7 Fun Social Studies Activities that Students Will Love

By Kirsten Hammond

When it comes to social studies activities and lessons, upper elementary students, whether they are in 3rd grade or 5th grade, always love things that get them up and moving! As a social studies teacher I was always looking for ways to incorporate activities into my lesson plans that have students get involved in what they are learning.

The seven activities I’m going to share with you will make your students want to learn more about the topics being taught. These ideas are both fun and educational.

By incorporating these seven easy-prep social studies activities into your lessons, you’ll no doubt see improved student engagement in your classroom as well as overall learning.

Government social studies activities daily passages

1. Daily Review

One of my favorite fun social studies activities that students love is daily review. At the beginning or end of each class, take a few minutes to review what was covered in the previous lesson.

This can be done through a quick quiz, daily passage, a discussion, or even a game. Not only does this help reinforce the material, but it also keeps students engaged and interested in the subject. Plus, it only takes a few minutes to prepare each day!

2. Current Events

Another of my favorite social studies activities that students love is discussing current events. This can be done by assigning articles or news segments for students to read or watch, and then leading a class discussion about the topic.

This not only helps students stay up-to-date on current events, but also encourages critical thinking and analysis of the world around them. Plus, it requires minimal prep time and can be easily incorporated into any social studies lesson.

CNN 10 is a really great resource for 4th and 5th grade. There are a lot of great news segments. You can always preview it in advance if you’re not quite sure, but it’s always interesting for students to watch and they like to discuss it afterwards.

3. Simulations

Simulations and role-playing activities are a great way to engage students in social studies lessons. This allows students to experience history in a more interactive and memorable way, and can help them better understand the perspectives and motivations of different people throughout history.

These activities may require a bit more prep time, but the payoff in student engagement and learning is well worth it.

Be sure not to role-play or simulate any sensitive topics regarding marginalized communities and events.

Read aloud social studies activities for upper elementary

4. Read Alouds

Believe it or not, reading aloud is a simple yet effective way to engage students in social studies content. Choose a book or article related to the topic you are studying and read it aloud to the class.

This is one of the easiest social studies activities that can help students develop their listening and comprehension skills, as well as expose them to different perspectives and ideas.

You can also use read alouds as a springboard for class discussions or writing assignments. Picture books and chapter books are both highly effective – even for the 5th graders! I highly recommend that you utilize both in the upper elementary classroom. There are so many great books that I recommend!

social studies guided notes

5. Guided Notes

Guided notes are a great way to help students stay focused and engaged during lectures or presentations.

Provide students with a partially completed note-taking sheet that includes key terms, concepts, and questions related to the topic. As you present information, students can fill in the missing information and add their own notes.

This helps students stay organized and retain important information. Plus, it’s an easy-prep activity that can be used for any social studies activities!

project-based learning social studies activities

6. Project Based Learning

Project-based learning is a great way to engage students in social studies. Assign a project that requires students to research and present on a specific topic, such as a historical event or a cultural tradition.

Encourage creativity and collaboration by allowing students to work in groups and present their projects to the class.

This hands-on approach to learning will not only help students retain information, but also develop important skills like critical thinking and problem-solving.

7. Problem Solving Activities

Social studies provides a great opportunity for students to develop problem-solving skills.

Try incorporating activities that require students to analyze and solve real-world problems, such as creating a budget for a family or designing a community service project.

These activities not only engage students in the subject matter, but also help them develop important life skills that will serve them well beyond the classroom.

There are ways to make social studies activities fun for upper elementary students. Pick at least two of these ideas that you will commit to utilizing this school year. I highly recommend you incorporate them so that it keeps students on their toes.

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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