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Brainy Apples: Bring History to Life For Your Students...and Integrate Reading into Social Studies!
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Bring History to Life For Your Students...and Integrate Reading into Social Studies!


If you recognize the first part of the title of this post, you most likely already know about an AMAZING resource called DocTeach. I have been using this resource for some time, and I feel like I have just barely scratched the surface! Like many of you, I have been teaching an integrated curriculum for many, many years. I have always believed that you teach science and social studies concepts at the same time you teach reading skills. You magically find more time in your day! For example (and I will be brief because this isn't the point of my post), my daily schedule my last year in the classroom allowed me to teach small reading groups and centers for an hour and 40 minutes, 75 minutes of math, 50 minutes of grammar and writing, and 50 minutes of science/social studies. Granted I was lucky because my lunch, recess, and specials all backed up to each other so I had minimal wasted transition time. My admin really wanted to lessen the 10-15 minute loss between grade level things such as recess and specials, so every grade level was fortunate enough to have their lunch, recess, and specials during one chunk of time.

Notice the one thing missing from my schedule? Whole group reading......not that I didn't teach whole group reading, because I did. While I firmly believe in meeting with small reading groups EVERY single day, even in the upper grades (small reading groups shouldn't just be a primary grades kind of thing, and it shouldn't be a "meet with each group once a week" kind of thing, either), I also believe that sometimes you have to meet whole group. I don't want to teach a main idea mini-lesson to each of my groups when I can teach it to the whole class for 15 minutes and be done with it (well, not "done" with it because we do practice that skill in our small groups and that is when I differentiate). But one year, a L.O.N.G. time ago, I realized that many teachers pushed science and social studies to the side because they weren't as "important" as reading, writing, and math. And I do think there are some teachers who still think this, and it is understandable because while science and social studies may be tested on an end of the year state exam, we all know that more emphasis is put on that reading and math score. But I knew, in my heart, that for some children, science and social studies is what they look forward to the most every day. I couldn't take it away from them. Enter integration of reading into the content areas. Something the Common Core encourages teachers to do. Which I love. And I hope more teachers are doing this today than yesterday. If you aren't integrating yet, you aren't sure how to, you are trying but can't quite seem to get it down, or you are but you need some fresh ideas, then keep reading!
I could write forever about how to integrate reading into the content areas, but for this post I will focus on social studies. So, now let's get back to my point of this post. There is this amazing resource called DocTeach. If you haven't checked it out before, I highly suggest you sit down this weekend if you have time, and just browse the site. Like I said earlier, I have been using it for a while, but I feel like there is still so much more I could be doing with it. Using authentic historical documents for teaching social studies isn't a new idea, but it is an idea that can be hard to implement because you have to find those historical documents. And then of course you have to write up the lesson you are going to teach using the authentic document, and then figure out the activity and follow-up.....here is where DocsTeach is such a helpful resource. For starters, this site has thousands of historical documents that are easy to search for using parameters. Second, it has already-made lessons to use with specific documents. Third, you can build your own lessons!

Let's say you are currently teaching about the Civil War and you are also teaching the reading skill of differing point of views. You can use the "Comparing Civil War Recruitment Posters" lesson. This lesson includes 2 posters used during the Civil War to recruit African-Americans into either the Union Army or the Confederate Army. Students can compare and contrast the perspectives regarding the role of African-Americans during the Civil War. You just did double-duty of teaching your reading skill and social studies skill at the same time. Woo-hoo!

I am the type of teacher that likes to make my own lessons. However, the lessons on this site are awesome! For each lesson, you get the author of the historical document, an image of the document you can show on a projector or Smart Board (or if your school is a BYOT school, students can pull it up on their devices), the historical era, the reading skill, the historical thinking skill (for the above activity it is "historical analysis and interpretation"), Bloom's Taxonomy level, a synopsis of the lesson, AND author's notes which usually include higher-level questions to ask before/while/during reading of the historical documents (so for all you Close Reading fans out there, you can do a Close Reading of the historical documents, too!). Even I know that if I were to create a lesson like this, it would take me a LONG time. This is such a time-saver! And the best part is it really is a great activity! I am telling you, when I found this site, it was like hitting a gold mine or winning the lottery. Here is a screen shot of the above activity.
photo credit: www.DocsTeach.org 

And if ALL that weren't enough, if you create a free account, you can actually modify the lesson including blacking out part of the document, to make it fit your needs. So if you like the lesson, but feel like it needs something more, you can tweak it. It will then be saved in your account.

Let's say you would rather start from scratch, you can create your own lesson, too. You can choose which historical thinking skill you want and it will narrow down the tools that would be best to use (i.e. sequencing, finding details, compare/contrast). This is a great option for those of you who know a lot about your social studies topics and feel comfortable creating your own integrated lessons from a specific historical document.
photo credit: www.DocsTeach.org 

If you are even more adventurous, you might want to check out the National Archives Digital Vaults. I am fairly new to this site and have yet to use this site to create a lesson, but it is pretty cool how you narrow down what you are searching for. If you feel comfortable with just selecting a historical document and creating your own lesson, this site would be great for you. 
photo credit: www.digitalvault.org

I hope I have given you either some starting points or some fresh ideas for integrating reading into social studies. If you already use one of these sites, I would love to hear how you incorporate them or what you think about them! I also love nothing more than helping teachers figure out how to integrate reading into the content areas, so if you would like help, tips, or suggestions, I would be MORE than happy to help you! I loved (and miss) my time as an instructional coach, so I would LOVE to help out! You can leave a comment below with your email, or you can email me at hleblanc@2brainyapples.com. 

Thanks for letting me share one of my favorites with you all!

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I do have some EXCITING news! I am going to be offering a free LIVE webinar next week! I will offer one training on Wednesday, July 27, and one more on Thursday, July 28. Both will be at 8pm EST. You can sign up {here} or the image below to save your seat. I hope to see you there!

Heather
**Please excuse any typos as I don't have the super power of being perfect :)

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