Monday, July 11, 2011

Social Studies Notebooking - 4th Grade

 When I moved to 4th grade, I was extremely excited.  Finally, I would be teaching a SS curriculum that made sense!  If you have ever taught primary grades, you know the topics covered tend to be vague - communities, holidays, citizenship. In NC (and most states I've learned), 4th grade is when students begin learning about the history of their state. To me, this made it perfect for interactive notebooking.

My first year in 4th grade, I followed the textbook. And quickly got frustrated.  Our textbook covers NC history by covering the 3 regions: Coastal Plain, Piedmont, and Mountains.  So we learned about the past and the present of each region. That means we discussed the American Revolution, Civil War, and other topics 3 times in varying amounts of detail.  In the end, I didn't feel like my kids had a sense of the chronological story of our state. I vowed to spend my summer doing something about it.

So I did my research and found this: North Carolina History: A Digital Textbook.  This is meant for 8th graders - but it worked great for my purposes. I used their time periods and reorganized my 4th grade textbook chronologically. It took going down to page level - because some lessons had a huge span on a time line - what were the textbook developers thinking?!  This is what my plan looked like:
This reflects the revisions I made at the end of the 2010-2011 school year. I went ahead and included my Science curriculum too, so I can make sure it gets done.  I love this SS so much that I'd spend an hour a day on it and never do Science.

My next step was to revise my expectations for our notebooks.  My first year, I started with the typical notebooking idea of, "left for student reflection, right for teacher info."  This quickly fell apart, as my students just didn't have the maturity or skills necessary to really use the left side for reflection and interpretation.  Another part that did not work was keeping a table of contents.  I abandoned this idea after students lost valuable class days trying to catch up.  It just wasn't worth the effort.

We had a good title page and then started straight in on our first topic - Geography, Government, Regions, and Symbols.  We flowed through the year, doing different activities (you can see some in the slideshow below.)  I really tried to focus on how NC History fits into American History.  We spent a lot of time on landmark events like first explorers, the American Revolution, Westward Expansion, the Civil War, and the 1900's technological marvels.  The pacing didn't work quite as I wanted - I ended up rushing through the last several chunks as centers.  Next year I'll be able to pace things out differently.

Social Studies Notebook - 4th Grade on PhotoPeach

So, where do I go from here? Well, I made unit plans for each unit on my main document.  I've gone through my resources and the classroom library to find activities and literature to support each unit. I'm going to rely less on the textbook and more on the digital textbook, primary sources, and authentic literature.  I've tried to find lapbooking resources (another post on another day!) to go with the literature and the general American History topics. I've gathered Internet sites and sources into my unit plans as well.  It is amazing what is out there - if you just go look!  So I feel well prepared for another year of SS notebooking - all I need are some students!

Have you used interactive notebooks? Do you teach SS (as opposed to teaching other subjects)? What strategies do you use to make sure they are engaged and learning the content?