Social studies unit outlines sixth grade

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In sixth grade, students are ready to deepen their understanding of the Earth and its peoples through the study of history, geography, politics, culture, and economic systems. The recommended context for social studies learning in sixth grade is world history and geography. Students begin their examination of the world by exploring the location, place, and spatial organization of the world’s major regions. This exploration is then followed by looking at world history from its beginnings. Students are given an opportunity to study a few ancient civilizations deeply. In this way, students develop higher levels of critical thinking by considering why civilizations developed where and when they did and why they declined. Students analyze the interactions among the various cultures, emphasizing their enduring contributions and the link between the contemporary and ancient worlds.
The following pages provide unit outlines to help you organize a world geography and ancient world history course around the required state standards. 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 aspects of world geography and the ancient world in a way 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 for 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. They will have to help decide which themes and developments in world history and geography 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 geography and ancient civilizations teach 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 Sixth Grade

  1. World Geography

  2. World- Ancient Civilizations (8000 BCE-600 CE)

Recommended CBAs: People on the Move, Why History?, Enduring Cultures, Meeting Needs and Wants
Unit Outline 1: World Geography
Essential Question(s):

  • What do maps, globes, and charts teach us about the world?

Guiding Question(s):

  • What are the five themes of geography?

  • What are spatial patterns and how are they created?

  • What is a region and how are regions defined?

Required GLE

Suggested Examples



Identifies the location of places and regions in the world and understands their physical and cultural characteristics.

  • Identifies the location of the seven continents of the world.

  • Explains the unique characteristics of the physical and cultural landscape between North Africa and Sub-Saharan Africa.


Constructs and analyzes maps using scale, direction, symbols, legends and projections to gather information.

  • Constructs a population map of Canada, including annual temperature, and draws conclusions about how the environment affects human settlement.

  • Compares past and present satellite images of the Amazon Rainforest to illustrate deforestation.

Unit Outline 2: World- Ancient Civilizations (8000 BCE-600 CE)
Essential Question(s):

  • What geographic factors stimulate the movement of goods, people, and ideas?

  • How and why does the rule of law develop in civilizations?

  • How do religion and government exercise authority over people?

  • What legacies have been left by ancient civilizations, in particular, on our society?

  • How does the movement of ideas, goods, and people affect cultures?

  • How does trade affect culture?

  • How do different economic systems affect people's daily lives?

Guiding Question(s):

  • What significant contributions were made during ancient times that advanced science, technology, and the arts?

Required GLE

Suggested Examples



Understands how the rise of civilizations defines eras in ancient history by:

  • Explaining and comparing the rise of civilizations from 8000 BCE to 200 CE on two or more continents.

  • Explaining and comparing the rise of civilizations from 200 CE to 600 CE on two or more continents.

  • Explains and compares the basic cultural elements of early civilization in Mesopotamia and Egypt (8000 BCE to 200 CE).

  • Explains and compares the basic cultural elements of later civilization in Rome and Han China (200 CE to 600 CE).



Understands and analyzes how the environment has affected people and how people have affected the environment in the past or present.

  • Examines how people in Mesopotamia shaped agriculture through the building of canals.

  • Examines how Incas modified their environment to maximize crop production.


Understands the characteristics of cultures in the world from the past or in the present.

  • Explains the Mayans’ ways of life, including their technology, traditions, language, social roles, beliefs, and values.

  • Explains how the Sumerians developed a unique culture based on the domestication of grain.

CBA: Meeting Needs and Wants

Required GLE

Suggested Examples



Understands the production, distribution, and consumption of goods, services, and resources in societies from the past or in the present.

  • Compares the production and distribution of agricultural goods in Egypt and Mesopotamia.



Analyzes multiple factors, compares two groups, generalizes, and connects past to present to formulate a thesis in a paper or presentation.

  • Examines multiple factors, generalizes, and connects the past to the present to formulate a thesis on the significance of the fall of Rome in a paper.

  • Examines multiple factors, generalizes, and connects past to present to formulate a thesis on the significance of the Peloponnesian War in a presentation.


Understands and demonstrates the ethical responsibility one has in using and citing sources and the rules related to plagiarism and copyrighting.

  • Demonstrates ethical responsibility while writing a paper by using one’s own words and giving credit to ideas from others.

  • Explains the legal and ethical consequences of plagiarism.

Required GLE

Suggested Examples



Understands how the forces of supply and demand have affected international trade in the past or present.

  • Compares how ancient Chinese and Egyptian civilizations used trade to meet their needs and wants.

  • Explains how demand for spices increased the trade along the Silk Road.



Analyzes how societies have interacted with one another in the past or present.

  • Examines how goods were exchanged along the Silk Road between China and the Middle East.

  • Examines trade between Minoan and Egyptian societies.

