Lesson Ideas: Blending Social Studies and ELA

One thing that we frequently discuss at Studies Weekly in our personal conversations, individual department meetings, and companywide events is the importance of social studies education. And why wouldn’t we? This is what we do every day. To us, social studies is about more than teaching kids the states and capitals. It’s more than just learning the geography of your state or all the names and terms of the presidents. Incorporating English Language Arts into your social studies can and should be done for a richer education experience for upcoming generations. Here are some ideas to blend each aspect of ELA learning with your social studies lessons.

All the World’s a Stage

After reading their Studies Weekly booklets for the week, assign students a literary genre. They will then an article from their publication and present a production to the class. For instance, they can write a poem about Christopher Columbus and recite it or act it out. Students can create a mystery story surrounding the forming of their state, or a comedy sketch surrounding the three branches of government? Encourage students to get creative with props and the storyline, but remind them to showcase what they learned about their chosen topic. Teaches the Following ELA Areas: Speaking; Writing; Reading; Listening; Analysis; Research & Citations; Art, Activities, & Projects; Viewing; Literary Genres

Create a Video Journal

After reading their Studies Weekly booklets for the week, have them create video journals. This is easier to do if students have access to computers or tablets. If all students can do is issue a stream of consciousness wondering about a topic on video, so be it. The goal is not a perfect analysis of the event or the historical figure you are studying. Video journals build fluency, prepare students for discussions, and help students practice conversation. Teaches the Following ELA Areas: Speaking; Listening; Analysis; Viewing

Debate Historical Issues and Events

Set up a debate in your elementary school class. This is going to look different depending on which grade you’re teaching. A fourth grader’s understanding of the Emancipation Proclamation, for instance, will be a lot different from a sixth grader’s, but this doesn’t mean it’s impossible for them to learn it and talk about what they learned. Have students on either side research the topic and debate the pros and cons, discuss the implications and originations of the subject, and try to come up with a compromise. Teaches the Following ELA Areas: Speaking; Writing; Reading; Listening; Analysis; Research & Citations

Hold a Round Table Discussion

Have all the students choose one of the articles in the Studies Weekly booklet for that week. After thoroughly reading and analyzing the article and its subject, put all the desks or chairs in the classroom in a circle. With their booklets in front of them, encourage the students to open up a dialogue about what they read. Encourage them to use other sources to pull information and cite from if needed to expound their point. Teaches the Following ELA Areas: Speaking; Reading; Analysis; Research & Citations

Memorize a Historical Document

Have your students memorize and recite for the class a historical document, such as the Constitution or the Declaration of Independence. Make the document you choose relevant to the Studies Weekly publication topic for that week. Students should not be expected to know what every word means (although this will help them memorize and internalize it!). The point is to build memorization and learning retention, as well as fluency. Teaches the Following ELA Areas: Speaking; Reading; Listening

The Student Becomes the Teacher

After reading their Studies Weekly booklets for the week, either individually or in groups, and have them teach the rest of their group or the class about one thing that they read about. This will significantly help students with reading comprehension and information retention, while building fluency. Learning a social studies topic is just a bonus! Teaches the Following ELA Areas: Speaking; Reading; Listening; Analysis; Research & Citations

Write to a Historical Pen Pal

After reading their Studies Weekly booklets for the week, have students choose a historical pen pal or when relevant, a current political figure. Once a week, students will write to a historical figure that they have chosen to learn more about. Encourage the students to draw pictures or incorporate diagrams, and ask questions. Write back to each student as if you are that person, or have the students write their own replies as well. Teaches the Following ELA Areas: Writing; Reading; Analysis; Research & Citations; Art, Activities, & Projects The people putting Studies Weekly publications together are former teachers. Some of us spent decades teaching. Others of us are former school administrators. We are PTA members, charter school FSO board members, and parents, and our kids go to public schools, charter schools, or are home schooled. The things our kids are learning are as important to us as they are to you. Feel free to share your ideas and suggestions in the comments. We look forward to learning from you!