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The Past is a Blast! Incorporating Social Studies Content into Your HSE Classroom

The Past is a Blast! Incorporating Social Studies Content into Your HSE Classroom

ABE HSE teachers know the challenge of incorporating four subject areas into their instructional delivery.  Students need rigorous math instruction, but we also want to make them more confident readers and writers.  What about the equally important subjects of science and social studies?

While there are many ways to blend subject-area disciplines together, one consideration is to incorporate social studies content into reading, writing, speaking/listening, and language instruction. 

You may think that this task is challenging if you are not a social studies teacher.  Don’t panic and please remember that social studies content can be taught by all teachers, and that the strategies and resources to do so can be used at multiple levels and in large and small classroom settings.

There are those times when you will be teaching pure social studies content that is necessary for the students’ background knowledge.  However, I often tell my students that the GED is not a “history test” and with this in mind, I try to integrate and incorporate social studies content into my other instruction, especially my more frequent English Language Arts classes.  During these sessions, students will often ask “is this English or social studies,” and I tell them “yes!”

Blending content and literacy skills

Think about the general goals of the CCRS ELA Anchor skills:

  • Reading visual information
  • Recording information/evidence
  • Analyzing concepts/vocabulary
  • Talking about content in academic ways
  • Writing for comprehension with correct language conventions

You can use social studies content to achieve these, and other, ELA skills and you don’t have to start from scratch when planning.  There are plenty of classroom-ready resources that will achieve this blending of content and literacy skills.

For example, the lessons from America in Class (https://americainclass.org/) are not only rich in content but the activities prompt students to identify and evaluate textual evidence, recognize an author’s point of view, and interpret content from diverse media sources.

While there are many, here are a few additional resources that seamlessly blend content with those critical literacy and language skills.  SERPs Social Studies Generation (https://www.serpinstitute.org/sogen) offers units related to topics in history and American democracy.  The units’ lessons provide opportunities for students to read, write, discuss, and build arguments.  All instructional activities center around a main question or topic and allow students to encounter academic vocabulary in multiple contexts and integrate and debate information from multiple texts.

Although a paid subscription is necessary, Upfront Magazine (https://upfront.scholastic.com/), published by The New York Times, is a valuable classroom resource that highlights past and present events and offers a wide range of print and online activities that build social studies and language arts knowledge and skills.  Included with the subscription are teacher’s guides, lesson plans, standards correlations, and differentiation tools.  In addition, teachers can select from numerous ELA skill-building activity sheets, assessments, and videos.

Don’t forget the ATLAS Social Studies & Civics resource library!

Whether you teach in a dedicated social studies classroom, or incorporate its content and skills into other curriculum, it is more important than ever that our students appreciate those connections between past and present events, think critically about the constant stream of information coming at them, and perhaps most importantly, understand how they can be more active and informed participants in the community.

These goals, plus ensuring student success on high school equivalency exams, can seem like a weighty task.  Fortunately, there are resources that can help!

The resources mentioned in this article, plus many more, can be readily accessed at any time!  Simply go to the Resources (https://atlasabe.org/resources/) section of the ATLAS website and click on the Social Studies & Civics (https://atlasabe.org/resources/social-studies/) resource library icon.

The library has many recommended social studies and civics lesson plans, classroom strategies, and related articles that are relevant for ALL LEVELS of ESL/ABE.  Moreover, they are broadly categorized by:

  • Civics/Government
  • Citizenship
  • History
  • Economics,
  • Geography

New resources have been added since its inception in 2020 and will continue to be updated.

As always, please email me at [email protected] if you have a particular social studies or civics-related resource that you would like to share and possibly have included on the website.  Definitely keep checking the online library for new resources that will broaden our students’ sense of their place in history.

John Trerotola, Instructor Robbinsdale Adult Academic Program