5th Grade Social Studies Teacher Course

Because even Abe Lincoln was in fifth grade once...

You teach fifth grade social studies, and you're a superhero.

Your kryptonite-resistant superpower: cramming 10,000 years of human history into one short school year, while managing a class of high-energy 11-year-olds.

Teaching fifth grade social studies is a tough job, but Shmoop's here to help. This course is all about using history and geography to explain American culture and society today. Both the best (Shmoop) and worst (Vanilla Ice) things about this country are squarely rooted in its past, so understanding and critically questioning the history will help your students enjoy the good stuff and work to change the bad.

Sooo…about that bad stuff. There's a lot of it, and it's much worse than Vanilla Ice's rap cover of the Rolling Stones' "Satisfaction" (and that's saying something). As you and your students probably know, Native Americans, African Americans, immigrants, and women got the short end of the stick. Throughout the course, we'll discuss tough issues like slavery, the Trail of Tears, and worker exploitation that challenge students' perception of American history. They'll not only sharpen their argumentative skills, but also analyze the events and ideas that shaped those attitudes.

Then again, we don't want to give you the impression that the whole course is a downer. Despite their faults—and there were many—the Founding Fathers also created a vision of democracy and liberty, as well as procedures and mechanisms for making it happen. That's why the theme of this course isn't just guilt and shame, but also recognizing that America's best quality is that its people work hard to fix the mistakes of previous generations.


We're all about helping students look at history from the ground up. Instead of just the famous presidents and historical figures who always hog the limelight (we're looking at you, Lincoln), this course also introduces students to different groups of people who actually had their boots on the ground, such as Native Americans, slaves, indentured servants, mountain men fur trappers, abolitionists, fire-eaters, and many, many more. And speaking of overlooked: we can't talk about the United States without also mentioning our neighbors who sometimes support and sometimes butt heads with us. In the last unit of the course, students will go on a whirlwind tour of the rest of North America, Latin America, and the Caribbean to understand the connections with American policy.

Here's what you'll be teaching in the course, semester by semester:

Semester A will focus on the United States' early history, up to brink of the American Civil War. We'll get a glimpse of North America before European explorers arrived. We'll study the formation of the colonies, from the first forts and settlements to the American Revolution. We'll spend a big chunk of time discussing the Constitution and development of government because, well, it's the political system we still have today. After that, we'll look at how the U.S. expands its territories and how it treats the people who already live there. All the while, we'll trace the growth of slavery and the divisive issues that lead to the Civil War.

Semester B begins with the Civil War, followed by the slow and unsteady process of Reconstruction. This being a history class and all, we'll cover all the different wars that came after that—America's full of 'em. We'll wrap everything up with an overview of what the country looks like today, along with a look at how history has shaped some current issues in each region of the U.S.

We know it's a lot to cover in nine short months. Like we said: it's a superpower.

What's in Shmoop's Elementary Curriculum?

These are year-long elementary courses with 90-day-long semesters, made up of themed, standards-aligned units. You can follow the course verbatim in its day-by-day progression, or cherry-pick specific lessons by previewing the curriculum maps and seeing which standards, skills, or texts you'd most like to teach. Courses also include teacher scripts, differentiation and extension, videos, worksheets, and answer keys.

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