethic. Students should learn to value and practice punctuality and reliability.

Leadership and Responsibility

The teacher can encourage students to see themselves as leaders by enlisting them as classroom community helpers. Keeping students accountable for how they act in leadership rolls instills integrity and ethical behavior in them. Remind students that leadership as Jesus demonstrates is humble and servant minded.

To support the teacher’s instruction and modeling, our heritage studies textbooks help students develop social studies skills and 21st century skills in their immediate context of family, school, and the regional community. Christians should be peaceable and responsible citizens who contribute positively to society. Whether it is information, technology, innovation, life, or media, these skills help students learn diligence and love for God and others. These skills help students look outside themselves and their abilities to help other people with the resources God gave them.


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Category: Teaching