A Problem-Solving Approach to Teaching Social Studies

Integrating Literacy for Authentic Learning

Social Studies School Services

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What Is Storypath?

Storypath offers both a structure for organizing the social studies curriculum and an instructional strategy for teaching. The structure is a familiar one: the story. The strategy is grounded in a belief that children learn best when they are active participants in their own learning, and places students’ own efforts to understand at the center of the educational enterprise. Together, the structure and the teaching strategy ensure that students feel strongly motivated and have meaningful and memorable learning experiences.

Originally developed in Scotland during the 1960s, Storypath draws support from decades of experience with teachers and students. The approach has its roots in these beliefs about children and learning:

  • The world is complex and presents many layers of information. Children know a good deal about how the world works.
  • Children have a reservoir of knowledge that is often untapped in classroom settings.
  • When children build on that knowledge through activities such as questioning, investigating, and researching, new understandings are acquired.
  • Problem solving is a natural and powerful human endeavor. When children are engaged in problem-solving, they take ownership for their learning.
  • The story form integrates literacy skills to help children apply their learning in a meaningful context to gain a deeper, more complex understanding of major concepts.
  • When children construct their own knowledge and understanding of their world, their learning is more meaningful and memorable.

The Story Structure

For thousands of years, narrative text has helped us create order and make connections between events. Storypath’s narrative structure helps students understand concepts that they often find difficult to comprehend in the traditional social studies curriculum.

Each Storypath unit centers on a unique and engaging story that provides a concrete context to understanding the social science content. This story may be based on actual historical events, as developed in the Struggle for Independence unit. Or the story might instead be based on typical community or business structures, as developed in the Families in Their Neighborhoods unit or in the unit called Understanding the Marketplace: The Toy Company. From all of these structures, students develop a meaningful context for developing understanding of the topic and applying the literacy skills of reading, writing, listening and speaking.


Margit E. McGuire is the author of Storypath. She has piloted many of the units herself in highly diverse classrooms primarily in Seattle area. Additionally, she has worked with many teachers in the USA, Canada, and Australia to pilot the curriculum, and she acknowledges and thanks them for their insights, expertise and enthusiasm for Storypath.

Margit is the Director of Teacher Education in the Master in Teaching program at Seattle University. A past president of the National Council for the Social Studies, Margit strongly adovocates for the critical role of social studies education in a democratic society.

International Connections

Research Presentations

English Language Learners & Storypath




Storypath Published Units

Social Studies School Services

Program Attributes


Program Structure



Contact the Author


Contact the Publisher


Margit E. McGuire, Ph.D.

Professor and Director of Teacher Education
College of Education
Seattle University
901 12th Avenue
P.O. Box 222000
Seattle, WA 98122-1090
Email: mmcguire@seattleu.edu




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