Teaching Virginia Studies is my favorite! In this blog post, I’ve rounded up my favorite activities to use with each Virginia Studies SOL.

This blog post uses the 2023 Virginia Studies SOLs which were adopted by the Board of Education in April 2023.

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Are you a Virginia teacher? You can find all of my Virginia Studies blog posts HERE. You can also sign up for my free newsletter for Virginia teachers to learn when I upload new posts and resources specifically aligned to the Virginia SOLs.

VS.1: Virginia Geography

Virginia Studies SOL VS.1 is all about Virginia’s geography. Topics include:

  • locating Virginia’s bordering states
  • identifying and describing the five regions of Virginia
  • identifying and describing major bodies of water in and around Virginia

One of my favorite Virginia Studies activities of the entire school year takes place during this Virginia geography unit… building 3D maps of Virginia.

For this activity, students use five different colors of clay to construct a map that shows the five regions of Virginia. Students should take into account things such as the rounded mountains of the Blue Ridge Mountains region and the rolling hills of the Piedmont region.

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This map activity is included in my Virginia Regions Unit.

After the map hardens, students can draw rivers, label major cities, and draw the bordering states around the map. This is the perfect hands-on activity to cover every part of SOL VS.1!

You can learn more about this Virginia map activity and some of my other favorite activities to teach VS.1 in this blog post.

VS.2: Virginia Indians

Virginia Studies SOL VS.2 has to do with the history of Virginia’s Indigenous peoples. Topics include:

  • describing how artifacts teach us about Virginia’s first people
  • locating and describing the three most prominent language groups
  • explaining the traditions and cultures of Indigenous peoples throughout Virginia’s history

Virginia Studies SOL VS.2 provides lots of opportunities to teach and practice inference skills. I like to have students take a virtual field trip to the Jamestown Rediscovery website. The website houses a collection of Native American artifacts found in Virginia.

Students make predictions about what they think each artifact was used for. Then, they read about the artifact and write what it was actually used for.

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This artifact activity is included in my Virginia Indians Unit.

You may teach students that corn, beans, and squash were three of the most popular crops grown by Indigenous peoples in Virginia. These crops are associated with the Legend of the Three Sisters. Retell this story to students and have them act out the different parts. Discuss how important aspects of early life in Virginia were incorporated into the legends and stories told by Indigenous peoples.

After the story, students love a cooking or snack activity that uses the Three Sisters crops.

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These Three Sisters activities are included in my Virginia Indians Unit.

You can learn more about these activities and other activities that I use to teach VS.2 in this blog post.

VS.3: Jamestown

In Virginia Studies SOL VS.3, students learn about the first permanent English settlement in the United States- Jamestown. Topics include:

  • explaining the reasons for English colonization and why Jamestown was selected
  • describing the Virginia Company of London Charter
  • describing the interactions between the English settlers and the Indigenous peoples
  • describing the hardships settlers experienced at Jamestown
  • analyzing the impact of the arrival of Africans and women to Jamestown
  • explaining the establishment of the General Assembly

I am always looking for ways to incorporate math skills into my Virginia Studies lessons. During my Jamestown unit, students make a map of the Jamestown settlement by finding coordinates on a graph. Students always have fun with this activity. They do not even realize that they are practicing math skills.

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This Jamestown map activity is included in my Jamestown Unit.

Not only can you incorporate math skills into Virginia Studies SOL VA.3. You can incorporate ELA skills too.

A Lion to Guard Us by Clyde Robert Bulla tells the fictional story of three siblings traveling to Jamestown to find their father. The book details the challenges the settlers faced while at sea and when they arrived at the Jamestown settlement. The book is a great way to help students better understand the challenges experienced by the English settlers.

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You can learn more about these activities and other activities that I use to teach VS.3 in this blog post.

VS.4: Colonial Virginia

In Virginia Studies SOL VS.4, students learn about the life and culture of colonial Virginia. Topics include:

  • explaining the importance of agriculture to the Virginia colony
  • examining how colonial Virginia reflected the culture of Indigenous peoples, European immigrants, and Africans
  • comparing the differences between indentured servants and enslaved people
  • describing the laws that established race-based enslavement
  • explaining why Virginia’s capital was moved from Jamestown to Williamsburg
  • describing the ways people exchanged goods and services in Colonial Virginia

One of my favorite Virginia Studies activities is a bartering game that I use during my Colonial Virginia unit. Each student is given a brown paper bag filled with different objects related to colonial Virginia. Each bag has a different number of items. Then, students are given a goal of getting specific items through bartering within a certain amount of time. Students usually ask to play this game several times.

