Most years, I’ve been given a token 30 minutes in my schedule for social studies. That’s if I’m lucky. If there’s ever an assembly, picture day, or other interruption, they usually plan it during social studies. When we have two months left before the big test. Dun, dun, dun. We are encouraged to do more reading practice. During social studies. There is no social studies portion of the FCAT. Therefore, social studies is deemed less important by the powers that be. None of the higher-ups would admit that, but we can read between the lines.
I think if you ask any teacher or administrator, though, we would all say that social studies is important and something students really need to know. It’s just hard to find the time to teach it. So we have middle-schoolers who don’t know what continent we live on, and we wonder why.
One way I’ve tried to account for the lack of time to teach social studies is to incorporate it in to reading as much as possible. One thing that I did was add a research section in to my daily reading rotations. During reading class, some students are reading independently, some are on the computer, some are working with me, and some are working on research.
For the research rotation, let’s say we were learning about Mexico. I would check out all the books I could find about Mexico both fiction and nonfiction. I would also pull out my atlases and almanacs. Even print off a few informational articles from the Internet. Then, as one of their reading rotations, students would have a research project or scavenger hunt to work on. Researching requires students to use reading and critical thinking skills. Plus, it lets students practice reading nonfiction. So it fits in nicely with our goals for reading class.
Here is an example of the scavenger hunts I used. Since Thanksgiving is coming up, I created one for Thanksgiving. Click here to download it for FREE.
There are 5 basic questions for students to answer and a blank for 5 more interesting facts. For each of the 10 items, students circle the type of source they used (book, encyclopedia, website, etc…) There is also a place for them to write the title and page number. I set limitations on how many of each resource students could use. For example, they could only use a website for two questions, and they could only use any one title for two questions. This helps students get out of the habit of just ‘Googling’ an answer, and it also teaches them to use a variety of sources.
Plus, students were always engaged in these activities. Maybe because I called them scavenger hunts, I don’t know, but hitting on real-world reading and research skills while teaching about social studies at the same time. And fitting it all in during the 90-minute reading block thus leaving social studies time free for the all-important picture day. Score.
I’m linking up with Classroom Freebies for Manic Monday. Check out lots of other FREE items!