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Engaging Every Student

November 3, 2021

Using Pear Deck in K-12 Social Studies Classrooms

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Victoria Thompson

Social studies is such a crucial subject in schools. It helps students understand the world that they live in, the issues that are relevant to them, and how the past has shaped our present and will continue to shape our future. With so many resources available to supplement social studies instruction (such as books, podcasts, movies, videos, primary sources, websites, and field trips), a question I get often is: “How can I use technology in my social studies class without directing students to a website or showing them a historical movie?”

This is where Pear Deck can be a major help. As a tech tool with a lot to offer, there are many neat ways to use Pear Deck to elevate your social studies instruction!

Here are four tips for using Pear Deck in the social studies classroom

For lesson openers, browse the critical thinking templates.

So much of social studies and humanities asks for our students to think conceptually and critically about events that are happening in the world, and sometimes this requires scaffolding with your students. Pear Deck has wonderful critical-thinking templates available that you can use for a variety of different grade levels and topics. For example, you can use the “consider other points of view” template on an activity on what steps a community can take to build a garden, library, or playground. Or, you can use the “active listening” template before class discussions or debates. One of my favorite uses of the critical-thinking templates for social studies is the “draw conclusions” slide, in which students create inferences and draw conclusions from text, media, and discussions.

Check out Pear Deck’s premade Social Studies and World Language templates to help craft your lessons, activities, and exit slips.

Similar to other subjects, Pear Deck has an extensive library of templates geared toward social studies content. You can use these templates any way that you want, but I find them the most useful to help drive instruction as well as provide “lesson checks” for students throughout class. There is a “big question” template that helps to frame the driving question or big idea of the day, chronology slides for putting dates and events in order, slides for finding locations on Google Earth, cause-and-effect reflection slides, and — my personal favorite — slides on primary, secondary, and tertiary sources to help students do research. The world language templates often have a lot to offer as well, especially if your students are learning words in other languages within the historical context or an event or activity. And, because it’s Pear Deck, students can add their own responses to the slides, and responses are displayed anonymously! It creates a very interactive classroom experience.

After challenging topics or emotional conversations, lean into the social-emotional learning templates to create healing activities.

Some content in social studies can be heavy for students, which can result in emotional discussions or conversations. If this happens, you may want to create a healing activity for your students using the Pear Deck social-emotional learning templates. Healing activities can help students work through their emotions, understand the emotions of others, and collaborate on steps to create class harmony after a challenging topic. With Pear Deck’s automatic anonymous responses, students may feel more inclined to answer questions and speak on how they feel.

There are several templates available on Pear Deck to help facilitate a healing circle, but I tend to use the “moment of silence” template as an opener, the “what differed about your opinions?” slide to open up conversations with students and gauge the classroom climate, and the “give a thank you to someone in the class” as a closure to express gratitude to students for bringing their whole selves to the activity.

Lastly, if you can’t find a template that suits you for a lesson or activity, feel free to create your own!

One of the great things about Pear Deck is its versatility — you can create your own slides! Under the “Ask Students a Question” section of the task bar, you can create completely customizable slides that range from multiple choice to drawing to even adding draggable elements to media (such as pictures, maps, and timelines). Use them for lesson openers, periodic checks throughout the lesson, exit slips, and everything in between.

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Victoria Thompson

STEM Integration Transformation Coach

Technology Access Foundation

Victoria is a STEM Integration Transformation Coach at Technology Access Foundation — a nonprofit leader redefining STEM education in public schools — a consultant for Ignite EdTech, and a learning specialist for NCCE.

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