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This bartering activity is included in my Colonial Virginia Unit.

SOL VS.4 also presents another opportunity to incorporate math skills. Have students select several Virginia cities to research. Then, look up the origin of each city’s name. For example, Nottoway is an American Indian name whereas Bedford is an English name. As students discover the origin of each name, they should graph their findings in a bar graph. This activity will show that the names of most Virginia cities have Native American or English origins.

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This graphing activity is included in my Colonial Virginia Unit.

You can learn more about these activities and other activities that I use to teach VS.4 in this blog post.

VS.5: Virginia in the American Revolution

With Virginia Studies SOL VS.5, students learn about Virginia’s role in the American Revolution and Revolutionary War. Topics include:

  • explaining why the colonists declared independence and went to war with the British
  • explaining the main ideas of the Declaration of Independence
  • describing the roles important Virginians played in the American Revolution
  • describing the American victory at Yorktown
  • explaining why Virginia’s capital was moved from Williamsburg to Richmond

Simulation activities are a great way to help students retain social studies information. A Stamp Act simulation is the perfect simulation activity to use while teaching SOL VS.5.

One way you can perform a Stamp Act simulation is by assigning students to the roles of king, tax collectors, and colonists. Each colonist is given the same amount of “money” which can be represented with candy or classroom economy money. The king decides what will be taxed and how much tax colonists owe. Then, the tax collectors collect the tax from each colonist.

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Stamp Act activities are included in my American Revolution Unit.

Another way to help students understand the reasons for American independence is by having them memorize sections of the Declaration of Independence. You can help students memorize parts of the Declaration of Independence by using games, worksheets, and foldables that expose students to excerpts from the important text.

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A variety of Declaration of Independence activities are included in my American Revolution Unit.

You can learn more about these activities and other activities that I use to teach VS.4 in this blog post.

VS.6: A New Nation

Throughout Virginia Studies SOL VS.6, students learn about the founding of the United States of America. Topics include:

  • examining important Virginians who wrote founding documents and played a role in the founding of the country
  • explaining the significance of the Virginia Declaration of Rights and the Virginia Statute for Religious Freedom
  • describing how ideals established in important Virginia documents inspired the Declaration of Independence, the Virginia Constitution, the Constitution of the United States, and the Bill of Rights
  • explaining how geography and technology influenced western movement in the early 1800s
  • explaining the causes and events of Nat Turner’s Rebellion

This New Nation unit provides many opportunities to take virtual field trips throughout Virginia. Some of the places to visit include Mount Vernon, Montpelier, and Monticello. Taking a virtual visit to each of these places will allow students to learn more about important Virginians and how they helped to shape both Virginia and the United States.

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Virtual field trip instructions and worksheets are included in my New Nation Unit.

Wondering about the best way to take a Virginia Studies virtual field trip? The Virginia Trekkers have lots of great videos that are specifically aligned to the Virginia Studies SOLs. The videos even start with a fun theme song to help students learn about Virginia’s regions. My students are so obsessed with the Virginia Trekkers that parents tell me they find their kids watching them at home.

Tip: If the Virginia Trekkers website is not working, all of their videos are also available on their Vimeo site.

You can learn more about my virtual field trips and some of the other activities I use with SOL VS.6 in this blog post.

VS.7: Virginia in the Civil War

With Virginia Studies SOL VS.7, students learn all about Virginia’s role in the American Civil War. Topics include:

  • explaining the impact of John Brown’s raid on Harper’s Ferry
  • describing how the institution of slavery caused the Civil War and secondary factors that contributed to the secession of the southern states
  • describing the significance of the Underground Railroad and the contributions of Harriet Tubman
  • explaining major events that divided Virginians and led to the creation of West Virginia
  • identifying major battles that took place in Virginia
  • describing the roles important Virginians played in the Civil War

I always begin my Civil War unit by having students complete profiles for the Union and Confederacy. Each profile contains information such as which states were part of that side, the capital city, and the president. It can be difficult for students to keep track of so many details. Keeping these profiles in an easily accessible place ensures that students can always locate important information about the Union and Confederacy throughout the unit.

