The Classroom

5 Ways I Keep My Middle School Social Studies Students Engaged

Ashlee Harmon
Nov 14, 2022

As social studies educators, we bring history to life every day. Anyone who has stood in front of 30 middle schoolers knows that interaction is key. This age group needs not only dialogue-based interactions but opportunities to learn through physical activity. As a sixth-grade world history educator, I have compiled my top five strategies for engaging all middle schoolers in their social studies education to promote inquiry, movement, and collaboration. 

Also, check out how to integrate Newsela Social Studies into your class too. 

5 Strategies for Engaging Social Studies Lessons

  1. Art: Colors, shapes, details! Analyzing historical art is an effective way to pique the interests of middle schoolers, as it appeals to the visual inquiries adolescents crave, while making connections with the history they’re learning. Here’s an art history lesson using Greek pottery analysis to add vivid dialogues to your classroom!

  2. Music: If your social studies classroom feels a little offbeat, bring it to life with tunes from the past. When students engage with lyrics and sounds from the past, it transports them to understand the social contexts of historical events. Here’s an example of how I jazzed up World War II studies with song analysis. 

  3. Journalism: Extra! Extra! Write all about it! Students thrive in opportunities to showcase their voices on what they have learned. Journalism templates, such as interactive newspaper templates, give students hands-on opportunities to bring their learning to life. In this mini project, students are transformed into journalists on Aztec culture. 

  4. Theater:  Lights! Camera! Action! Students need opportunities to move with their learning and reader’s theater does just that. Student-created reader’s theater gives students the autonomy to write and act out their very own script. Here’s a reader’s theater mini-project about women overcoming oppression in Ancient Greece. 

  5. Debate: It’s no secret that students love opportunities to debate. With social studies, academic arguments allow students to practice backing up arguments with resources, while promoting dialogues. It’s also a great opportunity to teach some media literacy skills. Use this debate project on the social and technological factors leading to World War I. 

Whether you decide to jazz up your social studies unit with music, bring student voices to complex historical issues, or add art to bring learning to life, you are making a difference in creating accessible points of student engagement! For more information on creating engaging social studies lessons for middle schoolers, follow my Newsela profile here!

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