First of all, let’s assume that you are already checking in on the social and emotional state of your students. Then let’s focus on what actual social studies instruction can look like during crisis distance learning. For many teachers, it is Project-Based Learning (PBL). Silos between content are being destroyed as students explore authentic problems based on current events. Teachers are integrating their social studies content with other classes in robust projects such as a simulation where students take on the role of government, determining how to prepare and respond to a pandemic. Other classes have students creating plans for best practices to reopen schools in the fall.
Another approach is students documenting their pandemic experience. Integrated with ELA, students take on the role of historical observers, recording their lives in journals, diaries, blogs, poems, or social-media posts…
I have long been a fan of xkcd comics and this one inspired a history idea. After showing students this graph of Google trends, have them create their own graphs based on historical events and then they can trade graphs to guess each other’s events. The process is fairly simple and this could be a fun review for students.
Choose an important historical event or for a greater challenge, an obscure one.
Brainstorm 4-6 key words that people would have Googled if the internet had existed back then. Be creative and fun, but not too tricky.
Sketch out line graphs of trends for the keywords. Use colored pencils and paper. No need for them to be fancy.
The graph should have no y-axis. On the x-axis, have students write months, but not the year (to make it challenging).
Once everyone has completed their graph, have students walk around and exchange graphs and guess the events. Each student can keep track of how many guessed correctly/incorrectly.
For a fun variation, have students also give ridiculous answers too.
Reflect on class favorites, best guessers, and the most creative ones.
Variations could focus on historical individuals or peoples.
For an online adaptation, have students sketch their graphs on an online whiteboard and share virtually in Google Meet or Zoom call.