Jay Tope's Social Studies Literacy Resource Center
Three Social Studies Literacy Strategies
There are dozens of instructional strategies that a teacher can use that effectively delivers content to students. We focus on three of those strategies here, which we believe can help in developing literacy skills through fun activities, group interaction, and making the content relatable.
Readers Theater is a fun, educational activity that involves the oral reading of a script by several readers in the classroom. This can be done with or without props. Students must read their parts with emotion, becoming the character or historical figure they are acting out (Vacca, 377). It is preferred to do this activity in groups of two, this way the students can help each other out, and not necessarily be put on the spot. Scripts can be developed by the students, by the teachers, but many are available online through organizations such as Teachers Pay Teachers. Click on the script to the right in order to access their website, which is full of Reader's Theater activities and other engaging ideas to use in your classroom; some are free, and some carry a price tag. The goal is to help students' literacy skills by 'reading with a purpose'. It makes reading fun, and helps them understand the assignment much better than simply assigning reading. This also helps students learn to work with others, and get to know people in their class that they wouldn't have known otherwise.
This strategy helps develop literacy by getting students to make connections between the text they are reading and things going on in their lives (Harvey, 93). Three different connections can be made. Text-to-self involves students feeling personal connections with either emotions that historical characters use, or by events that have happened. An example would be civil rights. A student reading the material might not immediately relate to the subject, but upon a prompt such as "What does this remind you of in your life?", they might think about their family facing discrimination, or a friend who identifies as LGBTQ being harassed (Vacca, 374). There's also text-to-text connections in which students connect social studies text to text from a movie, song, or other relatable text. Plot lines from a movie might seem similar to what they are reading in class, and a strong teacher prompt would help bring this out. Finally, text-to-world connections are where the student begins to relate the social studies material to worldwide events, and as they write about these type of connections, it is clear how their content literacy has developed (Vacca, 374).
A series of statements to which students individually respond to before they read the text is an example of an anticipation guide. This can help develop literacy through discussion that takes place after the responses are finished, and helps activate prior knowledge. It raises the students' expectation about the subject matter before the material is read, contributing to their absorption of the content (Vacca, 188). The discussion must flow without serious interruption in order to be effective. Anticipation guides can be used in any discipline, but we will concentrate on how it can be effective in social studies. An example of one is listed to the right. Click on it to access the entire article via the National Council for the Social Studies website (Yell, 363).