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Effectively Combine ELA & Social Studies by Reading About History

Do you know where the most teaching time is spent throughout the day? No, it’s not math, science, or social studies. Most teaching time is focused on English Language Arts (ELA). ELA includes reading, writing, grammar, vocab, spelling, and reading comprehension. 


According to the Nation’s Report Card, average reading scores of 4th graders haven’t improved much over the past few years. There is now a focus on increasing reading scores, and time on ELA is deemed essential. There is less time for social studies. It doesn’t have to be this way, though. We can effectively combine ELA and social studies to promote better reading scores and incorporate social studies lessons into the classroom. Incorporate reading about history! 

Why should we spend more time on social studies in the classroom?

Social studies education is extremely important in our students’ learning process. Social studies lessons are full of history. History of the world we live in, the countries we call home and the people who have come before us. By learning the stories of our world and our past, we are setting our students up for a better future where all are connected. 


It is more than memorizing names, dates, and events. Social studies is all about the stories of the past and the individuals who experienced them. The focus is on the choices and decisions that were made, the consequences of those actions, and what we have learned from them. We can look to the stories of the past by reading about history to pave a better future with past lessons in mind. 

Combine ELA and Social Studies

An obvious answer to bringing more social studies education into the classroom is to combine ELA and social studies. Use history and stories from people of the past to study ELA concepts. Teach stories instead of history. Students are learning all about important lessons from the past, but they are learning how to comprehend what they’re reading about history. Focus on grammar, vocabulary, phonics, spelling, writing, and reading comprehension through true stories. If you combine ELA and social studies, the stories that students read become more interesting. 

The stories based in fact, are more meaningful, more exciting, and will be remembered by your students. They will also spark interest in your students to go out and read, learn, and experience more history. 

How can I encourage a love of reading about history?

Great question. I have some ideas for you. Begin by teaching stories instead of history, in a storytelling format, your students will cling to the characters and remember important details without dates and locations being drilled into their heads. Stories and reading about history will spark a desire to learn and read even more true stories about the past. Once you have laid a basis for the stories that can be combined through ELA and social studies lessons, you can try some of these ideas below or you can look into Ways to Teach Reading in Social Studies

Resources to Help You Combine ELA & Social Studies

Reading Resources

As you are looking for material for your students to read, I would highly recommend exploring  10 Engaging Explorer Biographies for Middle School and Historical Biographies for Upper Elementary. I highly recommend these books as a jumping-off point for biography lessons and reading about history. 

Explorer Biographical Resources

There are many resources to make it easy to combine ELA & social studies into your lessons. I have some great options for you. If you are looking to study great explorers in your classroom, I would recommend looking into Ferdinand Magellan, Christopher Columbus, and Amelia Earhart. There are lots of other explorers to learn about here, too! Throughout these resources, your students will be reading about history with comprehension questions. You will also find lots of fun activities like self-correcting interactive games and digital escape rooms. 

Social Studies Resources

Biographies can be fun, but social studies class is also about social movements and advancements we have made throughout history. One of the most important things to teach students about today in our ever-changing and improving the world is the Civil Rights Movement. There are lots of fun activities to incorporate into your Civil Rights studies, including reading about history passages and comprehension questions, interactive presentations, and escape rooms featuring the Little Rock 9, Rosa Parks, and Martin Luther King, Jr. 

Should you combine ELA & social studies by reading about history?

Short answer? Absolutely, you should. By combining social studies lessons into your preexisting ELA lesson time, you are encouraging more learning in your students. By presenting social studies in a story format for students to learn information and become engaged with the material instead of forcing dates, locations, and boring data into their brains. Your students will learn to love reading about history more and more because of their new interests.

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