  • Examines alliances between the Assyrians and the Egyptians.

  • Examines how Alexander the Great expanded the Macedonian empire through military conquest and cultural assimilation of neighboring societies.



Understands the role of government in the world’s economies through the creation of money, taxation, and spending in the past or present.

  • Explains how Sumerian priest kings’ need for monetary record keeping advanced the development of cuneiform.

  • Explains why people in ancient Greece established the use of coins as money to make trade easier.

  • Explains the establishment of salt as a currency in Tikal and other Yucatan Nation States.


Understands the distribution of wealth and sustainability of resources in the world in the past or present.

  • Compares the deforestation of Easter Island with the current deforestation of the Amazon Rainforest.



Understands a variety of forms of government from the past or present

  • Compares and contrasts monarchy and democracy in ancient Greece and ancient Egypt.

  • Explains the “Mandate of Heaven” as a principle in the creation of Chinese Dynasties.


Understands the historical origins of civic involvement.

  • Explains how the male, property-owning citizens of ancient Athens practiced direct democracy.

CBA: People on the Move

Required GLE

Suggested Examples



Analyzes the costs and benefits of economic choices made by groups and individuals in the past or present.

  • Examines how the Phoenicians’ use of finite natural resources forced them to relocate.



Understands the geographic factors that influence the movement of groups of people in the past or present.

  • Compares the factors that led to migration of the Han and the Goths into Europe.

  • Compares how the physical environments of island culture influenced Maori and Polynesian migration.



Analyzes the validity, reliability, and credibility of information from a variety of primary and secondary sources while researching an issue or event.

  • Uses Cornell Notes to examine the validity, reliability, and credibility of secondary sources on ancient Egypt and Mesopotamia while researching why people relocated to the Middle East during ancient times.

Required GLE

Suggested Examples



Analyzes different cultural measurements of time.

  • Compares the different ways calendars were used in ancient Egypt and the Mayan civilization to plan agriculture.


Understands and analyzes how individuals and movements from ancient civilizations have shaped world history.

  • Explains the impact of Confucius and Buddha on Eastern belief systems.

  • Explains the impact of Aristotle on scientific investigation with human reasoning.


Understands and analyzes how technology and ideas from ancient civilizations have impacted world history.

  • Examines the impact of the Phoenician alphabet on improved communication amongst societies.

  • Examines the impact of irrigation on the establishment of river societies.


Analyzes and interprets historical materials from a variety of perspectives in ancient history.

  • Describes the impact of the Code of Hammurabi on ancient Mesopotamia.


Analyzes multiple causal factors that shape major events in ancient history.

  • Presents a position on the causes and outcomes of the Peloponnesian wars, demonstrating understanding of varying viewpoints of the conflict.

CBA: Enduring Cultures

Required GLE

Suggested Examples



Understands and analyzes how cultures and cultural groups in ancient civilizations contributed to world history.

  • Explains how Mesopotamia and Egypt responded to environmental challenges.

  • Compares the experiences of Jewish slaves in Egypt with those of Greek slaves in the Roman Empire.



Understands positions on an issue or event.

  • Explains positions historians take on Mesopotamia’s and Egypt’s responses to challenges.

  • Explains one’s own position on how history helps us understand current events.

  • Explains one’s own position on the factors that caused the Punic Wars.


Creates and uses research questions to guide inquiry on an historical event.

  • Develops a research question to guide inquiry on the challenges that early civilizations faced.

  • Develops a research question to guide inquiry to determine how physical geography contributed to the political, economic, and cultural development of a particular civilization.


Evaluates the significance of information used to support positions on an issue or event.

  • Selects the most significant information to support positions on how history helps us understand current events.

  • Selects the most significant information to support positions on what caused the Punic Wars.

CBA: Why History?

Required GLE

Suggested Examples



Analyzes how an event in ancient history helps us to understand a current issue.

  • Examines how studying the effects of lead on people living in ancient Rome helps us to understand the dangers of lead today.

  • Examines how the history of “Tse-whit-zen,” an ancient burial ground and native village in Port Angeles, helps us understand the current conflict over use of the land.



Understands that learning about the geography of the world helps us understand issues related to global issues of sustainability.

  • Explains how studying the deforestation of Easter Island helps us understand the importance of environmental conservation.

  • Explains how irrigation difficulties in Mesopotamia are similar to the challenges currently facing California’s agricultural industry.

  • Compares the Anasazis’ struggle to find an adequate water supply in the 13th century with that of many societies today.



Engages in discussions that clarify and address multiple viewpoints on public issues.

  • Engages in a debate to clarify multiple viewpoints on how the Phoenicians could have conserved resources.

  • Engages in a discussion to address multiple viewpoints on how studying the history of Mesopotamia helps one understand current issues in the Middle East region.

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