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Updated by wcconnelly on Dec 11, 2018
Headline for Social Studies Literary Resources
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Social Studies Literary Resources

Helpful links for developing better historical and general literacy in students in junior and senior high. All of the ideas you see have been discovered by me or given to me. Feel free to use them to help your classes.


Comprehension Strategies

"The Roots of Comprehension" (
This resource provides guidelines for teachers to introduce to students how to use Latin and Greek words to learn vocabulary. They provide examples of specific content area roots that can help students learn vocabulary vital to performance in the classroom. The resource even explains a three day suggested plan for encouraging students to learn these skills.

"Strategies that Promote Comprehension" (
This article sites specific strategies teachers can improve for helping students increase their comprehension when reading texts. First it provides general pedagogical
approaches teachers can employ before, during, and after reading. It then provides specific exercises for students such as using story maps, questioning the author, and various graphic organizers.

"The Key to Comprehension: Teaching Reading Strategies" (
This synthesis of studies from Southeastern University outlines six steps for increasing reading comprehension in students. Although it is not content specific, its steps are cross discipline and form a good basis for reflecting on what the comprehension process involves. The steps provided are active previous knowledge, questioning, visualization, monitoring comprehension, making inferences, and paraphrasing.

"Building Literacy in Social Studies" (
In this article, the authors discuss why students find history texts difficult to reading, note differences between successful and unsuccessful readers, and outline how these factors interact with the recent focus on historical thinking in social studies classrooms. Although few specific strategies are involved, noting the differences between students approaches can help teachers, who often are naturally successful historical readers, identify pitfalls and struggles plaguing their students' approaches.



"Response: Vocavularuy Instruction is More Than Giving 'A List of Words'" (
In this blog post, six authors provide their opinion on what the most successful methods are to create good vocabulary skills. Their suggestions are somewhat theoretical and provide new challenges to how we think about vocabulary. Rather than identify specific strategies many of the authors target types of strategies are that are effective such as those that engage students, focus on limited vocabulary words, and require students to use words in class.

"Doing it Differently: Tips for Teaching Vocabulary" (
The author of this article provides a different approach for teaching vocabulary. Although she does not reject the idea of vocabulary lists, she suggests inviting students to practice in vocabulary instruction by categorizing words based on their prior knowledge. Finally she ends with a basic outline for teaching vocabulary based on the ideas of Robert Marzano.

"Why Vocabulary Instruction Matters" (
This document from the National Geographic and textbook publisher Cengage begins by outlining why vocabulary and therefore vocabulary instruction are important before noting particular approaches and a set of steps for teachers to consider. In addition to broad concepts, the document also cites particular issues such as idioms and cognates that teachers must in the first case take note of and in the second case should make use of to help ELL's in their classrooms.

"Page 7: Building Vocabulary and Conceptual Knowledge Using the Frayer Model" (
The IRIS Center from Vanderbilt University provides many strategies for vocabulary instruction including this lesson on the Frayer Model. This method is especially helpful for students who need concrete significant instruction on terms that they are unfamiliar with. In addition to providing suggestions for using the model, the site also contains a completed example of the model with the term human migration as an example.


Struggling Reader and English Language Learners

"Teaching English Language Learners" (
This IRIS Center module outlines a variety of topics vital to teaching ELL students. Among the most interesting aspects of the site are its classification of various ELL program approaches and discussion of their effectiveness, which may cause teachers to think more critically about how the approach students learning English. Additionally, it notes the significant amount of time required for students to learn content specific and academic English and methods to make this process easier and faster.

"Lower Level Learners: Teaching Their Way" (
In this article, the author highlights how history teachers in particular can modify their lessons to reach students who are struggling. In particular, she suggests scaffolding, editing documents, using KWL Charts, and employing general formative assessment.

"Think-Alouds" (
Among the many tools for developing critical, close reading, think alouds are a great method for teachers to model their successful thought process for weak students. In this article, the author outlines benefits and steps to employ think alouds, and the video provides an example of think alouds in actions.

"The Danger of a Single Story" ()
In this TED Talk, writer Chimamanfa Adichie, who was born in Nigeria explains how the books she shaped her perspectives and early writings. For social studies teachers, it is a good reminder to consider who is in the readings that we provide for our students. Many ELL students may feel excluded if the primary actors and "heroes" are white and speak English.



Accessible Text

Tip of the Week: 5 social studies text sets, reading passages, and notable tradebooks (
The author of this blog provides a variety of resources for finding and using text sets including CommonLit, Newsela, and Smithsonian Magazine. It provides good thoughts on the abilities and values of each source and a general reminder of the resources available.

"Meeting the Multi-Text Expectation" (
This article provides a solid framework for teachers who want to develop text sets of their own but are unsure of the materials or approaches that they should use in order to create them. One very interesting suggestion is to pick texts for different reasons such as engaging students with interesting texts and providing simpler texts for students who are struggling.

