Social Studies in Fourth Grade

Updated: January 23, 2020
This article describes what fourth graders will learn in their social studies class.
Table of contents

Social Studies in Fourth Grade

compass_four.gifWhat kids should already know
History and geography begin to become distinct fields of study in the fourth grade, although they should be linked whenever possible to what is being studied in language arts and in science. By fourth grade children know how to use several different kinds of maps. Further, they are able to use primary sources -- historical records, diaries, newspapers, and the like -- to enlarge their understanding of other people and other time periods; and they have had some experience interviewing their parents and grandparents about other times. These skills are enhanced during the intermediate grades as children continue to work with maps and primary documents, and make use of active inquiry around questions they pose.

At the same time, children are helped to frame historical questions in a more conceptual fashion: Why did that happen? What other possibilities were there? What were the effects? How do we know? How have things changed or stayed the same since then?

What kids should learn in Social Studies
The fourth grade curriculum concentrates on state history and geography, although American history is necessarily part of these studies. But in the best classrooms, the social studies curriculum also continues to follow world events. Furthermore, the teacher uses the children's interests as the springboard for investigations into people's origins in Europe, Africa, Asia, or Latin America. Social studies also expands children's knowledge and appreciation of the literature of legends, those mythical stories that have been handed down across the generations. Children in the intermediate and middle school years tend to be attracted to the mythic, and mythic stories can teach much about various peoples and cultures. Traditional stories about King Arthur, Merlin the magician, and the Round Table are just the beginning. Children can also read legends about Atlantis, El Dorado, Romulus and Remus, Zoroaster, Yahuar Huacac, and the Native American mythic and folk heroes.

State History
Regarding state history, children generally study such subjects as the geographic environment over time; glaciers and their effect on land forms (where appropriate); the Native American inhabitants and their ways of life; the European gentry; and the development of towns, cities, and governmental structures. Children will read biographies of people who lived in their state or influenced its history. Children will also make more visits to historical sites and museums, and they will make a variety of personal investigations that might involve interviewing family and community members about past events, visiting a county courthouse to see old records, and the like. Finally, teachers will encourage the children to read the daily newspaper, watch news on television, and talk regularly with their parents or guardians about local, state, national, and world events.

Reprinted from 101 Educational Conversations with Your 4th Grader by Vito Perrone, published by Chelsea House Publishers.
Copyright 1994 by Chelsea House Publishers, a division of Main Line Book Co. All rights reserved.