Common Core Standard 5 for Social Studies:
CCSS.ELA-Literacy.RH.9-10.5 Analyze how a text uses structure to emphasize key points or advance an explanation or analysis.
Text structure and organization is something typically discussed in the English/Language Arts classroom on a daily basis. And, in AP History courses, these tasks are vital for success on the AP exam, yet for some reason, they are less stressed in the typical Social Studies classroom. Why? The writing element. AP requires skillful writing, while our Social Studies standards have typically allowed ORQs and other "bullet" writing that does not need or require structure for "the perfect 4."
So, how do we address this standard in our Social Studies classes? Simple!
- Teach students to search out the obvious! Structure is in everything we read. It may be good, and it may be bad, but there is structure. Start with what is directly in front of you. What is first? Is it a more important point the author is making? What is last? Why is it at the end? Did the author repeat certain information? Did you get an overall meaning or feeling from the reading? Find the obvious!
- Look for cause and effect. Cause and effect is history! Find these examples in the text and analyze them for significance. More importantly, teach the difference between chronological order and cause and effect. One may occur without the other.
- Identify the various perspectives and how they are introduced. Understanding perspectives in history is vital. Understanding perspectives in structure is even more so. Why does the author include certain perspectives, but not others? Why are some introduced first, others last? Are some given more emphasis than others?
- Search for comparisons and their significance for the topic at hand. When authors directly identify similarities and differences, they are attempting to show a broader picture of a topic. Help your students learn to search for that bigger picture.
- Utilize the text (again, any primary or secondary piece that can be used in the classroom for content understanding) tools. Very few writers WANT to be mysterious in their writing. Most want you to know exactly what they are going for in their piece. Considering that, use the clues they give you. What title did they use? Are there headings that sub-divide information? Are some entries clustered or organized in charts, graphs, or other format? Are there entries in bold or italicized? And overall, what benefit is there in the tools the author provides?
- Always use organizational tools for content recording. Acronyms and other graphic organizers can help students to see and evaluate texts in a different way, often helping them better process the information at hand!
- Encourage your students to ask WHY! Each and every standard can be touched on with specific tasks in the Social Studies classroom. None will be COMPLETED if you do not require your students to ask and answer WHY. Critical thinking is vital in helping students to learn what we want them to learn in the Social Studies classroom: How to be better, more effective citizens in our world!
- Provide texts that will help students to clearly identify the structure and meaning of that structure. This does NOT mean spoon feed them or given them texts that are below level.
- Lesson Example: When teaching the Holocaust, have students read Elie Wiesel's Night. But also provide them excerpts from Hitler's Willing Executioners. To follow up these drastically different perspectives, read from Jodi Picoult's Storyteller. Then, ask WHY Jodi Picoult would include both of these perspectives (and the others she includes)? What is her goal in structuring her book in such a way? What is the bigger lesson?
- Lesson Example: Set up centers, such as my Colombian Exchange Activity, where students must find and match up information with where it belongs. Helping them learn to organize with hands-on activities will reinforce the mental process. And, in concluding the activity, require students to find similarities and differences as they identify the big picture. What was the significance (or the multiple significances) of the Colombian Exchange?
- Lesson Example: As students enter the classroom, have a primary source document projected up on the screen. Using Interactive Notebooks (see my blog post on the value of this too!), direct students to state the obvious. The Civil Rights Movement is one of my favorite units for U.S. History. Project the image of the woman reading the newspaper with the Brown ruling. Keep in mind, the image in this case can be your text! What is the title? Where are they sitting? Why this woman? Why a child? What is the author's purpose in creating this image? What could the significance be?
- Lesson Example: At the end of the same class (after a fill lesson on the beginning of the Civil Rights Movement), project up the same image. Ask students to complete the task again, this time incorporating what they learned in the class lesson.
- Lesson Example: Utilize spiral questioning and interactive lectures whenever you MUST be the one speaking in your classroom. When you are teaching any topic, give students the freedom to take over the historic character's conversation. Encourage act-it-outs in front of an image on the screen, or provide role cards to help your students step back in time. And encourage impromptu and ad-lib performances. In my Gilded Age Immigration lesson, students use the role cards to get them started, but then the immigrants can become real as the students use their information-based imaginations!
And finally, just ask WHY all the time! You ask it. Encourage your students to ask it. Even prompt your administrators or fellow teachers to walk into your classroom and randomly ask your students WHY?! Teaching them to always be prepared to answer that simple question is one of the greatest lessons you will ever teach!
For a variety of interactive lessons that can help you to implement this standard, please visit my TpT Store. Be sure to check out my Analysis Activities and my Interactive Lecture products!
Find ideas for Standard 6 on my next blog post!