Wednesday, April 22, 2015

Social Studies Activities

It's Spring Break! I have a moment to breath and was looking back through recent photos on my phone and on Instagram and thought I'd share a few of my favorite fun activities from my social studies classes!

Key Term Review Egg Hunt
A couple of my classes were scheduled to take exams just before Easter and so I thought I'd make our exam review a bit more fun. If you want to see a room full of teenagers go crazy, tell them you've hidden eggs all around the classroom! In each egg was a key term that the students had to define before they could get their prize. The prizes were mostly stickers, erasers, and coupons for a 'special' pencil (see next picture), but a few had Life Savers (I know, I know...don't reward kids with candy). They had a blast, it got them up and moving out of their seats, and they had to review some main ideas, too!

Personalized Pencils

I posted to above pic on my Instagram account to show the awesome personalized pencils I order each year from Oriental Trading Company. I give them out as prizes or at Christmas or the end of year as presents. The kids think they're funny and they make us all smile! Other phrases I've used include

"Abe Lincoln is my Homeboy"
"Sacagawea is my Homegirl"
"I Heart History"
"I Stole this from Miss Rush" (these were on my personal stash of pencils)

Magic Picture Window

I recently tried a new activity with my classes that I call 'Magic Picture Window' (I learned about this activity last summer at an AP summer institute I attended). I cut small rectangles out of index cards and students use the 'magic picture window' cards to look closely at the details of an image. Above, students are examining a primary source (Paul Revere's etching of the Boston Massacre) by looking at the details of the image that's within the window cut out on the cards. It's a fun way for them to focus on details rather than just the image as a whole.

Document Walk

Another recent social studies lesson that the students enjoy focuses on identifying the differences between primary and secondary sources. We first discuss this definition of each source and then I have students walk around the classroom and examine several items I've placed throughout. Their goal is to decide whether the item is a primary or secondary source and jot down a brief rationale. Some examples of the items I use are a photo of my grandmother when she was 15, a photocopy of my datebook calendar from 5 years ago, an outfit I wore as a baby (they LOVE this one), a copy of an historical fiction novel, a DVD, a text book, a copy of the Declaration of Independence, and a copy of our local newspaper. The items illicit a great discussion as to what makes a source primary versus secondary.

Junto Society Meeting
Social Studies Lesson Ideas

One of my FAVORITE transition lessons between our unit on the American Revolution and our unit on the 'New Nation', is an activity based on Benjamin Franklin's Junto Society. The Junto was Franklin's social networking group in Philadelphia. The members of his group met once a week at a local pub and discussed a variety of topics meant for 'mutual improvement'. He created a list of discussion questions of which the group was to chat about at their meetings. So, for our lesson, I have the students read 10 of Franklin's questions, figure out what he is asking, re-word the question into friendlier language, and then respond. We then have our own Junto Society meeting at which we drink tea and snack on colonial-inspired dishes. I bring the tea, the kids bring the snacks. It's quite fun and we get to discuss what's going on in their lives and in the world around us! And isn't that the goal of social studies curriculum? 

What about you? 
Have you done any fun social studies lessons with your students?


  1. I love all your ideas in this post! Excited to try them out next year!

  2. For the egg review game, did you have them verbally give you the answer, or write it down somewhere?

  3. Do you have a copy of your Junto Society = Ben Franklin's Hot Topics page available for purchase or use? I would love to add this to my class this year. Thanks for letting me know.