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As music teachers, most of us try to incorporate different subjects into our classroom. Some of us may even have administrators that ask us to do this. I would do this regardless, but my administrators have expressed that they would like to see this as well. In school, social studies was one of my favorite subjects. I have always loved history and different cultures.
Even before I became a teacher, I knew that I would want to incorporate as much social studies as possible into the curriculum.
Throughout this year, I would say I have done ok with that. I definitely haven’t added it in as much as I would like, but I have used it some. I admit, I have been concerned with the new teacher I-want-to-teach-everything-everyday issue. I keep thinking I want them to sing every day and move every day and read every day and play music every day and incorporate other academics…. And that is a lot of stuff. I am trying, and hopefully I will be able to add more next year.
Anyway, here are some super easy tips on ways to incorporate social studies (history, geography, and different cultures) into your classroom. Most of them are little things you can add into most lessons without very much effort.
Keep a Map
This is something I installed at the beginning of the year and I love it. All year, I add songs to our map to show where everything is from. And every time we learn a new song, I show the kids where we live and where the song is from on the map. I also allow them to ask a few questions, because maps make kids super curious. (“What’s that big purple one? It’s huge!” “Why is England so small?”)
I have caught kids staring at it while getting into line, because it is a cool thing. I color code it so that each grade has a different color.
I printed mine off of the internet, but I couldn’t get the quality very good. I am planning to buy this one off of Amazon.
Use Music from Different Countries
Most of us do this without thinking, but think about it. Especially with older kids, tell them where the song is from or what kind of music it is. Add in one or two fun facts about the country or the culture.
It doesn’t have to be long, just one or two little things.
Even if you don’t go with different countries, you can show them different styles of music too. I have a really fun music styles bingo that you can do once they have learned about it. Find it here.
Embrace the Holidays
Black History Month. St. Patrick’s Day. Mardi Gras. Hanukkah. Christmas. Hispanic Heritage Month.
All of these provide easy opportunity for teaching about different cultures. Pick some lessons that go along with what holiday is coming up. Explore traditions in different countries.
Use different instruments
I observed a teacher this year that had an instrument of the day. Each one provided an opportunity to talk about different cultures. When I was there, she was showing the claves, so they talked about where they come from and what the claves are like. Then students who did a good job throughout the lesson were able to play them for a minutes or two.
This is a really great calming down activity, and if you are reinforcing the song or dance from the lesson, it is even better.
I just got some castanets like these!
Composer of the Month
This is a little more on the history side—composer of the month. This is something I have not tried but I have seen other teachers doing. Each month they pick a composer, and then use some of the composers’ music in the lessons. That doesn’t mean that that is all you do, put a portion of it. You can take some time to talk about the time period and the composers’ life—again, they do not need a big long lecture, just some quick facts.
Try to pick people you were going to pick anyway. You can use their music for movement routines (like this one) or for listening activities (like this one). For younger kids, it is a good idea to have a calm down activity so that they are not totally crazy when you release them into the hallway. I have found that just having them close their eyes and “move to the music” is a really great way to accomplish this.
Show the country
This is my favorite thing to do. Whenever we talk about a different country, I show them where it is on the map, and then I google it and show them photos. It requires no set up at all. For St. Patrick’s Day, I typed in “Ireland” and showed them pictures of the landscape, the flag, the map, etc. Then we look at the pictures and talk about them. It’s super quick, and they will be amazed by it.
I find this is good because it makes it come to life. You can say that we are learning about a country called Ireland, but it may as well be Narnia if they cannot at least see pictures of it. Once they see pictures of the country and maybe the people, it becomes a real place to them.
So those are a few of my favorite ways to incorporate social studies in the classroom! I did not include any sort of country study or videos or books, but all of those are also great ways to include social studies in the classroom.
How do you incorporate social studies? How do you incorporate other academics? Let us know in the comments! And don’t forget to subscribe!