Monday, March 7, 2011

Writing Activities for Social Science

After this evenings #sschat I felt compelled to formalize all of my random tweets into a more organized post. Here is a list of ways in which I have used writing in my social science classes.


Historical Newspapers – Have students take on the role of a reporter in a historical time period. I have done this with Ancient Rome in the past and the students had fun writing articles about Julius Caesar and the battles with Carthage.

Podcasts – Students create a script and record a podcast with a webcam. This is great because students have to focus on making sure not only the content is good but the writing flows nicely. They are easy and quick to do once you teach students the basics of what every program you are using.

Carousel – This is one of my favorite review or introduction activities. You put up posters around the room; I have also done this on computers with word documents. On each poster is another topic. Students work in groups to add something to each poster. For example, on the first round they may have to come up with key terms that go with their poster’s topic. After rotating they might have to write a question on the next poster. Students rotate around the room and hit all the posters and each rotation has a different task associated with it.

Menu – This one I used with my team teacher Lauren. She created a menu of writing options the students could choose from. It was laid out just list a menu in a restaurant with sections for dessert, entrees, and appetizers. Students picked from a variety of writing prompts/activities and the choice helped with motivation and engagement.

Journal/Diary – These are nothing new and have been used a million times. I have had students write diaries like Leonardo Da Vinci and journals from a serf living in the feudal Europe. Key is to have them take on the role of a character or time period.

Song/Rap – If you have watched any of the historical music videos out there you know they are pretty cool. They are a great way to get students into the content in a new and fun way. I have had my students write their own songs and recently started using ujam to add music to their songs.

Graffiti Walls – Another easy idea here…just toss up a huge piece of butcher/poster paper on a wall in your classroom. Students can write up ideas and new thoughts they are having at any time during a unit of study. You can also encourage students to draw symbols or small pictures as well. If you are looking for a more focused “graffiti”, you can put a word or a question for them to address in their work.

ABC Books – As a fan of ABC books when reading to my children, these are great. Students create an ABC book for any topic, time period, or area of study. You can have them add pictures or get into as much detail as you want.

Campaign Posters – You can have students write out and create campaign posters for a variety of time periods. Personally, I have had students create these when studying the Roman emperors.

Debate – I am a huge fan of debates in class as they have the potential to engage students in high order thinking. They have to write and create compelling arguments based in historical fact and be able to articulate their ideas.

Obituary – Another crowd favorite is writing historical obituaries. I bring in some samples for students to model them after…not “real” people. It allows them to reflect on the historical figures life and what they left behind.

Annotated Timelines – Rather than just having students put dates on a timeline, I have them annotate historical timelines. They provide a date, the event, and short description of the historical significance of that event. It is great for students to see a visual representation of events.

Commercials/News Casts – I really enjoy these writing/video assignments. If you follow my work at all you know I love making videos for my classes and letting my students create them as well. Students can write up scripts and then “perform” their scripts in front of the class or the camera. I use a green screen to help put the students into the places they are reporting from.

Alternate Histories – This is more of a creative writing assignment where students write about historical events from varying perspectives. For this, it requires students to have a fairly sophisticated understanding of historical events and cause and effect. For example, what would have happened if Brutus would not have killed Caesar?

Have any other good ideas? Please share them in the comments below!
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