Social studies unit outlines fourth grade

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In fourth grade, students use their understanding of social studies concepts and skills to explore Washington State in the past and present. Students learn about the state’s unique geography and key eras in early Washington State history, particularly the treaty-making period. They use this historical perspective to help them make sense of the state’s geography, economy, and government today. The cognitive demand of many GLEs begins to include analysis and asks students to look at issues and events from multiple perspectives.
The following pages organize the required social studies standards for the 4th grade by suggested unit plans related to Washington State. As with the other grade levels, these suggested unit outlines are framed along two dimensions: chronological era and major developments or themes. Civics, economics, geography, and social studies skills are embedded in this framework. They start with possible essential and guiding questions to help frame the unit. The sample guiding questions focus on the specific issues that connect with the particular era, developments, or themes. The sample essential questions are meant to remind us of how the themes and eras addressed in a particular unit relate to timeless important issues and concepts.
Please note that while the GLEs (in bold) are required, the examples are merely suggestions. Since it would be impossible to address all of the important people, cultures, and events from Washington state history that promotes in-depth understanding, these examples are meant to provide some possible contexts in which to teach these standards. They are not meant to be followed like a recipe or as a one-size-fits-all curriculum. Ultimately, it is up to teachers and administrators in each district to decide how to tailor this course and these examples to their students’ and community’s particular interests and needs. The document is in Word format to facilitate this tailoring. Local educators will have to help decide which themes and developments in students will examine deeply and which they will look at as points of comparison. By balancing depth and breadth, students will have the opportunity to gain enduring understandings that Washington state history teaches us about ourselves and our world. To help develop these enduring understandings, these unit outlines include recommended placement of several of the state’s Classroom-Based Assessment models (CBAs). To see the full requirements of the CBAs referenced below, visit OSPI’s social studies assessment web page.
Unit Outlines for Fourth Grade

Overview – Setting in Time and Place

  1. WA- Exploring the Pacific Northwest Prior to Statehood

  2. WA- Living in Washington: Its Geography, Resources, and the Economy

  3. WA- Being Citizens of Washington

Recommended CBAs: Dig Deep, People on the Move, Whose Rules?
Overview - Setting in Time and Place

Required GLE

Suggested Examples



Understands how the following themes and developments help to define eras in Washington State history from time immemorial to 1889:

  • Growth of northwest coastal and plateau tribes prior to treaties (time immemorial to 1854).

  • Maritime and overland exploration, encounter, and trade (1774—1849).

  • Immigration and settlement (1811—1889).

  • Territory and treaty-making

  • Explains how the growth of major tribes helps to define the history of the Pacific Northwest prior to 1854.

  • Explains how the Lewis and Clark expedition helps to define the history of the Pacific Northwest from 1774 to 1849 as a time of exploration and encounter.

  • Explains how the Hudson's Bay Company’s establishment of Fort Vancouver in 1825 helps to define the history of the Pacific Northwest from 1811 to 1889 as a time of immigration and settlement.

Unit Outline 1: WA- Exploring the Pacific Northwest Prior to Statehood

Essential Question(s):

  • What can history teach us about the world today?

Guiding Question(s):

  • What are the key events in Washington state history?

  • Who were the first people of Washington and how did they use their environment to meet their basic needs?

  • Who were the cultural groups who immigrated to Washington prior to 1889 and why did they come and where did they settle?

  • What were the causes of conflict in Washington's early history?

  • How have the different cultural groups in early Washington influenced our state?

  • Who were the first people of Washington and how did they use their environment to meet their basic needs?

CBA: Dig Deep

Required GLE

Suggested Examples



Understands and creates timelines to show how historical events are organized into time periods and eras.

  • Constructs a timeline with events from the treaty-making era that are related to artifacts and/or primary sources.

  • Constructs a timeline with events from the Lewis and Clark Expedition that are related to artifacts and/or primary sources.


