If your social studies units have been dragging lately, I have just the tip for you! Try reading aloud picture books during your history lessons! I love using picture books to introduce content in social studies in 3rd, 4th, and 5th grade!
How Do Picture Books Support Learning in Social Studies?
Using interactive read-alouds during social studies is a great way to integrate literacy in the content areas. They help you:
- spark students’ interest in a new lesson or unit
- provide background knowledge
- pre-teach vocabulary words
- provide visuals of the content you’re teaching
- identify gaps or misconceptions students have
- support reading skills
Plus, they’re such a good break from textbooks and PowerPoints!
Literary nonfiction picture books are awesome for engaging students because the information is presented through storytelling. Read more about teaching literary nonfiction here.
Anchor Chart Ideas
I like to pair my picture book read-alouds with an anchor chart. This is really helpful to have to refer back to as you teach the content. Some examples are:
- somebody-wanted-but-so or somebody-wanted-but-so-then
- cause and effect
- key people, places, or vocabulary
- fact vs. fiction
- compare and contrast
- perspectives/points of view
History Topics That Picture Books Can Support
Where can you incorporate picture books in your social studies lessons? Everywhere!
- historical events and time periods
- contributions of important individuals
- community life, roles, occupations
- local/state history
- current events
Recommended Picture Books for American History
There are tons of great picture books you can use to introduce American history to your upper elementary students. Here are just a few of my favorites:
The Little House by Virginia Lee Burton: change over time, past vs. present, industrialization, rural vs. urban areas
Before She Was Harriet by Lesa Cline-Ransome: Harriet Tubman’s life and contributions, Civil War, the Underground Railroad, abolition
We the Kids: The Preamble to the Constitution of the United States by David Catrow: formation of the United States, laws, rights, government
The Other Side by Jacqueline Woodson: segregation, discrimination, civil rights (plus kindness and respect)
George vs. George: The American Revolution as Seen from Both Sides by Rosalyn Schanzer: causes of the American Revolution, George Washington
Encounter by Jane Yolen: colonization, Columbus, native peoples
The Name Jar by Yangsook Choi: immigration, cultural diversity, customs
What social studies picture books do you love to use with upper elementary students? Feel free to let me know in the comments!