UDL and Social Studies

What it means to me.

What is Social Studies?

Social studies is the study of the human society and everything that makes up our past and present. The scope of this includes history, cultures, geography, stories, relationships, struggles, triumphs, civics and much, much more. Social Studies is also how we interpret these stories, these facts and the all information left behind. We study all of this so we can remain good citizens of a very diverse world.
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Social Studies Philosophy

The importance of Social Studies will be obvious in my classroom. I will use maps, pictures, posters, brochures, books and other visual references that will be either on bulletin boards or readily accessible in the classroom library. UDL (A universal design for learning) will play a huge role in my classroom and the way I teach my students. Because I know that no two students learn the same way, it will be my mission to teach in all the ways I can effectively reach my students so that they are not only engaged but retaining the information being taught. Instead of a one-size-fits-all approach from days past, my lesson plans and assessments will be created with all my student's needs in mind.

While today's teachers are finding less and less time to incorporate social studies, I will make it a priority because if we as teachers don't, the subject may eventually be lost forever. Students need to understand how important our past is and I know if I can't consistently make time for Social Studies alone, I will incorporate it in other areas of teaching such as reading and writing. Today's students need social studies taught effectively so they learn to love discovering what brought us to where we are today.
I will share my childhood social studies experiences with my students and explain that my teachers were not able to make learning about our world's history and cultures fun or exciting. My goal is to get them excited about all that they'll learn and try my best to teach so that they never forget. I hope my students look back and fondly remember Mrs. Yates' social studies class.

What am I teaching?

Grade 1 - Geography
A. Using Geographic tools


  • 1. Use geographic tools to locate and describe places on Earth


d. Define map elements as parts of a map that make it easy to use

e. Describe where places are located on a map using relative distance and direction, such as near-far, above-below and cardinal directions (north, south, east, and west).

Why is this concept or skill important/relevant? How does it impact our society and world?

The concepts and skills behind being able to read a map are vital for young children. Maps are not limited to the geography of our country or our world. Maps are found everywhere and understanding how to read them is a critical part of literacy.

Understanding maps helps to build spatial sense and visual literacy and these skills are very relevant in our daily lives. As a society, we should all have a general understanding of how to read a map be it a physical geography map, a map of a building, map of a cruise ship or a map of an amusement park.

What are the BIG ideas and essential questions for teaching this?

Big Ideas:

Literacy and Spatial Reasoning

Essential Questions:

Why is understanding how to read maps important?

How do maps provide information about people, places and physical environments?

What methods will you incorporate as you teach this concept/topic/skill?

Think-Pair-Share: Students will be given several different types of maps to review. The students will be asked to identify the similarities between all the maps. Then, when grouped with their partner, the two will compile a list that they believe are the essential elements of a map. Each pair will share with the class, and the class will collaboratively create a complete list of essential items needed on a proper map.

Games and Sports: To reinforce cardinal directions, the students will play "Simon Says" using the terms north, south, east, and west (which will be labeled on the classroom walls). Then, each student will be handed a laminated place-mat of a neighborhood. The teacher will use cardinal directions to direct the students to find a particular spot on the map.

Integrating Literature: The book, How to Make a Cherry Pie and See the U.S.A. will be read aloud to the class. As we read, we'll have to find all the places mentioned in the book. The students will have to describe where the location is on the classroom map using the correct terms of relative direction and distance from another place on the map. The student can't just say "Oh, Dallas is in Texas". They must properly describe that Dallas is, for example, southeast of California. The students will place pins in the map of every location mentioned in the book, signifying the route and each direction it took to get there.

Simulation: Students will be given a map of Hershey Park and asked to choose the ten rides or booths they would like to visit there. They would then need to plan the route they would take to go on each ride by describing the direction they would need to travel to each ride or booth. They would highlight their route on the map to accompany the specific directions they would write down as their route.

What technologies will you implement as you teach this?

Video on Cardinal Directions:

Maps and Cardinal Directions -Reading Maps for kids

As we begin to learn about cardinal directions, students will watch this short, animated video describing cardinal directions and various types of maps. This is the perfect introduction to the specific portion of the unit.

Uncle Sam's Farm:


This game will test the student's knowledge and understanding of the cardinal directions. It's a fun, engaging game that will help students who may be struggling with the concept and also will assess student knowledge in a fun way.

Map Game:


As a class, students can work together to use directional terms to describe where the state goes. Whether they know exactly where the state is in the US or they're just able to figure out where the state goes based on its shape, they'll need to direct the teacher where to place the state using proper directional terminology .


Cox, Janelle. (7/2014) Map Skills Thematic Unit Plan for First Grade. Retrieved from

Geography for Kids. (7/2014) USA Map Match Game. Retrieved from http://www.kidsgeo.com/geography-games/united-states-america-map-game.php

Maps 101 (7/2014) Uncle Sam's Farm. Retrieved from http://www.maps101.com/static_items/games/uncle_sams_farm_cardinal2.php

Priceman, Marjorie. (2013). How to Make a Cherry Pie and See the USA. Decorah, IA: Dragonfly Books.

Schell, E., & Fisher, D. (2007) Teaching social studies: A literacy-based approach. Upper Saddle River, NJ: Pearson Merrill Prentice Hall.

State of Maryland (2014) Using the State Curriculum: Social Studies, Grade 1 Retrieved from http://mdk12.org/instruction/curriculum/social_studies/standard3/grade1.html

Youtube (7/2014) Maps and Cardinal Directions. Retrieved from https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=5IpdjyD_uPo