Social Studies That Sticks
How to Bring Content and
Concepts to Life

The announcement that “It’s social studies time” often elicits dread from students who mistakenly view the subject as a near-death experience. And who can blame them when this fascinating subject has been stripped of the heartbreak, adventure, conflict, treachery, strategic brilliance, and spectacular foibles—in short, the humanity—that it’s supposed to explain? Student apathy and rock-bottom test scores scream that it’s time for a change—for unforgettable, not regrettable, social studies. It’s time for Social Studies That Sticks.

In Social Studies That Sticks Laurel Schmidt introduces a brain-compatible approach to integrated, standards-based instruction, using the four elements of the human learning cycle: awareness, exploration, inquiry, and action. This dynamic approach brings content and concepts to life, while sharpening skills in questioning, thinking, reading, writing, and the visual and performing arts. It promotes academic achievement, models the habits of active citizenship, tunes students’ ethical antennae to social problems, and teaches tools students can use to advocate for change.

Social Studies That Sticks is a comprehensive, passionate, and user-friendly guide that:


identifies essential social studies themes, standards, and skills


models maximum use of primary source documents, eye-witness narratives, biographies, and historical fiction


describes how artifacts, objects, art, photography, and architecture can be tools for inquiry and learning


explores the community of a social studies classroom


tackles matters of cultural perspective, point of view, bias, and propaganda


transforms current events into historical investigations


maps vital steps for social-justice projects


provides guidelines for essays, presentations, oral histories, personal narratives, and original historic writing


outlines dozens of authentic assessments


introduces the Learning Ledger for student self-assessment


pinpoints archival material, hundreds of books and websites, and historical resources for research and classroom use.


Whether you use Laurel Schmidt’s ideas to supplement your existing curriculum or you’re ready to make your current textbook ancient history, Social Studies That Sticks will transform social studies time into lessons about history and humanity that last a lifetime.

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Preview a sample from this book.


Laurel's Social Studies Presentations

Sample Topics:

Investigations: Discovering Content Through Primary Sources

Informants: How To Make Dead People Talk (Exploring Diaries, Journals  & Letters) 

Thinking With Things: Using Art, Architecture and Objects as Research Tools

Place–Based Explorations and Discoveries in Your Community

Does This Still Happen? Linking History to Current Events

Who Do We See About That? Social Justice Projects Beyond the Classroom

Literature as Content: Using Novels, Biographies, Autobiographies & Plays

Personal Stories: Creating Oral Histories