Teaching a 3/4 Split Social Studies Class in Ontario? You Need to Read this Blog Post!

 Teaching a Grade 3/4 split in Ontario can be extra challenging, simply because it is also a division split.  That said, it is actually my favourite split grade (well, except perhaps for the whole EQAO thing).  Since social studies is my favourite subject, I thought it was time to talk about how to approach Strand A:  Heritage and Identity.

In Ontario the Strand A units are:

  • Grade 3:  Communities in Canada, 1780-1850
  • Grade 4:  Early Societies to 1500
Students from both grades are being asked to explore life in early communities, albeit from different time periods.  By looking at the big ideas of the social studies curriculum, it quickly becomes clear that there are very similar concepts being explored in both grades.

I took the 3 big ideas of each grade and merged them into three blended big ideas that can serve as overall foci for this unit.  By keeping these ideas in mind at all times, it becomes easier to develop a seamless unit.




When planning my unit, I kept referring back to these ideas:

  1. Studying how communities in the past developed helps us understand aspects of our lives today.
  2. The environment affected how people worked, played, and lived in early societies.
  3. The lives of Indigenous peoples and settlers in early societies were different in many ways.

Why was the Social Studies Curriculum revised in 2018?

  • In 2018 the curriculum was revised to meet the recommendations of the 2015 Truth and Reconciliation on residential schools.  Not every grade or strand was affected by the changes.  Grades 4-8, as well as 10, were the focus of the revised curriculum.  This means that Grade 3 had no changes, but Grade 4 did!
  • Both grades are expected to explore Indigenous Canadian communities:
    • Grade 3:  First Nations and Metis (Metis did not exist before 1780.)
    • Grade 4:  First Nations and Inuit (Inuit people have lived in North America prior to 1500.)
  • Looking at the time periods for each grade, you’ll see that Grade 3s are looking at 1780-1850  (post- European contact), well after the Grade 4 period which looks at life before 1500 (pre-European contact).  The gap between these time periods is not looked at until Grade 5!

What other communities can be explored?

Grade 3 students are focused solely on Canada but can explore the lives of European settlers, black communities, and other smaller groups.
Grade 4 students can expand their studies to look at Ancient Greece, Medieval England, Mesopotamia, and many other historical societies.  
Both grades can look at these communities while keeping in mind the blended big ideas of the strand, making life easier for both teacher and students!  

So How Can I Teach these Units at the Same Time?

  • Mapping can be a great starting point for any social studies unit.  I have students look at a variety of maps, globes, and atlases to discuss their distinct features.  Then we move on to locating some of the societies we will be exploring.  In this particular unit, students look at why and how Europeans came to North America, and what life was like for people before and after this contact.
  • Using a large timeline on classroom walls is a great way to chart when societies developed over time.  All the communities studied by both grades can be noted on this timeline.
  • Teach lessons focused upon the big ideas, and then give each grade separate texts or resources to apply those big ideas to the communities they are studying.  For example, in exploring how the environment affected the types of shelters older societies used, Grade 3s can look at how the Inuit people created shelters in the frozen North, while the Grade 4s look at medieval homes in England.  
  • At the end of each lesson, return students’ attention to the big ideas.  How did the lesson help them understand that big idea a bit better?
  • Use similar tasks, so that the two grades aren’t doing something completely different.  For example, in the “Exit Ticket” below, both grades are describing food used by the communities studied.  Grade 3s look at First Nations, Metis, and European settler cuisine, while Grade 4s look at First Nations, Inuit, and Medieval English foods. Just cut the sheet apart to give to your Grade 3s and 4s!

Can I find a ready-made unit to help me teach Strand A in my Grade 3/4 split?

Yes, of course you can!  I’ve done all the work for you.  This Life in Early Communities unit contains 18 complete lesson plans, with all student texts, tasks, and assessments ready to go.  

Do you have a digital version of this unit?

Again, yes I do!  This version contains movable pieces, editable texts, and clickable links, while also including the same content as the original printable version!  Check it out here!

But I teach French Immersion – do you have this unit translated?

French Immersion teachers, I haven’t forgotten about you!  I have both printable and digital versions of my Strand A unit.  Click here to see the “printable + digital” bundle!

If you have any questions about teaching this strand, whether or not it’s specific to my own TPT resource, please feel free to email me at:
Have a great week!







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