How to Support High School Speech Students in Social Studies

Social studies is one of those subjects that students either love or hate. Many kids love learning about the history of our country and other countries, learning where different things in the world are located, and learning about our system of government- and others really don’t see the point! 

Maybe you’re wondering what challenges our speech students have with social studies? Let’s dig deeper and learn what challenges they might face and how to best support them! 

How Can We Support High School Speech Students in Social Studies? 

There are many ways that we can help our speech students with social studies. The skills that kids need to be successful in social studies often align with reading comprehension skills, so let’s take a look at some common reading skills and see how to use them in a social studies setting! 


Students categorize things on a daily basis in social studies. Whether the category is a civilization, exports of a particular country, or mountain ranges, it’s important for students to know how to group things that are alike. Doing so increases memory and recall. Some ways to work on categorizing include: 

  • Matching games when a student is sorting words or phrases into two categories. 
  • Sorting words or phrases into 3 or more categories.
  • Using pictures to go along with the matching and sorting games. 
  • Using graphic organizers to categorize information while the student is reading.
  • Highlighting or using color-coded sticky flags while reading. For example, if a student was reading about the Aztecs and the Mayans, he or she would use a red highlighter or red sticky notes to show information about the Aztecs, and do the same thing with a blue highlighter or sticky notes for information about the Mayans. 

Comparing and Contrasting

Students need to compare and contrast information in social studies when they learn about different forms of government, different cultures, and a whole host of other topics. Here are some ways to help your students compare and contrast!  

  • Use a graphic organizer like a Venn diagram to sort information. A twist on this activity is to make the Venn diagram out of Hula hoops and lay it on the floor. Students can write or draw similarities and differences on index cards, and lay them out within the Hula hoops. 
  • Have them draw a picture or comic strip to illustrate the similarities and differences between two things. 
  • Prepare statements about the topics they are comparing and contrasting. When you read each statement aloud, have the student raise their right hand if the statement is true for the first topic, their left hand if it is true for the other topic, and both hands if it is true for both topics. 


The very nature of social studies gives students a lot of information in a short amount of time! We need to help them pick out the most important parts of this information. This can be done in several ways. 

  • First, find the main idea of the information given. You can practice finding the main idea by writing a mani idea statement and several supporting statements on sentence strips, and then mixing them up. The student will place the sentence strip that he or she thinks is the main idea at the top of their desk, and then line up the supporting details under it. You can expand upon this by writing out two sets of main ideas and supporting details on the sentence strips, and having the students find both main ideas, and their corresponding details. 
  • Next, students need to differentiate between relevant and irrelevant information. You can practice this skill by using a familiar text before diving into the social studies text. The student will create a t-chart and write “Important” at the top of one column and “Not Important” at the top of the other. When they are finished sorting details into both columns, the student can fold the paper so that only the “Important” side is shown. Tah-dah! Now they have the basis for their summary.
  • When students are ready to write their summary, use the SWBST strategy. SWBST stands for Somebody – Wanted – But – So – Then. Students identify the “somebody” in the text, what they wanted to do, what challenge or problem they faced, how things changed, and what the result was. Students can practice is SWBST strategy by color-coding written passages- for example, the “somebody” gets highlighted in red, the “wanted to” information gets highlighted in yellow, and so on! 

Finding Problem and Solution 

Social studies is primarily about problems that people faced and the solutions that they found! Because of this, finding problem and solution is essential to social studies success. Let’s look at some ways for students to practice this skill. 

  • Finding clue words and phrases. Many text structures have clue words and phrases, including problem and solution. These clue words/phrases include “problem”, “answer”, “solution”, “the question is”, “the problem is”, “a solution is”, and other similar words and phrases. 
  • Color-code the text. Highlight or use sticky notes of designated colors to mark the problem, the various steps to solving the problem, and the solution. 
  • Use a problem-and-solution graphic organizer. 
  • Print out pictures of the social studies topic, and have the student find the problem and solution from the pictures. For example, the problem might be that the Pilgrims were going to starve during their first year in Plymouth. The steps they took were to plant crops and befriend the Native Americans living there. The solution was that the Native Americans taught them good farming practices for the area. This technique can be used for many social studies topics. 


If you need more ideas on how to help your older speech students with social studies (and their other subjects!), then check out my monthly membership for loads of low-prep activities and ideas!