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Best Practices in Social Studies Education
Reading and Writing Across the Content Areas


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Class Discussions
Cooperative Learning Activities
Reading and Writing Across the Content Areas
Project Based Learning
Links to Related Social Studies Sites
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Columbus Public Schools has been pushing for reading and writing across the content areas for the past few years.  I have worked with the English teacher on my team in the Freshman Success Academy to really incorporate reading and writing in my classroom.  I am at an advantage when it comes to team planning because my school is an academy school and part of the Coulumbus Pathways to Success Initiative.  Therefore, my team of core teachers and myself have our planning periods together.  This allows us the time to include these important aspects of teaching into our lesson plans quite often.
I have tried many techniques to help my students to read and write in the social studies area.  A few of the techniques that I use most often are cubing, What I Know Activities, and journal writing.
Cubing can be used for preparing students for reading and/or writing.  I have had tremendous success with this activity.  What I like most about the cubing exercise is that I can model for students ways to think at a higher level and give positive feedback to students who actually do it.  By the end of the activity, most of the students in the room are giving "outside of the box" answers.

Explaination of Cubing

Six Sides of Cubing Handout

Morgan, R. F., & Richardson, J. S. (2000). Reading to learn in the content areas (Fourth Edition). Belmont: Wadsworth Thomas Learning.

What I Know Activity
The What I Know Activity is a wonderful way to help with student understanding of a reading.  The activity is broken down into columns.  In the first column, students are asked to think about what they know about a subject prior to reading the text.  Students have to create their own questions about what they would like to know about the topic in the second column.  The third column calls for students to write down what they are learning while they are reading.  The fourth column requires students to write down the answers they found to their questions from column two.  Finally, the fifth column is for those questions from the second column that students could not find any answers for.

Sample What I Know Activity

Morgan, R. F., & Richardson, J. S. (2000). Reading to learn in the content areas (Fourth Edition). Belmont: Wadsworth Thomas Learning.

Journal writing is a great way to get students to write.  At the beginning of the school year, students often have trouble writing a paragraph response to a journal question.  By the end of the school year, most of my students can write one page or more responses to questions. 
I find that I have more success with student responses to journal questions when the questions are directly related to student interests.  It is easier for students to express their opinions on topics that they have prior knowledge on.  Once students are able to express their opinions on topics they have prior knowledge on, I begin to ask questions that relate to topics we are discussing in class.  I will especially ask questions on concepts or topics that not all of my students are understanding.  This process helps students with a number of skills.  For example:
  1. expressing their opinions
  2. answering the question why?
  3. defending their opinions and/or their arguments
  4. becoming more comfortable with writing
  5. gaining confidence in their writing ability