7 Tips and Activity Ideas for Teaching Culture and Society Skills in Upper Elementary

By Kirsten Hammond

As teachers, we play a crucial role in helping students appreciate and learn about diverse celebrations, customs, traditions, and the contributions of people to society through art, science, music, and technology.

For upper elementary teachers, these topics can be particularly fun and interesting when approached with inclusivity and creativity.

Here are some tips and strategies to help you effectively teach culture and society skills to your third, fourth, or fifth-grade students.

Culture and Society Skills Colorful Balloons with Confetti

1. Reflect on Your Own Beliefs and Experiences

Before diving into teaching culture and society skills, it’s important to reflect on your own beliefs and experiences.

Be open-minded and willing to learn and share about cultures different from your own.

Understanding your students’ diverse backgrounds and respecting their beliefs is key to creating a supportive learning environment.

2. Create a Welcoming Classroom

Ensure your classroom is a safe space where every student feels respected and included. Encourage students to share their own cultural backgrounds and traditions voluntarily. Avoid forcing students to disclose personal details if they’re not comfortable.

Cultivating this environment of respect and openness should be an ongoing effort throughout the school year, not just when covering specific topics.

Group of People Taking Photo

3. Use Stories and Personal Experiences

Start your lessons with stories and personal experiences to make learning more relatable. Read books about different cultures and traditions, and discuss the contributions of various cultural figures in fields like science and art.

For example, “Esperanza Rising” by Pam Muñoz Ryan is an excellent read-aloud that offers insights into Mexican American culture through a compelling fictional narrative.

4. Utilize Hands-On Activities

Plan hands-on activities to help students engage with different cultures. Art projects inspired by famous artists from around the world, cultural food fairs, and celebrations of diverse holidays are excellent ways to bring culture to life.

These activities not only make learning fun but also provide tangible connections to the topics being studied. Try a variety of hands-on activities when teaching culture and society skills!

Positive African American girl with curly hair taking notes on paper while looking at screen of netbook during studies at home with guitar on blurred background

5. Explore with Technology

Leverage technology to explore cultures globally. Virtual field trips using tools like Google Earth can take students to famous landmarks. Educational apps like Nearpod offer interactive lessons on various cultural traditions.

For instance, exploring the Louvre Museum in Paris or learning about the Maasai people in Kenya through virtual tours can be incredibly enriching.

6. Get Involved in the Community

Encourage students to participate in their local communities through cultural events and volunteer opportunities. Whether it’s volunteering at a food pantry that serves diverse populations or participating in language exchange programs, these experiences can provide real-world connections to the topics covered in class.

Highlighting local cultural events, like Fiesta San Antonio in Texas, can also provide context and excitement.

Decorations on Green Wall

7. Assess Understanding of Culture and Society Skills

Regular assessment is crucial to ensure students are understanding the culture and society skills taught. Use projects, presentations, and creative assignments like cultural scrapbooks to evaluate their understanding.

For example, a project comparing celebrations around the world can help students develop research and critical thinking skills while learning about global diversity.

Available Resources

To support your teaching, I’ve developed several resources available on my Teachers Pay Teachers store and through my membership program, Smart and Simple Social Studies:

  • Comparing Celebrations Project: This project includes prompts, rubrics, and guided questions to help students research and compare different celebrations around the world.
  • Daily Passages Bundle: This bundle includes passages on various cultural topics, quizzes, and activities designed for easy integration into your curriculum. It offers nine weeks of material with multiple topics, allowing you to choose what best fits your needs.

Both of these resources are designed to be flexible and engaging, helping you to bring the richness of culture and society into your classroom seamlessly.

Conclusion

Teaching culture and society skills to upper elementary students can be a rewarding experience that opens their eyes to the diversity and complexity of the world around them.

By reflecting on your own experiences, creating a welcoming classroom, using stories and hands-on activities, exploring with technology, getting involved in the community, and regularly assessing understanding, you can make these topics engaging and meaningful for your students.

Remember, the goal is not only to teach about different cultures but also to foster an appreciation and respect for the diversity that makes our world unique.

kirsten hammond

Kirsten is a former 3rd and 5th grade teacher who loves helping upper elementary teachers by creating resources and sharing ideas that are engaging, research-based, and TEKS-aligned. She is a work-from-home mama of 3 rambunctious little ones and loves running, true crime, and lots of coffee.

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