Here are answers to some of the questions you asked this week. If your questions were related, I addressed them together in my response.
With the rise in popularity of graphic novels, have any textbooks changed over to that format instead of the traditional text alone with the inserted text features?
- I wish I could say that textbooks have improved. Those I have seen in schools are old (at least 10 years) and still follow the traditional format. I’m a big fan of skipping the textbook and using trade books instead. This allows for use of multiple genres of nonfiction, including poetry and graphic novels. That said, there is a terrific history series by Nathan Hale that I love. The books are part of the Hazardous Tales series.
There is little time for Social Studies instruction. Even as we integrate many of these reading/writing strategies during Language Arts time, how do we cover such large amounts of content in such a small amount of time? Also, what are some additional specific strategies for English language learners?
- Time is the problem every teacher faces. There is never enough time to do everything. It’s one of the reasons why textbooks and worksheets are the norm. Teachers feel like they’re covering content, but students often aren’t engaged and aren’t really learning.
- I’ll get back to you on the ELL strategies. I hope to share/model some in class.
Would is be alright to deviate slightly from the curriculum or state assigned Language Arts books in order to supplement Social Studies texts due to time constraints?
Are there any restrictions on how often teachers use social studies texts during language arts instruction or is there more freedom in choosing texts for language arts?
- There really aren’t any state assigned books for language arts. Most of the decisions are left up to the school divisions. Usually, the specialists in central office offer recommendations on what should be used. Since teaching nonfiction is in the language arts standards, any time you can use a book that aligns with science or social studies units, you should run with the opportunity.
Is it possible to cluster primary source documents to create a coherent unit (painting, letters, maps)? Where can we find examples of primary source driven units that are adaptable and effective?
- We are going to look at several examples of this in class. It is my preferred way to teach. It does take some time to assemble resources, but the units are so much richer when you do this. These documents can be supplemented with good children’s books.
If any students are like me, I hated when the teacher just had us sit and read page after page in the textbook. Do you have some personal ways to make it fun and engaging other than a worksheet?
- I’ll say again how much I dislike textbooks. I honestly don’t think they have a place in teaching social studies. Students will get so much more from learning to work with primary source documents. There are many good resources to guide them through this process. Yes, they are worksheets, but they teach students to analyze and ask questions. The National Archives has a terrific collection of document analysis worksheets. Here’s an example of one designed for elementary students.
How much variety is appropriate to incorporate into the class in terms of using models. Should I try every model like the “H” model, Venn diagram, and others switching every time, or should I stick to getting the students used to using the same model or two.
- I like to teach students to use all the models. Practice each one over time and introduce them slowly. Later in the school year, I let students choose which form to use. They appreciate having the ability to choose what works for them and you get to see how they are thinking.
As teachers, should we use the textbooks/informational guides in class as much as we use other sources and activities or balance more activities and discussion rather than heavy informational use?
- The movement in social studies right now is to teach through inquiry. Students are given documents and primary sources to focus on and use them to answer questions about a person or event. This is a pretty engaging way to teach. At some point in this process, students have to explore secondary source material and texts that summarize these ideas, so informational text will always be used in social studies. As the teacher, it will be up to you to determine what form that takes. There are so many good books, magazines, and podcasts, that I hope textbooks aren’t the first choice for this.
Leave a comment if you have other questions or want me to expand on any of these answers.