5 Social Studies Games

Making time for games and fun practice activities are a great way to get kids up and moving and learning. As we use Google to find information in our daily lives, remember that developing memory skills are still essential to nurturing the youth. 

Line Up
Give each student a card with content and ...
  • Order geographic locations in order from East to West. Students can get creative and move forward or back to establish relative North or South. 
  • Place events in chronological order.
  • Make a cause-effect chain. This could also work for similarities and differences, especially if students have to work from a mid-point outward by placing the characteristics by theme (see below). 
  • Place leaders or governments on a continuum, like communism to capitalism.
learning game, analysis, similarities and differences

The first exercise is a warm up that works on general memory. Try not to underestimate the importance of warm ups like this one that do not contain specific lesson content.
  • Knees-knees-clap-clap as a group of ten or so, each student is numbered, say 1-1-3-3 and so on until someone makes a mistake. The goal is to remember who is out and who is not while those who are out continue clapping as to not signal their status.
  • Sit in a circle of five or seven and say a vocabulary term, make a current event analogy, and finish with a personal analogy.Provide five minutes to research before the game so everyone knows their term and analogies. Each student says theirs and the previous students' back to the first, who says all of them at the end. Students can help each other upon request. Fun way to practice creating analogies and repeated review. 
  • Students are given a theme and have to say one continuity and one change before reciting the continuities and changes of previous students, Groups of five work well. This can be followed up by a note-taking and summarizing activity (expected accuracy of three themes with one continuity and one change each).
Drawing Conclusions
This activity addresses teamwork and clarity. Students have to be specific and accurate from one perspective and use clarifying statements from the other. 
  • Project a simple arrangement of shapes and symbols all in black outline on white background (see image below). One student faces the screen and tells the student facing away how to draw what is on the screen. Debrief about what was accurate or not and why. This one is from Jacob Clifford. Check out his AP Boot Camp. http://www.apbootcamp.com/development/Jacob_Clifford/Jacob_Clifford.html
  • Describe a painting or photo and student facing away has to make notes and ask clarifying statements. If you time the students, they can practice identifying important details quicker.But make sure they can do the activity well before you add a time limit. 
  • This sort of activity can be done as a vocabulary game with about five words, increasing in difficulty. The student facing the screen can use any words except the five in the screen to help the student facing away guess. 

Global Connections 
Students have a theme and say a specific example. Another student thinks of an example that fits with both the previous theme and their own theme before coming up with a new example for the next student to make a connection. Groups of five work well. The first group to connect all five examples wins. If no connection is made, students need to start over. Each student needs to make a connection but they don't have to follow an order like clockwise, for example.

30-Second Story 
Give students an event, person, or concept to prepare a thirty-second story that includes five facts and the significance to a particular turning point or theme for the unit if study. Make two equal lines and have students face one another. This can be done with groups of ten, five in each line. After each student shares their 30-second story, the last person in one line rotates to the beginning and everyone shifts to meet a new partner before repeating the storytelling. The debrief is supposed to require students to be back in their seats while the "specialists" of each event, person, or concept stand together and contribute one detail at a time until a strong story is compiled. Seated students make notes, which will be easier after hearing the 30-second version.

These are review and practice games that I don't hesitate to use during a lesson cycle as opposed to waiting to until the end. 

Please comment and add a description or link to your favorite game.