How-To: Incorporate Arts and Design in Social Studies Projects

By Monica Burns 07.06.2015 blog

Social Studies instruction can benefit from an infusion of the arts. Through a variety of assignments and project ideas, teachers can incorporate arts and design in Social Studies projects. This can include traditional hands-on activities as well as assignments that use technology tools.

Activities that incorporate arts and design can cater to students with different interests and learning styles. It can push students to analyze and synthesize while creating a product for an audience. Here are a few examples of how to infuse arts and design into your everyday Social Studies instruction:

Poster making

Students can create visuals that work as a companion to or in place of a traditional research project. Hold teens accountable for choosing images that relate to content, including captions or text when appropriate, and relaying a message or piece of information. Your class might use traditional tools or online tools for poster creation.

3D creations

Ask students to bring the ancient world to life by creating three-dimensional models. In addition to standard dioramas, you might ask students to build a model using a virtual tool like Minecraft.

Interactive designs

There are online tools that bring two-dimensional designs to life. These websites, including the site Thinglink, let students layer virtual content on top of a two-dimensional picture. Students in your class might take a picture of a poster they made and add hyperlinks to additional content using this platform.

Video filmmaking

Students can create videos that demonstrate their understanding of a topic. They might take on the perspective of an explorer or create a news report on a current events issue. The planning and scripting involved will require research and writing skills.

Still photography

Although it might be overused, there is definitely truth behind the phrase “a picture is worth a thousand words.” Ask students to take a photograph, or find an image, that tells a story. Teens can include a writing submission that details the story behind the photograph and makes content area connections.

Poetry performance

Creative writers can express their understanding of different periods in history by writing poetry. Narrative poetry can tell a story of event, convey a mood or describe a historical figure. You might ask for students to detail their decisions to include specific literary elements in an extended writing piece that accompanies their submission. Dedicating time for student performance is one way to celebrate students’ work.

It is important to provide opportunities for choice when working with students of any age. Teens can show off what they have learned through projects that ask them to demonstrate their creativity. Grabbing the attention of your students, giving options for projects and pushing students to think outside the box, are all ways to boost comprehension and interest in Social Studies content.

Monica Burns is an EdTech & Curriculum Consultant and Apple Distinguished Educator. Visit her site for more ideas on how to become a tech-savvy teacher.

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