Social Studies Unit #1: Countries Around the World, Starting with Our Country

This first unit in Social Studies is meant to launch our students into a year of studying what it is like in far-off places and what makes life different in one place and another. Eventually, we will expand our research to answer the question, “How do geography, culture, and natural resources shape how people live their lives in diverse parts of this world?” but during this first unit we will keep our work close to home.

Our students will begin this unit by thinking about the country where they live to bring to the forefront of their minds the ways of life and the land they know best. They will also begin to develope the skills needed to be a researcher. During this unit, they will focus on ways to take and organize different kinds of notes for various sources.

The Unit is broken down into three parts. The first part focuses on the students making sense of all that they already know about their lives and the country they live in. Through the mode of questioning, they will discuss and research in books, information about a place they’ve been before. They will begin to develop their own ways to take and organize notes, while also begin to develop an understanding of different types of maps that can help them in their research.

The second part of the unit supports the students in the work of revisiting information and layering on new information. The will meet in groups to put together all that they know about a shared place and talk through differences to come to a consensus. The will create one master set of notes about this place guided by the question, “What is life like in this part of the U.S.?” We will also begin to examine maps more closely pondering how different maps can help us better understand different aspects of life in one place.

In the final part of the Unit our students will be forming new groups to support them in growing ideas about not just a particular place, but a region. This will move them towards making generalizations about their place through small group discussions by agreeing, disagreeing, adding onto others’ ideas, using specific vocabulary related to their place, and ultimately growing ideas together. To wrap up and support them in synthesizing their ideas, we will go out into the school and share what we have learned, both about ourselves as a researchers and about the country in which we live, with others.

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