Reading History: Strategies to Improve Comprehension and Connections in Social Studies Classes

Reading History: Strategies to Improve Comprehension and Connections in Social Studies Classes

Reading History: Strategies to Improve Comprehension and Connections in Social Studies Classes

Reading History: Strategies to Improve Comprehension and Connections in Social Studies Classes

Synopsis

Gives teachers a variety of instructional strategies for making history accessible to students.

Excerpt

To be literate in content classrooms, students must learn how to use lan
guage processes to explore and construct meaning with texts. When stu
dents put language to work for them in content classrooms, it helps them
to discover, organize, retrieve, and elaborate on what they are learning.

Richard T. Vacca (2000, 16)

Many of us cringe as we hear or read another story of students telling us historical facts that leave us stunned: Robin Williams discovered Rhode Island, and King Henry VIII is friends with Prince Charles because they've both been divorced. We know that these bits of misinformation come from the students' lack of meaningful connection to the history they have studied. However, as we struggle to cover all the required course content, we often give students glimpses of history that are neither meaningful nor memorable. During a similar event in my classroom, I became acutely aware of the impact of inadequate background knowledge on the reading task.

I always began class with a brief read-aloud. On this day, I had chosen to read Maya Angelou's poem “No Losers, No Weepers.” Just before class began, I discovered that we had a set of Reading Road to Writing workbooks, which contained a brief biography of Angelou's life. Thinking that the students might have a more substantive connection to the poem if they had some knowledge of the poet, I proceeded to read the biographical information to them, before reading the poem. When I finished reading the short biography . . .

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