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Writing in the Social Studies Classroom

Writing in the Social Studies classroom can be a challenge.  Teachers often face the reality that they have so much content to teach in so little time, and the writing process can easily be tossed out the window, sacrificed or passed back to the ELA Department. 

In my Social Studies classes, I encouraged writing from the first moment of class to the last.  Using my own Interactive Notebook format, I assigned a writing prompt for each bellringer at the start and one for each wrap-up at the end.  In between, I also assigned research papers, creative writing, poetry prompts, and of course, traditional essays to assess student learning.

While other classrooms foster creative writing, the content-based essay writing, especially in a DBQ or Comparison format, could be a headache-worthy task.  It required a strong understanding of content, the application of prior knowledge, and the utilization of verified sources.

So this month I teamed up with Lit with Lyns for Writing Wednesdays to show how I teach writing in my classes.  And the tip is easy - I filled them up with SPRITE!  Not the soda, but the acronym!

Teaching with SPRITE helps students remember the major categories so important for Social Studies, but it also helps them to organize their information in a way that simplifies the writing process.
  1. First teach the SPRITE acronym and categories.  The acronym is easy to remember, especially if it's introduced to students with a cup of soda.  And using my free guide, have students learn what fits into each category. 
  2. Next, start using a SPRITE Organizer when students are reading or learning class content.  Practicing with the organizer will help students to identify content and the appropriate categories as they read or learn.  Soon it will be habit. 
  3. Then comes time to write. Teach the students the easy trick of turning their organizer into their writing outline, and eventually the essay or research paper assigned. 
Once the basic organizational steps are mastered, students can learn to enhance their writing to add in quotes, document analysis, and more.  In my classes, enhancements had to be added for each category, and in the case of specific writing tasks (DBQ, comparison, change over time), students were charged with including those components for each category as well.

Writing in the middle or high school Social Studies Classroom can be a great challenge. Here are tips, ideas, and guides to make it easier and more memorable for students.

So, here's to writing (as I tip my cup of SPRITE)!

Happy Teaching!

How To Make Vocabulary More Engaging in the Classroom

 Teaching vocabulary is vital for the secondary content-area classroom, but the task can also be the most boring activity students must endure.  Change that up with this simple how-to!

How to make vocabulary more engaging in the classroom
  1. Make learning vocabulary an event in your classroom rather than a start-of-unit menial task.  Allow adequate time for the event, and give it the same emphasis as any other activity in your class lessons.
    • Do a scavenger hunt, allowing students to find and define terms.
    • Play a matching game with terms and definitions, creating some competition in the task.
    • Set up an archeology dig where students gather the information to fit the lesson. 
  2. Allow students choice in how they will learn or process vocabulary.  Working in pairs or small groups can help students define and examine the connotation of terms, while also discussing the terms for reinforcement.
  3. How to make vocabulary more engaging in the classroom
    • Use Think-Research-Share activities to step students through the vocabulary process.
    • Hold "salon" gatherings or connotation readings for added engagement.
    • Add an element of controversy to prompt discussion of critical events.  
  4. Provide graphic organizers or other handouts to help students record definitions.  Add a visual element to help students imprint the content in their brains for later reference. 
    How to make vocabulary more engaging in the classroom
  5. Encourage creativity in the process and application stage of vocabulary learning.  This requires additional thinking and builds retention.
  6. How to make vocabulary more engaging in the classroom
    • Let students write poems, draw pictures, or sing songs to learn vocabulary or to learn its appropriate application.  
  7. Make the review of vocabulary a whole class activity and make it fun.  Allow students to perform skits, play Pictionary, or play charades for added practice and added fun.
Teaching vocabulary does not have to be a boring task.  It can be as engaging and fun as you take the time to make it!  Just remember, the more time you take to make the activity engaging and fun, the more your students will process and retain!

*My Age of Exploration Sunken Ship Activity is shown in this post.  Students gather vocabulary cards from the sunken ship to collect information on the Age of Exploration and the changes leading into modern times.

I love different ideas for teaching vocabulary in the middle or high school classroom. All teachers will love the 3rd suggestion!

Happy Teaching!

How-To Do a Scavenger Hunt in Your Classroom

Scavenger Hunts come in a variety of formats and can be used in a variety of ways in the classroom.  Unfortunately, this often means we are overwhelmed with how to use them most effectively in our classrooms with our students.

