How to Craft Powerful Social Studies Lessons with SIOP

If you’re anything like me, you’ve been stumped about how to help the English Language Learners in your classes. Would you believe it if I told you there’s a way to help not only your ELLs but ALL your students? It’s called the SIOP Model.

You might be wondering, “What is the SIOP Model?” Well, fear not! I will dive deep into SIOP and how to use it in your classes. Let’s get started!

How to Craft Powerful Social Studies Lessons with SIOP

What is the SIOP Model?

Alright, let’s break it down. What is the SIOP Model? It stands for Sheltered Instruction Observation Protocol. The SIOP Model is a research-based instructional framework. It’s designed to support ELL students in learning content AND develop language proficiency. It provides a structured approach to planning, delivering, and assessing our lessons. The SIOP Model helps you create a learning environment where every student can shine.

The 8 components of SIOP are:

  1. Lesson Preparation
  2. Building Background
  3. Comprehensible Input
  4. Strategies
  5. Interaction
  6. Practice & Application
  7. Lesson Delivery
  8. Review & Assessment

Why Should You Use SIOP?

You might be wondering, “Why should I use SIOP?” The answer is simple. SIOP is a game-changer. It equips you with the tools to address the unique needs of our ELL students. By using the SIOP Model, you can:

  • Support Language Development:
    • SIOP helps you integrate language instruction with social studies content, allowing our ELL students to develop their academic language skills in a meaningful context.
  • Promote Engagement:
    • With SIOP, you can design interactive and captivating lessons. Lessons that connect our students’ diverse backgrounds and experiences to the content.
  • Enhance Comprehension:
    • SIOP gives you strategies to scaffold instruction and make social studies concepts accessible to your ELLs.
  • Foster Inclusivity:
    • The SIOP Model embraces diversity and encourages you to create an inclusive classroom.

Now that you know the power of SIOP, let’s focus on one of its mighty components: Lesson Preparation. This component sets up successful lessons. It also helps you lay the foundation for our ELL students’ academic growth.

Grab my free lesson bundle for ideas for supporting the ELLs in your social studies classes!

Lesson Preparation: Unleashing the Magic

Let’s explore how you can use Lesson Preparation strategies in US History, Civics, and World History classes.

Content vs. Lesson Objectives

  • Start by clarifying the content objectives (what you want students to learn) and the lesson objectives (how they will do it).
    • Here are some examples of content v. language objectives:
      • World History
        • Content Objective: Identify the MAIN causes of World War I
        • Language Objective: summarize the MAIN causes of World War I by writing guided notes and discussing the events that led to the outbreak of the war.
      • US History:
        • Content Objective: Identify the impact of the draft during the Vietnam War on American Society
        • Language Objective:
          • Write guided notes about the draft during the Vietnam War.
          • Read a document from the Vietnam War.
          • Watch a video clip about the draft.
      • Civics:
        • Content Objective: Evaluate the benefits and drawbacks of the Electoral College
        • Language Objective: Read about the Electoral College and discuss what’s good about it and what’s bad about it with a partner

Adaptation of the Text:

  • Modify the text complexity to meet the language needs of our ELL students. Simplify the language, break down complex sentences, and provide contextual support.


  • Break the lesson into smaller chunks.
  • Then assign each group of students a specific part of the content to explore.
  • Finally, have them teach their findings to their peers.

Marginal Notes:

  • Write notes in the margins.
  • These should highlight key concepts, explain them, and offer extra examples.

Leveled Study Guides:

  • These provide support at different language proficiency levels.
  • They could include guided questions, summaries, and statements of learning.
  • You would designate the level – easiest, moderately challenging, most challenging.


  • Provide outlines or structured note-taking templates to help students organize their thoughts and capture important information.

Graphic Organizers:

Use graphic organizers to represent information and help students make connections visually.

  • These include:
    • Timelines
    • Concept maps
    • Venn diagrams.
    • Comparison Charts
    • Discussion Webs

Adaptation of the Content:

  • Modify the content to include culturally diverse examples and perspectives.
  • Incorporate stories, artifacts, and historical events from different world regions.

Cornell Notes:

  • The Cornell Note-Taking System to helps students actively engage with the content.
  • Encourage them to summarize, ask questions, and make connections.
  • Need to know what Cornell notes are?
    • Take notes by using abbreviations, pictures, and diagrams.
    • Write key questions
    • Write a summary of what they learned at the end of the notes.

So how do you do all of this in your classes?

US History:

  • Activate Prior Knowledge:
    • Begin by tapping into our students’ prior knowledge.
    • Engage them in a group discussion about social movements they know about.
      • This sparks their curiosity and connects the Progressive Era to their understanding of similar events.
  • Graphic Organizers:
    • These provide visual support to help students organize their thoughts and make connections.
    • For example:
      • Create a concept map that illustrates the causes, significant events, and outcomes of the Progressive Era.
  • Collaborative Learning:
    • Foster collaboration by assigning students to groups and assigning roles.
    • Each group can research and present aspects of the Progressive Era, such as key figures and events.
      • This allows students to practice their language skills while learning from their peers.


  • Real-World Connections:
    • Begin by discussing the importance of voting and civic participation.
    • Connect these concepts to the student’s experiences by exploring community issues they care about.
  • Visual Aids:
    • Use visual aids like infographics or charts to present information.
    • For instance, create a visual comparison of different forms of government.
      • Highlight their characteristics and examples from around the world.
  • Authentic Materials:
    • Use news articles or political cartoons to provide real-world context.
    • Analyze these materials as a class and help students understand the language and concepts presented.

World History:

  • Pre-teach Vocabulary:
    • Introduce key vocabulary related to the time period or topic you’re exploring.
    • Use visuals, gestures, and examples to help students understand and remember the new terms.
  • Scaffolding:
    • Break down complex concepts into smaller, manageable chunks.
    • Provide sentence frames or graphic organizers to help students structure their thoughts.
  • Role-Playing and Simulations:
    • Bring history to life by incorporating role-playing activities or simulations.
    • For example:
      • Organize a mock trial of historical figures.
      • You could also simulate a diplomatic negotiation between ancient civilizations.

There you have it. A breakdown of the 1st component of SIOP: Lesson Preparation. Remember, the SIOP Model equips you with strategies to support language development. It also fosters engagement, enhances comprehension, and promotes inclusivity. With SIOP, your classroom becomes a vibrant hub of exploration where all students can thrive and succeed.

Don’t forget to Grab my 5 Foolproof Strategies to Support ELs in Your Social Studies Classes lesson bundle. It’s chock full of some of the strategies discussed in this post.

Did you enjoy this post? Check out my post, Boost ELL Achievement: 10 Strategies for Social Studies, for more ideas!

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  1. […] For a deep dive into SIOP and the first component, “Lesson Preparation,” check out my blog post, How to Craft Powerful Social Studies Lessons with SIOP. […]

  2. […] to SIOP Component #4: Strategies. (Haven’t read about the first two components? Here’s Lesson preparation, Building Background, and Comprehensible Input). As a high school social studies teacher, you know […]

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