The school year is about to start for many teachers across the United States. As bulletin boards go up, desks are arranged, and materials are gathered, teachers are preparing for another year with their students. Social studies teachers are looking at curriculum and tweaking lessons. But there are some key ideas and concepts that social studies teachers have to be thinking about as well.
We have come up with our top 5 back to school tips for social studies teachers.
1. Be Social
An integral part of any social studies classroom is to have a teacher who truly gets the word “social” in social studies. This subject area lends itself for open dialogue and respect for each other. In order to do this, you have to get students talking starting day one. What better way to do this then through a fun game of ball toss. Get out a koosh ball, beach ball, or any other soft ball and have students toss it to a classmate. The student who receives the ball needs to share his/her name and then one thing about him/herself. Then it continues until everyone has had a chance to respond. This is a quick and easy way to get the students talking.
Another great way to get students involved right away is through the “Fact or Fiction” game. For the game, students are to share two facts about themselves and one thing that is not true. It is the class’ job to figure out which of the three is fiction. You will be surprised at the facts you will learn about your students that you may go back to throughout the year! When learning about history there are often misconceptions, myths, and fictional reports as well. So this would be something you could share once a week with your class, or even have them look for myths or misconceptions too.
2. Be a Community
In order to build a strong classroom community, you should develop rules/beliefs with your students. Empower them to create an environment where learning can take place. You will have less behavior issues to manage and students will hold each other accountable as well.
Shared decision-making and cooperative learning are important parts of building a classroom community. When you have group projects assigned, it is important to have well-defined roles for each student, and allow them to determine who is responsible for each part. You may have to model what this looks like and sounds like and have students practice to demonstrate their understanding of true cooperative learning. You can also have students come up with cooperative learning contracts that they all must sign. This would tie in well with any lessons on treaties or signed agreements in history.
3. Be Innovative
When we were in school, Social Studies was primarily taught from a textbook. It wasn’t until we were in college classes, that we realized that the textbook is not the “Bible.” It should not be the only source of information for your students. Students need access to both primary and secondary sources. The National Archives is a great website for primary sources spanning from 1754 to the present.
With the advancements in technology just over the past ten years, it is also important to involve technology where appropriate. In our classrooms, we visit Google Earth to look at ancient ruins in Mexico, the topography of the land for early American settlements, and monuments that have been built to honor past historical events. We also to like to use QR codes for students with electronic devices to find answers to questions instead of paging through a textbook. One example of this would be our Aztec, Inca, Maya QR Code activity. Our students are able to find out many facts about these three Early American civilizations.
4. Be an Investigator
As a social studies teacher, you need to stay up to date on current events. There are numerous ways to do this: reading the newspaper, checking news websites, and watching local and national news to name a few. Then, it is up to you on how you want to integrate that into your teaching.
One way to address current events with your students is through CNN Student News. If you have a projection system in your classroom, or if students have access to computers/devices, you can watch the daily news show that keeps your students up to date with current events. It is only 10 minutes so is a great way to either start or end class. You can also have your students report out on current events as well by making it a part of your daily/weekly instruction.
Another way to be an investigator is to look for new developments in past history. You probably remember being taught that Christopher Columbus “discovered” America, and how Paul Revere rode alone to warn the people of Lexington and Concord that the British army was coming. But today we know these both to be not true. When new discoveries of what took place surface with evidence, use it as a teachable moment with your students.
5. Be Prepared
Don’t assume anything with your incoming group of students. Do they know the 8 Strands of Social Studies? Do they know the 5 Themes of Geography? Do they know how to use a social studies textbook? Are they able to cite evidence from a text? These are just some of the basic concepts and skills that students need to succeed in a social studies classroom. We have created a Back To School Social Studies Skills unit that includes the following resources:
-8 Strands of Social Studies PowerPoint
-8 Strands of Social Studies activity
-Five Themes of Geography PowerPoint
-Textbook Detectives activity
-Understanding Text Features PowerPoint
-Using Text Features to Predict PowerPoint
-Making Inferences in Nonfiction PowerPoint
-How to Cite Evidence
-4 Geography Vocabulary Activities
-Football Geography Activity
-Create Your Own Country Activity
-Childhood Neighborhood Map Activity
-Nonfiction Reading Activity
You can find this resource by clicking here.
Please share any tips that you have to being your year in social studies in the comment section below!
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