At the Intersection of Literacy & Social Studies: Using Co-Teaching to Model Common Core Instruction for Pre-Service Teachers

By Asato, Jolynn; Swanson, Patricia | Social Studies Review, January 1, 2014 | Go to article overview

At the Intersection of Literacy & Social Studies: Using Co-Teaching to Model Common Core Instruction for Pre-Service Teachers


Asato, Jolynn, Swanson, Patricia, Social Studies Review


With the adoption of the Common Core State Standards social studies educators are challenged to embed sophisticated reading and language strategies into their social studies instruction. The new standards challenge teachers to insure that literacy instruction is not just relegated to language arts time, but that reading, writing, listening and speaking are skills that are utilized in each of the content areas (Common Core Standards Initiative, 2012). Although the new standards offer a promising focus on content literacy, many social studies educators approach these standards with caution as they offer only the most general of guidelines in terms of content. This concern is exacerbated by the fact that the California History-Social Science Framework is under revision (SB 1540,2012), raising valid concerns as to whether teachers currently have the guidelines necessary to help students to develop critical content and conceptual understanding across the grade levels. Within this changing context we add that teaching social studies to diverse learners represents a unique challenge as social studies is arguably the most language dependent of the content areas. History, presented as "a story well told" (California Department of Education, 2009), requires students to access core content through the constant interaction of listening, reading, writing and oral language skills (Common Core Standards Initiative, 2012; Robb, 2003).

In this article we address these challenges describing a social studies lesson focused on economics and specifically designed for teaching academically and linguistically diverse students. We offer this lesson as a model for both university faculty in teacher education and practicing social studies teachers in the schools. For university faculty we propose that co-teaching, teaming language arts and social studies specialists offers teacher candidates the opportunity to explore deeply the integration of content and literacy. For practicing teachers we propose this lesson offers a concrete example of using the Common Core State Standards literacy standards to enhance students' access to rigorous social studies content.

Economics: The Production Process

Although the History-Social Science framework is under revision, we used the 2009 framework to guide our lesson planning. Economics is one of the key strands included in the California History Social-Science Framework. Economic concepts are introduced generally in 1st through 3rd grade, and in 4th through 8th economics becomes one of the many lens students use to analyze historical events. In this lesson we focused specifically on the production process, the chain of events and exchange of goods and services embedded in the production of common goods. We used a series of photo essays, the Children's Press Change Series books (e.g. From Wax to Crayon by Josh Simons), to trace the production of "children friendly" products such as crayons, ice cream, fireworks or pasta. Utilizing materials from an Economics session presented by Cheryl Rehome and Emily Schell at the California Council of the Social Studies Conference (2001), we introduced students to a wide range of children's literature that could be used to teach basic economic principles.

Using highly engaging and well-written trade books across the content area is a powerful model for developing content knowledge. In this lesson, our primary intention was to build from the children's books and choose just one key idea - production - to delve deeply into the critical integration of content and literacy skills. The Change Series, which we used as a core set of books for the economics unit meets all the criteria of ideal books to use to anchor a unit on modes of production and consumption. Using vibrant and engaging photographs, each book traces the development of a common product from the processing of raw materials, to making the product, to the distribution in the hands of the consumer (YOU! …

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