So often, I have heard both kids and adults complain that history is boring. This statement always makes me cringe because one of my greatest passions as an educator is finding ways to make history both hands-on and fun. With many children around the world now moving to distance learning, I want to show parents how to get your kids excited about history with fun at home social studies activities. If you try out some of these activities, your child will go from saying history is boring to asking to do more history activities each day!
At Home Social Studies Lessons
I am not a fan of textbooks at all. When it comes to introducing new history content, I like to use short digital passages and videos. I start by giving a student a digital passage and comprehension questions. The passage introduces the student to the key ideas and allows them to practice comprehension skills. After the student has read the passage and answered the questions, we discuss what was read together and I answer any of the questions the child still has about the topic.
After reading the digital passage, I reinforce what was read by showing a video clip. If you search for any historical topic on YouTube, you will find lots of videos. For example, type “American Revolution” in YouTube’s search bar and many videos will appear instantly. By presenting the information in writing and visually, students are using different cognitive skills and connecting with the information in different ways.
Social Studies Games
Studying history requires a lot of memorization, which can be a challenge for some students. One of the best ways to help students retain the information is by playing social studies games. I like using task cards to play social studies games. Task cards are cards that have questions about a subject. Often, the questions model what students will see on a standardized test, so they help kids review the content while practicing for state testing. One of the best things about task cards is that there are LOTS of ways to use them. I created the following video with examples of task card games that can be played at home or school.
Social Studies Unit Plans
Many teachers and parents are feeling overwhelmed right now because it seems like there is so much work to do. Teachers feel like they are suddenly responsible for creating digital lessons and parents feel like they are responsible for creating at-home educational lessons and activities. My advice to teachers and parents who are feeling this overwhelm is “don’t reinvent the wheel.” There are lots of pre-existing lessons and activities you can use.
If you are not sure where to begin when it comes to at home social studies, I have created units for every U.S. History and Virginia Studies standard. These units include:
- detailed lesson plans with step-by-step instructions for teaching the topic
- links to free video clips
- digital passages and comprehension questions
- worksheets and activities for each lesson
These detailed unit plans simplify the lesson planning process for teachers and parents while providing engaging activities to help students learn social studies skills.
This video clip shows a preview of my Westward Expansion Unit. The video provides a sample of what you can expect to find in any of my U.S. History or Virginia Studies units.
At Home Social Studies Projects
I am huge a fan of project-based learning because it takes a lot of stress off teachers and parents by putting learning in the hands of the students. Instead of having to come up with lessons and activities to teach a topic, students are tasked with researching the topic on their own and completing a project to show what they have learned. In addition to taking a lot of stress away from teachers and parents, project-based learning is proven to help students retain information better and make learning more fun.
One of my favorite social studies project-based activities is in my Virginia Regions Unit. During this unit, students research each of the regions of Virginia independently. Then, they must create an ad campaign for the state’s tourism department with their findings.
Virtual Field Trips
One of the best ways to help students understand social studies topics is by taking field trips. Field trips help bring history to life and allow students to visualize what they are learning about in a new way. With social distancing and state closures, visiting a historical site or a museum is not an option right now. But, you can take a virtual field trip. Many historical sites and museums have digital collections on their websites. For example, Historic Jamestown offers a digital collection of artifacts discovered at the original Jamestown settlement. Students can look at these artifacts up close and learn about them without having to leave their homes.
If you take a virtual field trip, make sure students do something to show what they learned. Some ways students can show what they learned include:
- writing a report
- creating a slideshow
- creating an ad for the museum
- writing a thank you letter or card to the museum
- creating a Google Site
Social Studies Current Event Activities
If students are unexpectedly out of school for an extended period of time, they are probably wondering why. You can provide your child with an explanation by having them complete current event activities. Social Studies websites such as NewsELA and Time for Kids provide leveled current even articles that explain what is happening in the world using kid-friendly language. While these websites do require a membership to access some articles, many of the articles are free.
By getting out of their normal routines and not going to school, kids can become resistant to doing schoolwork at home. One of the best ways to prevent resistance to at-home learning is by making learning fun. There are lots of engaging at home social studies activities you can use to get kids excited to learn while at home.
Do you know of any other at home social studies activities that I forgot to mention here? Be sure to leave a comment and let me know what they are. Then, check out the other posts in my online learning series for even more tips and activities to get kids excited to learn at home.