Bringing textbook concepts to life in your classroom can be difficult, especially when it comes to social studies since it doesn’t have the obvious experiments that a science class might have, for example. We’ve compiled a list of 14 ideas you can use in your classroom to get students involved in social studies and help them engage with the material in exciting ways.
For this project, you’ll help students demonstrate their knowledge of physical geography by creating maps. First, you’ll need to print the outlines of the regions/states/countries that your students will build their dough maps on. Then, you or your students can create the dough using 4 cups of flour, 2 cups of salt, 2 cups of water, and 2 tablespoons of cream of tartar. To create the maps, have them press the dough onto the printed versions while making the appropriate peaks and valleys where they belong on the map. You can even have them paint their maps according to the elevation! Make sure to include a key explaining which color represents which elevation point.
THEN AND NOW
On a computer, pull together 8 smaller cartoon style photos: 4 from current day and 4 from the past. Include dotted lines around each picture so the kids will know where to cut and make sure that the pictures are easy to distinguish between the past and the present. Once you have your pictures, put them on the bottom left quarter of a page. On the top half, split the section into two spaces: one that says THEN and one that say NOW. Have the students cut the pictures out and glue them under either THEN or NOW depending on the picture itself. Then have them write their summary in the bottom right corner.
FLAT STANLEY PROJECT
This project is great because it teaches your students about life in other parts of the community/state/country/world. You start by reading the book Flat Stanley to your students, then have them reach out to family members and friends in the community and in the world. Have them decorate their own versions of Flat Stanley and then send them plus a journal to your friends and have them fill out the journal and send it back for your students to read. This is also a great opportunity to partner with classes at schools in other parts of the country or world, as students can swap Flat Stanleys with each other.
A simple but fun way for students to reflect on the lesson and make a tangible product – have your students create a flip book about the lesson you just went over!
CREATE YOUR OWN COMMUNITY
Have each student draw a section of land on a piece of paper and then have them set up their own communities! Make sure they show where the restaurants, schools, community buildings and everything else needed to make a successful community are located. Feel free to assign a particular time period according to what you’ve been teaching in class.
COMPARE HISTORICAL PERIODS
This project can be an in depth essay or just a short compare and contrast chart.
TIMELINE OF EVENTS
After studying a sequence of history events in class, have your students write and decorate a timeline where they write about/summarize the events that happened during this time period.
REAL ESTATE COMMERCIAL/AD
Assign a particular region to your students and have them create a real estate ad or commercial based on how the land/property would look back in a certain time period. They can decide how much the land/building would be or you can assign it for them.
CREATE A BOARD GAME
Based on the event you just covered in class, students choose a theme, develop their rules for their game, format a game board, create their game pieces, cards, and anything else they need for a successful game. They’ll then present the game to the class for everyone to evaluate and play together.
MODERN DAY TAKEAWAY
This project idea is very versatile. Have your students take your most recent lesson from the past and explain how they can apply the lessons learned from that event to modern day life. You can assign this paper as an in-depth research paper, a poster board project, or a 5 sentence summary for extra credit!
PUBLIC OPINION POLL
Students should organize their own public opinion poll, including polling at least 25 people. Once they’ve collected all of their data, have them make a graph/chart and present their findings to the class. This would be a great cross-curriculum project to partner with a math teacher and combine lessons in statistics and chart/graph design with the basics of polling and the political polling process.
CIVILIANS INVOLVED IN GOVERNMENT
Have the students research how they can be active citizens in their own communities. Once they’ve pulled together all of their data, have them put it in either poster form or pamphlet form to share with the rest of the class. In schools with a community service project requirement, students could choose from these ideas and implement their project.
CREATE YOUR OWN STAMPS
After talking about taxes and stamps – a perfect tie-in to colonial history lessons – have them make their own stamps! You can assign each student a different state and have them research things about their state to include on their stamp.
POLITICAL POLICIES AND DISTRICTS: A COMIC STRIP SAGA
Students create a comic strip from their notes about a particular history lesson. Consider making their comic strip about 9 panes long and taking a character from beginning to end, or having students work together to combine their comics into a larger story.