Each year, I interview my students on the first day of school. I ask them what they think of Social Studies (History, Geography…) and what their classes have been like in the past. I usually receive groans and many complaints about the “boring” classes they have endured with lecturing teachers and tired, old content about “dead people.” Sounds like a bad horror film, but for many students, this is still Social Studies reality. However, this does not have to be the case.
Every Social Studies classroom can be exciting and fun! Kids can be on the edges of their seats in anticipation of the next facts, and they can be ready on a moment’s notice to fire off their thoughts and ideas about the changes and major events of our world.
To start, the old materials and old ways of teaching Social Studies have got to go. This would include many textbooks, or at least the dependency to use textbooks as main sources of information. With the many activities available on TpT, you can have great content instruction. Create, or buy, ready-made placard kits with graphic visuals and easy directions for students to gather information through investigations. Set up games or adventures for students for critical thinking while learning the content needed. Most importantly, add technology and allow your students some choices in materials used in your classroom.
Here are a few other ideas:
· Turn your classroom into an archeological site. Let students “dig” for facts or clues to materials you want them to know. For example, let students crawl through trenches made from desks and form plastic tunnels to simulate trenches of WWI.
· Use scavenger hunts and other exploratory games to provide students opportunities to get them up and moving. This also helps them remember what they read or see.
· Allow students chances to become content “experts” and share their knowledge with the next group in a Jigsaw activities.
· Let students create content products to assess their learning, such as skits, songs, or board games. These engage students while offering opportunities to practice content.
· Let them act! Assign students historical figures and encourage them to “meet and greet” one another in an information exchange activity.
· Use visuals to help students picture what they are learning about: character collages drawn by the students, images provided through an internet field trip... Visuals make learning real!
· Provide for freedom of speech in your classroom. Give students forums to express their thoughts on topics. Hang up “Big Paper” for written comments or place a “Soap Box” (a small crate will do) in the front of your classroom to create a public square.
Social Studies classrooms can be the most fun (and most learning) your students can have each day. Take a little time to prepare to make your lessons more engaging and more interesting for your students. In the end, your class will be the one they remember, and appreciate, for a lifetime!
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