When I was teaching social studies in elementary school, I often found that while my ideas were endless, my planning time was limited. Despite my best efforts, I struggled to adequately prepare for all of my social studies lessons in a given week. It wasn’t until after several years in the classroom that I learned how to craft compelling activities featuring social studies content that were engaging and meaningful for students. The key? Cross-curricular learning.

“Cross-subject studies enhance critical thinking skills,” says Karen Smith, a 30-year ELA veteran and instructional coach for Maryland Public Schools. “Educators who teach and promote literacy skills in social studies classrooms enhance skills in all classes–not just for social studies and ELA.” Dynamic, multidisciplinary curriculum saves teachers time overall because it actually enhances the learning time spent in the classroom.

Beyond giving educators the chance to teach more than one discipline during a lesson, cross-curricular lessons also help students recognize the real-world application of their learned skills. According to Smith, social studies does not have to be separate from other subjects, but rather an essential and complementary medium through which educators can teach reading, writing, critical thinking, and problem-solving skills.

(Next page: 3 tools to deliver cross-curricular lessons)

About the Author:

Audrey Nelson is a former elementary school teacher whose passions include reading, adventuring, and dressing up as Star Wars characters to teach social studies. From Vermont and Connecticut to California and Costa Rica, Nelson has helped students all over North and Central America discover their love of learning. Now working for Turnitin, she helps to develop meaningful teaching tools for educators around the world.