Social Studies

By Lee Jenkins,

A number of years ago my wife, Sandy and I were vacationing on the East Coast of the United States visiting historical sites and their adjoining gift shops. At the minimum we left the historical site with a 32 page children’s picture book. These purchases, along with other social studies books, became the basis for a weekly social studies/writing/reading/math activity each week.

The classroom structure was the typical five centers per week with students rotating from center to center each day. One of the centers was always social studies. Prior to providing the center directions, Sandy read the 32 page picture book to the class.

The assignment for the students in the social studies center was to look at the book, select an interesting portion, draw a picture and write about the picture. Often the students were directed to use math manipulatives for the art: pattern blocks, tangrams, Cuisenaire rods and geoboards.  With tangrams, pattern blocks and Cuisenaire rods students designed their picture with the manipulatives, then reproduced the design with the appropriate template.  Tracing around the blocks would have proven to be a very frustrating experience, but primary age children are quite able to use the templates.  When geoboards were used students created their art with rubberbands and then reproduced the picture on geoboard dot paper that was preprinted and always available to students.

Students wrote in pencil, came to Sandy for editing and then traced over their writing with a felt-tip pen. In order to use student writing for reading instruction, it is important that basic conventions and spelling be accurate.

In the slides are two other slight variations. The Courage of Sarah Noble, a novel, was read for several weeks. Upon completion, students were assigned to write/illustrate a favorite section.  On another occasion the students were assigned to write a page of a class book on the Pilgrims. The book is patterned after Brown Bear, Brown Bear by Bill Martin Jr. The whole story was re-told by students, starting with the page, “England, England what do you see?”

Often the suggestion is given to teachers that they should introduce topics that will be taught a year or two years later. These grade three students were introduced to 5th grade history two years early.  Reports from parents, when their children were in 5th grade, was that these students were now ready for a more formal teaching of US History. Some even went on to major in history.

With Common Core, there is an emphasis upon balancing fiction and non-fiction literature in the classroom.  This short description and the Sandy Jenkins’ slides are provided by From LtoJ Consulting Group, Inc. to assist teachers in one of the Common Core adjustments taking place in the USA.