Writing in the social studies classroom is often misunderstood. You may think of writing in history as answering short answer questions or writing a research paper. Integrating writing during your social studies lessons should come naturally and used as a way to assess content knowledge. Here are a few suggestions to use in your classroom to integrate more writing during social studies.
Timelines- Through the course of the year you study different historical events and figures. Creating an on-going class timeline will not only help your students visually remember the events, but also involve them in timeline process. When beginning a new social studies unit, assign groups each day to to record key details on an index card. You can assign one group per day or multiple groups depending on the material being covered. The timeline can be created with key points, pictures, and phrases.
Writing center- Whether you use a writing center as a rotating station or a location for students to work on writing, you can incorporate social studies topics you are currently teaching. Provide pictures, writing prompt strips, question stems, important figures, and historical events. You may choose to use a writing journal or you can include writing supplies such as, graphic organizers, brochure paper, notebook paper, or mini journals. I change out my writing center material monthly to include relevant topics. I also try to include current events material students can write about, as we also include a weekly current events read aloud.
Projects- Social studies projects can be an additional method of assessing content knowledge and allow the lessons to come to life. Students can create biography projects to write about historical figures. A personal favorite with my students has been letting groups write a brief play to reenact a historical event. The groups then get to play the parts as a way for review and offer their own perspective of the material learned.
Interactive Notebook- I use an interactive notebook with all subject areas. For my first graders I provide a great deal of images for students notebooks. The images may represent a historical figure, event, or place. Students record information about those images in their notebooks. You can also provide a sentence strip with the daily objective or a question stem relating to the topic. Graphic organizers and thinking map are also great tools to organize historical information. Lower grades may need those to be prepared ahead of time, whereas upper grades and design their own thinking maps and organizers in the notebooks.
When it comes to writing in social studies, I prefer my students to focus more on understanding the content rather than writing conventions. We focus more on the conventions during other lessons and you will find students writing will improve more throughout all contents.