Social Studies comes at the end of the day. Often we only have twenty minutes for it. It is not a priority because students will not take a standardized test on it. So it gets pushed aside. I still try to fit it in because I personally think it’s important, whether the school system does or not.
For the past few weeks we’ve been studying colonies in Texas and now are starting to move into the Texas Revolution. I always do a quick recap at the beginning of each lesson: “Who are the colonists in Texas? Where did they come from?” Correct response: Anglo settlers came from the United States, and Mexican settlers came from Mexico. But just like in Sunday School when kids always think the correct answer is “Jesus”, for some reason my students think the correct answer to every question is “Spain”. How they got Spain stuck in their heads is beyond me. So during every single recap, I show them on our world map how Anglos came from the United States, and Mexicans came from Mexico. Every. Single. Time. I always explain that Spain is another country and show them where it is and how the explorers have already come from there. No more Spain. Stop talking about Spain.
It dawned on me the other day as I was pointing out Mexico and Texas and the United States on the map for the 349th time that they probably didn’t even have a concept of the US being a separate country from Spain and from Mexico. I pointed to our US map on the wall and asked, “Why do we have this map on the wall?” One answer: “So if we want to go somewhere we know where to go.” Another answer: “Because if we like a place then we know what it looks like.”
I grabbed some post-its and slapped one down on each desk. I said, “Put your name on the top and number it one to five. We’re having a quiz with five questions. Don’t worry, it’ll be really quick, and it won’t be graded. You don’t need to write complete sentences, just your answer.” I continued, “Number one: Where are you from? Number two: What city do you live in? Number three: What state do you live in? Number four: What country do you live in? Number five: What continent do you live on?” You would have thought I was quizzing them on calculus with all the moaning and frustration about how difficult these questions were. “Ms. Hubers, these questions are so hard. How can we answer them?”
One of my smarter kids very confidently wrote down a response for city and state. But when I asked about country, his face scrunched up, thinking, thinking. He put his hand up and said, “But we can’t answer this question. How can we answer this? There’s no country inside Texas.”
In the end, not a single student got all the answers right. Many of them knew Houston for city and Texas for state. Very few knew the US for country, and not a single person knew about North America. The top five most “creative” responses for continent were: South America, Asia, Coastal Plains, Global Warming, and Earth.
If my students leave my class with anything at the end of this year, I am determined that it will be that they know where they live – city, state, country, and continent.