Social Studies lessons can mean a time for “Ooohs and ahhhs" or a time for yawns depending on how lessons are presented. Making the subject relevant will help to grab students’ attention. Of course, making the subject more fun will also keep the yawns away! Here are some tips to help you.
Make History Personal
Today is “Johnny’s" birthday! Take a few minutes to discuss what was happening on the day he was born. Do this for every student in your class and include some famous people, too. References to provide that information are listed below.
Assign one person each week to bring in an historical object to present to the class. It could be an old photo, a medal, an old letter, a uniform, coins, stamps, jewelry, a canteen, a gas mask, a helmet or anything at all that has a story to go with it. Begin by asking the class to try to guess what the item is or what decade it is from. Then ask the presenting student to relate the history of the object. Perhaps it is a medal a grandparent earned in a war or a stamp of a famous person or a photo of a landmark.
People and Places
Find a statue or landmark in the town/city where you live and find out more about it. Why is it important?
Put the silhouette of a famous person on the wall. Each day or so add clues about the person until someone guesses who it is. This could be done before you start a specific unit on which the class will be working or as a review from a past lesson.
Play a Game
Play Quick Bingo! Are you reviewing a unit that you have just studied? Put a list of dates, vocabulary or events on the board. Instruct the class to pick out six of them to write on a piece of paper. You can even use scrap paper. Next, have students trade papers with someone. Then read a clue for each item. Students should cross out the correct answer if they have it on their papers. When all six answers are crossed out, yell “Bingo"!
Play Hangman with names of people, vocabulary or events.
Think of a famous person. Play 20 Questions answering only “yes" or “no" to questions until someone guesses the correct person or until 20 questions have been asked.
On individual slips of paper or file cards write the names of famous people, vocabulary or events. Divide class into two teams. One team member chooses a card and must give clues about the person or event to the rest of the team without saying any part of the answer.
Team or Group Projects
Collect and save local newspapers for a week. Assign different categories to individuals or small groups of students. Categories could be local news, world news, national news, sports, science, business or entertainment. Share the information with the class.
Sequence Order or Timeline: Attach individual pictures or statements to construction paper. Pass the papers out to the students saving the first paper in order for yourself. Begin by holding the paper in front of the class. Ask the class what comes next. That person should bring the paper up and stand in front of the class. Continue until a timeline is formed. Allow for discussion and debate to keep the students involved.
To review, pair students up and instruct them to write five main points of the previous lesson.
When a unit has been completed use the information to do some journaling. How did a particular event influence our lives today?
Make copies of pictures of events or people you are studying. Instruct the students to write captions for the pictures.
Write a letter to an important person from the past. It doesn’t have to be a famous person. It could be a letter to a young pioneer or gold prospector.
Display or make copies of a picture of two people or more in a scene. Students should then write “speech bubbles" imagining a conversation.