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Your kindergartner and social studies

How the world works: Kindergartners learn about countries and time.

By GreatSchools Staff

Who recalls the dates of the Byzantine Empire? Or that the Ohlone Indians spoke one of the Utian languages? Details from social studies are easy to forget once we graduate to the real world. Still, such primers in history, geography, politics, and anthropology are crucial to our children's educations.

How do you know if your child’s social studies curriculum stacks up? Check out our grade-by-grade milestones to understand your state and national standards.

Get curious

Kindergarten kids start to learn about time and space as an introduction to the concepts of history and geography. They should learn to distinguish past, present, and future time in their own lives and practice exploring various school locales.

Kindergartners also learn about national holidays and the stories of the people whose contributions we value enough to commemorate. In that vein, they'll learn about courage, heroism, and justice by studying famous examples from U.S. history.

"Social studies for young children needs to develop from children's natural curiosity about the world around them and their immediate environment," says Donna Adkins, Arkansas's 2004 Teacher of the Year.

Government rules

As members of a classroom community, kindergartners get a great introduction to the study of government by discussing rules and appropriate behavior. They should also learn to associate certain types of behavior with society's expectations for what it means to be a good citizen.

Adkins explains that one of the "most important skills young children can develop is the ability to get along and work with others. Teachers of young children spend much time helping children see the importance of being able to work and play with others."

Here is what you can expect your child to do in kindergarten social studies

  • Become familiar with the events and people associated with U.S. national holidays
  • Put days, weeks, and months in the proper order
  • Recognize national and state symbols and icons, such as the flags and the Statue of Liberty
  • Learn that the world is divided into countries and that there are similarities and differences among cultures
  • Tell or show the difference between land and water on a globe or map
  • Begin to learn how his experience in his family, school and community differs from that of people in other countries and other times

What to look for when you visit

  • Maps and a globe
  • Calendars that reinforce the concept of time
  • Books with folktales from other cultures and biographies of historical figures
  • The teacher leading children in songs and games from other countries or other eras
  • Posted lists of rules about sharing, taking turns and other aspects of good classroom citizenship

Comments from GreatSchools.org readers

11/17/2008:
"My son is in Kindergarten (I'm making progress-lol), and I sat in one morning and watched the daily activites of the students. They did recite the 'Pledge of Allegance', followed by the school moto. (cute) Though I haven't heard anything about Columbus yet, he did tell me which 'party' he supported during the elction, and followed it with an impressive explanation. I am also noticing that he has a better understanding of past, present and future....kudos to all teachers!! "
11/12/2008:
"I notice you didn't list 'Learning the Pledge of Allegiance.' Some K teachers do this others don't. I think it is important to start this type of education (appreciation for country and traditions) early on."
11/9/2007:
"My kindergartner has learned that Columbus discovered America in 1492 by sailing over in three boats from Spain (relating this to Columbus Day). I thought we were long past teaching of such misleading euro-centric versions of history. Maybe it is part of my state's standards. Maybe it is the local school district. Maybe it is the teacher, who seems otherwise quite competent. However, teaching distorted history perpetuates ignorance and cultural bias that does not help our children succeed in today's America or world."
09/4/2007:
"i agree with th given information on your website. i am a mother of a six year old little boy. he was a november baby and i notice many things in the kinder ability area he is not familiar with. does a teacher want to say a child isn't ready because it might reflect badly on her; by passing the child to the first grade?"
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