A Challenging Middle School SOSE Unit and a Resource for Teaching Teachers Explicit Strategies to Support Literacy Learning

Article excerpt

This is the second and final part of a unit based on the ERICA Model (Morris & Stewart-Dore, 1984). The first episode (Stage 1), which was published in Volume 17(2) of Literacy Learning: the Middle Years, laid the foundations for learning about democracy, government and the complexity of human interactions within and across societies and centuries. This episode contains Stages 2, 3 and 4. The unit is a modified version of a unit written in consultation with Keith Pagel, Karen Swift (leaders in literacy teaching and learning) and Robyn Bowman (Head of Department, Social Sciences) from James Nash State High School, Queensland. The modified version is printed here with permission.

Stage 2--Thinking through

In this stage of the unit, students read, interpret and analyse texts, and teachers make history skills (introduced through modeling in Stage 1) more explicit. Students of history need to develop skills that are critical to rigorous research. They should be able to:

* identify and analyse a range of sources--primary and secondary;

* analyse and evaluate evidence and draw conclusions from sources;

* analyse a variety of interpretations;

* discuss the values underpinning historical interpretations;

* identify and discuss problems with historical sources; and

* develop an understanding of how the narratives of history have been constructed.

Step One

Context: Initiate a discussion of Australia's system of government to access student prior knowledge and help them think carefully about what 'system' they have in Australia. That is, start from the present, then go back to the Roman system.

Strategy: Structured overview. This strategy supports whiteboard summaries of collective brainstorming and provides visual displays of hierarchical relationships.

Purpose: To sort and categorise as the discussion progresses.

Suggestions: Brainstorm to determine what is known about Australia's system of government. Use the whiteboard to develop the overview. The overview is preferable to a word map, as the discussion can be controlled and manipulated a little more to establish the notion of a hierarchy. Most probably the discussion will start with peripheral characteristics of the system, such as voting rights, other rights, those with power. Be prepared to chop and change the categories and to gradually develop more formal categories to show students how to organise their thinking. In this way, you are showing them how to think and learn. Focus on the categories that we talk about when analysing the system of government. Figure 1 shows a structured overview. Resources No. 4, 5 and 6 may be useful for teacher reference.


Step Two

Context: This step is about developing interpretation of visual texts.

Strategy: Graphic outline--a time line. This strategy is a way of representing events in time visually. It also promotes an appreciation of the magnitude of time.


* To provide a framework for research by students, based on major 'chunks' of time in the development of Rome, from 753BC (Romulus as King) to 44 BC, and to create a degree of appreciation of that in a visual text;

* To engage students in approximate calculations of the span of the Monarchy, Republic and Empire;

* To emphasise the centuries of development of the Roman Republic and the relatively small life span of Julius Caesar in that context;

* To model the use of the strategy during research.

Suggestions: Indicate the three major 'chunks' of Roman history--i.e. Rome as:

* Monarchy--a government where an individual is the head of state for life and inherits position through birth;

* Republic--a government and society ordered under a set of laws and a society that recognises the rule of law;

* Empire--an autocratic form of government and territorial control of other states or countries. …


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