Why Is Teaching History So Important?

As a 5th grade teacher I have always felt a tremendous responsibility to teach the American history curriculum to my students. In Utah, we cover all of American history from early Native Americans all the way to present day America! That is a lot of curriculum to cover in just one year - especially in schools where high stakes testing place such an emphasis in teaching literacy, math, and science. 

The sad thing I've noticed is that teachers just don't have time for social studies. With no accountability to teach it, limited resources, and lack of support, history can be a hard subject for a lot of elementary teachers. 

So why should we teach American History? Why is it so important? 

I'd like to offer 3 reasons why teaching social studies (especially American history) is so important in today's classrooms.

1. The future of America is in your classrooms! If they don't understand and appreciate America from a young age, how will they grow up to be participating citizens in our country? 

2. Patriotism is important! If you don't teach students to respect our flag, stand and put their hand over their heart when they say the Pledge of Allegiance  and about our Founding Fathers who sacrificed to make our country free... who will? (Parents hopefully, but what about those sweet kids who don't have great role models at home? How will they learn?)

3. We can learn a great deal about character, hard work, and sacrifice by studying the various events and famous people in history. Studying people like George Washington and Martin Luther King, Jr. will help give our students role models that they can look up to. Studying events like the Civil War or World War II can teach them about sacrifice and how hate can make the world a sad place. Our students need these lessons to teach them important life-long skills that will make them stronger and kinder American citizens. 

As a 5th grade teacher, I used to joke that my main goal in teaching my students was to make sure they never ended up on a TV game show looking like a complete fool for not knowing basic US history facts. Knowing who discovered America, what day the Declaration of Independence was signed, which country we fought in the Revolution, and the name of our recent past presidents (among other things) were goals I made sure my students could know and remember. 

As elementary teachers, we owe it to the Jr. High and High School teachers to take a bigger responsibility in ensuring our students are ready to enter the real world upon graduation.  I believe that instilling a great love for our country needs to begin at a young age so students grow up loving our wonderful country, respecting the land we live on, and turn out to be productive and caring citizens in the community.

For those of you who are lacking in resources to teach American History, I wanted to show you something I've made that I think could be a great help to you! Over the course of six years, and while finding successful ways to teach American history to my students, I developed this set of American History Graphic Organizers. It contains 40 graphic organizers that will help you teach all of the important events in history including Native Americans, Early Explorers, the Revolutionary War, Westward Expansion, Civil War, World War I and II, Civil Rights, and everything else in between, including U.S. Government and elections. 

Here is a little peek at the 40 organizers I have available. 
(For a complete list of topics click here: bit.ly/AmericanHistoryGO)


I tried to include everything you would need, so I have added the following resources to help make this product easy to use and implement in your classroom.

A Note to the Teacher
Teacher Instructions
Teaching Tips
Teaching Ideas
A pacing guide sample
4 student book cover page options
-2 color choices
-2 black and white choices (to save ink!)
Table of Contents
40 graphic organizers

People have asked me in the past what I like to use to teach American History. Here is a little peek into what I use and how I use these graphic organizers with my students:

Picture books or chapter books on the topic.
Primary source documents. (For example, let students read a copy of the actual Declaration of Independence or use real maps from the time period.)
Fun and interesting websites (either whole class on a projector, in a computer lab, or using iPads).
Videos or short documentaries on the topic.
Find free PowerPoint presentations in a google search or look on TeachersPayTeachers. (If needed, you could make your own.)
Learning groups - Divide up the topics for a day, have each group become an expert on that topic, then have them present their research to the class.
Guest speaker – If you can, invite someone in to teach about a topic. (For example, a grandparent who served in the Vietnam or Korean War would add a lot to a lesson!)
Hands-on projects. For some lessons you can have a fun activity prepared. (For example, when I teach about slavery, I try to bring in raw cotton and have my students experience what it’s like to pull out all the burrs.)

Love these ideas? I'd love for you to pin one of these images to your Pinterest boards!

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