How to Teach Social Studies to Kids

Kids learn about maps!

Social Studies is a subject in elementary school that often gets pushed off the schedule when there's not enough time in the school day. But it is an important and interesting subject. Social Studies lessons can teach students how to use a map, to read critically, to learn from historical events and to understand the country they live in. Social Studies can be taught in combination with other subjects or by itself.

Review your school's Social Studies curriculum. Read the objectives carefully, and decide if you will teach them on their own or during another subject. For example, if one of your objectives is teaching students to use a map scale, they could learn this during math class. If you need to teach students about The Underground Railroad, you could read them a book such as "Trouble Don't Last" by Shelley Pearsall.

Gather the materials to teach your unit. For example, if you are teaching the branches of the United States government, you will want to look on the Internet for free teaching materials about the branches of government. You will also want to look for DVDs at your library that may explain the different positions on each branch. Ask your reference librarian for books and other materials on your grade level to use to teach students.

Plan activities, assignments, and projects for the unit. Not only will you be sharing information with your students, but you will also provide them opportunities to explore the subject on their own, practice with the information you are giving them, and use the knowledge to draw conclusions and apply it to the real world. Worksheets may provide practice, but you can also look for journal assignments, art activities, group activities, role playing and speech opportunities. For example, if you are teaching first grade students about their families, you can assign them a family tree. Students can work with their parents to find out about their grandparents and great-grandparents and then bring in a poster-sized family tree. Another activity that is popular for many historical units of study is turning part of your classroom into that historical time. When you are teaching about colonial times, you might create a colonial marketplace in your room. When you are studying the Industrial Revolution, you might make an assembly line. Look for ways to bring the Social Studies curriculum to life as well as to provide practice for kids.

Assess your students on the Social Studies material. You can assess students on a daily basis with observation and class work. For example: how did students do when you asked them to make a timeline of the events leading to the United States Civil War? Did they choose events that were a direct cause, or did they choose any event from that time period? You can also allow them an opportunity to show you what they know through a class project, such as a display or a written test. For Social Studies written tests, it is better to assess for overall concepts, such as knowledge of the crops in a certain region of the United States instead of the date that each of those states came into the country. Remember when you are teaching Social Studies to kids and then assessing them on what they know, you are trying to see what students have mastered and what might need to be re-taught in a different way or at a later time. Often you can re-teach Social Studies skills to kids in centers or with activities in other curriculum areas, such as assigning a book on a certain topic during a literature study, and then you can move onto your next unit of study during your Social Studies time.

  • Guest speakers can also help to teach Social Studies objectives. If you are teaching elementary school students about their community, then invite members of your community, such as police officers or nurses, to speak to students.