Table of Contents

1.2 The Importance of Literacy in History/Social Studies

Time to Read

Read the following quote from Sam Wineburg about the importance of literacy in history/social studies.

Literacy is the key word here, because the teaching of history should have reading and writing at its core. Years ago, this may have been the case, but that time is long gone. In some underfunded schools, teachers struggle to cope with low reading levels by reading the textbook aloud to students so they at least "get the content" (Schoenbach, et. al, Reading for Understanding, 1999). In other classrooms, writing in social studies is increasingly being replaced by PowerPoint assignments, complete with bullet points and animation. But we can no more defend an argument on why the USSR disintegrated using bullet points than we can journey to Moscow on the wings of a Frommer travel guide. Working through successive drafts of the cause-and-effect essay-making sure that paragraphs reflect a logical procession of ideas and that assertions are backed by evidence-is hard and inglorious work, but there are no shortcuts…Skits and posters may be engaging, but leaving students there-engaged but illiterate-amounts to an incomplete lesson that forfeits our claim as educators…This means teaching students to be informed readers, writers, and thinkers about the past as well as the present-a goal all parties should be able to embrace. Our democracy's vitality depends on it."

Source: Sam Wineburg ( Stanford History Education Group) and
Daisy Martin ( National History Education Clearinghouse),
" Reading and Rewriting History," 2004

The CA CCSS for ELA/Literacy emphasize the need for discipline-specific literacy instruction, but these standards do not replace the content, knowledge, and skills identified in the History-Social Science Content Standards for California Public Schools (CA History-Social Science Standards) and the History-Social Science Framework for California Public Schools . These documents work together to help teachers design engaging, rigorous instruction that help develop students’ analytical reading, thinking, writing, and oral communication skills through the content of history/social studies.


Time to Read

The National History Education Clearinghouse’s roundtable on the Common Core, “ What Do the Common Core State Standards Mean for History Teaching and Learning?” presents perspectives by teachers and educators on the relationship between the CA CCSS for ELA/Literacy and history/social studies instruction. Read “ Engaging Students in the Discourse of History,” by Oakland, California middle school teacher Katherine Suyeyasu, to see one perspective on the benefit of this relationship