Social Studies Education in the Primary Grades

Social Studies Education in the Primary Grades

Why is Social Studies Education important? 

Kindergarten classes will eventually graduate college as citizens who live in a world characterized by a staggering volume of information, varying sets of values, and a growing interdependence among nations. However, children will not automatically become citizens when they graduate or reach voting age; they are citizens now, with rights, responsibilities, and a confusing array of choices before them. The abilities for making personally and socially productive decisions do not just happen. They require that the knowledge, skills, and attitudes of social studies be introduced early and built upon throughout the school years.


Marginalization of Social Studies Education in the Primary Grades  

  • Results from elementary school-level studies indicate that primary grades teachers (K-2) spend as little as 12 minutes a day on social studies instruction.
  • Many teachers find themselves compromising social studies instructional time in order to meet the demands of a restrictive curriculum.                                                
  • Social studies fails to stand alone as an important, time-worthy subject within the elementary curriculum.


Types of Social Studies Education

There are 4 strands of social studies education according to the Ohio Department of Education. These 4 strands are: History, Geography, Government, and Economics. For each strand, we have provided the standards grades K-3, background of the strand, and activities/lessons that correlate to that strand. 




Students use materials drawn from the diversity of human experience to analyze and interpret significant events, patterns and themes in the history of Ohio, the United States and the world. 



1. Time can be measured.

2. Personal history can be shared through stories and pictures.

3. Heritage is reflected through the arts, customs, traditions, family celebrations and language.

4. Nations are represented by symbols and practices. Symbols and practices of the United States include the American flag, Pledge of Allegiance and the National Anthem.

First Grade:

1. Time can be divided into categories (e.g., months of the year, past, present and future).

2. Photographs, letters, artifacts and books can be used to learn about the past.

3. The way basic human needs are met has changed over time.

Grade Two:

1. Time can be shown graphically on calendars and timelines.

2. Change over time can be shown with artifacts, maps, and photographs.

3. Science and technology have changed daily life.

4. Biographies can show how peoples’ actions have shaped the world in which we live.

Grade Three:

1. Events in local history can be shown on timelines organized by years, decades and centuries.

2. Primary sources such as artifacts, maps and photographs can be used to show change over time.

3. Local communities change over time.  


History Actvities/Lessons

Pinterest boards that contain useful history activites/lessons:

***See bottom of page for documents that contain history activities/lessons




Students use knowledge of geographic locations, patterns, and processes to show the interrelationship between the physical environment and human activity, and to explain the interactions that occur in an increasingly interdependent world. Students use knowledge of perspectives, practices, and products of cultural, ethnic, and social groups to analyze the impact of their commonality and diversity within local, national, regional, and global settings. 



1. Terms related to direction and distance, as well as symbols and landmarks, can be used to talk about the relative location of familiar places.

2. Models and maps represent places.

3. Humans depend on and impact the physical environment in order to supply food, clothing and shelter.

4. Individuals are unique but share common characteristics of multiple groups.

First Grade:

1. Maps can be used to locate and identify places.

2. Places are distinctive because of their physical characteristics (landforms
and bodies of water) and human characteristics (structures built by people).

3. Families interact with the physical environment differently in different times and places.

4. Diverse cultural practices address basic human needs in various ways and may change over time.

Second Grade:

1. Maps and their symbols can be interpreted to answer questions about location of places.

2. The work that people do is impacted by the distinctive human and physical characteristics in the place where they live.

3. Human activities alter the physical environment, both positively and negatively.

4. Cultures develop in unique ways, in part through the influence of the physical environment.

5. Interactions among cultures lead to sharing ways of life.

Third Grade:

1. Physical and political maps have distinctive characteristics and purposes. Places can be located on a map by using the title, key, alphanumeric grid and cardinal directions.

2. Daily life is influenced by the agriculture, industry and natural resources in different communities.

3. Evidence of human modification of the environment can be observed in the local community.

4. Systems of transportation and communication move people, products and ideas from place to place.

5. Communities may include diverse cultural groups. 


Geography Activities/Lessons

Pinterest boards that contain useful geogrpahy activities/lessons:

 ***See bottom of page for documents that contain geography activities/lessons




Students use knowledge of the purposes, structures, and processes of political systems at the local, state, national, and international levels to understand that people create systems of government as structures of power and authority to provide order, maintain stability, and promote general welfare. They use knowledge of the rights and responsibilities of citizenship in order to examine and evaluate civic ideals and to participate in community life and the American democratic system.



