5 Ways to Teach Social Studies Without Textbooks

Thursday, July 26, 2018 No comments

5 Ways To Teach Social Studies Without a Textbook #activities #students #middleschool #socialstudies #elementaryschool #reading #walktheroom #gallerywalk
As we approach the beginning of the school year, I'm sure many of you are thinking about changes you will make in your classroom and many of you will be entering the classroom for the first time. Congratulations!!!!!!!  When I entered the classroom, oh sooooooooo many years ago, I was handed an American history textbook that was 15 years old (the textbook had great hope that Ronald Reagan would be a great president 😜). To accompany that terrible textbook, I was given a teacher version. The only difference between the teacher version and the student version was that it had answers to the three questions at the end of every section.  I was okay though. My ed program had prepared me for a world where textbooks were not the end all and be all. Unfortunately, though, for my students I solved this problem by creating overhead transparencies for every topic. My notes were fun, included clipart, and I can tell a story like a sailor so my kids really enjoyed this but..... uh.  I lectured the content to them for 180 days. We discussed, annotated, created illustrated notes... but I lectured the content to them for 180 days. I'm sorry kiddos... I tried but I failed.

Fast forward many, many years and I still didn't teach with a textbook. We had them in the class, we used them every now and then as a reference, I use textbooks for sub plans, and for many years we used them to build pyramids in Egypt and to hold up our aqueducts in Rome! So how do I teach my content without textbooks without lecturing my content for 180 days?

1. Walk the Room/Gallery Walk

Organizing the most important content into concise notes is not a bad things, but now I like to let the kids explore the content and take notes on their on.  I will organize each topic onto a slide that is easy to read and colorful (or I print them out onto colored paper) I tape them up around the classroom and students travel with a partner and either complete a note taking activity (I use a ton of foldables) or answer some overarching questions. With my struggling learners I give them a copy of the slides with content missing so they can fill in the pertinent information but keep up with the pace of the other students. Since the students are walking around and absorbing the content at their own pace, I walk around and clarify misconceptions, ask questions, and challenge my students to make connections.  Usually when we reassemble to a whole group, I might ask one or two questions that get to the essential question of the lesson. The kids love this because they are up, moving, and socializing with friends. They also like that they get to access me more readily!
My students taking notes on the 5 Themes of Geography.

Some of my favorite Walk the Room activities is one I do on the Bill of Rights and another one for the Persian War. Click on each to see more:)

2. Primary Sources

I loooooooove to teach with primary sources but was always so intimidated by them because the reading level was often way to high for my students and to really teach them you need to unpack the vocabulary, find its place in context, etc.  One of the things I learned early was that my students didn't need to read an entire document. I started to get them to analyze just a couple of sentences or a paragraph and that allowed me to teach how we analyze primary sources. Also, I learned not to shy away from using photos, paintings, and political cartoons in our studies. These can be even more powerful than the written word.  Some great resources have come along to really help teachers get students to engage with primary sources on the appropriate age level.

My favorite is Read Like A Historian from Stanford University.

Read Like a Historian has primary sources for American and World History. The primary sources are well organized and come with questions that guide students through reading, understanding and analyzing the text. 

Two other great resources is DocsTeach from the National Archives....

Image result for docsteach national archives

and the Famous Speech section on Newsela. These are great because you can change the reading level of the famous speech!

3. Cartoons and Graphic Novels

I loooved teaching with cartoons and graphic novels and my students adored it!  One of my favorite artists is Bentley Boyd. He creates cartoons based on a ton of history topics, but mostly American History. You can buy books of his work, by topic on Amazon and he offers previews and lesson ideas on his website.
Why did American colonists like British tea?

I also love the books through the company called Graphic Library. Here are some on Amazon.

Epic! Books also has some available. Here is a collection I organized for you!

4. The Internet with Accommodation Tools
These days we can find all the information we need online but sometimes it is hard for students. Here is a list of tools that will help you and your students access online content. My two favorites are Print Friendly and SMMRY. In the table, choose "Reading" under "Area of Concern".

5. Outside Readers

There are many great informational text readers that can be added to curriculum. I love using Newsela. They have a U.S. History and World History content area that is to die for!  Readworks is also a great place to go for history content based upon reading level.  My absolute favorite, which will not come as a surprise, is Epic! Books. Their informational text section is phenomenal and can easily be used to drive content in your classroom!

5 Ways To Teach Social Studies Without a Textbook #activities #students #middleschool #socialstudies #elementaryschool #reading #walktheroom #gallerywalkI hope that this has been helpful!  If you have any questions, feel free to reach out in the comments below and if you would like to add to the conversation please tell us how you are getting rid of textbooks in you classroom. Also, you may want to go to my TPT store and check out some activities that come with the reading or notes so you're entire lesson is all together in one resource! Click her to check some of those out!

Summer Inspirations Week 4

Friday, July 6, 2018 1 comment
Books, Social Media, Blogs, and More to Keep You Inspired this Summer #newteachers #backtoschool #socialstudies #professionaldevelopment

Hello all!  I have already skipped a week but I'm going to keep trudging through!  This week was my first full week of vacation and I am content. We are having a heat wave here in New England so there was a ton of time in the pool, lots of ice cream, and just the right amount of family snuggling time.  I also got my craft on and tried my hands at Cricut heat transfer vinyl.

I am pretty happy with myself and slightly addicted!

So.... who should you be following to kick up your teacher game in September?