Global Connections for Elementary Students

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Simple Structures: The late Hilda Taba, noted social studies educator and curriculum developer, always emphasized that “kids need categories,” or “pigeon-holes,” if you will, into which they can fit new facts, concepts and ideas. Abundant learning theory supports this. The fact is that most teachers also appreciate having some simple structures with which to work. Especially when they are asked to teach about subjects new to them, or in which their formal training was inadequate, badly dated, or both. Teaching world areas, unfortunately, too often fits into that category.But education goes on and students need help in sorting out the complex, changing, and unbelievably diverse reality that is today’s world. It is in that spirit that we are providing the following “simple structures” for your possible use. Other teachers have found them to be useful. Hopefully you will as well.
The Paramount “Ps” Plan: A simple, yet proven effective way to have students approach the study of a nation, is to have them organize their investigation, reading and other study around these categories:

Place (Geography):

    • What are the major physical, climatic and biotic characteristics of the space the group occupies, and how they have chosen to make use of that space in the past, at present and – where discernible – in the future?

Past (History): What is the record of the present occupants and that of their predecessors, i.e., their heritage?

Power (Politics): How does the group organize and govern themselves, i.e., who is in control and how is that control established, legitimized and maintained?

Patterns (Culture): The total lifestyle of the group, i.e., what do they value, and how all that is expressed in their language(s), art, music, literature and education practices?

People (Demographics): Their numbers, their locations and their ethnicity, i.e., who are they? Where are they? How many of them are there?

Products (Economics): What is produced? How is it produced and by whom? To where and with whom is it exchanged for what?

Problems/Potentials: What difficulties and challenges face the group – both now and in the immediate future – and what means and resources are available – both human and physical – to meet them?

Rather that simply asking students to “research” or to “make a report on” a particular cultural group or nations, these categories provide them with a simple, yet reasonable inclusive, frame work or conceptual structure to help them get started.

Other “Ps” might also be added to the list: What do they believe and how is it expressed? (Philosophies); How do they relate to other actions? (Foreign Policy); How do they view themselves and others? (Perceptions); or, who and what are important to them? (Pride/Prestige).

Organizing Concepts or “Big Ideas” Approach: The following list of major concepts provide another way around which to organize the study of other cultures or nations.

    • conflict and its control
    • economic systems
    • global belief systems
    • human rights and social justice
    • planet management: resources, energy and environment
    • political systems
    • population
    • race and ethnicity: human commonality and diversity
    • the technocratic revolution
    • sustainable development


  • Simple Structures: Asking the Right Questions
  • Symbols Say
  • Sailing the Seven Seas
  • Which Is??? Diversity within Countries, Regions, Nations
  • What Time Is It?
  • Start Where They Are
  • “If I Were A…” A Creative Writing Experience
  • Exceptions Exist – Look for Them!
  • Map Reading or Route Finding???
  • Comparing Equals, OR Are They?
  • Landlocked & Wealth — Do They Correlate?
  • “Islands” at Sea and on Land
  • One Is Good; More Are Better
  • Barriers to Human Movement, Real or Imagined
  • Your Community & the World
  • Historical Geography…What If?
  • Historical Geography: the Atlantic Connection
  • Population Density Figures
  • The “Other Three Rs”
  • Our “Southern” Neighbor
  • Things! Things! A Perception Exercise
  • What’s happening ? Illustration analysis
  • What’s Happening? Where? When? Why?
  • Location, Location, Location. What’s Central?
  • We Say/They Say
  • What’s Where and Why? Checking Perceptions
  • Shaped Like…
  • A Development Planning Challenge
  • The Trip of a Lifetime
  • Systems Everywhere
  • World’s Wilderness: Where and How Much?
  • Place Detecting…How Many?

Related Links:

  • The CIA Worldfactbook