Whatcha Readin’ This Summer?


Finally – time to kick back, relax, and take in a good book (or six+)!  What’s on your social studies shelf this summer?  If you are looking for a quick read that can help transform your social studies classroom, maybe check out … img_4263.jpg

Reading Nonfiction by Kylene Beers and Robert Probst – It’s true – we are all reading teachers, especially in the social studies.  The printed word (paper or digital) continues to be the primary form of transmitting information to students in the social studies, and we often make assumptions that our students can simply read any words we put in front of them.   Consider the various types of text your students read – textbook entries, news articles, speeches, primary source documents, captions on graphs, words within political cartoons … the list is endless.  Keep in mind, as well, that this is usually nonfiction text that students do not want to read – no wizards, no dragons, no vampires, no video game environments. Beers and Probst explain a series of signposts to help students digest the text and serve as a topic of discussion about both what was written and how it was written.  I have used the signposts for major primary sources, including the Declaration of Independence and “I Have a Dream”, and the process works great in partner settings.  The book also offers some great strategies for nonfiction reading, including a beefed up KWL and genre reformulation. Diving into Reading Nonfiction will not only open your eyes to the importance of reading instruction in the social studies, but also gives hands on examples to help students connect with text.

A History Teaching Toolbox by Russel Tar – Looking for some creative ideas for teaching and assessment – and not just in the history classroom?  Russel Tar has what you need in his fun read about practical classroom strategies for social studies teachers, veteran and newby. You may know Russel from his incredible websites, Active History and Classroom Tools. He brings a ton of his awesome ideas to the page in the Toolbox, providing snapshots of countless activities to get students thinking about the content. He has creative assessments (designing wedding invitations), awesome collaborative experiences (such as The Apprentice), cool methods for comparison (I like Linkage Bingo), and much more. One approach to the book – think of an area in your curriculum that you want to improve and look at Russel’s ideas through that lens – you will have something fresh and new come school time!

Why Won’t You Just Tell Us the Answer? by Bruce Lesh – I see Bruce’s book as a play in two parts – why we need to change the way we teach history, and tons of examples how to make this change in our history class. Bruce pushes his students to think like historians, read text, subtext, and context, and analyzing sources in making an argument. His examples are all for American history, but the process can be used for any historical content. Bruce presented  his work at the WCSS Conference in March to rave reviews.  If you ever get a chance to see him (or to bring him to your school, district, or council), don’t miss him!

Instant Relevance by Denis Sheeran – Even though Denis is a math teacher, his message of using our experience and the relevant real world to teach our kids is perfect or the social studies.  I mentioned n a recent post that “the world is handing us our curriculum”, and it more prevalent in our discipline than any other – but it’s  not just the headlines that can be used for relevance. This quick read will give you some inspiration to search your everyday life for ways to connect to your content and engage kids.

Explore Like a Pirate by Michael Matera and Play Like a Pirate by Quinn Rollins – I have to begin with a disclaimer – I teach with Michael, and I have known Quinn for a quite a few years, so I am quite biased.  But it’s a good bias, because these two books will give you ideas that you can integrate into a lesson, unit, or entire curriculum.  Both guys are social studies savants, so their experience and examples play right into our hands. Plus, the two books go together like (fill in any go together pair here – mine is peanut butter and jelly). Michael talks about utilizing game mechanics in class to increase engagement, and Quinn offers countless ideas for adding good old fashioned play in the classroom.  They also have awesome websites to support their books and ideas  – check out Explore Like a Pirate and Play Like a Pirate online!

What’s on my own list for the summer?  Rebooting Social Studies by Greg Milo is my social studies read for the next few weeks, and I am also planning on checking out some general ed books as well, including Dive Into Inquiry by Trevor Mackenzie, Time to Teach, Time to Reach from Nat Damon (uncle to one of my young historians), and Spark Learning from Ramsey Musallam.  I have a couple of coaching books that I will digest and see how they can apply to the classroom as well as the diamond and court. And, of course, my personal penchant for espionage / counter terrorism / cloak and dagger thrillers will lead me into adventures far and wide … but that’s a whole other discussion!

Have any additional ideas?  I’d love to hear them!

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