Social Studies - 4th Grade
Social Studies Core CurriculumLast updated: 2008
View New Online Course Resources
Elementary students are innately curious. They ask all sorts of questions: "How did people build those things?" or "Why can't countries seem to get along?" or even "How can I make a difference in the world?" One place they can find answers is in social studies: the study of the oral traditions, dances, artifacts, writings, and other aspects of culture that comprise the record of human life.
Effective social studies instruction in the elementary classroom encourages this inherent curiosity of young people. Yet social studies is intended to do more than spark curiosity. Social studies instruction also has a central overarching goal: to help young people develop civic competence, with the ability to make informed decisions for the public good.
Civic competence requires an awareness of self and others. Social studies provides the underpinnings for civic awareness and action, exposes the history and wonders of cultures, and through disciplines as varied as history, geography, and economics, provides multiple ways to interpret, analyze, and make sense of the world. Ideas and concepts central to the purpose of public education are also central to social studies, among them the notion of the common good, the value of self-rule and self-determination, the rights and responsibilities we humans share, and the interconnectedness of human endeavor. With their application of democratic processes, personal responsibility, and life skills, these students will be prepared to protect the freedoms guaranteed by our Constitution, improving their lives and the lives of all members of society. The elementary social studies core describes the essential elements necessary to reach this goal of civic competence for Utah students.
The creation of a core document for social studies must be a
community process, and this core reflects the best thinking and
committed work of a community of stakeholders who care deeply
about the educational success of Utah students. It was developed
by Utah social studies teachers, school district curriculum specialists, representatives from institutions of higher education,
State Office of Education specialists, and an advisory committee of
community members. The core also reflects the insights and input
from many teachers across Utah whose thoughtful responses to
surveys helped guide the document, as well as the best thinking
How the Core is Organized
The core is designed to help teachers organize and deliver instruction.
A Note on Indicators and the Use of the Latin terms e.g. and i.e.
e.g. means for example, and therefore the words or concepts that follow are examples to use when necessary to ensure student understanding
i.e. means that is, so when i.e. is used the words or concepts following i.e. are considered essential aspects of the indicator, extensions of the idea that must be included when teaching that indicator
Essential Goals Used in Developing the Elementary Social Studies Core:
Feasible and Essential
There are habits of the mind that, while not unique to social studies, can be strengthened and developed in a rigorous social studies classroom. For example, analysis of current issues, the taking and defending of a position, and being able to write about those positions in a clear and organized manner are skills that transcend a specific subject area.
In addition, while history is often the first discipline thought of when social studies is mentioned, social studies is inclusive of geography, economics, and multiple behavioral sciences. The core is designed to integrate these disciplines into a study of larger questions, rather than isolate specific skill development. For example, geographic skills are directly mentioned but in relation to their use in gaining an awareness or understanding, rather than merely for discrete skill development. Careful analysis of the core will show an attention to integrating history, civics, geography, economics, anthropology, and other behavioral sciences into the core standards, objectives, and indicators.
Committed to Student Success
An Overview of the Elementary Social Studies Core
The social studies core in grades three to six is essentially a modified "expanding environments" approach to social studies. This approach includes, each year, studies in history, geography, economics and civics that begins with third grades study of culture, the local community, and indigenous communities. In fourth grade students study the state, fifth grade the nation, and sixth grade the world. The core expectations deepen and expand as appropriate for each corresponding grade level.
Students must be able to demonstrate an understanding of overarching social studies concepts, but it is essential that a small number of clear outcomes for Utah students are delineated since social studies is such an immense field of study. After careful study of the civic purpose for social studies education, after analysis of the most important themes expressed by classroom teachers and community members, and after careful consideration of the ten themes* developed by the National Council for the Social Studies, as well as national standards in geography, history, and economics, four essential understandings became the framework upon which the
Utah core was built:
The core standards and objectives have been designed to revisit and reinforce these four essential understandings in every grade level. Students will be able to deepen their understanding of these concepts as they move from grade to grade and as their abilities to reason gain both depth and breadth.
When students enter the third grade, they will be introduced to the four essential understandings central to the social studies core, understandings that will recur in each of the succeeding years of elementary education. Students will learn about culture and community, focusing on their own local communitys heritage as well as learning about the cultures of indigenous communities. They will study the interrelationships between physical geography and cultural development. They will also learn about representative government and their own personal civic responsibility in the classroom, community, and country.
In the fourth grade, students will continue to focus on the four essential understandings and apply them to their study of Utah. History, geography, economics and civics are again the core disciplines in fourth grade. Students will learn about significant events in Utah history, noting how successive cultural interactions have shaped the story of Utah. Students will learn about the physical geography of Utah, and how the geography of Utah affects human life, including economic development. Fourth graders will also deepen their understanding of civics as they learn more about rights and responsibilities in Utah and how governments are organized in Utah.
United States studies is the focus in the fifth grade. Students will explore significant eras in United States history, eras that paint in broad terms some of the significant themes of the story of America. These eras are Exploration and Colonization, Beginnings of Self-Government, the Constitution and Bill of Rights, the Expansive 19th Century, and The United States on the World Stage.
In the sixth grade, the focus expands to look at world history and culture. Students will learn about selected regions of the world and the societies that have formed there, learning about their systems of governance, the rights and responsibilities they hold, how their societies have changed and continued over time, and how these regions are interconnected. Specific epochs of time include Ancient Civilizations, The Middle Ages and Renaissance, The Age of Revolutions, and The Modern World.
*The ten themes developed by the National Council for the Social Studies are:
These materials have been produced by and for the teachers of the State of Utah. Copies of these materials may be freely reproduced for teacher and classroom use. When distributing these materials, credit should be given to Utah State Office of Education. These materials may not be published, in whole or part, or in any other format, without the written permission of the Utah State Office of Education, 250 East 500 South, PO Box 144200, Salt Lake City, Utah 84114-4200.
For more information about this core curriculum, contact the USOE Specialist, Robert Austin or visit the Social Studies Home Page. For general questions about Utah's Core Curriculum, contact the USOE Curriculum Director, Sydnee Dickson . UEN Contact Info: 801-581-2999 | 800-866-5852 | Contact Us