Saturday, June 30, 2012

How do Science and Social Studies work with the Common Core?

So, I think all of us have interesting stories about what brought us to blogging.  It might be a blog you stumbled across, a Facebook page, or even a comment by a coworker.  I found the teacher blogger world through Laura Candler’s Facebook page.  I had used her website for a long time and started following her Facebook page and getting her newsletter. Gradually, I found bloggers who posted on her site and started exploring.  (I actually think this would be a super fun linky to see everyone’s story about what brought them to blogging.)  So far, I love blog-stalking and sharing ideas.  It’s like one huge, continuous conversation amongst lots of verbal and creative people.  This might be another interesting survey/topic: What types of learning styles are drawn to blogging?

Okay, I will come back around to a point.  I read and researched blogs for a while before jumping in.  I am very much a detail-oriented person, but I like a big picture first.  As a teacher, one of my greatest areas of frustration was teaching Social Studies.  I love History and my favorite genre of Literature is Historical Fiction.  However, I struggled to teach History in a way that was meaningful.  I incorporated a lot of Historical Fiction and texts into English. 

Often, I think Science and Social Studies do get left out or taught mainly as whole-group lessons once to three times a week depending on your schedule.  From what I can tell, the Common Core Standards focus on Math and English with reference to Literacy in Science, Social Studies, and Technical Subjects.  After that, are most of you following state standards for Science and Social Studies?  Here in Texas, we have the TEKS and the Texas standards are extremely detailed for every possible subject under the sun. I think there are so many great resources right now to differentiate English (like Daily 5 and Guided Reading) and Math (like Clutter Free Classroom’s Management Board that looks amazing).
Fifth Grade usually is U.S. History, and I struggled to find great resources and fun activities for teaching U.S. History.  I found most of my students lacked a thorough understanding of geography and natural resources.  You have to understand geography and natural resources fairly well to understand how various explorers/settlers responded to a new terrain.  I guess I’m just curious how others teach Science and Social Studies in authentic ways.  To respond to literacy in these subjects, note-taking and graphic organizers are great.  I really wanted to teach History with a project-based learning approach; I just felt sometimes I lacked the time to do it properly. 

You could have students each take an aspect of a period and research it and then present on the topics.  When I tried this though, it didn’t work as well as it looks in the professional development videos.  My students usually didn’t remember anything from other people’s presentations even if they took notes.  Some of this comes back around to they need better speaking skills.  Honestly, I have learned more history probably through Historical Fiction than anything else.  I found this to be a very successful method with my students as well.  It helped them better understand the challenges people faced in different periods and circumstances.  The History feels more alive.  United Streaming has some great videos.  Scholastic has some great e-books, especially during the dollar days. 

I am curious how others are approaching Science and Social Studies with the Common Core and what types of resources they are looking for.  Are you looking for note-taking skills resources, graphic organizers, Historical fiction suggestions, nonfiction suggestions, lesson ideas, project ideas, informational text handouts you could just copy and hand out, etc.?

I decided to start blogging and creating TpT products because I wanted to create meaningful Social Studies resources for the Elementary level. That’s another challenge: you start looking for books or resources and they are too mature for a 10 year old.
One of the things I wanted and never really found a good source for other than Edhelper was short informational text passages on various topics to hand out to the kids.  Sometimes when you only have Social Studies a couple times a week you don’t have enough time to get through a 5-8 page lesson in a text-book and discuss/answer questions/do an activity.  I wanted something shorter we could read, discuss, and then do a fun activity with.  Maybe, what I am trying to say is I felt at the Elementary level sometimes the information needed to be broken into smaller chunks.  There are great resources out there to do fun activities and projects.  My question was always, how do they do the project when I can’t find the right videos or text to present all the information?  In all my spare time as a teacher (spare time, huh, what’s that?), I didn’t get all these wonderful handouts created though. Would you be interested in having informational text passages on specific topics with questions/activities/vocabulary to go with them?  What topics do you struggle the most to teach?

Actually, one great resource is the whole series on “You Wouldn’t Want to Be…”   They are funny, and usually somewhat gross.  The kids remember lots of details.  It focuses on all the worst parts of a period of History, which inadvertently teaches kids about the challenges of the period.  I might actually start with making activities to go with the books in these series as a good starting point.  There are some great graphic novels, too, on Biographies and wars if you can find them at the library. 

Maybe, I will do a weekly blog series with Science and Social Studies text suggestions.  Would you rather have text suggestions by topic or by type of book? Like one week do graphic novels, one week do Historical Fiction, one week do informational texts, one week do picture books, etc?  Or one week suggest books on the Civil War or inventors, etc.?  Maybe, I'll start with the “You Wouldn’t Want to Be…”   series.  Anyway,  if you have been reading my rambling thoughts on thic topic, welcome to my brain.


  1. The toughest part of teaching Science and Social Studies is meeting all of the state standards. Sometimes it becomes difficult to use project-based learning and still feel like you have covered every standard. I used a lot of UnitedStreaming videos, picture books and the idea of notebooking (creating a response to what was learned on the left side page of the notebook). To me, you have to do a combination of a lot of things to meet all of the standards. Ahhhhhh....standards. Bleh!


    Fun in Room 4B

  2. I LOVE this post! You must have been inside my brain. I brought home my social studies TE to work on this summer because I despise it! I want to make it better. But I am totally stumped. I love the idea of "You Wouldn't Want To Be.." series as a way to kick start the curriculum.
    Bright Concepts 4 Teachers

  3. This is a great post! Social Studies is my 2nd favorite subject after Reading, so I try to integrate the 2 as much as I can. I only have 70 minutes of SS a week, and even that gets cut down if we are doing something else. I would love to see you post lessons using trade books, this would really help with both reading and SS. I have found that students respond very well when they are given a story at their level to help them fit the idea into what it means for them.

    Faithful in First

  4. Great post. Just wanted to let you know that I awarded you 2 awards. Stop by my blog to check it out!

    Success in Second Grade

  5. That would be awesome! Normally, regions and state history are taught in 4th grade up here, but I was told that I would also be teaching Early US history (up to the American Revolution/just after it). If you did a weekly series, by topic would be fun!

    :) Kaitlyn
    Smiles and Sunshine


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