A Guided Tour of the
Social Studies Framework for Grades K-5
Welcome! This is a quick guided tour of the Social Studies Framework for Grades K-5. It is intended to give you, the teacher, a foundation upon which to build or modify your curriculum in order to meet the expectations set by the New York State.
Consider this page your “home base.” As you continue to read, it will guide you to other documents to explore and consider. You will find links to the documents listed in order at the bottom of this page. If you are a “paper-person” feel free to print them out before you start! If you prefer to work on the computer, please note that any bold text below will take you directly to the identified page.
Let’s get started.
We will begin with the end in mind. It is important to note that the NYS Social Studies Standards have not changed. They are the same as they were in 1996. The purpose of the Framework is to help us move from a strict diet of facts and dates in traditional Social Studies instruction to a model that helps the students become critical thinkers as they consider the world around them. One way that we evaluate our success in this endeavor is through the Regents exams.
The Global Studies Regents exam will soon be changing, and the work you do at the elementary level will provide the foundation the students need to meet the new expectations. One of the foundational pieces for the new exams is called The Four Critical Claims. These are the four objectives that students are expected to meet.
Go to The Four Critical Claims document, read through them, and then answer the questions at the bottom of the page. When you are finished, return to this document. To help students better understand that Social Studies is about perspective the Frameworks have identified 10 Unifying Themes. Think of these as lenses through which we view the world. These themes are universal for grades K-12. In the primary grades students only focus on one theme at a time, but by Grade 4 they are asked to view Social Studies concepts through a few different lenses.
Take a moment to read through the Unifying Themes, then return here.
Consider: If you are teaching the “Colonial and Revolutionary Period in New York” in Grade 4, the identified Unifying Themes are
These might lead to questions (respectively) like
- Development, Movement, and Interaction of Cultures;
- Time, Continuity, and Change;
- Geography, Humans, and the Environment;
- Development and Transformation of Social Structures;
- and Power, Authority, and Governance.
- “How would growing up in the colonies be different from growing up in Britain?”;
- “How would the British view the American Revolution differently than the colonists?”;
- “How might the distance between Britain and the Americas have impacted the war?”;
- “Why might the colonists view British rule as ‘unfair’?”;
- and “How would the colonists’ proposed government be different from the one under British rule?”
This probably doesn’t look much different from the Social Studies you already teach. The big idea here is that we are consciously choosing to expose students to history through these lenses, rather than doing it through happenstance.
The Four Critical Claims and the Unifying Themes address some of the “big ideas” that need to be addressed in the changes being made in Social Studies education. But what about the nitty-gritty? What do I actually have to teach? To understand that, we have to understand the makeup of the Framework itself.
Below are links to a page that will help you understand how the frameworks are organized. Just click on the link that is appropriate for your grade level, take some time to understand the structure, and then come back to this document.
Kindergarten Framework Organization
Grade 1 Framework Organization
Grade 2 Framework Organization
Grade 3 Framework Organization
Grade 4 Framework Organization
Grade 5 Framework Organization
Now that you have an idea as to how the framework is structured, go ahead and take some time to look at the content you will be teaching by clicking on the appropriate link below. As you do so, consider the following questions. Don’t make any changes yet… we have some more learning to do first! Just start to get some ideas and jot down some notes to yourself.
- Is anything different from what I already teach? Do I need to add or remove items from my current curriculum?
- Can I tie any of this to other curricula in order to save time? Might some of these ideas blend with ELA or Character Education?
- Do I know enough about the material, or do I need to do some preparatory research?
Grade 1 Framework
Grade 2 Framework
Grade 3 Framework
Grade 4 Framework
Grade 5 Framework
Now that you have had a chance to review some of the content that needs to be addressed, we are going to take a look at some classroom considerations. That is, we need to consider what the instruction will look like in the classroom.
As you read through Transforming Social Studies Instruction from the NYS K-12 Social Studies Field Guide ask yourself the following questions:
Go ahead and read Transforming Social Studies Instruction and answer those questions. We’ll wait here.Our next steps involve the bridging elements that allow us to blend the content, the Critical Claims, the Unifying Themes, and big ideas related in the Transforming Social Studies Instruction text.
- Specifically, where am I already addressing these suggested changes in my classroom?
- Which ideas seem important for me to take on?
- Which ideas do I have concerns about? Who should I speak with about addressing those concerns? Who could help me resolve my concerns rather than simply commiserate with me?
If you have any contact with the mathematics standards, you are probably familiar with the eight (8) “Standards for Mathematical Practice.” The Framework identifies six (6) “Social Studies Practices.” Moreover, they break each of these very general concepts into specific elements for each of the grade levels. These six practices are a part of the curriculum. As you read through them, think about where they will naturally blend into content and instruction. Identify those that will require explicit instruction and those that should be taught through exploration. In short, although the six Social Studies Practices are important to include in the curriculum, they are NOT intended to be taught in a vacuum… they should be an integral part of the content instruction.
Below are links to the SSPs for each grade level. Select the link appropriate for your instruction and take some time perusing through them. Begin to make notes for yourself.
Kindergarten Social Studies Practices
Grade 1 Social Studies Practices
Grade 2 Social Studies Practices
Grade 3 Social Studies Practices
Grade 4 Social Studies Practices
Something to think about: It is possible, and maybe even preferred, to blend ELA and Social Studies.
Grades K-2 teachers should consider where they could supplement or supplant “Listening and Learning” materials from ELA with appropriate social studies materials.
Grades 3-4 teachers may consider where they can blend the social studies materials into reading and writing activities.
Grade 5 teachers… although the ELA standards for history only run from grades 6-12, the Framework very specifically asks that you take a close look at the grade 6 ELA for history standards and ensure that you are appropriately preparing the students for them.
On to the Inquiry Design Model (IDM) and questioning techniques… or as we call them “Inquiry with a capital I” and “inquiry with a lowercase i.”
New York State teachers helped design six Inquiry activities for each grade level, though you may create your own if you wish. Inquiries* delve deeper into a topic in order to improve analytical skills and interest. They are larger than a lesson but smaller than a unit. ONE or TWO a year is the recommendation… at least to get started.
“inquiry,” on the other hand, refers to the overall push in Social Studies to lean toward asking quality questions that guide student exploration and thinking. These may take some time to develop, but the information that kids learn through exploration and good questioning “sticks” better.
Take some time now to explore an Inquiry* or two. Which might you use?
*Special note: Click here to find Grade 5 Inquiries.
Finally, we have put together a short list of "Things to Consider" for each grade level. You may want to look through these before you begin to modify or develop your curriculum. And that’s it! At least for us. What remains for you is finding the time to use this information to develop your curriculum. Remember, the focus is to use content through a variety of lenses, using Social Studies Practices and quality questions (along with an Inquiry or two) to begin developing students who can address the tasks set in the Four Critical Claims.
If you would like to look at the sources for this material, please check under “Sources” below. In particular, you may want to check out the Vertical Articulations for the Social Studies Practices that can be found in the complete K-8 Social Studies Framework.
As always, we are available should you need additional support. Please contact Jonathan Cornue at 315.361.5544 or at firstname.lastname@example.org.