Massachusetts Department of Elementary and Secondary Education
Go to Selected Program Area
Massachusetts State Seal
Students & Families Educators & Administrators Teaching, Learning & Testing Data & Accountability Finance & Funding About the Department Education Board  

Archived Information

History and Social Science
Curriculum Framework

V. Commonly taught subtopics related
to core knowledge in United States
and world history, geography,
economics, and Civics and Government

The following subtopics in United States and World History, Geography, Economics, and Civics and Government offer, for the convenience of teachers and curriculum planners, a selection of additional and commonly taught particulars related to the Core Knowledge topics presented above, and aligned with the PreK-12 order of instruction. The subtopics suggest important specific events, issues, ideas, and personalities that may be chosen to engage students in reaching the desired Learning Standards. Teachers must decide how best to spend the structured learning time dedicated in their schools to study of history and social sciences. Designing curriculum and courses includes deciding which elements of Core Knowledge should be treated in depth and at length and also studied at several grade levels, because it is impossible to study every element of Core Knowledge in depth. The Commonly Taught Subtopics do not exhaust the items that teachers might reasonably decide to emphasize in a curriculum, but they may be used to guide curriculum and course design.

Grade Span Prek-4 Many of the subtopics for grades 5-12 may be introduced to children in earlier grades, in ways appropriate to their ages and in support of their work in English and other languages, in the arts, in science, and in mathematics. The following are familiar examples:

The United States:

PreK-K: selected elements of grades 1-4 topics

  • Important figures of U.S. history (for example, George Washington, Thomas Jefferson, Ben Franklin and "Poor Richard," Abraham Lincoln)
  • People and events celebrated in major national holidays, symbols, monuments (for example, Independence Day, Thanksgiving, Martin Luther King Day, Labor Day, Memorial Day; stars and stripes on the field of the American flag)
  • People of other lands and times; their fables, folk tales, and fairy tales
  • Location on the globe of major global features (continents, oceans, poles, axis, equator) and the places of "people of other lands"
  • Patriotic symbols and songs (such as Pledge of Allegiance, "Star Spangled Banner," Statue of Liberty, "America")
  • The national capital city, Washington D.C.; the state capital city, Boston

Grades 1-4: selected elements of grades 5-12 (with emphasis on the 5-8 grade span)

1. Early America and Americans (Beginnings to 1650)

  • Waters, topography, and climate of Massachusetts and North America; locations on globe and maps
  • Resources of North America: animal, vegetable, mineral
  • Ice Age migrations of earliest Americans
  • Life in North America before European settlement of selected North American peoples (for example, Pueblo, Apache, Inuit, Cherokee, Wampanoag, Iroquois, Huron): their food, homes, environmental influences, arts and oral traditions, and inter-tribal contacts such as common Algonquin language, Iroquois confederacy
  • Routes of early European explorers seeking routes to the Indies, seeking a Northwest passage through the continent, seeking wealth and trade; where they went and what they found (for example, Columbus in 1492, Balboa, Ponce de Leon and the "fountain of youth," Magellan, Cabots, Hudson, Cartier, Coronado and the "Seven Cities of Cibola/Gold," Drake)
  • Locations of routes on globe and maps; climates of the journeys; foods of the "New World"; introduction of the horse
  • First encounters between Europeans and Americans in North America and first settlements (for example, St. Augustine; Roanoke, the "lost colony"; Jamestown, John Smith and Pocahontas, Powhatan; Plimoth, the Pilgrims, Squanto and Massasoit; Quebec; Manhattan Island "purchased" by Dutch)
  • The Pilgrims and Plimoth settlement, 1620: important events, figures, and ideas (the Mayflower Compact--consent of the governed; William Bradford; the first winter; daily life and work of the colony; religious purpose)
  • The Puritans and the growth of Massachusetts Bay colony and Boston: important figures and events and ideas (John Winthrop, "a city upon a hill"; town government, and the colonial legislature, the General Court; daily life and occupations, school-- the primer; Roger Williams and the founding of Rhode Island colony, Anne Hutchinson)
  • Cooperation, coexistence, and conflict with Native Americans (for example, Pequot and "King Philip's" Wars)

2. Settlements, Colonies, and Emerging American Identity (1600 to1763)

  • Settlement of other colonies for religious purposes; wealth; new trade sources and products; freer, better lives:
  • Jamestown/Virginia colony (introduction of slavery, representative assembly--House of Burgesses)
  • Pennsylvania colony (William Penn and Quaker settlement; relations with Native Americans; Philadelphia; a two-chambered legislature)
  • South Carolina (expansion of agriculture and slavery)
  • Thirteen original colonies; geography of the Eastern seaboard
  • Colonial occupations (fishing and whaling; small farming; artisanship, including the work of colonial women; and small manufacture)
  • Ports: Boston, Philadelphia, New York, Charles Towne/Charleston (trade patterns with West Indies, Africa, England, and the Continent)
  • Family and community life, folklore and patterns of colonial life (life in a New England town, including town government and religion; the youth of Ben Franklin in Boston and Philadelphia; John Singleton Copley's portraits)
  • Emerging religious toleration and the idea of religious freedom in the colonies (for example, George Washington's Letter to the Hebrew Congregation in Newport, and the Touro Synagogue in Newport, Rhode Island)
  • Emerging ideas of political rights (to English liberties) and representative government
  • Exploration across the Appalachians: trapping and trading, clearing and farming (for example, Daniel Boone and the Wilderness Road)

