With the American curriculum being “a mile wide and an inch deep,” it is often difficult to make our topics relevant and interesting. I feel that I am constantly playing catch-up, running just a bit ahead of the curriculum in order to keep up. Such is the case with my upcoming unit, which I am simultaneously planning and beginning teaching. Bad teacher award goes to me.
It’s not that I have been putting it off, it is more so that I just haven’t known quite how to start it, and make it relevant to kids. Many of them asked today, “Why is this important?” I generally welcome these types of questions and do not see them as defiant. My answer today was, “Trust me, you’ll see.”
That was not a lie, but it was also not a good answer. I do think it is imperative that our children are aware of the country they live in. Do I think they need to know the state bird of Nebraska? Hell. No. In fact, I’d prefer they didn’t waste their time with that nonsense. However, do I think they should know how our country was built? Do I think they should know primary industries in various regions and how those play a role in the inner workings of the United States? You bet I do.
My Continental Conundrum
Herein lies the problem. My social studies time is rather limited, and I am in the midst of a fiction unit, trying to make up for a year heavy in informational text–not to mention that teaching tone and characterization is going really well, and I do NOT want to lose steam. Last time I taught the regions of the United States, I was “green,” as my principal would say, and I had not let go of my idealistic views of what teaching was. In 2011, I led the kids on a “road trip” throughout the United States. They chose sites they wanted to visit along the way, and babbled out seemingly useless facts about monuments and wacky sites that they have, most likely, since forgotten.
Authentic? Maybe sorta kinda. Useful? Never.
I’m trying to take a different approach this time, but I’m having trouble making this comprehensible to kids in the little time that I have. It’s not easy content, but I know once they see its relevance they will be hooked. I’ve downloaded a few apps, and here’s what I’ve come up with. I strongly welcome comments and suggestions.
Using History as a Conduit for Relevance
I’d like to take them through the regions by using our nation’s history. I wanted to start by briefly looking into the start of our nation, examining accounts of the first settlers and their reasons for leaving their homes. Then, I’d like to give an introduction to colonies, and slowly, but surely, work our way through each region, making it all the way to the West, meanwhile examining the key features of each region, and the ways in which the people utilize those resources.
It seems pretty cut and dry, but it is anything but that. As I’ve started to do more and more research, I’ve started to realize how interdependent each of these regions is. Coincidentally, this is the outcome we are going for, but I don’t know how to structure it so that kids will start to see that authentically. It is fascinating to look at immigration records in order to see when groups of people immigrated to the United States, but those timelines do not necessarily match up with specific regions’ timelines.
My brain hurts. I’m going to bed.