This afternoon I had the pleasure of teaching a social studies lesson to my fourth graders. I like social studies. I like history, geography, civics, economics, and all that fun stuff. Well, at least on a fourth grade level.
I do especially enjoy history, though. I actually majored in it in college. American Social History around the turn of the century, to be exact. Of course, at that time, we didn’t say WHICH century. Yes, I’m that old. I’m fascinated by the advent of industrialization and how it affected social structures. I have an interest in the development of child labor laws, and I could go on and on about Jane Addams and Hull House. And don’t even get me started on public education, that’s a whole day, at least!
In my experience my students have always loved history too. They just need good story tellers to keep them engaged. Today, I was lucky. Today I had a good story to tell. I started with the Mexican American War and ended with the Gadsden Purchase. In half an hour. Yep, it was quick.
I’ve taught this lesson before, but today it was different. Today my brilliant colleagues handed me a Thinking Map that they had created on Friday while I was jet setting. It was a flow map (sequencing the events) with a few multi-flow areas (explaining causes and effects) thrown in for good measure. It was GENIUS! I was immediately taken by it, and couldn’t wait to use it with the kids.
Off we went with our social studies text, on which I elaborated as necessary. Every few minutes we added more information to our maps. Sometimes we discussed causes of events, and put them in their appropriate spaces, other times it was effects that we analyzed and noted. The kids were even more into the lesson than usual, and they really started to GET it. The information was organized in such a way that it was visual and really made sense to them.
What a delight for a teacher to really feel like her students are not only grasping new material, but are excited about their learning. I’m so thankful to my colleagues for developing and sharing this way of organizing the material. It turns out that even history can be made brand new.