How to Create Drag & Drop Activities for Secondary Social Studies (With Free Templates)

The year is 2020; teaching will never, ever be the same. Teachers were charged with completely changing the way they taught, literally overnight. We had to keep teaching while we learned — who was it that coined the phrase: flying the plane while building it?

Google classrooms were created on the fly. Synchronous and asynchronous teaching started the year as esoteric terms only to become daily-speak in schools everywhere.

And we did it.

Now that some time has passed teachers are becoming more comfortable with planning for and using digital resources. One way to incorporate interactive activities into your lesson are drag and drop google slide lessons.

What are Drag & Drop Google Slides?

This method of using PowerPoint or Google Slides entails creating objects or text that students can move around with their cursor. It is an alternative to any type of matching activity. Teachers use drag and drop as a check for understanding or formative assessment. It’s frequently used in elementary school, but can be adapted to more rigorous secondary content.

Social studies lends itself to this interactive method of teaching. Our content involves lots of terminology, timelines, comparing/contrasting, all of which is great for drag and drop assignments.

Why Use Drag and Drop?

At the time I’m writing this article most schools are either teaching remotely or engaged in a blended learning model of educating their students. This means teachers must still create a lot of material that can be used digitally.

I also believe that once we get “back to normal” normal will look very different than pre-pandemic days. Both students and teachers have spent many months engaging with technology. As a result we have increased our computer literacy and better appreciate its possibilities.

In short, we have been thrown into the 21st century permanently. We are not going to look back. Many of these new-found skills are lessons we had on the back burner but never had time to implement. Using interactive slides is another tool in our toolkit when planning.

Sample Styles of Drag & Drop

There a many ways to incorporate movable slides into our activities. Let’s start off with multiple-choice questions. Students can be assigned a reading passage followed by questions, or document aka stimulus-based questions.

I like to use a self-correcting format for multiple-choice assessments. Student drag what they think is the correct answer over to the answer box. Underneath each answer is a message that tells them if they’re right or wrong. Take a look at this template style:

Another way I use drag and drop is for timeline activities. Students read about a series of events then create a timeline reflecting the order and dates of the events. Here is my Cold War timeline:

Any activity involving charts lend themselves to digital manipulation. We often compare and contrast and identify causes and effects to name two examples. Here is an example of my Mesopotamia lesson:

A fourth style that really comes in handy works well for identification and definitions. Students drag the appropriate term next to it definition.

How to Create Drag and Drop Slides

Now for the nitty-gritty, how to create these lessons. I’m not going to lie, your first try will take some time. Once you get the feel for it you will be able to create different templates much faster. And a template can be used again and again. If you’re creating a lesson where students read a passage and then answer multiple-choice questions you can you that style next time your assign homework, classwork, etc that includes multiple-choice questions.


The easiest way to start is with a lesson you already created in the past. This will help you focus on the new digital format but feel confident in the content and activity.

Let’s use the definition style template. Students will read about the French Revolution and engage in a drag and drop activity of French Revolution terminology: Bastille, Tennis Court Oath, First Estate, Second Estate, Third Estate — you get the picture.

Step 1 – Cut and paste the reading passage into a Google Slides presentation.

Step 2 – Create a separate either PowerPoint or a Google Slides presentation for the drag and drop questions. You don’t HAVE to do this, but I highly recommend it. Here you are going to make the background information: slide design and the question.

You’re going to save these slides as PNG or JPEG files, which means you’re making pictures of them. Then go back to your original Google presentation and make them a background of the slide. Look at the picture below and see how it does not yet have the possible answers, which students would be dragging to the blue rectangle.

The reason for this step is that if you create the entire slide presentation and share with students they can — and will – inadvertently move part of the slide around and mess things up. You only want the parts that they should be able to move movable and the rest to be stagnant. Does that make sense? I hope so:)

Now, you’re back in your original Google slide presentation, the one you will share with your students. Make a rectangle for a possible answer. Copy and paste is 3 more times (if you’re offering 4 possible answers).

Make 3 rectangles, or ovals that will live underneath your 4 answers, one will say correct and the other 3 will say incorrect. Now you have a slide that looks like this: (I slid answers 1 and 2 over so that you could see what was underneath)

Congratulations, you have made an interactive Google template! You can copy and paste it in your presentation to create more questions and copy it for future lessons — yay!

When you share the assignment with your students don’t forget to make a copy for each student in Google Classroom when you assign the activity. You DO NOT want them messing with you precious original!


I hear what many of you are saying: “WHAT, this is MAD work!” I warned you that the first time you try this it will be time-consuming. However, once you get a feel for it you will be whipping up all kinds of fancy-schmancy lessons.

I would like to make the learning curve a bit flatter by offering the digital templates I showed in this article to you as free downloads. This will get you halfway there. The basic slides are made for you; just cut and paste your questions into the slides.

You can use them over and over again. You have nothing to lose by downloading the templates and playing around with them. If you hate it, I will list the lessons I displayed in this article below.

Yes, it’s a challenge. As a 20-year teacher believe me, I feel your pain. On the other hand, as teachers we should always be learning, not just teaching. So embrace the learning curve and feel your students’ pain:)

Click on the picture to see this lesson
Click on the picture to see the lesson
Click on the picture to see this lesson

Teach and Thrive

A Bronx, NY veteran high school social studies teacher who has learned most of what she has learned through trial and error and error and error.... and wants to save others that pain.

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