The adventures of a fourth grade teacher in East Central Illinois.


The fourth grade social studies curriculum states that students will be able to identify key people and events in United States, Illinois, and local history, particularly from the period of pre-Columbus up to the Civil War. (Actual U.S. history relating to the Civil War is taught in fifth grade.) We recently finished our first social studies unit on the early European explorers, so my teaching partner and I have been making plans for the next unit, which will be the colonial America period.

In making these plans, a discussion of American geography came up. I spoke with the teachers in third and fifth grade and discovered that all three grade levels agreed: very few of our students have a working knowledge of the geography of our nation. And if we are going to be talking about places outside our own local community, it is helpful for the students to have an idea of where these places are. In order to gauge their knowledge, we (the fourth grade teachers) decided to give each student a blank outline map of the United States of America and a list of the fifty states. We directed the student’s to label as many of the states as they knew.

Glancing through the responses, it is clear to me that we need to spend more time on U.S. geography. I am not planning on devoting huge swaths of time each day to this, but I am going to work with my fellow fourth grade teacher to create some meaningful activities and lessons that will help the students have a better working knowledge of the geography of our nation. We will work with our classes on this subject for the next couple of weeks, with the plan that we will be able to dive into the colonial period after the winter break. And, by the way, if you happen to have any suggestions or know of any good resources, I’d be happy to look at them!



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