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5 Methods for Adding Movement to Your Social Studies Lessons

One of the most commonly asked questions I get is how to add more movement to social studies class. If you find that teaching social studies is boring, than likely your students are bored too. Getting students up and out of their seats can be done with little prep, and these 4 methods can be a great way to spice up your social studies lessons. These activities can be used with any social studies unit or topic.

1. Four Corners:

I learned this method while in a university child psychology class, but I find it works well for social studies lessons too. This is a great way to get buy-in from all students. It requires all your students to take a position on a topic you've been studying. You will divide your classroom into 4 corners. Label each corner with a piece of paper that says either "Strongly Agree," "Agree," "Disagree," or "Strongly Disagree." Use your topic of study to generate a list of statements. Your students will listen to you read the statement aloud, and then move to the corner that best represents their view or opinion on that statement. Once students have moved to their place in the room, you can use this time for discussion. Four corners can serve as a great review activity before an assessment, but it can also be a great get-to-know-you team-building activity, or can be used with statements that might encourage discussion from multiple viewpoints. You can also easily do this activity outside on a nice day.

2. Stations:

I like to use stations to break up a lesson into bite-size concepts. Instead of creating a powerpoint lesson or lecture, I divide the content up between multiple stations. I make sure that no matter which station a student starts at, it will still make sense. For example, when my students are learning about the Roaring Twenties I have stations that cover life in the city, rural America, and life for immigrants. In each station, students are working to answer an overarching question that focuses on answering, "what was life like for people during the 1920's?" Each station contains primary source photos and a set of questions to answer. Once students have completed all of the stations, they are able to use all of the information they gained to answer the overarching question.

Teaching the Roaring Twenties with Primary Source Activities

3. Gallery Walks:

Turn your classroom into a gallery and have students move around the classroom to analyze primary source images and answer questions. I like to transform my room into a gallery by hanging up black plastic tablecloths over my walls to cover any posters or distractions. I turn down the lights and use my lamps as spotlights to highlight the different images around the room. Students can start at any place within the room, and will use the gallery images to answer an overarching question. If you want to learn more about my mini room transformation on a budget, you can click here to see example images and helpful tips.

Tips for an Effective Gallery Walk in Your Social Studies Class

4. Speed Dating:

Students love this activity! Create 10 or more questions from your lesson. Each student will get one color-coded card with a question. For a class of 30, you might have about three students with the same color. Students will get up out of their seats and find someone with a different colored card. They each share their answers and then trade cards. Now each student has a new colored card. Then they repeat this process by finding someone with a new colored card. Have students trade cards three times and then chat as a group. This is a great review activity or end-of-lesson wrap-up.

5. Write the Room:

If you are looking for a meaningful way to introduce vocabulary at the beginning of a new social studies unit, I like to do a vocabulary scavenger hunt. Start by introducing the new terms. Then have the definitions written down on small pieces of paper. Each paper is numbered. Hide the definitions around the classroom. Provide students with a numbered sheet. You can either have a word bank on the page, or leave this blank for an extra challenge. As students move around the classroom, they find a definition card, read the definition, and then record the term on their paper with the corresponding number. If you have competitive students, this activity will often spark a little competition to see who can finish first. This is a great warm-up activity or could be used as an exit ticket activity.

5 Methods for Adding Movement to your Social Studies Lessons

Gives these activities a try, and let me know how it goes. If you have other ideas to share with readers, let me know in the comments.

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