Vocabulary instruction in social studies is important because it builds background knowledge that is essential when students are assigned to read complex non-fiction texts. When students have a strong vocabulary, it makes them better readers.
There can be no doubt that the level of teaching and learning in your classroom would vastly improve if every single student possessed a high literacy level and a consistent reading habit, both at home and school. However, many do not, and perhaps you’ve wondered why. In a search for some answers, I would like to pose a few sensitive questions.
My last post was about quality novels to teach in the American history classroom. I would like to follow it up with some books teachers can include in their geography and civics class. In Alabama, we devote a semester each to geography and civics during the seventh grade. Often, it can seem that there is not enough time to fit in everything that we need to cover during that time frame. However, the following books are short enough to read in these classes, but “pack a punch” of information.
When I implement a novel study in social studies, there are a few activities that really work for me in terms of aiding student comprehension. I'll go into what these strategies are, how to use them, and how they help. But first, a note about reading aloud.
When I first started teaching history, it was difficult for me to incorporate reading passages in a productive and interesting way. I remember looking at a section in my textbook and thinking “how can I keep my students on task when I can barely concentrate on this stuff?”
Students not doing the reading assigned for homework seems to be an eternal challenge for every teacher. Failure to do the reading stunts classroom discussions, prevents students from learning and understanding the material to an adequate depth, and does nothing to help students build literacy skills.
Teachers frequently offer students multiple ways to learn vocabulary: vocabulary cards, quizzes, drawing, matching activities, and even games. By varying the activities, they hope to keep students engaged with the words.
Few would argue with the importance of vocabulary knowledge in all school subjects.