In the article “Bringing the “Social” Back to Social Studies: Literacy Strategies as Tools for Understanding History,” Deborah Macphee and Emily Whitecotton write about the importance of using literacy as a tool for learning in classrooms. They believe that students are not using literacy as a tool for learning. Therefore, Macphee and Whitecotton mention how literacy strategies can be used as tools to encourage critical thinking and discourse that leads to multifaceted understandings of social studies, as well as literacy.
The authors explain that “the unit of the study discussed in article took place with two fourth-grade classes in a Title I school… In this school, the fourth grade is departmentalized. The students have two different teachers: one who teaches literacy and social studies and another who teaches science and math. The literacy and social studies teacher had each group of students for two hours and forty-five minutes each day… All this time was devoted to building literacy skills through learning about the revolutionary period. The unit of study lasted only six weeks and was aligned with state social studies and literacy standards” (Machphee and Whitecotton, 2011, p. 263).
The authors express that social study is a content area that can be easily developed through discussion. However, it can be relegated as the discussion becomes less popular as a mode of instruction. Macphee and Whitecotton argue that if teachers understand that learning is social, then it is very important that their classrooms shift from spaces that honor students’ individual work and accomplishment to communities of practice, in which students can engage with content and each other by using literacy practices.
According to the authors, “discussion is a literacy-based strategy that can enhance learning” (Machphee and Whitecotton, 2011, p. 264). They believe that teachers should create good questions to promote classroom discussions. They also believe that “building curriculum around big ideas in history allows students to construct deep understandings of content in meaningful and relevant ways” (Machphee and Whitecotton, 2011, p. 265). What the authors mean is students will be able to think critically when they are engaged in big idea discourse.
After reading the article “Bringing the “Social” Back to Social Studies: Literacy Strategies as Tools for Understanding History,” I feel that it’s important for us (social studies teachers) to provide some communicative activities for our students to engage them in learning with their classmates. Communicative activities can include any activities that encourage students to speak with and listen to other students (Activities to Promote Interaction and Communication, p.41).
I agree with the authors of the article that social studies are a content area that can be easily developed through discussion (Machphee and Whitecotton, 2011). However, we as teachers should be able to help our students develop the knowledge and skills to become engaged not only in our classrooms but also in civic life. We should look for techniques that we can use to engage our students and build the skills they need to become successful readers, critical thinkers, and active citizens as well.
With the different types of materials that are available to teachers now, looking for activities to promote interaction and communication is not very hard. Communicative activities are important not only in social studies classes but in other content areas as well.
It’s stated in the document “Activities to Promote Interaction and Communication” that “even when a lesson is focused on developing reading or writing skills, communicative activities should be integrated into the lesson” (Activities to Promote Interaction and Communication, p.41).
That’s because research has shown that more learning takes place when students work together and are engaged in relevant tasks within a good learning environment rather than in traditional teacher-centered classrooms. Thus, communicative activities provide opportunities for students to work together and to become critical thinkers.
I believe when teachers make their classes more interactive, students would want to come to class and take part in it. Giving them a more active role during cooperative learning activities will give them a sense of ownership.
For example, one of the interactive activities that I would give my sixth-grade social studies (world history) students is first, I would divide them into groups of four and have them read a magazine about early Rome for instance. Then I’ll have them put together an ancient newspaper that reports on Ancient Rome. Students can decide on a name for the paper, and choose people, places, and events to include in their paper.
They can also illustrate the newspaper with some drawings and advertisements that relate to that time. I think activities like this can support literacy instruction (WeAreTeachers, 2017). Therefore, as teachers, we should give our students a couple of activities occasionally, support what we’ve been doing. Teachers sometimes need to take a break from the everyday ordinary sit and listen to my lecture routine (Top Hot, 2018).