Big Ideas in Literacy
Using Investigation and Interpretation to Promote Literacy
In the same way that historians investigate the past by developing their own questions, researching historical artifacts, and making conclusions about people and events of the past, teachers can adapt such practice for the classroom through careful structuring and planning.
As a way of supporting students in developing literacy and using the historian’s habits of mind, class investigations give students opportunities to learn the historical practices involved in inquiring about the past. By framing the learning of history as investigation, teachers can model and have students participate in the process of learning history and developing interpretations about the past. The remaining sections of this unit will focus on the practices necessary for creating engaging investigations.
In order to frame an investigation for students, it is important to understand the component parts of an investigation. These components include:
- Essential historical questions that guide the inquiry
- Background knowledge that informs understanding
- Multiple and varied sources that represent different perspectives to analyze as evidence for making claims
- Opportunities to write claims in response to essential historical questions
Reflect: Have you used investigations in your classroom instruction? If so, how have you prepared your students to investigate a history or social studies concept (e.g., cause and effect, problem/solution, important people)? If not, how would you prepare your students?