Social Studies Vocabulary Fun

I’m back to teaching social studies for the first time in about 8 years.  Given the focus on math and reading currently, social studies has kind of gotten left in the dust.  That’s not necessarily a bad thing.  With so little attention being paid to the social studies curriculum at my school, I have a lot more freedom than I do in my language arts class.

I decided to make it very hands-on, but also focus on the basic foundations that they need.  Since social studies is such a broad set of content, I want to give my students the ability to think about geography, history, economics, etc.

My first project was brief: I gave each student a half sheet of paper that said “Social Studies is…” and tasked them with finishing the statement and illustrating it.  I hung these on the walls of my classroom.  Students got pretty excited about it, since they could write anything from “awesome” to “boring” to “the study of history”.

Next up was getting them a social studies book.  Ours are pretty out of date. so instead of using them, my students are making their own.  I gave them a set of directions Social Studies Vocabulary Book

then gave them 9 sheets of paper and a piece of cardstock.  They folded this in half (a hamburger fold, not a hot dog fold) and I used a book stapler to bind them (which the kids LOVED!)

The students then started working on each page of their book.  Each page holds a vocabulary term, the meaning and a picture.  I had to help with some – absolute and relative location, cardinal directions, physical and political maps.  However, there were others that were no problem: mountain, ocean, valley, etc.  They also used dictionaries for terms like urban and rural.

This is a reference they will use all year.  We left a few pages at the end to add pages, as needed.  It’s been great to give students the chance to learn these terms in their own way.  The creativity, as they illustrate each term is so fun!  I allowed them to do the pages in any order they choose, which also seemed to make them happy (and allowed for mistakes when they accidentally skipped a word).

Do you teach social studies?  What are your favorite ways to make it interesting?