Reading Response: Zarrillo, Chapter 8


Zarrillo takes an innovative approach to incorporating literacy into social studies instruction. He begins by talking about typical social studies textbook, stating that despite being used abusively (primary means for instruction), it is still a valuable resource and should not be thrown out. He continues on to explain how to activate the usefulness of a social studies textbook by engaging the reader by use of background knowledge, graphic organizers, meaningful vocabulary instruction, and comprehension activities, From there, he further discusses comprehension, targeting students who have a difficult time reading at grade-level. Zarrillo uses this to segue into discussing valuable informational and fiction texts and how they can be extremely useful in a well-designed social studies lesson. Zarrillo concludes this chapter by talking about the importance of utilizing writing in social studies.

Helpful Ideas and Examples

I really appreciated the examples of graphic organizers. So many students, especially the ones with reading problems, struggle to organize information internally, especially information from a dense social studies textbook. Graphic organizers are a FANTASTIC way to unlock a student’s willingness to learn.

Thoughtful and Authentic Question

I have a friend who teaches at a (very‼) small Christian School in Kalamazoo. She teaches 4th-6th grade and has a total of 9 students. When it comes to using resources outside of the textbook (which is at least 15 years old), her hands are tied. If she is going to plan a unit/project that goes longer than 3 days, she needs approval from the Ed Committee. If she wants to use texts other than the textbook, she needs approval from the Ed Committee. If she wants to allow her students to get online to do research, she needs approval from the Ed Committee for the websites they will be using (not to mention, her school only has 6 computers K-12 that have internet access). Her hands are tied in every direction. What would you do in that kind of situation to still allow for authentic learning despite the restrictions?


I’m not sure what assumptions I had coming into this chapter. I am focusing on Reading and Language Arts within my Education Degree, so it’s not like I hadn’t heard most of this before. But I really appreciated the reinforcement of what I have been learning, especially since it was targeted at Social Studies (which I hadn’t had before).

