Planning Social Studies for Wiggly Students

I teach third grade.  I love third grade.  Each year, when a new group of brand new third graders walk into my classroom I get to figure out who they are as learners.  This group is wiggly… oh my stars are they wiggly!  I have 25 students in my class this year, and they are quite the mix.  I have 9 girls and 16 boys in my class, and three of my students are on Individual Education Plans.  

knew right from the first week with them, that for this class, I would need to change how I was used to teaching.   Seat work , pencil and paper style learning, just wouldn’t fly as the ‘norm’ with this group.  I spent quite amount of time re-doing most of my unit and lessons plans to make sure that they were hands-on, interactive, and out-of-seat work.  Perfect for a wiggly class.  

ne of the units I reworked in the fall was my Geography and Mapping unit.  Out the door went my booklets teaching my students to identify provinces, territories, and geographical locations.   I think that it's always daunting to have to throw out what is familiar, and convenient.  I already have pre-made mapping units that are seat-based... but they are one size fits all.  And this class... they are definitely many sizes!   So I took on the challenge of creating a unit that was just for them!

I found large maps in a Kids Magazine my school orders, and laminated 10 copies.  During Geography, we moved the desks to the side, and learned about geography in groups of 2 or 3.  Each pair/group was given a pack of task cards, a map on the floor, and a chance to lay out and be as wiggly as they’d like! 

Other days, I projected giant maps onto the whiteboard, and we quizzed each other!

“Can you locate two provinces east of Ontario?”

“Tap Lake Erie three times!”

“Draw a circle on a province that has forestry as a resource…

e practice locating eastern provinces, prairie provinces, territories, great lakes… all while tapping our fingers, sitting, standing, squatting, spinning.  

Finding a way to combine movement with geography/mapping made this one of my most successful units to date!

I learned a lot about myself as a teacher through creating this new unit.  While pulling out a 'tried and true' unit may be what is easier for me, I know that it is not always in the best interests of the kids in my classroom.  I've learned that sometimes, no matter how much extra work it is, I will need to start completely from scratch.  It was totally worth it.  

(Canadian Social Studies unit mentioned above is available here.)