We study History in my classroom. This is because I don’t know what “Social Studies” means. This year we are starting with Alexander the Great and moving towards the Renaissance. I’m very fortunate that I don’t have a boss or a curriculum which dictates to me how fast we go. This is important because to “do” history, you really need time. What is most fascinating to me is how history is recorded. It takes a deal of understanding about propaganda, bias, ego, and world languages. History is not only written by the victor, but by the conquered (if you are lucky), in the dirt, in the religions, and sometimes in the genetics. You have to separate out the theology, the science, and the mythology. I find it exhilarating.
We always start the year with world maps. Students are given a blank piece of 11 by 17 paper, a pencil, and a rubric. They go to a window where a blank map of the world is taped up and they trace it. Then they use various atlases and maps to fill in what is needed.
Students have to reconcile the different shapes, sizes, and features of different maps. They learn to use latitude and longitude to find a precise point. They learn that some maps spell the names of things differently. They learn that if they are sloppy, they make mistakes. Some of them learn what a proper noun is. All this takes about a week to accomplish. The map then lives in their History Binder, because we will use it as a resource during the year.