When teaching Social Studies, educators have the opportunity to engage their students using the entire world. What we mean is, Social Studies is the subject that encourages students to begin thinking critically about history and its effect on people today all over the world.
Students can often remain in their own bubble. It takes a great teacher to pull them out and help them see how vital learning histories of the world can really enlighten everyone today.
Here are some ways to engage Social Studies students and help form curious minds who will be ready to learn and explore the entire world around them.
SHARE A PICTURE
Start your class off with looking at a historical photograph or piece of art. Have students take some time to free-write their responses to the image. Once they have a reaction, encourage students to share their thoughts. You can then explain where and when the image is from and help draw connections between their modern response and what was happening in the time period of the piece.
HEADLINES FROM AROUND THE WORLD
Make it an everyday habit to share a headline of news from somewhere else in the world. This can help students begin to become aware of world news, and the global community they live in. Have students write a response to the headline and how the news is impactful to the people of that country, and even to people of their own country.
Whenever you introduce a new topic, find out which of your students knows about it first. Have them act as an expert and allow the class to interview him or her about the topic. This is a way to have students share their knowledge, as well as take the “history lesson” vibe away from the discussion. For example, if you have a student who knows a lot about the first Apollo space mission and you are discussing the implementation for the space program, this student can help engage the others with their passion and knowledge about the subject.
MAKE IT ABOUT THE MUSIC
Depending on the time period and subject, there may be music available. Play it for your students and have them write responses to it. Not only will they have a chance to hear sounds from a different time period, but they’ll be engaged with history beyond the textbook. This can be anything from classical music of the Renaissance to protest songs of the 1960’s. It’s important to the history and people of the time and a great gateway for the students of today.
KEEP IT FRESH
Sometimes students zone out, and when that happens it’s time to change up the mode of learning. If you’re going over important components of a lesson and they start to drift, have students break into small groups and start brainstorming about the topic they are learning about. Have them come up with 5 facts and questions about the topic. Then rejoin the class and have the groups share. This will keep the learning moving forward and ensure everyone is participating and engaged in the process.
WHAT WOULD YOU DO
Students will be learning about consequences throughout history. Whenever you have to teach about an important decision that affected the course of history, have the students Think – Pair – Share on the question or challenge presented. Students will be given time to think about what they would have done in the same position. Then they can share with a partner and discuss the ramifications from their point of view. Finally, the pairs will share with the class what they discovered about the important historical moment and decision. This keeps students connected to history on a personal level.
CONNECT THE PAST TO THE PRESENT
No matter what topic you are teaching, the key to student engagement in Social Studies is helping them understand how the lessons from the past are relevant to their present lives. Use every opportunity to express the ideas in ways students can recognize. Using these metaphors will help students make deeper emotional connections to the content and open the path for higher levels of critical thinking and responses.
What are some of the ways you keep your Social Studies students engaged?