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Fourth Grade Social Studies Topics: What 4th Graders Should Learn

Updated on December 31, 2016
Diane Lockridge profile image

Lockridge homeschools her children and holds an EdS in Curriculum and Instruction, an MS in Elementary Education, and a BA in History.

Help students improve their view of the world by better understanding geography.
Help students improve their view of the world by better understanding geography. | Source

What is so important about 4th grade social studies? What should the average 4th grader learn? Here is a list of suggested standards on the topic, based on Georgia standards, several curriculum guides and the US Department of Education.

Topics include: map & globe skills, information processing, civics & government, and economics.

Map & Globe Skills

It is important for students to improve upon and apply their knowledge of cardinal direction skills. Knowing the difference between North, South, East and West. In the effective social studies classroom, students will learn what is north, south, east, west, and how to use directions on a map or in on land. Students will learn about intermediate directions too, such as northeast, southeast, southwest, and northwest.

Don't underestimate the power of knowing how to properly use a grid on a map or globe. Fourth graders in the state of Georgia will not only learn to use the grid on a map, but they'll improve determining distances on a map by using scales found on the legend. (Incidentally, this skill also helps them with rationalization skills as well, and can be a useful tool in the mathematics classroom as well.)

Not only will students learn how to read maps, but they'll improve their ability to compare natural, cultural and political features on a map by using the keys and legends.

Information Processing

Memorizing facts is great, but students must be able to interpret and process what they learn in order to formulate a lasting educational experience. The effective classroom will teach students how to read data and process the information so that they can communicate the overall message.

Effective social studies classrooms will also teach students how to discern between the similarities and differences between geographical locations based on maps and data, and teach students the difference between facts and opinion; this topic dovetails nicely with map and globe skills. Teachers will also help students improve their interpretation of timelines, and help them gain the ability to analyze charts, graphs and diagrams to formulate hypothesis.

In preparation for higher learning, students will learn to formulate research questions. Students will also learn how to properly write a research paper. Students will also learn to discern between relevant and appropriate references and resources for writing and researching. Students will begin to understand the difference between primary and secondary resources, and will learn to check for consistent information between resources.

Civics & Government

Students will learn about democracy, the purpose of the US Constitution and the nuances of the American political system. Students will learn about the role of the American citizen and the relationship between the United States and other countries. Essentially, students will learn what government is and what it is capable of doing.

Effective classrooms will draw connections between different forms of governments in other countries, and show how the political systems vary.


While the concept of economics might seem like a daunting subject for 4th graders, students are able to process a more concepts than some people give them credit.

Age appropriate economic material will teach students about the concept of the scarcity of resources and will help students formulate wise decision making with regards to saving and spending money. Effective classrooms will enable students to understand the concept of supply and demand, and give students the opportunity to demonstrate understanding in the subject.

Teachers will also instruct students in the allocation and distribution of goods and services, incentives and trade specialization and about the marketplace.

Finally, students will learn about financial institutions— such as banks and credit unions — as well as for-profit institutions. Students will learn of entrepreneurship and economic growth, as well as unemployment, inflation and economic failure.


A Beka Book. (2011). Scope & sequence: Nursery through grade twelve. Pensacola, FL: A Beka Book.

Center for Civic Education website. (2009). National Standards for Civics and Government, K-4 Content Standards. Retrieved on November 9, 2011 from

Council for Economic Education. (2010). Voluntary National Content Standards in Economics. Retrieved from

Georgia Department of Education. (2011). Overview of Social Studies Standards. Retrieved on November 8 from

National Geographic Xpeditions. (2008). Lesson Plans: 3-5. Retrieved on November 11 from


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      6 years ago

      Social Sciences are compulsory subjects in our curriculum. But they are not given enough importance compared to science and math. Many children find it very dry. I wish the concepts are presented in a way that would help students with different learning styles. Here is a great place to check out . It is a free assessment tool for individual learning styles.


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