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These profile worksheets are included in my Civil War Unit.

Escape rooms are a fun way to review any Virginia Studies unit. At the end of my Civil War unit, I use an escape room with seven puzzles and activities to help students review SOL VS.7. With this escape room activity, students pretend they are time travelers, going back in time to investigate Virginia’s role in the Civil War. As they are traveling back in time, their time machine malfunctions. The only way to fix the time machine and return home is to complete the challenges. 

Virginia Studies escape rooms for every unit can be found HERE.

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You can learn more about these activities and other activities that I use to teach VS.7 in this blog post.

VS.8: Reconstruction

In Virginia Studies SOL VS.8, students explore the reconstruction of Virginia after the Civil War. Topics include:

  • describing the Reconstruction Amendments
  • examining the effects of Reconstruction on life in Virginia
  • describing the role that the “Freedom Schools” played in the lives of Virginia’s African Americans after the Civil War
  • describing the election of John Mercer to Congress
  • describing the effects of the Supreme Court’s decision in Plessy v. Ferguson
  • analyzing the effects of segregation and “Jim Crow” laws on life in Virginia

 As we journey further along into the Virginia Studies curriculum, it is easier to find more primary sources to use with instruction.

I use lots of photographs throughout my Reconstruction unit that help illustrate segregation. Often, I will post a picture without telling the students what is happening. I give the students time to infer what they think is happening. Then, we discuss what is actually happening in the picture and the effects of segregation on life in Virginia.

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Primary source worksheets are included in my Reconstruction Unit.

In addition to escape rooms, task cards are another great way to review Virginia Studies. I like task cards because they can model the questions used on the Virginia Studies SOL test and there are so many ways to use them in the classroom.

Recently, I created a game show with my Reconstruction Task Cards. I divided my students into teams. Then, I projected each task card onto the SMART Board and gave students time to discuss their answers as a team. We reviewed the answer as a class and points were awarded to teams that answered correctly. This was a fun way to use task cards because it encouraged the students to work together.

Virginia Studies task cards for every unit can be found HERE.

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You can learn more about these activities and other activities that I use to teach VS.8 in this blog post.

VS.9: Virginia Grows

With Virginia Studies SOL VS.9, students discover the ways that Virginia became more interconnected and diverse. Topics include:

  • explaining how railroads, waterways, new industries, and the growth of cities led to Virginia’s economic development in the late 1800s
  • explaining the economic and social transition from a rural society to a more urban society

Virginia Studies SOL VS.9 is a great time to review Virginia geography. Students explore things such as waterways, new industries, and cities. As they do, have them use a map of Virginia to locate these things. Whenever they locate something on a map, discuss what region it is part of and what the geography of that region looks like.

VS.10: 1900 to Present Day

The information found in Virginia SOL VS.10 is mostly new to the 2023 Virginia Studies SOLs. With this SOL, students examine the role Virginians played during World War I and World War II. Topics include:

  • examining how key leaders and citizens prepared for wartime
  • describing the contributions made by military veterans and Medal of Honor recipients

The town of Bedford, Virginia lost more residents per capita on D-Day than any other U.S. town or city. For that reason, Bedford is the location of the National D-Day Memorial.

Even if your class is unable to visit the memorial in person, the website for the memorial provides lots of great student resources that can be used for a virtual field trip.

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In addition to exploring the National D-Day Memorial in person or virtually, there are lots of first-hand accounts of D-Day and other World War II events that can be accessed for free on YouTube. Sharing primary sources and first-hand accounts is one of the best ways to help students understand the sacrifices and contributions made by members of the military during the war.

Conclusion

Virginia Studies is my favorite subject to teach because Virginia has played such a big role in shaping the United States, and there are so many fun ways to teach this to students.

If you are looking for more engaging ways to teach a specific Virginia Studies SOL to your students, make sure to check out my complete list of blog posts about each Virginia Studies SOL. I also have lesson plans and activities for every SOL in my store.

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Remember to pin this post so that you can find it later.
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The Virginia Teacher Club® is a one-of-a-kind program for upper elementary teachers in Virginia. Members receive instant access to a curriculum library of SOL-aligned math, science, social studies, and ELA resources. There are lesson plans, games, assessments, passages, digital activities, and more for EVERY SOL. By using the Virginia Teacher Club®, our members save hours of planning time every month and have access to high-quality, SOL-aligned resources that students love.

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