Go Back: Extra Reading: Social Studies Methods

Class Notes

Literacy in Social Studies

  • Compass Points
    • N – Needs
      • Lots of good quality literature‼! And I don’t have that yet, but I’m working to build up my library.
    • S – Stance, Steps, or Suggestions
      • Stance: I feel somewhat comfortable. I’ve been through enough Vander Kolk classes to feel pretty comfortable with this concept, although I don’t feel like I’ve mastered it yet.
    • W – Worries
      • How do I incorporate this with students who don’t like literacy?
    • E – Excitements
  • Textbooks
    • Which criticism of social studies textbooks in Zarillo Chapter 8 is the most important?
    • What is your view of the role of the textbook in the classroom?
      • I see the value in using it, but I do not think it should be my primary resource. If anything it should be used as a reference and nothing more – kind of like an encyclopedia. Students can use it to find information when necessary, but there are many better ways for students to learn social studies concepts.
    • Strategies for reading the textbook – pg 208 & 209. How would you improve that list?
      • Information Books
    • What do you look for? How do you use them? Why do you use them?
    • How will you incorporate the Common Core standards for using these books?
  • Social Studies text structures
    • Description
    • Sequence
    • Comparison and Contrast
    • Cause and Effect
    • Problem and Solution
  • Reading Strategies
    • Activating background knowledge
    • Graphic Organizers
    • Foldables
    • Pinterest – find and share your top 3 reading strategy posts
  • See, Think, Wonder
    • What do you see? – What do you notice? Make sure it’s just what you observe – not what you think about it. An observation is something you could actually put your fingers on within the image.
      • Indians being attacked by soldiers in blue uniforms
      • Smoke in the background
      • Indians dying
      • Horse being used in the fighting
    • Think – What do you think is going on in this image? Based on what we are seeing and noticing, what does it make us think? What kinds of interpretations can we form based on our observations?
      • I think…
        • Civil War
        • The soldiers are setting fire to the woods where the Indians live
        • I think the soldiers are being cruel to the Indians
    • Wonder – Wondering is about asking broader questions – use evidence from your observations to explain why you wonder that.
      • I wonder…
        • What are they fighting over?
        • Who is right and who is wrong?
        • Why does the horse look like it’s jumping in the air?
        • Why are they setting fire to the forest?
  • Activity – Circle of Viewpoints
    • Read the selection
    • Share with someone next to you that has a different selection.
      • Why are they fighting?
      • What are the different viewpoints?
      • Select a viewpoint to explore
        • “I think…”
        • “A question/concern I have from this viewpoint is…”
  • Reading like a Historian
    • Cross checking – comparing several documents
      • What do other documents say about this?
      • Do the documents agree?
      • Are there several stories about the same event?
      • Which stories are most believable?
    • Sourcing – the author of a document – before reading
      • Who made it?
      • When did they make it?
      • Why did they make it?
      • Is it believable?
    • Contextualizing – imagine the setting
      • What was it like to be alive in the past?
      • What things were different back then? What were the same?
      • What did people and places look like back then?
      • What were people worried about or hoping for?
      • Vocabulary
  • Activity:
    • Read the Section you were assigned
    • From The Magic of Words
      • Principle 1: Children Need Both Explicit and Implicit Instruction
      • Principle 2: Be Intentional in Word Selection
      • Principle 3: Build Word Meaning through Knowledge Networks
      • Principle 4: Children Need Repeated Exposure to Gain Vocabulary
    • With your partner answer these three questions in your notes:
      • What?
        • Children need networks of words rather than isolated terms.
      • So What?
        • Providing students with tools for networking and connecting meanings of interrelated words enhances comprehension and improves long-term memory.
      • Now What?
        • When introducing words to students, it’s important to provide a category, big-picture, or context.
        • People don’t think in isolation, so why would we teach in isolation?
    • CSI – Determine a Color, Symbol and Image to represent the section
      • Color: Blue
      • Symbol: Fishing net
      • Image: Fishing in a boat with a net; Rowing in a boat
    • JIGSAW
  • Writing
    • VERY IMPORTANT!       Need lots of practice.
    • Summarizing
      • Somebody – who?
      • Wanted – what did they want?
      • But – what was the problem?
      • So – how was the problem solved?
      • Then – what happened in the end?
    • Determine a writing assignment to go along with the Tecumseh readings.
  • Using Fiction
    • Activity:
      • In groups of three:
        • Have one person read the book out loud
        • What is the big idea?
          • Value
          • Wants vs. Needs
          • Good Food vs. Bad Food
          • Economics – Grocery Stores
          • Obedience
        • Identify 3 different social study big ideas or GLCE’s that the book could be used with
        • Jigsaw to a new group and share
      • Check out the book lists on Moodle
        • Identify books that you could use


What new information did you learn?

I learned how to better incorporate different types of trade books into a Social Studies lesson. I also thought the different strategies for thinking and processing were extremely helpful (What, So What, Now What / CSI / Circle of Viewpoints / See, Think, Wonder). My favorite was the Circle of Viewpoints. It’s so easy to only think about a certain perspective and forget that there’s even a potential for other perspectives (especially in schools with limited curriculum like the one at which my friend teachers). I like how Circle of Viewpoints is an easy and relatively simple way to not only expand the curriculum, but also to expand perspectives while encouraging higher-level thinking.

How has the material/experience affected you? Has it challenged our thinking?

My perspective was broadened. I realized that you can take just about any children’s book and pull out a social studies concept to teach from. Not that I have time to think about it, it only makes sense – put in simple terms, social studies is the study of the way people interact based on different situations. Trade books and other forms of literature (mostly) tell stories of the interactions and conflicts between individuals. Since that is the case, why wouldn’t we use trade books to teach social studies concepts? Quite often, the stories found in trade books are miles ahead of textbooks when it comes to relatability and authenticity.

Go Back: Extra Reading: Social Studies Methods


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