Artistic representations in three fifth-grade social studies textbooks

Barbara McKean

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

3 Scopus citations


Current editions of social studies textbooks include reproductions of paintings, historical and contemporary photographs, sheet music, and other artistic representations as well as student activities such as writing plays, describing and interpreting works of art, creating murals, or role-playing historical events. Although a few researchers have examined alternative uses of artistic forms as historical evidence and as tools for expression, the artistic representations in social studies textbooks and the ways those expand or limit the social studies curriculum have not been a subject of inquiry. In this study, I analyzed 3 fifth-grade textbook series (Harcourt Brace; Houghton Mifflin; and Macmillan/ McGraw-Hill) and the teachers' editions for the distribution of artistic forms of representation and the social studies content with which those representations were associated. In addition, I used the central activities in the arts as ways to view the implied and explicit uses of the arts suggested in the textbooks for the purpose of understanding the social studies content. Visual art was the primary form of representation and was used as evidence for students to perceive and respond to when studying history and government. When the arts were used as tools for student expression of history, visual art and drama were used most often. Further variation within the central activities revealed both the promises and problems associated with the suggested pedagogical activities that involve the use of the arts in social studies education in elementary schools.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)186-197
Number of pages12
JournalElementary School Journal
Issue number2
StatePublished - Nov 2002
Externally publishedYes

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Education


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