Tag Archives: Short Nonfiction for American History

How the Lessons in Short Nonfiction for American History Build Knowledge

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In this visual podcast ( this is the second in the series, the first can be viewed here) Anne Goudvis and Stephanie Harvey walk you through the structure and content of each of the ten lessons in the Short Nonfiction for American History series. This overview will show you exactly what students will learn with each lesson, and how these resources are developed around a gradual release of responsibility framework. 

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Connecting Comprehension and Content: A Visual Podcast with Anne Goudvis and Stephanie Harvey

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Anne Goudvis and Stephanie Harvey have created the Short Nonfiction for American History Series in order to embed reading and thinking strategies into social studies and history instruction, so that comprehension and thinking strategies become tools for learning and understanding content. Throughout the series, Anne and Stephanie show that teaching historical literacy means merging thoughtful, foundational literacy practices with challenging, engaging resources to immerse students in historical ways of thinking. 

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Commemorating the Surrender at Appomattox: A Toolkit Texts Lesson

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Today we commemorate the surrender at Appomattox, which occurred on April 9, 1865. Generals Grant and Lee met at the McLean House to end the four long, bloody years of the Civil War.

Our new resource, Toolkit Texts for American History: Civil War and Reconstruction, examines the people, events, and issues of this time period through a variety of materials, including:

  • articles and short text
  • primary-source texts and images
  • maps
  • photographs
  • political cartoons
  • prints and paintings
  • timelines

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Delve Deeper This President’s Day: Comparing Perspectives to Explore Historical Figures

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“There is often more than meets the eye regarding the actions and decisions of famous people, including the founding fathers, such as Washington, Jefferson, Franklin and others. They have untold stories, too…”
—Anne Goudvis and Stephanie Harvey

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History Matters, Part 3

To support cross-curricular strategy instruction and close reading for information, authors Anne Goudvis and Stephanie Harvey have expanded their Toolkit Texts series to include a library of short nonfiction for American history. These two resources—Colonial Times and The American Revolution and Constitution—are out now.

In the final "History Matters" blog post, Anne and Stephanie describe how one class investigated lesser-known people of the past.

Beyond the “Usual Suspects”: Investigating Unrecognized Revolutionaries

by Anne Goudvis and Stephanie Harvey

“Think as researchers, act as historians.” That’s what fifth graders experienced in Mariana McCormick’s history class at the Holton-Arms School in Bethesda, Maryland. Not content to study the “usual suspects” of Revolutionary times, they created portraits, both visual and written, of individuals who played important but unrecognized roles in historical events.

Realizing that there are many people left out of typical history books, students delved into a scant and hard-to-find collection of primary and secondary sources on lesser well-known men, women, and children. Experiencing the same excitement and obstacles that practicing historians face, students researched and pieced together information from these unusual sources. Students then painted portraits and wrote lively biographies of their discoveries. Compiled into a class website, these serve as an original and engaging resource for a broader audience. (To view, go to http://unrecognizedrevolutionaries.blogspot.com.)

Over the course of the project, students reflected on their research process in an Inquiry Journal, keeping track of their learning and insights about “doing history”. This record illustrates that when kids are actively engaged in inquiry with a genuine purpose, their interest, motivation, and research skills soar!

Here are two of the biographies and portraits. Click the images to see full PDFs:

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We included several of these student projects in our latest resource, American Revolution and Constitution: Short Nonfiction for American History. These biographies serve as excellent examples of a student inquiry project in history, as well as valuable short historical texts of unrecognized revolutionaries for other students.

Read last week's History Matters, Part 2.

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Anne Goudvis and Stephanie Harvey have enjoyed a fifteen-year collaboration in education as authors and staff developers. They are coauthors of the Heinemann titles Comprehension Going Forward and Strategies That Work. They have also created a family of bestselling classroom materials under Heinemann’s firsthand imprint: The Comprehension ToolkitThe Primary Comprehension ToolkitToolkit TextsComprehension InterventionScaffolding for ELLs, and Connecting Comprehension and Technology. Their newest resource, Short Nonfiction for American History, is discussed in this blog post

History Matters, Part 2

To support cross-curricular strategy instruction and close reading for information, authors Anne Goudvis and Stephanie Harvey have expanded their Toolkit Texts series to include a library of short nonfiction for American history. The two resources—Colonial Times and The American Revolution and Constitution—are out now.

In several blog posts over the next few weeks, Anne and Stephanie share their perspectives and insights into historical literacy. Today's post focuses on annotation to encourage engagement.

History Matters

by Anne Goudvis and Stephanie Harvey

This week we continue sharing essential practices that encourage kids’ engagement and learning in history by using comprehension strategies to read closely and annotate the text.

Annotating: Thinking-Intensive Reading for Understanding

Close Reading is Strategic Reading

To comprehend texts in history, filled with complex ideas and unfamiliar information, readers need a quiver full of strategies to glean meaning. To us, close reading is thinking-intensive reading. Readers consider their background knowledge to make sense of new information and ask questions about what eludes them. They read closely to think inferentially about and analyze new content. They read for the gist, synthesizing the information in the text margins, either on paper or digitally. Readers annotate the text using these strategies as well as jotting down their reactions and responses. Comprehension and thinking strategies such as these are well-grounded in research conducted by P. David Pearson and many others. But one thing is clear: the more challenging the text and ideas, the more readers need to be strategic. That’s how they build their knowledge and understanding.

Annotating and analyzing across texts: Exploring different perspectives

History matters to all of us, but too often textbooks leave out many voices and perspectives. We encourage kids to consider the “untold stories”: the experiences, voices, and perspectives of people who are unrecognized as playing an important role in historical events. Learning about lesser-known individuals provides new insights into historical events and issues.

How can we help kids grasp what happened long ago and far away? Kids relish the opportunity to build historical understanding by reading a variety of texts from multiple sources and analyzing information from different perspectives.

In a fifth grade class studying colonial times, kids gathered around posters of historical fiction accounts and “journals” of children who lived in and around Jamestown. They read about young English colonists and servants, children who were enslaved, and Native American kids, including Pocahontas. Using the articles from Colonial Times: Short Nonfiction for American History, kids read closely, annotating and discussing their questions, inferences, responses, connections, and reactions.

Kids annotate with a specific focus, comparing different children’s perspectives by grappling with the varied experiences and the many challenges colonial and native children faced. Here are one child’s annotations about Thomas Savage, a young boy sent to live with the Powhatan. (Click image to magnify.)

Bring historical characters to life

To wrap up their conversations about different perspectives, kids can collaborate in small groups to create tableaux from a distinct and historically accurate point of view, speaking out as an English orphan sent to colonies or an enslaved child separated from his family or the Native American child Pocahontas. Kids love to be “in character” as they work together to dramatize these short snippets of historical experience.

[Read last week's post: History Matters]

♦ ♦ ♦ ♦

Anne Goudvis and Stephanie Harvey have enjoyed a fifteen-year collaboration in education as authors and staff developers. They are coauthors of the Heinemann title Comprehension Going Forward and of Strategies That Work. They have also created a family of bestselling classroom materials under Heinemann’s firsthand imprint: The Comprehension ToolkitThe Primary Comprehension ToolkitToolkit TextsComprehension InterventionScaffolding for ELLs, and Connecting Comprehension and Technology. Their newest resource, Short Nonfiction for American History, is discussed in this blog post.