Saturday, November 3, 2012

We ♥ Social Studies

This is my fifth year teaching fifth grade, but my first year teaching social studies as a regular part of the curriculum.  I have always taught literacy, math, and science because those subjects are tested.  I've tried to throw in social studies articles during guided reading, but it's never a logical progression of American history.  This year there will be a field test for social studies in May, so we have a 45 minute block each day to teach "content literacy".  

A typical unit lasts 2-3 weeks and includes a video and guided notes, reading the textbook and/or supplemental text, participating in a guided extension activity (scavenger hunt, debate, speech, research), and finally sharing learning through an assessment and rubric-based project.

Our first unit was on geography, map skills, latitude, and longitude.  We then completed a unit on Native Americans (how they got to America and how they adapted to the land).  Students worked in small groups to research a cultural region and present information on the climate, food, clothing, shelter, and tribes.  Here are some of their projects:

Our next unit was on European explorers of the New World.  I found awesome resources for this unit and also created a project that I will definitely do in subsequent years.  We became archaeologists and "found" maps, flags, an astrolabe, a compass, potatoes, cotton, etc.  (Jesse passes cotton fields on his way to work so he snagged a twig of cotton for me to show the kids.)  Students had to go on a scavenger hunt and use the text to determine why the object was significant to either the explorer or Native American.  We read and compared famous explorers. 
The final project required groups of 3-4 students to select an explorer to research.  They had to create a life size poster that displayed their explorer, the route they took on a map, the country for which they claimed land, what they would have been thinking, and the results of their voyage.  The kids only had three days to complete their project.  Many of them opted to work on it during recess.  They were so proud of their final products!
This also happened to be the lesson that my principal observed (along with part of a guided reading and reading conference).  She loved it and gave a shout out in our weekly staff newsletter.  Our next topic is colonization and we'll cover the American Revolution right before winter break.  I think I'm going to organize a field trip to a historic plantation and then have students debate (Loyalists vs. Patriots).  I hope to include it as one of my entries for National Boards.  I'm so excited!

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