Building Literacy in Social Studies: Strategies for Improving Comprehension and Critical Thinking

Building Literacy in Social Studies: Strategies for Improving Comprehension and Critical Thinking

Building Literacy in Social Studies: Strategies for Improving Comprehension and Critical Thinking

Building Literacy in Social Studies: Strategies for Improving Comprehension and Critical Thinking

Synopsis

Preparing students to be active, informed, literate citizens is one of the primary functions of public schools. But how can students become engaged citizens if they can't read, let alone understand, their social studies texts? What can educators--and social studies teachers in particular--do to help students develop the knowledge, skills, and motivation to become engaged in civic life?

Building Literacy in Social Studies addresses this question by presenting both the underlying concepts and the research-based techniques that teachers can use to engage students and build the skills they need to become successful readers, critical thinkers, and active citizens. The authors provide targeted strategies--including teaching models, graphic organizers, and step-by-step instructions--for activities such as

• Building vocabulary,

• Developing textbook literacy skills,

• Interpreting primary and secondary sources,

• Applying critical thinking skills to newspapers and magazines, and

• Evaluating Internet sources.

Readers will also learn how to organize classrooms into models of democracy by creating learning communities that support literacy instruction, distribute authority, encourage cooperation, and increase accountability among students. Realistic scenarios depict a typical social studies teacher's experience before and after implementing the strategies in the classroom, showing their potential to make a significant difference in how students respond to instruction. By making literacy strategies a vital part of content-area instruction, teachers not only help students better understand their schoolwork but also open students' eyes to the power that informed and engaged people have to change the world.

Excerpt

I know of no safer depository of the ultimate
powers of the society but the people themselves;
and if we think them not enlightened enough
to exercise their control with a wholesome
discretion, the remedy is not to take it from them,
but to inform their discretion by education
.

Thomas Jefferson

Our students will soon be the citizens making decisions that will in⊠uence the direction of the world. The future is in their hands; their sensitivity to the variety of cultures and perspectives that in⊠uence the course of history will be critical as members of a global community. Yet, if current trends continue, few of our students will become active citizens in our democratic society. The percentage of eligible voters in the United States who take part in their civic responsibilities is embarrassingly low for such a wealthy country with universal public education. As astronaut John Glenn and Leslie Hergert note in Carl Glickman’s book Letters to the Next President: What We Can Do About the Real Crisis in Public Education (2004):

Today, American citizens are more educated than ever
before—a larger percentage attend school longer—yet,
civic involvement is on the wane. As adults’ civic
involvement has declined, so has that of the nation’s

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