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#nche2016: Nathan McAlister and Teaching Literacy through History


I can say that I knew Nathan before he became famous. He and I worked together in our first Teaching American History project. A few years later in 2010, he was selected as the National Gilder Lehrman Teacher of the Year. He was and still is a middle school teacher at Royal Valley Middle School. And just so you know, he’s awesome.

So when I decided to attend this session and found out that Nathan was the presenter, well . . . double bonus.

At its core, the Teaching Literacy through History is an interdisciplinary professional development program that uses primary documents and historical texts to improve K–12 education. GLI wants to come to your school or district to help create lessons and curriculum.

But there are a wide range of lesson plans based on primary documents that focus on using primary and secondary sources with a focus on building literacy skills. To access the lessons, you’ll need to create a free Gilder Lehrman account.

Nathan demonstrated one of the strategies he and the TLTH process called Shared Reading. The strategy is an interactive reading experience that occurs when students join in or share the reading of a book or other text while guided and supported by a teacher. The teacher explicitly models the skills of proficient readers, including reading with fluency and expression.

Why use shared reading?

  • It provides struggling readers with necessary support.
  • Shared reading of predictable text can build sight word knowledge and reading fluency
  • Allows students to enjoy materials that they may not be able to read on their own.
  • Ensures that all students feel successful by providing support to the entire group.

How to use shared reading

  • Introduce the story by discussing the title, cover, and author/illustrator. Ask the students to make predictions regarding what they think the story might be about.
  • Read the story aloud to the students using appropriate inflection and tone. Pause and ask the students to make predictions. Ask brief questions to determine students’ comprehension level.
  • Conclude the reading by reserving time for reactions and comments. Ask questions about the story and relate the story to the students’ similar experiences. Ask the children to retell the story in their own words.
  • Re-read the story and/or allow time for independent reading

Grab this PDF for more details about what this looks like with older students.

Contact Nathan to get his presentation and other lesson plan ideas.


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