The adventures of a fourth grade teacher in East Central Illinois.

Using Reading Groups To Teach Social Studies

There is not enough time in the day and there are not enough days in the year to do everything I would like to do as an educator. There is just too much to do. But I use the same mantra for myself that I teach my students: You get what you get and you don’t throw a fit. And so I make do with what I have.

One of the things I have done to make do is to use my reading groups to teach social studies. I use reading groups to teach reading strategies, help build accuracy, fluency, and comprehension, to develop group work norms, and to give students opportunities to share what they are learning with others. These are all items on the current progress report and are tied to the Common Core State Standards that we hear so much about these day in education circles.

So how does that help me teach social studies? Well, it turns out that there is a large collection of historical fiction and nonfiction related to many of our social studies concepts, especially when we get to early American colonialism, the American Revolutionary War, and American expansionism. And since I don’t have enough time in the day and enough days in the year to  cover the amazingly interesting topics we discuss in social studies, I use the literature to teach these topics along with reading strategies. (Honestly, I could spend an entire year teaching about any one of these topics.)

I have four reading groups in my class this year, and each group has just started a book related to the Revolutionary War. The books being read are Johnny TremainIn His Own Words: Paul RevereWhat’s the Big Idea, Ben Franklin?, and Revolutionary War on Wednesday. I introduced the books to my groups this week and gave them their copies. All of the groups have targets for reading by next week, and each group member has an assignment to complete for when they meet with their group for discussion. I’m looking forward to teaching about this important period of American history through these books and then having the students share what they have learned with each other!


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