1. Individuals have shared responsibilities toward the achievement of common goals in homes, schools and communities.

2. The purpose of rules and authority figures is to provide order, security and safety in the home, school and community.

First Grade:

1. Individuals are accountable for their actions.

2. Collaboration requires group members to respect the rights and opinions of others.

3. Rules exist in different settings. The principles of fairness should guide rules and the consequences for breaking rules.

Second Grade:

1. Personal accountability includes making responsible choices, taking responsibility for personal actions and respecting others.

2. Groups are accountable for choices they make and actions they take.

3. There are different rules that govern behavior in different settings.

Grade Three:

1. Members of local communities have social and political responsibilities.

2. Individuals make the community a better place by solving problems in a way that promotes the common good.

3. Laws are rules, which apply to all people in a community and describe ways people are expected to behave. Laws promote order and security, provide public services and protect the rights of individuals in the local community.

4. Governments have authority to make and enforce laws.

5. The structure of local governments may differ from one community to another. 


Government Activities/Lessons 

Pinterest boards that contain useful govermnet activites/lessons: 


***See bottom of page for documents that contain government activities/lessons






Students use economic reasoning skills and knowledge of major economic concepts, issues, and systems in order to make informed choices as producers, consumers, savers, investors, workers, and citizens in the interdependent world.  



1. People have many wants and make decisions to satisfy those wants. These decisions impact others.

2. Goods are objects that can satisfy people’s wants. Services are actions that can satisfy people’s wants.

First Grade:

1. Wants are unlimited and resources are limited. Therefore, people make choices because they cannot have everything they want.

2. People produce and consume goods and services in the community.

3. People trade to obtain goods and services they want.

4. Currency is used as a means of economic exchange.

Second Grade:

1. Information displayed on bar graphs can be used to compare quantities.

2.  Resources can be used in various ways.

3. Most people around the world work in jobs in which they produce specific goods and services.

4. People use money to buy and sell goods and services.

5. People earn income by working.

Third Grade:

1. Line graphs are used to show changes in data over time.

2. Both positive and negative incentives affect people’s choices and behaviors.

3. Individuals must make decisions because of the scarcity of resources. Making a decision involves an opportunity cost, the value of the next best alternative given up when an economic choice is made.

4. A consumer is a person whose wants are satisfied by using goods and services. A producer makes goods and/or provides services.

5. A market is where buyers and sellers exchange goods and services.

6. Making decisions involves weighing costs and benefits.

7. A budget is a plan to help people make personal economic decisions for the present and future and to become more financially responsible.


Economics Activities/Lessons 

Pinterest boards that contain useful economics activites/lessons: 


 ***See bottom of page for documents that contain economics activities/lessons




































History Activities.doc57 KB
Economics Activities.doc32 KB
Geography Activities.doc41 KB
Government Activities.doc45 KB
General Social Studies Activities.doc87.5 KB
History- Ancient Civilizations Jeopardy Grade 3.ppt1.88 MB
History- Ancient Greek Civilization Teacher Guide Grade 2.pdf1.29 MB
History- Ancient Greek Supplemental Guide Grade 2.pdf1.95 MB
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History- Early World Civilizations Supplemental Guide Grade 1.txt527.91 KB
History- Early World Civilizations Flipbook Grade 1.txt9.78 KB
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Early_American_Civilization_flipbooks 1.txt9.58 KB
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Government- Community K-3.txt16.83 KB
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Government- All About Me K-2.txt13.03 KB
Map Symbols Bingo.txt302 bytes
Cardinal and Ordinal Directions Grade 3.doc29 KB
At_the_Seasidesheet(1).doc333 KB
Maps.ppt892 KB
Modeling a Community.pdf275.14 KB
Labeling the Map of the World.doc89 KB
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Financial Literacy Grade 2.doc176.5 KB
Goods and Services Lesson Plan.doc42 KB
Goods and Services Concept Map.doc36.5 KB
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