Academic journal article The Councilor: A Journal of the Social Sciences

Analyzing Source Preferences in Student Writing When Integrating Diverse Texts

Academic journal article The Councilor: A Journal of the Social Sciences

Analyzing Source Preferences in Student Writing When Integrating Diverse Texts

Article excerpt

Literacy is a cornerstone skill which is built upon in each grade. When students enter sixth grade they are expected to have command of literacy strategies in examining a text. An additional skill taught in sixth grade is citing sources. Students are exposed to different sources and then asked to give credit to those sources as they synthesize both literature and informational text. Students need to both accurately utilize the information and then correctly cite it. This article's content focused on literacy in the social sciences pedagogy and stems from the expectations set by state and national initiatives.

The purpose is to examine how students conceptualize a historical event and to which sources students give credit for their understanding by using a graphic organizer. Two primary research questions drove the study: Can students accurately categorize historical information? What types of sources do students perceive as providing them with an understanding of history? With qualitative research methods and elements of coding student work emerging patterns in their source choices and the content of their responses were present when using a unit developed around best practices.

For educators and researchers, there is value in knowing which types of sources students favor. As students enter the middle grades this process of citing becomes increasingly important to curriculum and literacy needs set by the Common Core State Standards (hereafter CCSS). Through this article, educators will be made aware of source preference patterns of sixth grade students and can use these findings to inform their choices in types of sources they present to their own students.

Content Relevance

Three pedagogical issues in discussion of literacy are discipline-specific literacy, complexity, and critical analysis skills. Discipline-specific literacy refers to the idea that there is not only a responsibility of content-area teachers to incorporate literacy skills, but also that they should be accountable for solidifying those literacy skills through rich lessons in their classrooms. From history to physical education, each discipline has its own texts and vocabulary. Special attention needs to be paid to historical text in social studies classrooms and reading classrooms because "we have the obligation to research and maintain the academic authenticity of social studies content, and to assist students in developing strong inquiry skills..." (Ackerman, Howson, & Mulery, 2013, p. 22). The goal is to facilitate student understanding of history by looking at historical texts like historians would. Educators need to strive to "free history instruction from the mire of memorization and propel it with the kinds of inquiry that drive historians themselves" (Gewertz, 2012, p. 11). Educators need to embrace what distinguishes history as a discipline and tailor instruction accordingly.

Complexity of text and student understanding of that complexity also play a role in the significance of the content. Close reading is a strategy many teachers utilize when expecting students to read complex texts, including historical texts. Some recommendations for close reading of a complex text include, students doing multiple readings of the text, and teacher facilitation of a deep, meaningful discussion (Fang & Page, 2013). For this study, close reading involves students initially reading a text, rereading the text, then having classroom or partner discussion, and finally looking back at the text to find specific evidence or facts to support class discussion and text based question. Providing students the strategies to read complex texts allows them to better understand what they read, and ultimately, use what they read for a specific task. The goal of providing students with complex texts is to not only promote reading comprehension and build content knowledge on a subject, but to give them an opportunity to think like historians (Gewertz, 2012). …

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