Understands and analyzes how individuals caused change in Washington State history.

  • Explains the contributions Mother Joseph of the Sisters of Providence made to Eastern Washington, including building schools and orphanages.

  • Examines how George Washington Bush promoted the movement of
    African-American people to Washington State.

  • Examines how Chief Joseph helped shape the development of the Pacific Northwest.


Understands that there are multiple perspectives regarding the interpretation of historical events and creates an historical account using multiple sources.

  • Compares the account of the Whitman Massacre from the perspective of the missionaries and the perspective of the Cayuse native people.

  • Constructs an historical account of Lewis and Clark’s exploration of the Pacific Northwest using evidence from artifacts and primary sources, such as journal entries.

  • Constructs an historical account of how treaties affected changes in land ownership for the native tribes in the Pacific Northwest using evidence from multiple sources.

  • Constructs an historical account of the Pig War using evidence from artifacts and primary sources.



Creates and uses a research question to conduct research on an issue or event.

  • Develops a research question to study the Lewis and Clark Expedition.

  • Develops a research question on people’s experiences traveling on the Oregon Trail.


Understands the main ideas from an artifact, primary source, or secondary source describing an issue or event.

  • Makes a list of the main ideas from an artifact on the Lewis and Clark Expedition.

  • Summarizes the main ideas from a secondary source on the Oregon Trail by creating a web of information.


Evaluates the accuracy of primary and secondary sources.

  • Determines the accuracy of resources by comparing multiple versions of the Whitman Massacre.


Draws clear, well-reasoned conclusions and provides explanations that are supported by artifacts and/or primary sources in a paper or presentation.

  • Writes a clear, well-reasoned conclusion about the challenges pioneers faced when moving west, supported by diaries, letters, and journals.

  • Presents a clear, well-reasoned explanation of the causes of the Pig War supported by maps and other artifacts.


Prepares a list of resources, including the title, author, and type of source, date published, and publisher for each source.

  • Completes a list of resources on the Pig War including the title, author, and type of source, date published, and publisher for each source.

CBA: People on the Move

Required GLE

Suggested Examples



Constructs and uses maps to explain the movement of people.

  • Constructs maps of the Oregon Trail showing and labeling the starting location, the destination, the route, tribes along the route, geographic features that affected the route, and a title, captions, or symbols that describe the movement of the settlers.


Understands that the geographic features of the Pacific Northwest have influenced the movement of people.

  • Explains why people traveling on the Oregon Trail made the choice to move west because of a need for available land.

  • Explains why indigenous peoples were forced to move to reservation land that was neither fertile nor profitable.



Understands and analyzes the costs and benefits of people’s decisions to move and relocate to meet their needs and wants.

  • Examines the costs to pioneers on the Oregon Trail versus the benefits they received once they reached their destination.

  • Examines the effects of the Oregon Trail on tribes living in the Pacific Northwest.

Unit Outline 2: WA- Living in Washington: Its Geography, Resources, and the Economy
Essential Question(s):

  • How does geography shape how we live?

  • How do political and economic decisions impact our environment and quality of life?

Guiding Question(s):

  • What makes Washington unique?

  • What are the characteristics of the geographic regions of Washington?

  • How has Washington's physical geography and resources contributed to people's decision to make Washington their home?

  • Why is Washington's location on the Pacific Rim important culturally, politically, and economically?

Required GLE

Suggested Examples



Understands the physical, political, and cultural characteristics of places, regions, and people in the Pacific Northwest including the difference between cities, states, and countries.

  • Explains the differences in the physical characteristics, including landforms, climate, and natural resources, of the different regions within Washington State.

  • Explains the cultural characteristics, including distribution of population and languages, of the people in Washington State.

  • Explains the location of Washington in relation to other states and countries.



Understands the basic elements of Washington State’s economic system, including agriculture, businesses, industry, natural resources, and labor.

