Over the past few weeks I have addressed topics regarding literacy beyond the language arts classroom. Literacy can be incorporated into all areas of the classroom such as math, science, and social studies. Today we will focus on how to integrate literacy within social studies. Teaching history topics can be challenging and somewhat unappealing to some students. I have found that bringing my social studies lessons to life and involving my students in the lessons allows for more students to be engaged. These strategies could be beneficial in your classroom to immerse your students with literacy during social studies lesson.
Readers Theater: This method is a personal favorite in my classroom. I have used this technique with upper grades and my current sweet first graders. In a Readers Theater presentation, students are given scripts to read. The goal is to inspire the audience to envision the characters, setting, and plot. Students should be provided with practice sessions and devote time to developing oral reading skills. You can use Readers Theater with social studies, by providing students with a historical topic. Most children are not familiar enough with history to write original plays, but they can interpret scenes from historical books or summarized texts created by the teacher. For example, I take the lesson provided with our social studies curriculum and summarize the story into a few paragraphs. Students are put into groups and assigned their parts for the lesson. As the year progresses, group leaders are able to assign the parts and decide how the presentation should be performed. Upper grades could be provided with more complicated events with little guidance from the teacher. Lower grades should provided with small parts to mainly practice reading skills with the opportunity to demonstrate the events with some acting.
Online Scavenger Hunt: We are part of 21st century learning and the majority of children find pleasure in using technology. If you can incorporate reading with technology, your students will learn new information, practice reading skills and feel like they are “playing” on a tablet or other device. For this strategy you can use an online text, video, or website. There is a plethora of child friendly websites and resources you can use. Whichever method you plan to use, preview the text to find purpose. Present the task like a scavenger hunt where students must search for the missing information. Create a cloze read, fill in the blank, short answer, and/or illustration task. Students can complete this task independently, in small groups or even whole class. Provide an opportunity to discuss responses and check for correct completion. Students will enjoy the challenge of searching for the missing pieces and using technology to learn and new topic.
Use newspapers and magazines: Understanding current events is a wonderful way to engage students in social studies literacy. Subscribe to local newspapers and magazines to use in the classroom as you may be able to make connections with your social studies standards. At least once a week, use a newspaper or magazine to discuss current events. Students should be given an article to read, share with the class, and then discuss as a whole. You may need to order age appropriate newspapers and magazines to provide the correct reading material for your students.
Provide a purpose for reading with journaling: This technique begins with a question. The goal is to provide students with a purpose for reading. The question should be prompted prior to the lesson and reading a text. Example guiding questions for reading could be: “Did the Constitution protect the rights of all people?” or “Why was it beneficial for Lewis and Clark when Sacagawea found the Shoshone Tribe?” Students will read to learn about a specific topic and answer the questions. Responses should be recorded in a journal or interactive social studies notebook. Responses should also be shared with peers, as students can learn more information from one another.
As an educator who had several great history teachers while in school, I want to inspire my own students the same way. Literacy is embedded in all parts of your classroom. With the correct resources and a little extra time, you can turn a monotonous social studies lecture into an intriguing history reenactment.