"Deeper Learning: Defining Twenty-First Century Literacy" (
Rebecca Alber highlights the increasingly important definition of literacy in our modern world. Using the NCTE standards, she notes that literacy today is about far more than simply reading a source and understanding it. She notes about the importance of teaching students to filter texts based on their credibility, a vital skill in the era of "fake news."

"Teaching about Textual Evidence" (
In this video, a teacher models instruction in a sixth grade class for how to teach students about utilizing texts as a resource for writing. As part of literacy, she suggests that students must be able to use the texts, and she centers her instruction around this particular skill, taking her time to highlight student thinking and approaches. In social studies and life, students must not only read but then be able to use the information by communicating it to someone.



"Assessing What Matters" (
In this article, the author highlights the need for assessment to reflect significant tasks in student learning. He suggests focusing on WICS skills rather than recollections of facts which are prone to change frequently and be forgotten.

"What have I Learned Today" (
This presentation highlights a variety of fast formative assessment methods that allow teachers to understand student learning. It also provides guidelines for implementing these strategies. It also helps provide opportunities for students to reflect on their own learning.

"Straight to the Source" (
This Scholastic blog provides a number of reading guides for social studies teachers to assess student comprehension of texts. In particular it focuses on primary sources, which are vital to developing historical thinking.

"Student Feedback Through Technology" (
In this video, a teacher demonstrates how she uses technology to make her assessments more useful for her students. By providing her thoughts in an audible form, she increases the chance that they will consider her suggestions to improve their work.



"Close Reading, Grade 6 Social Studies" ()
The teacher in this video highlights and models close reading by instructing students through annotating a text. She demonstrates the need to have a repeated approach for working with texts and using key terms such as context clues.

"Creating Questions to Engage Critically with Texts" (
In addition to focusing on general question asking, this source is particularly helpful for outlining how to encourage students to look for bias in texts. As a social studies teacher this is vital particularly in government and history classes as unbiased texts are often use to teacher perspective.

"Sparking Student Questioning" (
This publication from Mentoring Minds highlights four ways to foster student questioning, and it includes a list of stems students can use to build questions from. Lastly it includes five methods to integrate instruction in practical ways with partners and specific tasks.

"Who Wants to Know? Use Student Questions to Dive Learning" (
Although this article does not focus on encouraging the generation of student questions, it provides another perspective for how these questions can be used in the classroom. It suggests that teachers should use and cultivate students' curiosity and lack of understanding to drive lessons and instructions in an inquiry focused approach. It also highlights the potential for teachers to shape their lessons around controversial and engaging questions.


Teaching New Standards

"How to Improve College Reading Skills in 10 Steps" (
This list of reading strategies reinforces the need for students to be good readers as they enter college. Although the idea of giving students ten steps may seem simplistic, this source highlights the need for teachers to equip students with skills such as prereading, pausing and reflecting, and note-taking as they enter college. Often students rely on teachers in secondary school to remind them of skills, but teachers must equip students to be successful away from their social supports.

"Redefining Literacy in the Digital Age" (
The author of this blog highlights changes in literacy in the face of the "Digital Age" as new deeper skills are needed for all students to be successful in life. Among the author's suggestions are to welcome "mixed" formats and the need to bridge the generational divide between students. By focusing on students' experiences and futures, teachers must rethink what literacy means to form valuable instruction and engage students.

"Why Literacy" (
The website in which this article is taken from is dedicated to arguing that literacy is a lifelong skill. This page is a summary of the organization's focus, and it highlights various aspects of the modern world that require literacy such as going to the doctor. These needs are worth considering for teachers and point out that there may be a lot more value in taking the time to invest in student literacy than we might assume.

"ICivics" (
This web-based resource provides a variety of strong materials for having students reading and write about history and politics. Although there are many sources, which do this, I have been impressed with how this source focuses on having students ask questions and developing political literacy to consider modern issues.



Popplet (
Among the many tools for students to use technology in classrooms, this resource provides students with a means of organizing ideas and items in a way that is effective and easy to share. Popplet creates "webs" with text, images, videos, and links through a digital platform. It can be used for having students present their findings about a source or topic they have studied or as a means of organizing their thoughts for a formative assessment. Additionally, the paid version of the program allows teachers to track each student's contribution to collaborative projects.

Although this source is simply a list of resources, the author provides brief description of each app and categorizes the apps based on subject or use. There is a significant section of social studies related apps and other helpful apps that can be useful for engaging students with constructive uses of technology especially to create formative assessments.

"Using Technology to Encourage Students' Engagement with History" (
The author of this article, a teacher, provides their thoughts on how integrating technology into the classroom can allow students to work with less traditional sources that they find more engaging including complex sites with various types of media. By having students read these sources, the teacher is then able to engage students in history by putting together these same sources.

"Computer and Internet Use" (
This source from the National Center for Education Statistics provides an insight into just how common technology is in the lives of our students. Although it demonstrate how common digital access is for students, it also notes that significant inequalities remain. Teachers must remember that even in a "Digital Age" we cannot count on our students having access to resources at home, particularly if they are low income or minority students.