When I first started teaching we had a dedicated hour block for social studies. A few years later, it was 45 minutes. Then 30… and finally zero. Every year I became increasingly frustrated because learning about history is important for so many reasons!
- Social studies allows students to learn about and discuss culture.
- Students learn research skills that will be important later in life.
- Social studies provides students with an understanding of why things are the way they are.
- It promotes good citizenship, which is increasingly important in our society.
Whether you have zero minutes or an hour to teach about social studies, you can fit it in in the form of research and writing by using social studies to teach the writing standards!
Not only did incorporating social studies into my writing block help me teach those social studies concepts I had zero minutes for, it proved to be VERY high-interest for my students. Kids LOVE nonfiction reading and writing, if you do it right.
Here are a few ideas you can use to merge the two subjects.
Research & Digital Skills
Research and digital skills are not only really important to future education and their eventual careers, but they are a big part of the writing standards in most states.
- Using digital sources: Discuss the differences between primary and secondary sources. Decide if a web source is a reliable source.
- Apps & online programs: Use an app or online program for brainstorming.
- Digital writing/typing: Type a rough and final draft.
- Digital collaboration: Use Google docs to collaborate on writing | Check out this blog post!
Provide your students with a variety of sources to do research with. Have these sources available for students… don’t send them on a long hunt for their own sources. Because we’re focusing on the writing, we want to cut down on the searching time.
- Have students write summaries about what they’ve read.
- Use multiple sources to write one larger summary (hits reading & writing standards)
- Use the research to write a letter about a historical event from the perspective of someone alive at that time.
- Use your informational writing unit as an opportunity to research a historical event | Check out this unit!
Journaling & Reflection
Journaling should absolutely be a component of your writer’s workshop. During our opinion and informational writing units, most of our journaling consists of social studies-based topics. Kids have A LOT of opinions about events in our history.
Here’s how you do it: Drop a short nonfiction piece about a social studies topic into your reading block. It could be from the social studies textbooks you have, a web source, or a social studies resource you bought on Teachers Pay Teachers. Tie this into your writing later in the day by having students journal about the topic. I structure this into a booklet form so that students can keep their writing for each topic all in one place.
Keep track of journal topics in the table of contents | Editable Booklet
Journaling about the Revolutionary War! | Editable Booklet
An important standard you’ll want to hit in the upper grades is current events. Current events provide a great opportunity to tie in opinion writing and social studies.
To do this, I use the free website NewsELA.com. Sometimes I pull a regular story that I think my students will have opinions on – such as this one about Pokemon Go. Other times I specifically look for opinion pieces by searching “opinion” or “pro/con”. The pro/con articles are my favorite because they provide both sides of the issue. Click here for all opinion articles.
Again, I have my students journal their opinions about these articles. They also share and revise/edit, which includes a discussion about their opinions and the event. I also use NewsELA articles for their more formal essays during writer’s workshop.
There are so many ways to connect writing and social studies! No matter how you do it, your students will benefit!
Easy Prep Writing Resources
Free Writing Resources