Social Studies Strategies

Social Studies

Here you will find some social studies strategies to help with ESOL students.

Be careful when looking at each strategy as they could vary on grade level. All can be adapted to fit any grade level.



The ESOL Performance Standard that is covered in these strategies is:

ELD.K12.ELL.SS.1-English language learners communicate information, ideas and concepts necessary for academic success in the content area of Social Studies.



  1. Modeled Talk: Demonstrating as You Talk (Taken from 50 Strategies for Teaching English Language Learners by A.L Herrel and M. Jordan)
    • Grade: 1st grade
      • Creating a Map
    • TESOL Standards for PreK-3 Students:
      • Follow instructions from verbal and nonverbal cues.
      • Gather and organize materials needed to complete a task.
    • Common Core Standard:
      • SS.1.G.1.3-Construct a basic map using key elements including cardinal directions and map symbols.
    • This strategy takes a lot more preparation by the teacher but it is definitely worth it. This strategy focuses on making a map and for this lesson we are going to make a map of the classroom. The main idea is to model how you want the map created by what you say and what you do as the teacher. A chart with directions will also be helpful. On this chart should be very straight forward directions like: 1. Get a piece of paper. 2. Write your name on the back. 3. Draw a circle in the middle of the paper. And so on. Create your own instructions on how you want their classroom map to look like and go through it all with them. Always refer back to the instructions saying key words like first, next, then. You do not want there to be any confusion, so be verbal and clear with the instructions, have them posted where every student can see, use visuals, and walk through it all with the students. Each student’s map should look familiar at the end as everyone followed the same directions.
    • The teacher needs to make sure they are going at a good pace, not too fast and not too slow. The teacher also needs to be monitoring where the students are to make sure everyone is on the same page. Be sure to stop and ask questions before moving on. The teacher is the leader and needs to make sure they are clear and to the point.
    • This strategy is so helpful to all the students in the class as the teacher is modeling exactly how to do the assignment. This strategy really helps ELLs as they have a visual to go with the verbal and written. They can actually see what is being done as they read and listen to what they need to do. This allows a better connection of knowledge for them. They also have an example and something to compare their work to.
    • Website for teachers about mapping skills:
  2. Culture Studies: Learning Research Skills and Valuing Home Cultures in One Project (Taken from 50 Strategies for Teaching English Language Learners by A.L Herrel and M. Jordan)
    • Grade: 1st grade
      • Then and Now
    • TESOL Standards for PreK-3 Students:
      • Represent family culture orally and in pictures.
      • Verbally explain ways that people are the same and different.
    • Common Core Standard:
      • SS.1.A.2.2-Compare life now with life in the past.
    • For this strategy, I would start off by reading the book, Now and Ben by Gene Barretta which goes through inventions that Ben has made and how they looked back then and how they look right now. This lesson is going to focus on like now compared to life in the past focusing in on student’s home culture. Each student will have to do research on their family and what life was like for them in the past. Students will be allowed to use the Internet with the supervision of the teacher or their parents. Students will be making a book like the one read in class comparing then to now. Give students a rubric of what you expect so they have something to guide them as they work. Have a set of questions available for students who do not know what to ask their family members. The goal of this project is to get culture into the classroom as well as learn some history about how life has changed. At the end, each student will get the chance to share their books to the class and in doing so, teaching the class about their family culture.
    • This strategy is going to take a lot of time management by the teacher to make sure that the students are staying on top of their work as a lot of the research is done outside of the classroom. I would advise having checkpoints where every couple days students have to show you what information they have gathered and the progress on their book. Make the students excited about this book and even have a culture day when the books are complete.
    • This strategy allows ELLs to feel more comfortable as they are able to discuss themselves and their family. It brings their language and home life into the classroom which helps to relax and excite them. They are also enhancing their English as they work to incorporate everything into a book. now_and_ben_2
  3. Multimedia Presentations: Oral Reports for the New Millennium (Taken from 50 Strategies for Teaching English Language Learners by A.L Herrel and M. Jordan)
    • Grade: 1st grade
      • Let’s Improve our School and Community
    • TESOL Standard for PreK-3 Students:
      • Use classroom computers and the Internet to locate answers to questions.
    • Common Core Standard:
      • SS.1.C.2.3-Identify ways students can participate in the betterment of their school and community.
    • For this strategy, students will be given the chance to use technology to create awareness on how to better improve their school and their community. It is important that at first, the teacher models how to use media and sets rules for the media. The computer also need to have a software that is easy for the student to use. Microsoft Word is perfect for this lesson. Have students get in groups of 3-4 and have them brainstorm of how they might want to get the awareness out. It can be a poster, a story, a letter, anything they can think of. Then the students should brainstorm different ways for improvement and start to create a rough draft of their product. Finally, they can use the computer to create their final product and then present it to the class.
    • The teacher will definitely need to make sure that he or she is paying close attention to what the students are talking about and creating. There is a lot of room for creativity but the teacher also needs to make sure that there is productivity as well. The teacher should also show an example of what he or she is looking for and demonstrate how to use the computer. Each student needs to contribute and be a part of the whole process.