3. The American Revolution: Creating a New Nation (1750 to 1815)

  • French and Indian War: Britain wins Canada from France; colonial taxes rise
  • People and events in Massachusetts (Sam Adams, John Hancock, Stamp Act, Boston Massacre, Crispus Attucks, John Adams, Boston Tea Party)
  • People, battles, and events of the Revolutionary War, (Paul Revere; Lexington and Concord; the militia and the Redcoats; Bunker Hill, "don't shoot till..."; Patrick Henry,"give me liberty..."; Ben Franklin, "we must all hang together..."; General George Washington in Boston with cannon from Ft. Ticonderoga--Evacuation Day; crossing the Delaware; Valley Forge; John Paul Jones, "I have not yet begun..."; Nathan Hale, "I regret that..."; Benedict Arnold; the loyalists--Tories; foreign assistance, Lafayette; Yorktown; Deborah Sampson, "Molly Pitcher")
  • Thomas Jefferson and the Declaration of Independence, 1776: "We hold these truths...," (natural right and equal liberty); "right of People to..." (change governments if necessary to secure and protect rights)
  • The first constitution, Articles of Confederation; the Constitutional Convention and the writing of the Constitution in 1787, a limited national government; Madison, the "Father of the Constitution"; "We the People..." (self-government)
  • Louisiana Purchase; explorations of Lewis and Clark, Sacajawea; major features of mid-continent geography, Mississippi to Rocky Mountains
  • War of 1812 (Francis Scott Key and the "Star Spangled Banner," the ConstitutionÐÐ "Old Ironsides," Washington burns, Dolley Madison)

4. Expansion, Reform, and Economic Growth (1815 to 1861)

  • Important inventions (Eli Whitney and cotton gin, Robert Fulton's steamboat, "clipper" ships, Morse code and telegraph, sewing machine) and important enterprises (canals, railroads, the mills and Lowell, Mississippi travel and trade, pony express, China trade, "King Cotton")
  • American literature: Washington Irving, James Fenimore Cooper, Longfellow, Edgar Allan Poe; folk tales
  • Westward migration (pioneers, covered wagon trains, Santa Fe Trail, Davy Crockett, Sam Houston and the Alamo, the gold rush, the Oregon Trail)
  • Forced removal of Native Americans (Cherokee "Trail of Tears"; removal to reservations; Sequoyah, an alphabet for native American languages)
  • Geography: Rocky Mountains to the Pacific; the Continental Divide

5. The Civil War and Reconstruction (1850 to 1877)

  • Working against slavery (Sojourner Truth, Harriet Beecher Stowe and Uncle Tom's Cabin, Harriet Tubman and the Underground Railway)
  • Abraham Lincoln (youth, education, what Lincoln stood for in public life: Union, "a house divided..."; "a nation conceived in liberty and dedicated to the proposition that all men are created equal")
  • The Civil War (effects of the war on families; important battles; destruction of life and property; local monuments--Shaw monument on Boston Common; Grant and Lee; the Emancipation Proclamation; Gettysburg Address, 1863; Appomattox)
  • Struggle of freed African-Americans for livelihoods, education, and full citizenship ("40 acres and a mule" withheld, Freedmen's Bureau schools, Booker T. Washington, Frederick Douglass, "Jim Crow" laws, and segregation) 6. The Advent of Modern America (1865 to 1920)
  • Inventions (Thomas Edison, Alexander Graham Bell) and industry (railroads; first oil wells; steel and "John Henry"; ranches and cowboys, prairie farming)
  • Effects on Native Americans (for example, elimination of buffalo and destruction of Plains Indians: Sitting Bull, Crazy Horse, Geronimo, Chief Joseph, Wounded Knee)
  • Immigrant lives (Ellis Island; immigration waves; beginning with Irish in 1830s; city tenements and new skyscrapers)
  • Life of Theodore Roosevelt (conservation; Panama canal)

7. The United States and Two World Wars (1914 to 1945)

  • The story of flight, of the automobile, of radio and movies
  • Susan B. Anthony, Elizabeth Cady Stanton and women's suffrage; the 19th Amendment to the Constitution
  • The Jazz Age (African-American origins of jazz; Langston Hughes, poet)
  • The Great Depression (stories and photos)
  • Franklin and Eleanor Roosevelt

8. The Contemporary United States (1945 to the Present)

  • The struggle for full citizenship for African-Americans (schooling, Rosa Parks and civil rights marches, Martin Luther King, Jr.,"I have a dream...")
  • Farm labor, Cesar Chavez
  • Eisenhower and Kennedy leadership
  • Sputnik, the first satellite; United States to the moon and beyond
  • Current immigration patterns (newcomers from all continents)

Last Updated: September 1, 1997
E-mail this page| Print View| Print Pdf  
Massachusetts Department of Elementary and Secondary Education Search · A-Z Site Index · Policies · Site Info · Contact DESE