Educators Blog

History for Elementary Students: William Penn

Monday, 6/23/14

If you are an elementary school teacher looking for new and interesting ways to teach math and language arts, consider using primary source documents relevant to your curriculum. The use of primary source documents will expand student’s critical thinking skills and foster a greater understanding of our nation’s history at a young age.

One way HSP is working to make history more interdisciplinary for younger students, and allow all students the opportunity to interact with primary source documents, is through our unit titled “William Penn and the Founding of Pennsylvania.” The unit on William Penn allows students to learn about the founding of Pennsylvania through interdisciplinary lessons that utilize Common Core standards in math and language arts. It offers students the chance to interact with an original map of Philadelphia while learning fractions and read the original “Charter of Privileges,” which contains many of the same ideas that our nation was founded upon.

When examining ways to incorporate history as an interdisciplinary teaching tool, it is important to remember the goals of the lesson plan because using historical documents should only enhance the goals, not change them. For example, teaching fractions is an important component to the math curriculum. It is a Common Core standard to teach students how to properly use a ruler, and measure things to the 1/8 or smaller, depending on age. When considering how to teach using a ruler and measuring fractions, the Map of Philadelphia, as a grid system, provides a unique example.  It allows students to follow directions while measuring out the streets and it provides them with a map of the city very similar to the city today. This lesson is equal parts math and history as the historical significance does not take away from the math skills.

Incorporating history into elementary age lesson plans can be a rewarding experience for both students and teachers. With younger students, history is often overlooked while teaching fundamentals, yet HSP is working to provide teachers with options on how to use history as an interdisciplinary teaching tool for all grades. If there is a specific topic you are interested in, please email us and we will work to find the best primary source documents to incorporate into your lesson plans. 

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