Here's a simple how-to for doing a scavenger hunt:
  1. Gather Scavenger Hunt Sets or Resources.  Keep in mind that some sets only include the task or question cards, while others will provide the readings and content, as well.  Choose what will work best for your students.  If readings or content is needed, gather the resources and place them around the room.
  2. Print and laminate all materials for repeated year-to-year use.  Hole punch your materials and place them on a ring to easily store them when not in use.
  3. Place reading cards or resources all around the classroom (or school).  Hide them in places where students can search, including in other resources!
  4. Assign students partners or into small groups.
  5. Give our a graphic organizer for the activity, or simply have students number their papers for the number of cards/questions in the activity.
  6. Provide each group one question card at a time.  Set a time limit for each card, and use to keep students on task.
  7. Review all questions at the end of class to check for accuracy and student completion. 
  8. Encourage discussion and always wrap-up the lesson with an exit slip or formative assessment task!   
Keep in mind, you can always expand on a scavenger hunt activity. Hunt cards can turn into research projects, reading cards can lead to writing prompts, and whole activities can lead to class bulletin boards or topic walls!  Your and your student's imagination can take you far with any Scavenger Hunt set!

Be sure to see my other How-To Series topics on my blog and visit my TpT Store for engaging, content strong lessons! Here's my Scavenger Hunt Series!

Great how-to tips and ideas for teachers doing scavenger hunt activities in the middle or high school classroom. Fun for students and filled with content for learning! Check out how easy it is to do!

Happy Teaching!

How-To Make Archeology Digs Content-Strong

Many engaging classroom activities are fun, but are they content-strong?  Do they encourage skills practice that will help students learn at a higher level?  Can they involve critical thinking or analysis skills that will foster continued growth in the student's academic career?

Here's my simple How-To for making an Archeology Dig content-strong!

First off, you must create and set up the archeology dig!  Here's a how-to for that easy task!

Next, you need to make sure it has the content and the depth of learning for your students.

Here's how to:
  1. Start off with resources that encourage critical thinking or analysis.
  2. Do not allow students to simply copy facts or not what they see.  Require further analysis on all materials examined. 
  3. Encourage the use of a graphic organizer to categorize content or prioritize information.
  4. Allow student discussion of topics and provide additional resources or tools for further investigation.
  5. Tie content back to previous lessons and require students reference those lessons in current tasks, restating content.
  6. Include wrap-up questions and review the dig activity with a whole-class discussion.
  7. Assign application activities that require higher-order thinking and the deeper use of the content collected in the activity.
  8. Encourage student review and reporting of information collected.  Reinforce the content through quizzes or other assessments that utilize the activity materials.
Any activity can be content-strong if the right skills are practiced in its use.  Never rely on any resource to be the teacher in the classroom.  While resources can provide the basic information, you are the one that brings the learning home for your students!

Be sure to see my other How-To Series topics on my blog and visit my TpT Store for engaging, content strong lessons! **My Chinese Dynasties Archeology Dig Activity seen in the photos!

Great how-to tips and ideas for teachers doing archeology dig activities in the middle or high school Social Studies classroom. Fun for students and filled with content for learning! Check out how easy it is to do!

Happy Teaching!

How-To Use Topic Cards in Your Classroom

Are you working toward giving students more autonomy and independence in your classroom?  

Have you used Topic Cards for your Genius Hour projects?
This is a simple how-to post for using topic cards in secondary classrooms.
Or are you stumped on how to use generic resources for complex learning?

Here's a simple how-to for using Topic Cards that can spark incredible learning!
  1. Create or find Topic Cards that best fit your classroom or your topic of study.
    This is a simple how-to post for using topic cards in secondary classrooms.
  2. Print and laminate cards for year-to year use.
  3. Display cards for student selection or randomly distribute cards.
    This is a simple how-to post for using topic cards in secondary classrooms.
  4. Encourages students to start with 2 cards and begin project-based study and research by comparing the two (related) topics.
  5. Begin by having students create or utilize a graphic organizer or comparison chart.Visit my store for a free SPRITE Organizer for Social Studies topics or my BRAGS Organizer for any lesson!
    This is a simple how-to post for using topic cards in secondary classrooms.
  6. Allow time for students to further investigate topic and to research for details.
  7. Assign writing prompts comparing topics as students develop their knowledge on the topics.
    This is a simple how-to post for using topic cards in secondary classrooms.
  8. Encourage project development and application using topic content or skills.
  9. At the end of the project period, have students draw new cards to review or quiz for content knowledge and concept understanding!
  10. As topics are covered, display the topic card and the project on a classroom wall for student recognition and content reinforcement.
This is just one suggestion for using Topic Cards in your classroom.  Take a look at my U.S. History Topic Cards for even more ideas to make your classroom engaging, content-strong, and FUN!

Be sure to see my other How-To Series topics on my blog and visit my TpT Store for engaging, content strong lessons!

If you are a middle or high school teacher, these ideas on using topic cards will open so many doors for you and your students. The suggestions are especially great for Social Studies classes and those doing Genius Hour.

Happy Teaching!