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Top Teaching Strategies for Social Studies Instruction

Janelle Cox

Social studies can be a subject where students are either interested in the topics you teach, or they’re not. If you feel that the majority of your students aren’t engaged in your lessons, then it may be time for a change in your teaching strategies. As a teacher, you already know that studying social studies helps students understand the world, and opens up their minds to the many people and places that are on our extraordinary planet. As students learn about history they begin to understand their own role in this amazing world. By studying the past, students can gain a better understanding of who they are and what they’re doing here. Here are five effective teaching strategies to help your students explore the world without ever leaving your classroom.

Teaching Strategies Through a Virtual Field Trip

What is better than going a field trip? Field trips are a wonderful way for teachers to help students connect what they are learning in the classroom to the real world. However, with today’s district budget cuts, oftentimes class field trips are one of the first things to go. But today’s technology makes it easy to take students on a virtual field trip. Virtual field trips are a great alternative to a real-life class field trips because they have the ability to enhance a students’ learning experience by giving them a glimpse inside of history.

Virtual field trips can engage students in social studies by giving students the ability to explore the American Museum of Natural History and learn about Theodore Roosevelt. They can explore the American Red Cross Virtual Museum and learn about Clara Barton or even take a guided tour through the cultural history of the American Red Cross. Here are three more amazing field trips students can go on right from their seats.

  • Take an interactive tour of Colonel Williamsburg and explore the town or revolutionary city.
  • Take an interactive tour inside the White House and explore the mansion room by room.
  • Learn about America’s “firsts” by taking an electronic field trip to Freedom in America.

By Video Conferencing or Facetiming

Video conferencing, as well as Facetiming, is quickly becoming a staple in many classrooms. These amazing pieces of technology are a powerful tool teachers can use to engage their students in social studies topics. Teachers love them because they have the ability to connect students with experts across the globe. Video “chatting” allows students to connect with their peers around the world and learn about different cultures and traditions, as well as be able to work together with these students to talk about relevant issues. Here are three of the best ways to connect with others across the globe.

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  • One World Classrooms allows you to travel electronically to other schools and interact with students across the globe.
  • The Global Classroom Project connects K-12 students to over 35 countries around the world.
  • Skype in the Classroom takes classroom on a global adventure.

Using Google Geo Products

Google for Education is one of the best ways for students to access the world’s information visually and totally online. The possibilities are endless, and students can use Google maps and Google Earth to see and learn about virtually anything, anywhere. The great thing about these products is that they are readily available. Students can use Google maps to understand how geography affects their daily life, or they can take an interactive tour of Mars, search for landmarks, or even travel back in time to see how their hometown has changed. They can even visit the online Google Cultural Institute and view artifacts in a virtual museum. The ideas are endless and within a few short minutes students will become virtual explorers right from their chair.

In today’s technological world, it’s easy to engage students in social studies concepts. You don’t need a textbook for students to discover history when you have options like virtual tours, video conferencing and Facetime, and Google products. You can easily bring social studies to life each day without a textbook and without ever leaving the comfort of your own classroom.

How do you engage students in social studies in your classroom? What types of astonishing people and places do you study? Share your teaching strategies with us in the comment section below, we’d love to hear from you on this topic.


Janelle Cox is an education writer who uses her experience and knowledge to provide creative and original writing in the field of education. Janelle holds Masters of Science in Education from the State University of New York College at Buffalo. She is a contributing writer to TeachHUB.com, TeachHUB Magazine, and Hey Teach. She was also the Elementary Education Expert for About.com for five years. You can follow her on Twitter @empoweringed, on Facebook at Empowering K12 Educators, or contact her at Janellecox78@yahoo.com.