Making Social Studies Fun
One thing I love about being an Elementary classroom teacher, is the ability to incorporate Social Studies into my existing curriculum. This allows me to make Social Studies fun! There are so many fascinating topics to explore throughout history, and children have a natural curiosity about all of it. When Social Studies is integrated properly into the curriculum there is no need to worry about covering all of your Social Studies minutes, and the topics become more engaging.
There are so many fun social studies lessons out there. My favorite ways to incorporate the lessons are through, reading, writing, art, and drama. Drama is probably one of the most engaging methods, because it allows students to understand the emotion and motivation behind many famous historical events. That being said, you want to be sensitive with certain topics. Be careful and do not allow students to become too emotional. This is sometimes easier said than done. In general if you’re not sure how an activity will be received by students and their families, talk it through with other educators and even administration first.
When I was taking my education courses I created beautiful thematic units. I remember creating units which I spent months on, because as a full time student I had time to plan out every last detail. As a full time teacher, time is a luxury I do not have a lot of. Thematic units, however, are still a favorite of mine. I may not hit on every subject, but I always make sure to cover the Language Arts, Art, and usually a math extension or two.
Here are some tips to help you do the same.
- Incorporate a research project which students can do at home. As a primary teacher, I try to avoid assigning research papers. When students write at home, some students don’t receive enough scaffolding to write a truly authentic piece. I like to use hands on projects that show what we’ve learned in class and that children can explain orally. Examples include: dioramas, quilt squares, posters, and even creative brochures. Here is a link to a free freedom quilt project I do with my students each year.
- Create math problems around what you’re studying. Many historical events involve money, and land. Find sensitive ways to incorporate math quickly into your curriculum through word problems. For example, if you’re studying Frederick Douglass write a math problem around a portion of his life. As a little boy, Frederick was sold to a plantation about 12 miles away from his mother. Some nights, his mother used to walk the 12 miles, so that she could see her son. She would visit with him and then walk back to her plantation by the next morning so that she would not be punished. If the average human can walk 3 miles per hour, how many hours did it take Frederick’s mother to walk to his plantation and back? For younger students, you could alter this problem a bit, and ask how many miles total Frederick’s mother had to walk during the night to make it to his plantation and back?
- Incorporate art projects in the classroom. Students love art projects around your studies. There are so many ways to incorporate art. One example is creating a totem pole while studying Northwest Coast Native Americans. If you’d like to learn how to create your own totem pole with your class, you can view this blog post.
- Incorporate Informational texts and historical fiction. There are so many wonderful stories out there. A quick trip to the library will give you stories to use during guided reading, read aloud time, or even close reading passages. The literature will bring your studies to life.
- Write. Have students write in class about what you’re learning. Students can use opinion writing, persuasive writing, or create their own informational text. I prefer having my students write in class, because I can guide them and make sure they are using their own ideas.
I hope I’ve given you some tips that you can use to bring Social Studies to life in your classroom. Do you have any other tips? Feel free to list them below.
Looking for more inspiration? Check out these January posts from these teacher bloggers.