Elementary Truths

Truths in Elementary Social Studies

We know that...

Social Studies is a discipline, not a content area. Instruction should be driven by inquiry that employs content as a vehicle for understanding larger concepts and developing specific skills.

So...

We must design learning experiences that ask students to develop social studies-specific skills and build understandings of broad social studies concepts as they use content to create answers to essential questions. We don’t want kids to just memorize content for content’s sake.

We know that...

Social studies is inherently tied to literacy, but cannot solely be taught through ELA modules and domains or any other literacy (reading/writing) program.

So...

We must look for times when social studies content, concepts, and/or skills line up with ELA and build off of that foundation to optimize student learning. We must also look for when the social studies curriculum isn’t covered by ELA and plan in an equally thoughtful way to cohesively address those gaps.

We know that...

Social studies must be part of regular instruction at all grade levels.

So...

We must structure our short and long-range plans to incorporate social studies content, concepts, and skills in an integrated and cohesive way – not just a “sprinkle” of content here and there.

We know that...

Local curriculum maps and the NYS K-12 Social Studies Framework define what social studies content, concepts, and skills should be taught at each grade level. Textbooks do not dictate instructional progressions.

So...

We must use authentic sources, documents, and artifacts to engage students in learning about the required curriculum at the grade levels we teach.

We know that...

We are responsible for implementing instruction aimed to satisfy the requirements of both the Next Generation ELA standards and the NYS K-12 Social Studies Framework.

So...

We must be sure that we plan instruction that touches on each aspect of our report card indicators during every 10-week marking period. Our report card indicators are aligned with NYS Standards.

HOW ARE OUR NYS SOCIAL STUDIES LEARNING STANDARDS TIED TO OUR REPORT CARD INDICATORS?

We most often work with four major disciplines in social studies: history, geography, government, and economics. Our elementary report card indicators for social studies tie directly to these disciplines and to the practices listed in our NYS K-12 Social Studies Framework as follows. While there may be a particular focus area or emphasis in class depending on the time of year, we should be planning learning experiences that touch on, and we should be issuing a grade for, each of the report card indicators every marking period.

Doing Social Studies IS Teaching Literacy...

Authentic social studies instruction is inherently based on a foundation of literacy. The only way to engage in learning new content, make meaning of broad concepts, or develop specific social studies skills is to employ the skills outlined in the Common Core standards for literacy (reading, writing, listening, etc.). Likewise, the only ways to demonstrate true understanding or mastery is through Next Generation literacy skills (speaking, presenting, writing, creating, etc.).

...but Teaching Literacy is Not Always Doing Social Studies

While “Doing Social Studies” is inherently an exercise in critical literacy, we must remember that engaging students in literacy instruction does not mean we are engaging them in true social studies. For instance, we could be reading about the United States Constitution for information (content-based), but if we’re only reading for comprehension, we cannot call that social studies. If we take that content about the Constitution and discuss it in context of the time it was written or an event today (the social studies skill of contextualization or perspective-taking), or link that content to big ideas like government or human rights (social studies concepts), then we are really “Doing Social Studies”.

The Structure of Social Studies Curriculum

The New York State K-12 Social Studies Framework defines the concepts, content, and skills that should be the focus of our work with students. This curriculum spirals up through the grade levels, asking students to engage in more complex thinking as they progress through their school careers. The repetition of particular content and concepts is intentional. As students become more sophisticated learners, they examine our past and present in a multifaceted way, looking at events using multiple perspectives and viewpoints. Many core concepts are revisited throughout the years while specific content varies at each grade level. The New York State Social Studies Curriculum is sequenced as follows:

  • Grade 12: Participation in Government and Economics, the Enterprise System, & Finance
  • Grade 11: US History and Government
  • Grade 10: Global History and Geography II
  • Grade 9: Global History and Geography I
  • Grade 8: History of the United States and New York II
  • Grade 7: History of the United States and New York I
  • Grade 6: The Eastern Hemisphere
  • Grade 5: The Western Hemisphere
  • Grade 4: Local History and Local Government
  • Grade 3: Communities Around the World
  • Grade 2: My Community and Other Communities
  • Grade 1: My Family and Other Families, Now and Long Ago
  • Kindergarten: Self & Others

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