How can improving reading skills help students become better historians? That’s a question Big History teachers have been thinking about for some time, and one we’re digging deep on this month. It’s also the focus of recently-added Session 8.3 of Teaching Big History (the online PD course for current and prospective BHP teachers).
BHP includes several tools to help students become better readers, and to scaffold the skill for those who need it. These tools are embedded in the course where you need them. We also explain how to use them in our online PD course, Teaching Big History.
Our first and most important tool, Three Close Reads, has helped students get better at reading (and history-ing). Keep reading to hear from BHP teachers, a learning scientist and a professor of literacy on recommended uses of this and two other Big History reading supports: audio scaffolds and leveled text. If you’re the type that loves trying out new things in your classroom, or feel, like many teachers, that students need more practice with this skill, we guarantee you’ll finish this read with at least a few new ideas.
Three Close Reads: But, Why?
What’s the gist? What info is in here? Why does it matter? Students use the Three Close Reads (.pdf) to dive into course readings and hone their reading comprehension skills. Instead of simply learning about historical concepts and taking everything they read at face value, students learn to evaluate different perspectives and take an active role in constructing and deconstructing history.
A Backbone for Reading in the History Classroom
Concrete teaching strategies? Woo-hoo! BHP teacher Michael Carman shares how Three Close Reads changed his classroom culture for the better. Featuring: deeper discussions and those precious “aha!” moments. You’ll want to steal at least a few of his ideas—including how he links the finer points of articles to the overarching BHP narrative and each unit’s driving questions.
The First Read: In the Beginning There Was Nothing, Then There Was Something…
What does the “first read” look like in a seventh-grade classroom? Chris Scaturo, who we’re pretty sure has a side gig as a comedy writer, peels back the curtain. Who knew reading could be this much fun?!
Did You Hear That? Best Practices for Using Audio as a Reading Scaffold!
Despite having the BHP articles available at multiple Lexile levels, some students may still struggle with comprehension. We heard from a few teachers that when someone is available to read an article aloud to their students, it can make all the difference. We thought—hey! That’s something we can help with. So now each article in the course is paired with an audio recording. Here are some pro tips from Rachel Phillips, BHP Team Learning Scientist.
Using Leveled Texts
Each BHP article is available in multiple Lexile levels—so you already have a great head start on differentiation. We asked a literacy professor (and former middle school English teacher) to weigh in on best practices for using Leveled texts. She was like, “maybe,” so then we gave her a vanilla latte and she agreed. You’ll want to use at least a few of these concrete strategies in your next lesson!
Like what you see? Dig deeper in Session 8.3 of Teaching Big History, the online PD course for current and prospective BHP teachers! If you’re feeling inspired and have questions, we welcome your participation in the Reading group on Yammer, BHP’s online teacher Community.