Teaching students about the past is always such a fun experience! This social studies topic can be done in several ways, but I like to teach it as a “Then and Now” or “Past and Present” unit. So, today we will look at some of my favorite “Then and Now” lessons and activities!
Start with a Unique Objects Activity (Freebie!)
First, it is fun to start by discussing objects or inventions from the past. It can be beneficial for students to see some of the things that we use today in a previous or original form. You can do this with the Unique Objects Activity seen above. Students will be able to guess what each of the objects is used for/what they are. This is great for activating prior knowledge, drawing conclusions, processing, comparing, and contrasting!
OR you can have your students go on a hunt for different versions of objects we use today. For example, assign groups of students different items or ideas (telephone/communication, lighting, washing, cooking, etc) and have them go on a search for previous versions of what we have today.
(Freebie Link can be found below!)
Dive Into Specific Topics
Next, it is time to learn about the past and present. Keep it to topics that are fairly universal. We want students to be able to connect to the content and understand the progression of time and improvement. Have your students read about different ideas that have improved or changed over time, (lighting and communication seen above). Then, they can compare and contrast the past and the present version of the object or idea. This can be done with Venn Diagrams, writing prompts, cut and paste activities, or prompted short responses. These Then and Now lessons and activities will make it easy to integrate social studies content into your ELA block, too!
Allow Them to Explore Past Times
Coincidentally, if you have the time, consider incorporated a STEAM activity into your unit. Students can create one of their own objects in order to better understand how time and invention/advancement have changed their day-to-day lives. Have your students create feather quill pens with inexpensive feathers and paint or watercolors! Or, show students how cups and string can carry sound by creating paper cup or tin can telephones! Both of these activities are engaging and effective!
Suggested Resources for Your Then and Now Unit
This Past and Present Unit has loads of resources and activities to use in your Then and Now instruction! You won’t run out of activities with the comprehension passages, comparing and contrasting graphic organizers, cut and paste sorting printables, writing prompts, and more! The topics covered are- Transportation, Communication, Lighting, Cooking, Staying Warm, Housing, Clothing, and Washing Clothing.
This resource comes in both printable and digital formats!
Want your FREE Then & Now Activity?
The Now and Then activity mentioned earlier in the blog post is a freebie when you sign up for my email list! When you sign up, you will get periodic emails with teaching tips, lesson plans, activity ideas, and resource freebies! Click the link below to sign up! Then, this freebie will be sent directly to your inbox!