• Note:  Your students study social studies and science every other week (alternating weeks).

    September

    Weeks 1 & 2 -- We explored our new social studies program online.  We do not have the hard copies of our program yet, but luckily everything is also available online.  The link is on my website

    Each child identified something that they are excited to learn about in social studies, and they created a picture on a caravel ship to depict their interest.  These are hanging inside and outside our classroom now! 

    We then began our civics unit with a voting simulation.  The children had to vote on a class mascot.  Children nominated an animal as a mascot, someone had to second it, and then the child who nominated it had to persuade the class to adopt it.  We then took a vote.  To win, a mascot had to earn 9 of the 13 votes from our 13 voting groups.  We repeated the procedure multiple times, but we never got to a winner.  This served as an excellent introduction to one of the many weaknesses of the Articles of Confederation, our first written plan of government.  We then read about the Articles of Confederation and took notes on their strengths and weaknesses.  We worked on pulling information from the text to complete our notes, and the kids did a great job!

     

    Week 3 & 4 --  We started the week by learning about Shays' Rebellion and how it led to the formation of the Constitutional Convention.  I also introduced the lesson vocabulary to the students, and they did various online activities to reinforce the definitions of the vocabulary words. 

    We discussed the Constitutional Convention and how the delegates formed a federal system.  We looked at three big compromises that were made during the convention in order to move forward the process of writing the Constitution (the Great Compromise, the 3/5 Compromise, and the Electoral College Compromise).  We discussed at length how the 3/5 Compromise meant, sadly, that slavery was actually recognized in the Constitution.  We also talked about the concept of compromise in general, and the kids shared (verbally and in writing) how they have arrived at compromises in their own lives. 

    We then moved on to a look at how the Constitution set up the three branches of government.  We learned about the powers of each branch. We did this by reading articles about each branch and learning to highlight important information in the articles before taking notes.  We ended the week with a study of checks and balances.  The kids watched video clips of different newsworthy or historical events and identified which "check" was demonstrated in each video.

     

    October

    Weeks 1 & 2  -- We started the week looking at how a bill becomes a law, and of course, we watched and sang the old Schoolhouse Rock cartoon/song, "I'm Just a Bill."  We viewed a slideshow that I created about the process of making a law, and then we took notes.  During the remainder of the week, we studied the Bill of Rights.  We did a really interesting simulation where the students were presented with a "new school" that they were going to attend, and it had eight very unfair rules (which connected to some of the amendments in the Bill of Rights, but they didn't know).  We discussed what was unfair about each rule and what the kids could do about the rules.  They were very angry about the fact that they did not have the right to speak freely and protest the rules!  Later, we began a look at the history behind the Bill of Rights, and we then read about and discussed the various amendments.  This week, I printed pages out for the students (we still don't have our books), so that they could learn how to highlight important information in the text.  We started working on a brief graphic organizer for each of the ten amendments.  I am excited for our next week in social studies when the students will be working on short skits to illustrate the various amendments in the Bill of Rights! 

    Note:  We also finished the week with our first social studies assessment on the Constitution. I typically hand out study guides to the students four days to about a week ahead of time, and I post them on my website.  I also send an email to parents on the day that I announce the test to the students.  We discuss in class what a good study schedule looks like, and I give the students a chance during W.I.N. period to come see me to help clear up any confusion they might have prior to the assessment. I hope this helps them to develop good study skills this year! 

    Weeks 3 & 4 -- The students worked in groups to perform minidramas about amendments in the Bill of Rights.  They were assigned a scenario that they had to write a brief script for, and then they had to show how the Bill of Rights acted as a shield for the main character in their dramas.  I even gave them shields to hold up as they acted out their skits!  

    The remainder of the lessons were devoted to the ideas of participation in our communities, democratic responsibilities, and civic values.  We started by viewing short video clips of problems, such as pollution, poverty, poor air quality, and senior citizen loneliness, and we discussed, as a class, how students and community members could help with these problems.  The students then worked with partners to come up with two problems affecting one of their communities (Berkeley Heights or Mountain Park), and they identified possible solutions to these problems as well.  Our next two lessons involved having the students work in groups to read articles, highlight important information in them, and take notes for presentations to the class.  The articles covered the following topics: the need for laws, education, participation in our government and communities, working together, and civic values.  After the presentations (which were done really well), we took notes on the key ideas presented, using an outline form.  We ended the week with a short group project.  I presented the students with eight different community problems and links to sources they could use to research them.  Their groups had to choose one problem, write questions about it that they could research, review the sources for research, and propose a solution.  Interestingly, many of the students were fascinated by the spotted lanternfly problem we are having in our area!

     

    November

    We spent the early part of the month focusing on Election Day and on presidential elections.  We discussed why voting is both a right and a privilege, and we identified the requirements for voting in an election.  We also looked at the requirements that a person must meet in order to run for president.  We played a really entertaining game, where I showed the kids pictures and statistics for people like Taylor Swift, Arnold Schwarzenegger, and Michael Jordan, and the kids had to decide if these people could become president.  (Only Michael Jordan can!)  The students also filled out voter registration documents so that they could vote in our MP gubernatorial election on Tuesday, November 2. Our next lesson involved looking at the steps that are taken before a presidential election.  We called it "How to Become President," and the students learned about primaries, caucuses, conventions, and campaigning.  Finally, we studied the Electoral College and looked at a simplified example of an election to show how somebody could win the Electoral College (and therefore the presidency) but lose the popular vote.  

    We then moved on to our lessons about how the Founding Fathers created the economy we use today.  We began by looking at the definition of a free market economy and how it differed from the mercantile economies of Europe in the 1700s.  We learned about important concepts in a free market economy, including goods and services, consumers and producers, and supply and demand.  We examined how supply and demand affect prices in a free market economy.  We then studied how the Founding Fathers created our free market economy as they wrote the Constitution.  In particular, we examined Hamilton and Jefferson's differing opinions about how much the government should be involved in the economy, with a focus on taxes and the national bank.  We then moved on to a look at the roles of the Department of Treasury (makes currency, borrows money in the name of the government, collects taxes) and at how our government can make laws about trade between states and with other countries (tariffs).