Teaching Social Studies is Teaching Reading - Natalie Wexler

Under pressure to boost test scores over the last 20 years, elementary schools have marginalized social studies to focus on reading comprehension skills like “finding the main idea.” But research shows that comprehension primarily depends on how much knowledge and vocabulary the reader has relating to the topic. When students reach high school, they often lack the background knowledge assumed by grade-level texts. The solution? Elementary students should be getting more social studies and other content-rich subjects, not less. And at any grade level, explicit writing instruction grounded in the content of the curriculum can build knowledge and compensate for gaps.

Anonymous
  •   Nice to meet you at today's session.  Enjoy year one of teaching; no other year is like it!  All the best as you lead your 6-8 grade students.

  •   Good to see you in today's session.  As always, you add good reflections for our group of teachers to consider.  I hope all is well with you and your family.

  • I'm currently working in a K-8 school, and my colleagues and I often talk about how to infuse more history and civics into our elementary grades for this very reason! I appreciate Wexler's comment that there is no evidence to support the idea that younger students won't be interested in (or won't understand) content that doesn't reflect their lived reality. We do our students such a disservice when we make assumptions about their abilities or interests, or when we compare our own school experiences to theirs (i.e. we didn't learn about XX in elementary school, so today's students shouldn't either). I love the idea of using writing to reinforce content acquisition, and I can't wait to try out the "Because ... But ... So" prompt. We are also working more diligently with our school librarian to help reinforce history content during our weekly visits. Our collaborative lessons help students further analyze history content our elementary teachers introduce in the classroom. For example, third grade students having been using some of their library time to create digital books (using Book Creator) about aspects of Michigan history.  #MCHE

  • I found this presentation very compelling. I saw Tim Shanahan once and he made a similar case for the importance of prior knowledge in teaching literacy skills. However, I think, as Natalie Wexler points out (and I believe Shanahan too), that only goes so far if students need some very basic skills taught. So I'm thinking that I for one could use more basic skills about teaching basic skills, and I appreciate Wexler's tips.