#nche2016: Elementary history instruction and why we should care
Second session here at #nche2016.
Taking Back Elementary Education: Advocating for History to Improve Reading Comprehension by David Klemm. Great topic. Something we need to be talking about. But remember folks that it’s still just 8:00 in the am.
Basic idea is that reading in context is huge. He started by sharing an excerpt about baseball as an example.
If you don’t have a background in baseball, you can’t make sense of this. The point? Even if you know each individual word and have encountered them all before – you can decode the sounds and pieces of the word – you need to know the context.
Reading comprehension is more than just decoding. We need to train our kids in content knowledge and context. In the NCLB era, we eliminated the inclusion of content knowledge and replaced it with tons of decoding and ELA strategies. Lots of improvement at early grades but a decline at upper grades because we fail to include discipline specific skills and content knowledge. More social studies and history instruction means better readers.
Yes. I think we’re all in agreement on this. But our response should be . . . what? What are specific strategies that elementary teachers can use to support the learning of history and social studies? How can teachers advocate for more content knowledge and discipline specific skills?
He shared his end in mind by suggesting that elementary teachers need to be preparing kids for later activities in high school such as the SAT test. Is that really the point of history and social studies instruction? Shouldn’t we be preparing our kids for bigger things than better SAT scores?
Not every kid will be taking the SAT. Not every kid will be going to a traditional four year college. And maybe the coffee hasn’t kicked in yet but I think we need a broader view of what our jobs as history teachers should be. I think history and social studies education is more about effective citizenship than just doing well on standardized tests.
David comes back to the main topic and suggests that we can advocate for more history instruction by:
- working with natural partners such as science, art, and music
- recognizing common goals and good will of elementary decision makers
- educating to turn “enemies” into new allies
- helping people focus on long term gains rather than just short term gains made when schools worry about just ELA and math
Mmm . . . some good stuff and it raised some good questions about what our purpose is and how we can best focus on that purpose. Will need to wrap my head around some of his research.
But I’m curious. What do you think the purpose is of elementary history and social studies instruction?