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Notable Books, Notable Lessons: Putting social studies back into K-8

Full confession.

Elementary kids freak me out. They’re sticky. They smell funny. And they throw up. All the time. Seriously. All the time. Every day.

My wife teaches elementary kids. She. Is. A. Saint. And she tells me that her kids don’t throw up every day. I want to believe her but I’m not convinced.

The point? I could never teach elementary kids. But somebody needs to teach them social studies skills, concepts, and content. Without a strong social studies foundation in the early grades, it becomes more difficult to build strong historical thinking skills and content knowledge in middle and high school.

So if you teach K-8, or know someone who does, this book is designed just for you:

Notable Books, Notable Lesson: Putting Social Studies Back in the K-8 Curriculumauthored by Andrea Libresco, Jeannette Balantic, and Mary Battenfield, focuses on finding ways for elementary and middle level teachers to combine ELA and social studies instruction. The book is anchored around two main resources: the ten thematic strands developed by the National Council for the Social Studies and the NCSS yearly Notable Books list.

If you’re not familiar with the NCSS Themes or the Notable Books, a quick overview. The Themes focus on the topics and ideas of social studies and have been around for years. Most state level and district level social studies standards and curricula have at least some connection to the ten themes:

NCSS Notable Trade Books for Young People is a list that NCSS vetted classroom teachers create every year highlighting newly published books aligned to and supporting the Ten Themes. The list provides a way for K-8 teachers, and even high school teachers, to find fiction and non-fiction resources perfect for supporting social studies content and process.

And it’s free. With a new list every year. Going back 18 years. Hundreds and hundreds of books. Aligned to social studies instruction. If you’re not already Googling it, what are you waiting for?

Better yet, just follow this link. Come back when you’re done.

The problem, of course, is that all teachers are incredibly busy and it can be a struggle finding time to develop learning activities that combine ELA and social studies. Wouldn’t it be nice if three experienced social studies experts could gather together a team of classroom teachers to create a whole book full of lessons using resources from the Notable Books list? And all you had to do was copy and paste?

Notable Books, Notable Lessons delivers 30 lessons, each designed around one of the ten themes and a specific grade level, ready to use with all the bells and whistles. Each lesson contains:

  • compelling questions
  • suggested Notable Book
  • social studies concepts and discussion questions
  • instructional activities
  • handouts
  • application activities
  • extension activities
  • additional recommended books

The authors are convinced that elementary and middle school teachers can use NCSS Notable Books to do “double duty – teaching social studies skills and concepts in addition to literacy skills.” They wrote Notable Books, Notable Lessons because they’ve seen teachers attempt this and struggle to implement it effectively. They share a chart highlighting three levels of social studies / ELA integration: fractured, stealthy, and healthy:

Healthy integration helps students develop the ability to:

  • ask meaningful questions and analyze and evaluate information and ideas
  • use effective decision-making and problem-solving skills in public and private life
  • collaborate effectively as members of a group
  • participate actively in school and community life.

And every lesson is designed to support those skills.

If you’re a K-8 teacher, then this is a book that needs to be part of your professional library. If you’re not an elementary teacher but knows someone who is, pass this on to them. Because the littles and middles need the social studies just as much as the rest of us.

(You want more? The three authors have got more. Ten years ago they wrote a book titled Every Book is a Social Studies Book with even more lessons, resources, and suggested fiction / non-fiction. Get more info here.)

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Glenn is a curriculum and tech integration specialist, speaker, and blogger with a passion for technology and social studies. He delivers engaging professional learning across the country with a focus on consulting, presentations, and keynotes. Find out more about Glenn and how you might learn together by going to his Speaking and Consulting page.

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