  • Explains components of Washington State’s timber industry, including the trees, workers, production mills, and consumers of wood products.

  • Explains components of Washington State’s agricultural industry, including the natural resources of land and water, the farmers and laborers, the distributors, and the consumers of agricultural products.

  • Compares how the geography, available natural resources, climate, and the available labor force affect the economic opportunities available in rural and urban Washington State.

  • Examines how technology and transportation industries impact the economy of Western Washington.

  • Examines how irrigating the semi-desert climate of Eastern Washington has impacted the economies of Indian tribes and other residents in Washington State.


Understands that the economy in Washington State relies on trade with Pacific Rim countries.

  • Explains how timber and agricultural products from Washington State are sold to other Pacific Rim countries and transported via cargo ships across the Pacific Ocean.

  • Explains why clothing, toys, and electronic goods are brought to Washington State from Pacific Rim countries to be sold to people in the state.



Understands that learning about the geography of Washington State helps us understand the global issue of trade.

  • Explains how the climate and land in Eastern Washington allow farmers to grow apples for trade to other countries.

  • Explains how the ports of Tacoma and Seattle enable Washington to be a gateway for products to and from Pacific Rim countries.



Understands how geography, natural resources, climate, and available labor contribute to the sustainability of the economy of regions in Washington State

  • Explains that available labor resources determine economic opportunities for the agricultural industry.

  • Draws conclusions about how the economy in each region of Washington State could change as a result of the depletion of natural resources specific to the regions.

  • Explains how climate influences the production of goods and has an impact on the sustainability of the economy for the agricultural industry of Washington State.

  • Explains how dams impact the economic well-being of regions in Washington State.

Unit Outline 3: WA-Being Citizens in Washington

Essential Question(s):

  • What rules and laws do we need?

  • How do the citizens of the state work together to solve problems?

  • How can citizens make a difference?

Guiding question(s):

  • What are the rights and responsibilities of citizens in Washington?

  • What challenges does Washington face as a state?

  • How does government respond to the needs and wants of the people of Washington?

CBA: Whose Rules?

Required GLE

Suggested Examples



Understands that governments are organized into local, state, tribal, and national levels.

  • Explains the hierarchy of state government over local government.

  • Explains how tribal governments are sovereign, separate from state and local governments.


Understands the key ideal of rights set forth in Article I of the Washington State Constitution.

  • Explains that personal rights include not being deprived of life, liberty, or property, without due process of law (section three).

  • Explains that every person has the right to freely speak, write, and publish on all subjects (section five).

  • Explains how the right to religious choice protects people’s freedom (section eleven).



Understands the concepts used in documents and sources.

  • Explains how the state law limiting cell phone usage in cars relates to the concepts of individual liberty and public safety.

  • Explains how a school rule prohibiting running in the hallways relates to the concepts of rule of law and freedom.



Understands how and why state and tribal governments make, interpret, and carry out policies, rules, and laws.

  • Explains how Senate Bill 5610 promoting salmon recovery became a law in 2005.

  • Explains how a local tribal council created its code of laws.

  • Explains how the seatbelt law attempts to solve the problem of injury collisions.

  • Identifies and explains how the voters of Washington State participated in making the law that banned smoking in public places.



Understands that significant historical events in Washington State have implications for current decisions.

  • Explains how the Stevens treaties with native tribes led to the Boldt decision and current tribal fishing rights.



Evaluates the effectiveness of a law or policy by explaining how it promotes ideals.

  • Critiques whether or not the seatbelt law of Washington State promotes the personal right to life [RCW 46.61.688].

  • Critiques whether or not the legal ban on smoking in public places in Washington State promotes the right to life [RCW 70.160.030].


Understands that civic participation involves being informed about public issues and voting in elections.

  • Explains that reading the newspaper or watching the news can help a citizen stay informed about public issues.

  • Explains that attending a town meeting can help a citizen stay informed about public issues.

  • Explains why voting is a civic duty.

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