6 Engaging Social Studies Activities for Primary Students


If you’re like me and don’t have a social studies block, finding ways to incorporate social studies can be a challenge. Fortunately, this is where our Education to the Core Social Studies Units come in handy. It’s an entire curriculum of social studies activities for primary students complete with the following:

  • Teaching slides
  • Interactive notebook
  • Student activity book
  • Extension activities
  • Home Connection projects
  • And so much more!

Let me show you how you can use this unit to make planning engaging social studies lessons a breeze.

Keep Yourself Organized

In addition to an instructional materials guide, there’s also a clickable social studies calendar. As a neurodivergent educator, I can struggle quite a bit with scheduling and organization. This is one of the reasons I love the inclusion of a clickable calendar in this social studies unit. Each day on the calendar is linked to an individual slide. Get to that lesson by simply clicking on the square. There are also daily pages that give you more detailed information with at least one book or video for that given day. Talk about making planning for special holidays easy.

1. Social Studies Activity Unit Teaching Slides

If you have 20 minutes or more a week to teach social studies to your primary students, consider introducing concepts like community and citizenship with these slides. These social studies slides are no prep and have links to other activities in the unit.  Each unit is divided into lessons that have essential questions, vocabulary, and all the instructional materials you would need to teach. Even if you don’t have a social studies block, you can select specific slides that connect to extension activities or home-connection projects that would be helpful.

social studies teaching slides and instructional materials

2. Social Studies Interactive Notebook

A great way to keep students engaged in your social studies lesson is to incorporate an interactive notebook. For example, interactive notebooks can include graphic organizers, question stems, sorts, and so much more. Of course, the obvious reason interactive notebooks are engaging is that they are just that – interactive. In fact, after students cut and paste many activities can be used more than once to cement student learning.

You’re also allowing students to use their artistic and creative talents when completing activities that they enjoy. Check out this cool activity where students can learn about community helpers by connecting the picture to its respective job title and description. Students get to keep their pieces in their interactive notebooks, so they can sort them again and again.

social studies interactive notebook

3. Social Studies Activity Book

If you’re not ready to take the deep dive into interactive notebooks, there’s also a student activity book included to help students understand the importance of community and being a good citizen. For example, there’s a good citizen sort, a page that focuses on rules and responsibilities (that’s great for the beginning of the year), and more. My favorite is this page “Who am I in my communities?” Students can draw a self-portrait and then write values around their self-portrait. These no-prep pages are also great to add to a social studies center during your ELA block if you don’t have time to teach social studies. Once they’re finished with their creation, you could have students share their portraits with a buddy.

Social Studies Student Workbook

4. Project-Based Learning in Social Studies

Project-based learning (PBL) in social studies can have powerful benefits for your students. These benefits can range from building critical thinking skills to project-management skills and even self-confidence.  PBL is also a great opportunity for collaboration in the classroom where students can learn to express their ideas, practice self-regulation, and gain a deeper understanding of content. For example, in September students will create a Good Citizen Action Plan. Students identify a problem and then research ways to solve said problem. This PBL journal includes research, goal-setting, and even a section for reflection.

Social Studies Project Journal

5. Social Studies Extension Activities

If teaching slides and interactive notebooks sound too time-consuming for you or your primary students, consider some fun extension activities like a community scavenger hunt or biographies of important historical figures. If you’re looking for picture book biographies to include in your library check out this blog post. These biographies would be great to include in a fluency center, in your student book bins, or for comprehension practice during your ELA block too.

Back to the scavenger hunt. The cool thing about this scavenger hunt (besides that it’s digital and paper-based) is that it gives students an opportunity to explore. Students are given specific locations in their school and challenges to complete. For example, there are challenges that get students up and moving with their principal and even incorporate taking turns on the slides at the playground. Such a fun activity to do at the beginning of the school year.

Personally, I love a good craftivity. It’s a fun and engaging activity at the end of a unit or after a read-aloud that allows students to express their artistic side. After reading the book, The Red Bicycle: The Extraordinary Story of One Ordinary Bicycle by Jude Isabella, students discuss the impact characters had on their community. This is a great moment to include a think-pair-share for social studies where students think of their response, pair up with a buddy, and then share their ideas. After sharing, students can create a craftivity like this “Wheelie Good Citizenship” bicycle. Here, students describe all the different ways they can be good citizens. It’s always fun to see the different ways that student crafts come together, and they can often be a keepsake to take home.

good citizenship crafitivity

6. Social Studies Home Connection Projects

I always love getting families involved in our learning. It’s important to remember that education is a team effort. We not only have to build relationships with our students, but also with their families. For this social studies September unit, students get to create a mystery bag. Their mystery bags should include items that have clues to who they are. Once students return their bags, they get to guess who each bag belongs to.  What a wonderful way to build classroom connections around common interests, the sharing of family structures, and the expression of cultural items or family stories.

And there’s more!

And as if all of these resources weren’t enough, there are also multimedia recommendations and assessments. These quick checks and exit tickets are great for the end of a lesson so students can show you what they know. Pair it with some self-reflection by teaching students to self-assess their learning using learning scales. Check out this blog for more info on how to write these.

Want to up your engagement level? Create a Blooket account where you can make fun review games for your students. But the best thing is that you don’t have to actually make it on your own. ETTC already took care of that for you by having all of the materials you need to create a fun Blooket game aligned with the social studies content in this unit. All you have to do is add a title, upload and save. Easy as that.

I don’t know about you, but I love having already created and prepped quality curricula. This way, I can pick and choose what works for me and my students. So whether you have a 20+ minute social studies block or none at all, consider purchasing this all-encompassing social studies unit that will have just the right engaging activities for your class to learn about communities and how to be a good citizen.

Love our ETTC resources? Consider becoming a premium member so that you can access ALL of our resources. That’s right, I said all. With a Premium membership, you can access not only this social studies unit, but all of the upcoming units and every other resource we have available for reading, math, STEM, and much more. Premium members also get access to our PD library with webinars on how to use and teach with a sound wall, how to run small groups for ELA and math, and a new one coming up in August for back-to-school. Don’t miss it.

Written by: Dr. Shaime Cortes Vega, Ed. D

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Welcome! I’m Emily, Founder of Education to the Core. We are all about helping K-2 teachers by providing unlimited access to affordable printables for every subject area.