How do you engage students in your Social Studies Classroom? | Edutopia
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WHAT WORKS IN EDUCATION The George Lucas Educational Foundation

How do you engage students in your Social Studies Classroom?

How do you engage students in your Social Studies Classroom?

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Please share some ideas about how you engage your students. If you would like assistance with engaging students, please post a question so others may assist you. Thanks!

This post was created by a member of Edutopia's community. If you have your own #eduawesome tips, strategies, and ideas for improving education, share them with us.

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cary nadzak's picture
cary nadzak

i begin with a weird photo that may or may not have to do with what we're learning but it always gets kids ready to learn - i also use alot of clever short video clips that keeps kids wondering what will happen next! there are alot of social studies songs made to top hits but with social studies

we also get up and move alot in my 6th grade class - gallery walks - playing "mother may I" to review

Ms. Davis's picture

1-I have used four corners -you pose a question with four choices (strongly agree, agree, strongly disagree, disagree), 2-word debate-show two pictures and ask which one best represents the vocabulary word of the day; 3-ask a student to review what we learned the day before; 4-show a video (i.e. Channel One news, youtube video about topic); 5-ABC Brainstorm Sheet-they have to tell me everything they know about a topic using the first letter of the alphabet. I'm at in DC

cary nadzak's picture
cary nadzak

we're an IPAD school so often my bellringers will be a weird fact for kids to research on IPADS - group posters where kids have to depict what surprised them, shocked them etc about what they read, Flocabulary raps, Horrible History, kinesthetic reviews - kids stand up by seat & answer T/F questions by moving certain way,, - gallery walks

Jeff Kohls's picture
Jeff Kohls
High school social studies, student council advisor from Buena Vista, Co.

Great Todd, thanks for posting that.

James Kendra's picture
James Kendra
7th and 8th grade Social Studies teacher in Grand Rapids, MI

I engage the students by starting each day with a current event from another country. I tell them the country they will be reading or hearing about and they need to do some basic research about the country (capital, leader, gov type, population, GDP, HDI, etc). After the reading, we summarize the story using the 5 w's. Students are engaged because we are learning about what is going on in their world at the time. I have found it the best way to teach geography, economics, and civics. After a few weeks we can do a lot of comparing between countries (economically and politically). It is amazing how often the stories relate to the history we are studying at the time. I call it the "content free classroom" because it is unknown what the content will be from day to day, but students like knowing that they are learning current things. I have found their understanding of economics and civics has improved tremendously.

Samer Rabadi's picture
Samer Rabadi
Online Community Manager

James, I really like what you've implemented. I wondering though...what do you do with the students who say, "What does this have to do with me?"

James Kendra's picture
James Kendra
7th and 8th grade Social Studies teacher in Grand Rapids, MI

I get a lot less of that when discussing current events. That question definitely comes up more when studying things like the Whiskey Rebellion or Articles of Confederation. But even this has diminished lately. When I have them relate these events to things like the vote on the Egyptian Constitution, the protests in Ukraine, or the civil war in Syria, they see why the decisions made during the history of our country were critical and how fragile a government can be. The students feel like i am learning with them because we are making connections together. It's been fun and the students sense that, I feel.

Samer Rabadi's picture
Samer Rabadi
Online Community Manager

That makes sense. I can see how finding parallels can suddenly make history feel more relevant and alive for students.

Thanks for sharing!

Sean Ulley's picture

I like to connect something from the present as a Do Now in order to show students how the past still very much influences the future. For example I was doing a unit on the constitution and the articles of confederation. One of my Do Nows was a a political cartoon from 2003 depicting President Bush Jr. cutting up the constitution with a pair of scissors labeled "The Patriot Act". I used this as a jumping off point to have students dissect the Constitution and find possible violations that the Patriot Act may have. Students really respond to connecting the present to the past and it helps to bridge the gap of "why do I have to know this?!"

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