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Authors in social studies classrooms

This post was originally published in Nick Glass’ monthly column for Curriculum Connections, an e-newsletter published by School Library Journal in partnership with TeachingBooks.net. Subscribe to this free newsletter here.

I love how social studies and literature go hand-in-handrevealing culture, values, and history through well-told stories. Add online interactive and primary source materials into the equation, and classroom units become even more exciting.

In this post, I encourage you to bring authors into your classroom to add a personal dimension to social studies lessons. Autobiographical accounts, for example, can offer first-person perspectives on events under discussion. And authors who research and write about historical and cultural topics often present their interpretations and sources while revealing their methods and processes.

We’re living in a wonderfully diverse, global society—and books provide glimpses into unfamiliar time periods and people and places far from home. Adding the quality Internet sources and materials suggested below to a good book will enrich students’ cultural understandings and the classroom discussions of the topics at hand.

Strategy #1: Introduce people who have experienced the events being studied

Many autobiographical video and/or audio materials are available online. Below are two TeachingBooks.net Original Author Programs that can be viewed in social studies classrooms.

Life as a Crow Indian as recalled by Chief Joseph Medicine Crow

Francisco Jiménez talks about growing up in a family of migrant workers

  • Consider the autobiographical nature of the author’s works, including his account of his early years in The Circuit: Stories From the Life of a Migrant Child (Univ. of New Mexico Press, 1997)
  • Explore the research necessary to write about childhood experiences
  • Discuss the author’s belief in the importance of education

Strategy #2: Have authors share their thoughts and expertise on topics.

The relevance of the 1954 Brown v. Board of Education decision

Through a compelling narrative and archival footage and images, author Toni Morrison introduces students to her Coretta Scott King Book Award-winning title, Remember: The Journey to School Integration (Houghton, 2004).

Social issues of interest to middle school students

James Howe’s The Misfits (2001) and its companion volume, Totally Joe (2005, both S & S), lend themselves to discussions on bullying, gender issues, and the power of words. Consider the author’s stated purpose in addressing these issues in his work.

Posted by Nick Glass, Founder & Principal of TeachingBooks.net


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