Social studies and U.S. history provide the biggest challenge to ELLs in their content classes. They have very limited background knowledge to activate. ELLs lack prior knowledge of U.S. and U.S. history, geography, and current events needed. Many students will memorize information for a test, but it has no relevance for them so the information is quickly forgotten.
ELLs' difficulties when studying social studies.
o Use of higher level thinking skills for reading and writing.
o Lack of familiarity with historical terms, government processes, and vocabulary.
o Social Studies text contains complex sentences, passive voice, and extensive use of pronouns.
o ELLs may not be used to expressing their personal opinions.
o Nationalistic and cultural focus of maps.
o Concepts which do no exist in all cultures are difficult. This includes privacy, democratic processes, rights of citizens, free will.
o No concept of movement within the structure of a society.
o ELLs are seldom asked to contribute an alternate view that reflects conditions in other countries.
o Use in our schools of "timeline"teaching vs. learning history by "dynasty" or "period."
o Difficulty with understanding what is said by the teacher and being able to take notes.
o Amount of text covered and the ELLs' inability to tell what is important in the text and what is not important.