First Grade - History/Social Studies

Priority Standards

What students will know, what students will do, and what thinking skills students will develop to apply and transfer History/Social Studies/Ethnic Studies understandings that endure within the discipline, leverage deeper understandings, and/or support readiness for success at the next grade level. 

In first grade, students focus on these critical areas:

Instruction: Signature Elements

Below are signature elements of SFUSD History/Social Studies instruction that students should experience regularly throughout first grade as they develop as historians & social scientists.


Beyond the First Grade Units Overview, there are no required materials.


Units for First-Grade History/Social Studies/Equity Studies are currently in development. See below for guidance and examples of how you might structure your own units. (Click here for the same information below in an easy-to-read format: Overview and Examples for 1st Grade Units)

Unit Design

Incorporation of the Four Dimensions of the Inquiry Arc Across the Three Bends of a Unit

Developing Questions and Planning Inquiries Applying Disciplinary Tools and Concepts Evaluating Sources and Using Evidence Communicating Conclusions and Taking Informed Action
A compelling question supported by Investigation questions Investigate the ideas, tools, and concepts of 
  • Geography
  • History
  • Civics
  • Economics
Gather evidence from reliable sources Do something with the knowledge and skills acquired
Inquiry Investigation Informed Action



Here are some DRAFT practical examples. Each class may go on a slightly different path (culturally/community-relevant), but are still likely headed in the same general content-driven direction. Students engage with a compelling question. Students learn more through exploring media (books, videos, etc), interviews, field trips, etc..(historically responsive literacy). Students generate new questions based on what they learned, explore more (inquiry), and eventually and/or during the process create artifacts that represent their learning and/or contribute to their community in some fashion (informed action).

Rights and Responsibilities of Community Members (example) Inquiry Possible Investigations Possible Informed Actions


Do This First: Launching Unit for first 2 weeks

Compelling Question:

How can we come together as unique (diverse) people to build a better community?

This should lead to investigative questions from the students. Here is a possible way to elicit those questions:

Think, Puzzle, Explore

  • Video a PSA for the school community that reminds students of community agreements in common areas.
  • Create a set of classroom norms/agreements that everyone will follow when conflicts/disagreements arise
  • Make posters that reflect what students would like to see changed in their community to make it a better place for all
  • Create posters of each students “worldview” of community Link to 2nd grade examples
Different Cultures, One Community and Changing Times Inquiry Possible Investigations Possible Informed Actions

Compelling Question:

How do people from different (diverse) cultural backgrounds build communities that change over time?

This should lead to investigative questions from the students. Here is a possible way to elicit those questions:
Get some images of people in neighborhoods/schools and do a See Think Wonder

  • Look at photographs of their school/neighborhood from today and in the past to notice what has changed 
  • Use a community calendar to note important community events, cultural holidays and celebrations and plot them on a timeline
  • Have different community members come into the class and share their cultural identities and allow time for a Q & A session
  • Have students investigate their own cultural identity by participating a family cultural scavenger hunt where they uncover what is important to their family about their home culture and personal history
  • Look at photos from schools in the past and schools today and have a class discussion noticing what is the same and what is different.
  • Read about people/characters from various racial/cultural backgrounds where cultural identity is highlighted
  • Read books about people who make changes in their local communities.
  • Take a field trip(s) to different cultural centers throughout the community.
  • Look at artwork, symbols and icons that represent different cultures within our community and discuss the messages they convey.
  • Students ask their family what the word culture means and share during class discussion.
  • Investigate different aspects of culture
  • Create individual posters that express their ideas of personal cultural identity to share with the school at large
  • Co-create a class working definition of the word culture that will be used for the rest of the year
  • Small groups work together to create posters of what culture means to them 
  • Work with cultural community centers to create projects that help build solidarity. 
  • Create a class slideshow by using student drawings with captions about different events in their local community
  • Use what they have learned about community actions to create a timeline of events in their community
  • Create posters that “advertise” the different cultural centers in their city
Making and Using Maps Inquiry Possible Investigations Possible Informed Actions

Compelling Question:

How can we help others locate important places in our community, where to get what we need and find out what makes it special?

This should lead to investigative questions from the students. Here is a possible way to elicit those questions:
Instead of sharing ideas, have them come up with questions and stop and jot as a class between mingle sessions
Mingle Pair Share | Inquiry Lesson Plan Strategy

  • Look at some neighborhood maps and investigate how map keys function
  • Locate your place in space on different kinds of maps
  • Read different books that include mapping skills and different ways of creating maps
  • Take a field trip to go on a neighborhood walk and locate different landmarks, street names and places that serve the community (libraries, fire stations, hospitals, Golden Gate Park, Bay Bridge, etc….)
  • Find the location of different community cultural centers on a city map
  • Read Me on the Map and use as a model for possible map making
  • Research how goods and services are provided to the community in neighborhoods (grocery stores vs. dentist office) and locate those places on a map
  • Play games that use play money to go “shopping” using a map of of where to find the “stores” in a classroom
  • **Participate in an ongoing “fake monetary system” in class that gives “payment” for work/positive behavior and allows students to “purchase” goods from a prize box. (This could be as simple or complex as the teacher decides)


  • **some of these activities and actions can be done earlier in the year as an integrated part of your classroom routines and math routines; such as classroom jobs and a play monetary systems that can be integrated throughout the year


  • Create a model of your school’s neighborhood
  • Each student writes their own Me on the Map Book to include in the classroom library
  • Create a digital Me on the Map Book through a series of Seesaw Lessons
  • Create a neighborhood travel guide to help others find important places, goods and services in the neighborhood
  • **Co-create a classroom jobs list where each student is given classroom responsibilities


Planning Guide

Many elements of first-grade History/Social Studies can and should be integrated across the day and year. That being said, three periods of roughly five weeks are set aside each trimester for more intensive History/Social Studies learning. Through these units, First-grade students will learn ...

1st Trimester 2nd Trimester 3rd Trimester
Rights and Responsibilities of Community Members Making and Using Maps Different Cultures, One Community and Changing Times
~5 weeks of 4 lessons per week ~5 weeks of 4 lessons per week ~5 weeks of 4 lessons per week


Reflection Questions

  1. How are students' developmental needs, communities, and experiences being reflected and honored, or how could they be?
  2. What opportunities do you see for developing equitable access & demand, inquiry, collaboration, and assessment for learning?
  3. What are the implications for your own practice? What strengths can you build upon? What will you do first?

This page was last updated on August 21, 2023