Making Social Studies Less Dull

Discussion in 'Elementary Education' started by otterpop, Jul 2, 2015.

  1. otterpop

    otterpop Phenom

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    I feel guilty even writing the title of this post, because I love social studies! I am required to teach Nevada history, though, and it is so boring. Students have a very dull textbook, and most of what they did this past year was read the textbook, answer questions from the end of each section, and write vocab. I tried doing a few research style projects but 1) we have very limited technology availability for research, and 2) when conducting research, there isn't much available online for our state's history, and nearly none that's child friendly. The textbook is definitely the best information source for students.

    I had kids work in partners or work outside to change things up, but the content was still quite boring. When I went outside the standards and taught about US history, we had some very engaging discussions, but I should stick with what I am supposed to teach. No one in admin really cares, though, about social studies - if we get behind, it's ok. Any suggestions for shaking things up a bit next year? Content includes local Native American groups, gold rush, and historical figures, but again, it's supposed to be state specific, and relevant information sources have been limited.
     
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  3. Upsadaisy

    Upsadaisy Moderator

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    I always worried about this, too. They can make dioramas on just about any topic. Make maps with sculptural material. Kids could write a newspaper about some unit. Make travel brochures. Dress up as statues in a museum, then come to life and explain their characters (I've done this with presidents and noted people in science. Write lyrics on a topic to an established melody. Have students teach a group of younger students. Also, look up Dinah Zykes' foldables. There are loads of them for ss.
     
  4. czacza

    czacza Multitudinous

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    If you think it's boring so will your kids. Bring in artifacts, online links, field trips. Be enthused and live your content- kids cue off your energy.
     
  5. RainStorm

    RainStorm Phenom

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    I also teach social studies -- and fourth grade is "Our State." The book is boring and years out-of-date. I can totally relate to what you are saying.

    I've got some fun activities I do to keep it more interesting. I do a huge "Scrapbook" project that takes 6-8 weeks to finish. I also do a local Native American's project (you'd have to use tribes from your state, obviously.)

    If you want me to send you any of the information, just pm me with your email address, and I'll be glad to share.
     
  6. otterpop

    otterpop Phenom

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    That reminds me, we did some foldables too. It definitely made note taking and vocab a little more interesting. I would like to do more. I like these ideas, especially the diorama and travel brochures ideas. They could probably do that with only the info from the books.
     
  7. Upsadaisy

    Upsadaisy Moderator

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    My kids always liked taking notes in foldables when they could use colored pens and decorate the papers. You can also do them with preprinted notes that they cut out and you discuss how to organize them.
     
  8. otterpop

    otterpop Phenom

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    That sounds good too. I usually look at the social studies block as another time to practice nonfiction reading and note taking skills. Using colored pens definitely ups the excitement level. Haha, it's the little things...
     
  9. Rockguykev

    Rockguykev Connoisseur

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    I'd highly recommend reading Teach like a PIRATE for ideas and inspiration on stuff for social studies. I also have 75 different creative activities for any history topic on the Assignments page of my website at mrroughton.com that you are welcome to take and use. I am not familiar with Nevada's standards but I'm sure you can find something that will fit.
     
  10. comaba

    comaba Cohort

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    Wow, that's a great resource. Thanks! (Hoping you don't care who uses it!)
     
  11. misswteaches

    misswteaches Companion

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    I am getting ready to teach Nevada history this year, too! Yay!

    I haven't gotten my hands on my textbook yet, but my expectations are pretty low. However, I have always really liked social studies (except for a run-in with "core humanities" in college...) and I know that I won't be bored! I'm planning to integrate some writing to kill two birds with one stone, but I also want the kids to own what they know and be proud of their state...not just write about it.

    I'm thinking of doing a newspaper-style project for each unit/division of history, where students will work together to think of an appropriate headline story, illustration, possible advertisements, etc. and put it all together. It's my first year so I'm still working out the details in my mind.... ;)

    Also, I have read several great children's books about Nevada history/culture. If you live near a good library there may be a Nevada section for you to peruse.
     
