Thursday, September 07, 2006


My 6th grader said the following today after doing her homework: "You know why social studies is boring? You learn the same thing every year."

This is why I believe that elementary schools should concentrate on the basics and ease up on the social studies and science, except as part of reading. Kids at that age just dont grasp the concepts and certainly don't remember the stuff. I am not saying don't expose them to it, but make it part of the reading or math lessons and don't concentrate on it as much. When they get to Middle school hopefully they will be more proficient at reading and math, and will more likely to truly "get" and appreciate the sciences.


elementaryhistoryteacher said...

While it's true that a core of basic skills exist that repeat each year your children should be studying different things each year. I am not familiar with the standards for South Carolina, but here in Georgia we have recently updated our curriculum and it goes into effect next year. Our fourth and fifth graders study American History. I cover the Ancient Indians through the build up to the Civil War. Fifth Grade picks the Civil War and attempts to make it through the 70s at least. Sixth and Seventh graders study world geography along with world cultures and history. Eighth graders study state history. Once in high school students spend each year focusing on American History, World History, Government, and Economics.

While I sometimes feel a few of my concepts are way beyond the ken of a 9 year old I believe the introduction of these topics is appropriate. Any elementary social studies teacher who is worth a grain of salt will utilize language arts standards to help them teach social studies. In my class I teach students the features of textbooks and how to use them as tools for learning. Sometimes this is boring but it is a necessary skill that is beneficial for all academic areas. I know I've done my job when little Johnny or Sue gets excited about locating an answer in the text.

I'm sorry your daughter is bored. If she has a teacher who simple reads the text and answers questions I don't blame her. However, I doubt she's having the same curriculum over and over....more than likely it's the tedium of skills being repeated over and over. Most youngsters don't know the difference.

I suggest getting your hands on a copy of the standards for sixth grade and see if you could motivate her by visiting some local sites. Afterall, it would appear from the location you list that you are in the hotbed of the Confederacy. Sometimes these types of things can helps students see why they need to read a map, draw a map, make generalizations, and research a president. :)

Dennis Fermoyle said...

Rory, I don't mean to slam your kids' teachers, because I have no idea how good a job they do (or don't do). I will say this, however: I've read some of EHT's history posts, and I would have loved to have her teaching her stuff to my kids when they were elementary school age. I can't imagine any kid calling what she does "boring."

rory said...

Dennis... you are so right. I love eht's blog... and she sounds like an awesome teacher.

Princess of the Portable said...

Late to the party and all that...I followed a link from Dennis' blog. I am a sixth grade history teacher in the fine state of Virginia. I too enjoy EHT's posts, but I'm going to disagree with her assertion that the kids must be learning something different each year. In the state of Virginia students learn about Jamestown (and other things, but this takes on a life of its own) in second grade. In third grade they delve into some random world history with Mali, Egypt & China. This is the last they see of anything non-US until the 9th grade. In fourth grade in my district, mostly having to do with shoddy administration, the kids learn anything their teachers want them to rather than the curriculum they should be teaching. With more than 5 different schools you never know exactly what the kids learned the year before, except that it has to do with VA and/or US history. In fifth grade, they learn VA history. In sixth, they learn US history through 1877. In seventh, US history from 1877 to the present. In eighth economics & civics.

Kids, especially the ones who learned the information the first time, come to me bored out of their minds by history. While I'm not sure I'd advocate tossing out history all together, I would like to see more of a back to basics approach taken. Let's start with simple geography. Too many kids can't even tell me what continent they live on - in the sixth grade!

Ms. Q said...

Here is what I would love, being the high school US History teacher I am:
1. Students come to me with a basic understanding of geography skills.
2. Students come to me having a background in the basic chronology of US History, which could be accomplished in middle school.
3. Students come to me knowing basic facts and people.
My current students have never taken a geography class. Most of my students do not know the basic cultural history, like George Washington leading the Am Rev or Martin Luther King's fight for equality. They have many misconceptions, due to their constant watching of media programming that is not historically accurate and any teacher will tell you it is harder to unteach incorrect info than it is to teach something brand new.

Sara R said...

If your 6th grader wants to know why in social studies they learn the same thing year after year, blame the progressive education reformers of the early 20th century. Before then, there was no such thing as social studies. It was history and geography.

The theory was that kids aren't capable of learning about things from far away times and places. It is true that kids don't have a firm grasp of time, but kids can understand and love stories. They love learning about mummies and castles. Last week I helped out in my dd's 1st grade class. Some kids were getting in trouble, so I started teaching them about the nearby globe to keep them engaged. I pointed out our state, the different oceans, continents, where Santa Claus lives, where the penguins live, and so on. One kid was especially intrigued that Mount Everest was the tallest mountain in the world. They can learn it at that young age, and it's way more interesting than learning about the mailman each year from preschool through 3rd grade.

For more information, check out Diane Ravitch's Left Back: A Century of Failed School Reforms. For an alternative, some homeschoolers (who follow The Well Trained Mind) teach history chronologically over a 4 year cycle, 3 times between grades 1 and 12, in greater depth each time. World history is way too much to cover in just one year.