Connecting History-Social Science and Literature with Pages of the Past

Article excerpt

Good history-social science teachers are always on the lookout for helpful resources - rich resources that add life and depth to their course content. While guest speakers, artifacts, websites, videos and field trips are great finds, often times teachers realize that they don't have to look any further than their classroom or school library!

With the help of such characters as Zomo Alexander (of the Terrible, Horrible, No Good, Very Bad Day), the Berenstein Bears, Brer Rabbit, Mufaro, Johnny Appleseed and the Time Warp Trio, issues and content from the History-Social Science Standards can be effectively introduced and taught. Through literature and biographies, historical figures, from George Washington to George W. Bush and Queen Hatshepsut to Amelia Earhart, are presented in a more meaningful context than found in the average textbook. Such authors as Eve Bunting, Lynne Cherry, Robert de San Souci, Kathleen Krull, Mary Pope Osborne, Kate Waters, Jean Fritz and Patricia Polaco have revolutionized children's literature with their attention to historical figures and events. Creative retellings, historical fiction, and poetry by these authors provide refreshing opportunities to teach literacy skills with History-Social Science content.

What these authors (and good teachers) know is that history truly is a story well told. And most students love a good story. Researcher Barbara Tuchman recommends to teachers, "Tell stories. The pull, the appeal is irresistible, because history is about two of the greatest of all mysteries - time and human nature." Beyond time and human nature, the themes or concepts that leap from the pages of a good story are often align with the themes and concepts that emerge from our standards. Many children's stories are perfect vehicles for teaching economic concepts, issues of diversity, cultural values, geographic concepts, and perspectives. The key is finding the right books with the right themes to use with the right lessons.

Frequently, teachers and administrators ask for a literature guide to help them identify, purchase and use appropriate literature to enhance their history-social science programs. With increased time and attention paid to literacy in schools throughout the state, there exists a need to integrate literature and literacy skills with history-social science content and thinking and analysis skills. Formerly, the best resource for this was the state department's 1991 publication Literature for History-Social Science, Kindergarten through Grade Eight. However, the majority of the books listed in that publication are no longer available and our framework has since been revised. To meet the needs of today's teachers and administrators who continue to request a useful and updated resource, the History-Social Science subcommittee of the Curriculum and Instruction Steering Committee for the California County Superintendents Educational Services Association has developed Pages of the Past. Literature Aligned to California History-Social Science Standards, Grades K-6, 2001.

Already in its second printing, Pages of the Past is being used in classrooms, school libraries, professional development institutes and new teacher training programs. Under the leadership of San Bernardino History-Social Science Coordinator Peg Hill, teachers as well as content area and book specialists combed their resources to identify in-print, age-appropriate books that address grade-level standards. Each annotated literature selection is listed by standard for each grade level, kindergarten through sixth grade. Titles, in Spanish and English, are identified by author, ISBN, published and genre.

Following the grade-specific listings, recommended literacy strategies are presented and organized according to the K-5 Historical Thinking and Analysis Skills - a component of the state content standards. These strategies may be used with a variety of books featured in Pages of the Past and may be adapted to various grade levels. …

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