  12. CFClassroom

    CFClassroom Connoisseur

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    I teach Massachusetts history and always have the kids make a vacation brochure encouraging people to visit the state as a culminating project. They seem to enjoy it. :) Jodi
     
  13. ChristyF

    ChristyF Moderator

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    For me it's general social studies at the U.S. level, geography, regions, civics, and economics. I DETEST our text book and don't use it. I've pulled a it if informational text in and teach the kids simp,e notetaking (Cornell and others). They feel grownup doing that. We do foldables, Socratic Seminars, and anything I can find to get them active. I enjoy all of it except economics. Sooooo tedious. That's my challenge to myself for next year. To make that part much more engaging. Our curriculum is changing next year and becoming more analytical and less ambiguous on topics. I'm looking forward to it. I thinkmit will make it a much more enjoyable topic.
     
  14. runsw/scissors

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    We always had our kids build models of Native American housing (wigwams and teepees) or pioneer housing (sod houses). You could also do a character report on a person famous to your state history. Have them make a Power Point to keep them interested. State history is hard to make interesting sometimes if the books are dry. What about taking a field trip? Do you have anything close by that could be a destination?
     
  15. OUOhYeah

    OUOhYeah Comrade

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    If you do The Trail of Tears at all I would send them on a mock trail. Then, hand out note cards to them while they are walking the trail that say, "death", "disease", or "hungry". When they get one of those cards they follow behind you and then we see how many students actually made it back alive. Then, I even turned it into a math lesson by figuring the % of students alive.
     
  16. Upsadaisy

    Upsadaisy Moderator

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  17. MLB711

    MLB711 Comrade

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  18. Upsadaisy

    Upsadaisy Moderator

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    I always did a unit on maps at the beginning of 5th grade before starting the regular curriculum. At the end, they had to create their own nations and create maps with all the elements they had learned for political maps. Or maybe they could choose which type of map to create, I can't remember.

    I was happy with studies weekly for 5th. We sang the presidents in order every morning for the first half of the year, then the state capitals the second half. I held up 8x11 portraits of each president as we sang. We also sang the anthem each day and I held up a picture book that ilustrated every two lines. We talked about the anthem and/or the flag each day after the pledge, too. If you don't do these things, they generally slip through the cracks. My 5th grade room was always decorated with an Americana/patriotic theme.
     
  19. ChristyF

    ChristyF Moderator

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    Our school starts with the Pledge and Preamble. I started each class with the Louisiana pledge and a patriotic song. (I did all the traditional ones, then added other classics like Oh Susanna, Dixie, Home on the Range and When the Saints go Marching In.) I just feel like they should at least be familiar with them.
     
  20. AdamnJakesMommy

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    Using primary sources, debates, simulations, mock trials, foldables--but most of all, the teacher is who brings the excitement to the content. For example, I BLEED world history. When you bring enthusiasm, you can make a car manual exciting. Okay, that's a stretch but you get the point.
     
  21. LiterallyLisa

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    I love social studies, and I am so sad I will not be teaching it this year. That being said, I taught Ancient Civilizations ;)

    Some things the kids really enjoyed:

    -Cave paintings/archaeological "digs"

    -Brochures (why you should come live in _________ (we did Athens and Sparta, but I guess it could be applied to different tribes you learn about?)

    -Post Cards from people visiting certain civilizations

    -If ___________ had a Twitter account, what would they say? (historical leaders) in 140 characters or less!!

    -god/goddess facebook page


    -Once we learned about the accomplishments of Ancient China- I brought in a cup, silk scarf, stamps, etc and set up stations. So I agree about seeing if you can bring in artifacts or replicas, because they love that too!



    Sigh, I'll miss it this year. ;)
     
  22. otterpop

    otterpop Phenom

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    You all have such great ideas! Thank you. I will use several! I remember now that I did have some kids create model Native American homes as a project option. Maybe I can do that as a whole class project. ChristyF, I like the idea of staring class with a state pledge.

    I am not from the state where I teach, and definitely need to study up on it more. Checking out some children's books from the library on state history is a good idea too. I do love history, and even have a social studies related major, but goodness, is that textbook boring! I would like to use it less next year for sure.
     

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