“Social studies is boring”; how many times have you heard this? Not so. That’s because social studies is essentially about people and people are anything but boring. Witness the ratings of reality television. And look at the popularity of HBO’s John Adams, Rome and the fictional Sopranos.
I thought for sure John Adams was going to be a yawner, but I was dead wrong. It had me hooked from the beginning, because it focused on the people while history went on around them. Stories about people, whether real or imagined, past or present are always compelling when well told.
Put Abraham Lincoln, Julius Caesar, Martin Luther and Sojourner Truth together on a desert island and you’ve got a winner. Think of the stores they would tell as they struggle to make and break alliances. Students will know everything about them in a matter of weeks. Maybe I have something here.
As you’ve no doubt seen there’s a real dearth of good nonfiction leveled books in the content areas for grades 4 and beyond. Look around, there’s not much out there. That’s why I was so impressed by two different content literacy programs from National Geographic School Publishers, Content Literacy Theme Sets and Reading Expeditions.
NGSP’s Content Literacy Theme Sets are quite unique. The program is designed to provide differentiated instruction to develop literacy while reading and writing nonfiction. I started this talking about social studies, but this program also includes sets in science. There are 12 different themes for each social studies and science. Each theme contains 8 copies of four leveled titles.
Each of the four books in a theme is written at a different reading level. However all students (from struggling to fluent readers) work with the same key concepts, key vocabulary and literacy skills at the same time at their own reading level. As the books progress their vocabulary, text load and complexity increase.
The books themselves are stunning. Not surprising for National Geographic they’re full of really cool images that tie directly to the text. But then I’m also a photographer so I’m a sucker for great photos.
Don’t believe me, here’s a link to a short video demonstration on National Geographic’s web site. See for yourself. If you want to see some of these books just drop me an e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org, tell me which subject area you want to see and I’ll have sample copies shipped to you right away.
I’m about out of time for now. I’ll give you details about National Geographic’s Reading Expeditions, nonfiction readers for grades 4 through 8+, in my next post.