The Social Studies Teacher's Toolbox
eBook - ePub

The Social Studies Teacher's Toolbox

Hundreds of Practical Ideas to Support Your Students

Elisabeth Johnson, Evelyn Ramos, Larry Ferlazzo, Katie Hull Sypnieski

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eBook - ePub

The Social Studies Teacher's Toolbox

Hundreds of Practical Ideas to Support Your Students

Elisabeth Johnson, Evelyn Ramos, Larry Ferlazzo, Katie Hull Sypnieski

Angaben zum Buch

Über dieses Buch

Social studies teachers will find classroom-tested lessons and strategies that can be easily implemented in the classroom

The Teacher' s Toolbox series is an innovative, research-based resource providing teachers with instructional strategies for students of all levels and abilities. Each book in the collection focuses on a specific content area. Clear, concise guidance enables teachers to quickly integrate low-prep, high-value lessons and strategies in their middle school and high school classrooms. Every strategy follows a practical, how-to format established by the series editors.

The Social Studies Teacher's Toolbox contains hundreds of student-friendly classroom lessons and teaching strategies. Clear and concise chapters, fully aligned to Common Core Social Studies standards and National Council for the Social Studies standards, cover the underlying research, technology based options, practical classroom use, and modification of each high-value lesson and strategy.

This book employs a hands-on approach to help educators quickly learn and apply proven methods and techniques in their social studies courses. Topics range from reading and writing in social studies and tools for analysis, to conducting formative and summative assessments, differentiating instruction, motivating students, incorporating social and emotional learning and culturally responsive teaching. Easy-to-read content shows how and why social studies should be taught and how to make connections across history, geography, political science, and beyond. Designed to reduce instructor preparation time and increase relevance, student engagement, and comprehension, this book:

  • Explains the usefulness, application, and potential drawbacks of each instructional strategy
  • Provides fresh activities applicable to all classrooms
  • Helps social studies teachers work with ELLs, advanced students, and students with learning differences
  • Offers real-world guidance for addressing current events while covering standards and working with textbooks

The Social Studies Teacher's Toolbox is an invaluable source of real-world lessons, strategies, and techniques for general education teachers and social studies specialists, as well as resource specialists/special education teachers, elementary and secondary educators, and teacher educators.

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Reading and Writing

A Fresh Look at Vocabulary

What Is It?

Vocabulary instruction must be part of any social studies class. The words themselves can be looked at through the lens of the Three Tiers concept developed by Isabel L. Beck, Margaret G. McKeown, and Linda Kucan (2013, p. 9). Tier 1 words are common, everyday words that children pick up in daily conversation (happy, book, see). Tier 2 words are referred to in the Common Core Standards as “general academic words” that are found in readings across content areas, but not typically in conversation (contrast, summarize, consequence) (Common Core, 2010a, p. 42). Tier 3 words are content specific vocabulary (capitalism, infrastructure, longitude) (McKeown & Beck, 2004).
In addition to the Tier 3 content words that are usually included in instruction, we incorporate general academic words or Tier 2 words as well as social and emotional learning (SEL) terms (these SEL words are related to the social studies content, such as agency when teaching about the French Revolution).
We break down the process of teaching new vocabulary into three phases: accessing prior knowledge, seeking new information to build understanding, and practicing revision of definitions. We also cover how to build a strong list of terms for units of study that will push students beyond a traditional vocabulary list.

Why We Like It

Teaching vocabulary has often meant giving students a list of words and telling them to copy down the definitions provided by the teacher, dictionary, or textbook. This kind of activity tends to generate little student interest or lasting understanding of words. Vocabulary presented in this way often lacks needed context and background (Hedrick, Harmon, & Linerode, 2004, p. 105).
We like how our three-phase approach to vocabulary places the primary responsibility for creating definitions on the students and not the teacher. In this way, students develop more ownership of their learning as they work to create their own understandings of terms. Instead of being the source of knowledge, the teacher works as a facilitator of learning. This style of teaching is inclusive of diverse learners by providing space for students to share their own experiences and ideas as a way to help them understand new words.

Supporting Research

Beginning a study of words by encouraging students to consider their prior knowledge – or what is known – before transitioning to new learning – what is unknown – can help to develop word comprehension. Research shows that when students link new information to what they already know, they can better retain the new material (Radboud University Nijmegen, 2014).
Additionally, repeated exposure to vocabulary, along with seeing these words in context, has been shown to improve student comprehension (Biemiller & Boote, 2006).
As we mentioned earlier, a common practice of teaching vocabulary is to give students a list of words, direct them to copy their definitions, and use the words in a sentence. However, researchers Douglas Fisher and Nancy Frey state, “This limited exposure to words and phrases in decontextualized situations has not proven to be effective, nor is it of a sufficient intensity” (Fisher & Frey, 2014a, p. 595). They add, “All learning is social; vocabulary instruction should leverage interactions between teacher, student, and text 
” (Fisher & Frey, 2014a, p. 598). The interactive activities described in this chapter can support this kind of instruction.

Common Core Connections

The Craft and Structure strand of the Common Core Standards for Social Studies and History describes the importance of acquiring vocabulary. Students are asked to “determine the meaning of words and phrases in the text” (Common Core, 2010b).
The Text Type and Purpose strand of the Writing Standards provides guidelines for students to use content-specific language to make and explain written arguments (Common Core, 2010c). The activities in this chapter can help build a thorough understanding of content area language.

Social Studies Connections

According to the National Council for the Social Studies, vocabulary instruction is especially important because an education without it “can lead to lower literacy levels and 
 increase the achievement gap” (National Council for the Social Studies, 2017, “rationale”). We prefer the term opportunity gap to achievement gap (Wells, 2016) since we believe all students have the ability to achieve, but may face socioeconomic challenges or other barriers beyond their control.


Instead of a single lesson plan, this chapter begins by explaining the process we use to build a word list for a unit of study. Then, we share how to divide the teaching of vocabulary into three phases that can be applied to build comprehension: Accessing Prior Knowledge, Building Understanding, and Revising Definitions. We include variations for each of the three phases in this chapter.
It's important to remember that we don't use every variation every time. Depending on time restraints and learning objectives, each step could take a few minutes or a whole period. We ensure, however, that we do utilize at least one instructional strategy from each phase during a unit of study.


In our experience, developing a good word list is the critical first step of successful vocabulary instruction. This is not a list we give to students – rather, this is a list that we use to develop our lessons. This section focuses on identifyi...


  1. Cover
  2. Table of Contents
  3. List of Tables
  4. About the Authors
  5. About the Editors of the Toolbox Series
  6. Acknowledgments
  7. Letter from the Editors
  8. Introduction
  9. SECTION I: Reading and Writing
  10. SECTION II: Analysis Tools
  11. SECTION III: Speaking and Listening
  12. SECTION IV: Additional Key Strategies
  14. Index
  15. End User License Agreement