This will be a three part series that looks at how to get students to understand complex texts/sources in the social studies classroom. Much of the sources and readings in the new scope and sequence are at a higher level than what our students read and comprehend. Getting students to understand these texts, sources, and vocabulary, is essential to getting students to a mastery level on the LEAP 2025.

This past week I observed a teacher using one of my 8th Grade activities as part of looking at the social aspects of the Antebellum Period. As a part of PLC’s for the last month or so we have been focusing on how we should teach students to read complex texts. Many different ideas and strategies have been thrown out there in order to get students to be able to comprehend these complex texts and sources.

As a team we came up with the following key points for teachers to focus on when teaching students how to read complex texts:

  1. Reading for a purpose: Students should always be reading or analyzing a source with a purpose in mind.
  2. Vocabulary: vocabulary is typically what makes a text complex. Having students use strategies and techniques in order to understand words that they may not know the meaning of will help them comprehend the text/source.
  3. Model your process: Teachers need to model the strategies, techniques, and thought processes needed in order to comprehend complex texts.

The Lesson

For this lesson the teacher focused on the following objective: I can analyze how conflict arose between the different ethnic groups in Louisiana. She focused on the following GLE’s:

  • 8.2.4 Explain how differences and similarities among ethnic groups in colonial Louisiana contributed to cooperation and conflict
  • 8.2.6 Identify and describe economic, social, and political characteristics of Louisiana during the Antebellum/plantation economy, the Civil War, and the Reconstruction eras

For this lesson she used the following source/text.

Now, taking a quick glance at this text, it does not seem to be that complex. But when you delve into it a little deeper, there is a lot of complex vocabulary that an 8th grader may not have knowledge of or understand making this text a complex text. With that said lets look at how she incorporated what we had talked about in PLC’s into her lesson.

1. Reading for a Purpose

Firstly the teacher presented the students with the following graphic organizer.

So their purpose was set, while reading the source students had to find, describe, or identify the following information.

  1. Students had to describe the cultural/ethnic group
  2. Students had to describe or identify what this cultural group has contributed to Louisiana.
  3. Who did the cultural group have a conflict with
  4. What was the cause of the conflict.

Lastly the students were reading the source to understand why conflict might be caused between two different cultural groups.

Before reading the text the teacher showed the student the graphic organizer. She stated to the students that when they read the source they have to find what is needed in order to fill the graphic organizer.

In Part 2 we will look at how she inserted vocabulary and the close reading strategy in order to get students to understand this complex text.