Social Studies is my favorite subject to teach. I love being creative, I love using technology, and I love teaching kids about the world!
Many teachers have come up to me and said, “You’re so good about making time for social studies. How do you keep your students engaged when all we have are these old textbooks? What are you using to teach?”
Here’s what I tell them:
Combining Social Studies with your students’ G Suite accounts is the best way to teach your content, meet your standards, ENGAGE your students, and learn computer skills.
Now, don’t worry if you and your students are new to using your G Suite accounts. Social studies is the perfect way to ease into it. There are a lot of easy ways to start incorporating it, which you’ll learn throughout this post.
You’ll also quickly figure out who is really computer savvy in your classroom. Once you do, give them the title “Tech Teacher.” Your students can turn to those helpers for all of their computer questions and you won’t have to answer any.
Here are some of my top reasons why you’re going to want to start using Google Slides (and other G Suite tools) to teach Social Studies.
1. COMPLETE STUDENT ENGAGEMENT
I’m not joking. When my students see social studies on the schedule, they get EXCITED because they know they’re going to use their computers. When it’s time to begin, they are almost running to the computer cart because they can’t wait to get started.
Because my students are so engaged, and know to ask the Tech Teachers for help, I’m able to easily check-in with students and even pull small groups if needed during this time.
2. REAL images, videos, and websites provide students more real-world content
If students are going to learn about the world, they have to have access to REAL images, not clipart.
One of the best features of Google Slides is the image feature that lets you and students insert photos within Google Slides.
When you design your activities for students, you can insert images ahead of time that you want your students to see. You can also have your students do their own image hunt around a topic.
Digital posters are great way to find out what your students have learned about a topic or unit.
I give students a blank template (usually in Google Drawings) and they use it to create a poster using images, text, videos, arrows, and other features to teach others what they know. These posters can be shared with classmates, parents, and even other students.
I also love including videos and links to websites where my students can go to learn more about the topic we’re studying. There are tons of great videos out there that are engaging for students and are likely more current than your textbook.
In Google Slides, just click Insert – Video and you can put a video directly onto any slide for your students. You can even choose to just show parts of the video by right-clicking on your video and clicking, Format options.
In the example below, students are focusing on the vocabulary of a natural resources unit. They’re making meaning of the words by inserting their own photos, videos, and links onto a slide in their social studies vocabulary notebook. Get your FREE copy of this template below.
Get a FREE copy of this Vocabulary Notebook Template by entering your info below.
3. You don’t have to write any content
We all know it’s hard to find actual content that’s written at an appropriate reading level for students in regards to Social Studies. Sometimes the videos you find don’t cut it and you still need the “meat” of the lesson. When you don’t have time (or interest) in writing the content for a topic, you can still use your textbook.
If you’re like me, your textbooks are about 15 years old (George W. Bush is still president), but the content is usually still in line with the standards.
What I’ve done is taken photos of the social studies textbook and put them onto the slides in Google Slides. (Don’t worry, it’s just used by my students.) Now I can include the best content from the social studies book before the interactive activities that follow.
You can have your students read this independently, with partners, or even as a shared reading full-class.
Plus reading in Google is still more fun than reading from a textbook.
The slides that follow have the interactive activities for your students.
4. Speaking and listening standards can easily be incorporated
You know when students present a poster or paper they’ve created in front of the class and no one can see it? When it’s projected, EVERYONE can see it and it’s a lot easier to point out parts on a digital poster. Throw in the microphone and soon everyone can hear and see their work. 🙌
My students love to share their work and it’s easy for me to project their digital posters (or other activities) onto our Promethean Board for them to share.
If my students are working in the same presentation, I can click Present, in the upper right-hand corner of Google Slides and have them come up in front of the class.
If they’re working in different presentations, you can toggle through each presentation through your Google Classroom.
5. Google Earth and Google Maps transport students to places you’re teaching about
Instead of just telling kids about places and what they look like, Google Earth and Google Maps can actually take kids there to experience it. Get students on Google Earth and watch their mouths hang open when they can see your school or they realize they’re INSIDE the White House.
I just finished a unit on communities and had my students use Google Earth. My students traveled to Chicago, rural Maine, and to a suburb in California.
Your students can use Google Earth to:
- Explore geographical features around the globe
- Learn more about landmarks
- See a time-lapse of different cities
- Follow the paths of famous explorers
I use Google Maps with my students to see where their ancestors are from. After speaking with their parents, each student plots a point on the countries their ancestors came from. Projecting the map in class leads to some great discussions. Here’s our map from last year.
6. Your students will collaborate and learn from each other
The learning doesn’t stop when students finish the work on their slides. Now they start learning from each other! One of my favorite features about G Suite is the comment button!
When my students are all working in the same presentation, I have them comment on the slide that’s above and below theirs, so everyone gets feedback. It’s a great option when it’s not necessary (or you don’t have time) for kids to present their work to the entire class.
Types of feedback they can leave:
- More facts about the topic
- Something else this reminds them of
- Whether they agree/disagree
- Personal connection
They’re also getting practice appropriately giving classmates feedback. (You’d want to do a few lessons ahead of time to model what this looks like, of course.)
Students can even reply back to the person who commented. They LOVE it.
7. Interactive activities in Google are a lot more fun and engaging than worksheets
Google makes it really easy to create activities that your students can interact with instead of assigning them a worksheet. Student engagement is a lot higher when students are creating and collaborating in Google.
Here are just a few examples of student activities using G Suite Tools:
- Create and label a map of North America (include real images and links to videos of specific landforms)
- Use a digital vocabulary notebook to learn words associated with natural resources (FREE template above)
- Create an image collage of rural, suburban, and urban areas
- Compare and contrast life now vs. long ago with images, links, videos, and text
- Create a digital poster about a Native American tribe in California
- Explore websites about famous U.S. landmarks
- Complete word sorts about the judicial, executive, and legislative branches
- Watch videos about the American Revolution
- Use Google Earth and Google Maps to learn about Louis and Clark
Ready To Create Your Own Student Activities?
If you want to learn more about creating your own digital resources in Google, check out my step-by-step video course where I walk you through everything you need to know to create activities for your students. I’ll also show you how to get those activities into the hands of your students with Google Classroom.