    • Incorporating technology into the classroom allows students to explore new things. By having students work in groups they can feed off each other and for the ELL they can work on their language aspect as well as contribute in a smaller group setting. By using a software on the computer, the ELL does not have to worry about their writing and can focus on the content. Visuals are a huge help to ELLs and this strategy focuses on creating one mail visual for the content.
    • 091013_kidshackingshutterstock_58262788
  4. Microselection: Finding Key Words and Main Ideas (Taken from 50 Strategies for Teaching English Language Learners by A.L Herrel and M. Jordan)
    • Grade: 1st grade
      • Main Idea in the Content Area
    • TESOL Standards for PreK-3 Students:
      • Identify key words in oral readings.
      • State the main idea of a simple paragraph.
    • Common Core Standard:
      • SS.1.G.1.2-Identify key elements (compass rose, cardinal directions, title, key/legend with symbols) of maps and globes .
    • Microselection is the ability to find the key words in individual sentences and it is a prerequisite for students understanding how to find the main idea in longer reading passages. This strategy allows for students to retain the meaning of a passage because they are able to locate and recall main ideas rather than trying to remember each detail. It is important to start microselection at the sentence level and then build up from there. It starts with identifying key words in sentences and then key sentences in paragraphs.
    • I knew that a lot of students struggle with finding the main idea and I knew it was important to teach them key words and phrases but did not know it was called microselection. I would incorporate microselection into my classroom by teaching a mini-lesson on it where I would model but then I would put my students in groups where each group gets the same text and they have to find out the main idea. I would want to see if my groups get similar ideas or if there are some who are way off. I would also probably include a lot of whole class discussions on finding the main idea as it is something that has to be gone over often and finding the main idea is very important.
    • Because English Language Learners do have a more limited vocabulary, it is important that the teacher provide instruction, demonstration, and guided practice in microselection.
  5. Circle Chat: Get Talking
    • Grade: 1st grade
      • Gathering Information
    • TESOL Standards for PreK-3 Students:
      • Use appropriate language to discuss the subject at hand.
      • State their ideas and thoughts about a topic.
    • Common Core Standard:
      • SS.1.A.2.4-Identify people from the past who have shown character ideals and principles including honesty, courage, and responsibility.
    • A “circle chat” is another activity for student-to-student interaction that is a little more involved, but always fun and informative. In this activity every student speaks with a variety of partners, which allows for greater exposure to other thoughts and students. Have students talk about different people in history. Each student should pick one person in history who have shown honesty and courage and then tell others about that person.
    • The circle chat allows for an interactive classroom which really helps ELL students.
    • http://www.colorincolorado.org/article/increase-student-interaction-think-pair-shares-and-circle-chats#h-circle-chat
    • http://www.gottoteach.com/2014/08/circle-chats-cooperative-learning.htmlcircle chats
  6. KWL and Data Charts: Researching and Organizing Information (Taken from 50 Strategies for Teaching English Language Learners by A.L Herrel and M. Jordan)
    • Grade: 1st grade
      • Data Charts
    • TESOL Standards for PreK-3 Students:
      • Tell what they know about a topic.
      • Verbalize questions they have about the topic.
    • Common Core Standard:
      • SS.1.A.2.5-Distinguish between historical fact and fiction using various materials.
    • Data charts help to organize information being gathered from multiple sources. In history, there are always multiple sources to get information from. Data charts will help students to compare sources by asking the same question and seeing what each source says.
    • Teachers need to model how to use a data chart and then help guide the students through the process. Also the teacher should tell the students what sources are.
    • ELLs will benefit from this strategy as it will help with the organization of material and will help guide them.data
  7. Vocabulary Role-Play: Building Vocabulary through Dramatization (Taken from 50 Strategies for Teaching English Language Learners by A.L Herrel and M. Jordan)
  8. Looking Through Perspectives: Bring More to the Conversation
    • Grade: 1st grade
      • Differing Viewpoints
    • TESOL Standards for PreK-3 Students:
      • Realize that not everyone thinks the same.
      • Provide their own perspective on the information given.
    • Common Core Standard:
      • SS.1.C.3.1-Explain how decisions can be made or how conflicts might be resolved in fair and just ways.
    • It is important that students understand that not everyone thinks the same. As a teacher it is important to teach the students how there are going to be different perspectives and viewpoints, especially in history. To learn more about a subject or event it is beneficial to look at all the sides.
    • Lesson on Multiple Perspectives
  9. Moving into Reading: Using Multiple Strategies to Foster Comprehension (Taken from 50 Strategies for Teaching English Language Learners by A.L Herrel and M. Jordan)
    • Grade: 1st grade
      • Shared Reading
    • TESOL Standards for PreK-3 Students:
      • Listen to and join in shared reading.
      • Orally describe personal experiences related to a text.
    • Common Core Standard:
      • SS.1.A.2.1-Understand history tells the story of people and events of other times and places.
  10. Language Framework Planning: Supporting Academic Language and Content Acquisition (Taken from 50 Strategies for Teaching English Language Learners by A.L Herrel and M. Jordan)
    • Grade: 1st grade
      • Language Functions
    • TESOL Standards for PreK-3 Students:
      • Use appropriate language structures to ask and answer questions.
      • Imitate language and actions of others in interacting verbally.
    • Common Core Standard:
      • SS.1.C.1.2-Give examples of people who have the power and authority to make and enforce rules and laws in the school and community.
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