I often suggest that ELA teachers incorporate centers that focus on grammar, literary devices, speaking listening and additional reading.
In the grammar center, students practice language usage within relevant contexts.
Sometimes it is forgotten that there is content to cover in an ELA classroom! Literary devices are content-specific to ELA. They provide readers valuable tools for delving more deeply into linguistically complex literature. And they enable writers to create vibrant and specific texts of their own.
Speaking and Listening
Students can listen to recorded audio versions and while reading texts and analyze the differences. This center is also a good place for rich discussions about texts.
We cover substantial text content in ELA classrooms. Many of my teacher colleagues and I find it useful to have a center, in addition to the foundational Reading Together center, where students can read text, practice comprehension skills, and discuss their reading.
Maps and Charts
Non-text sources like maps and charts are a substantial component of social studies content. Provide students with non-text based documents to support their growing content knowledge.
Primary Source Documents
There is a special emphasis in college and career readiness standards for students to develop competency in analyzing primary source documents. In this center, focus on students’ ability to analyze primary sources and use them to create evidence-based arguments.
Speaking and Listening
Like in the ELA speaking and listening center, social studies students need to the opportunity to discuss ideas. Students who discuss and speak more in class are learning more!
In the digital age, we are fortunate to have amazing video documentation of historical events. Students can develop content knowledge through critical viewing.
Learning and Literacy centers are an instructional model that provides an intersection for learning skills and content knowledge development. As I implement this model in classrooms all over the United States, many content area teachers report that they are pleasantly surprised that they can cover more content in less time. I also observe that students are happy, engaged and doing challenging work.
For more tips, additional resources, and information about using centers in the ELA or social studies classroom, see the accompanying Ebook.
Dr. McKnight is an author, educator and consultant. Her career in education began as a high school English teacher in the Chicago Public School system more than 25 years ago. She received her B.A. degree from George Washington University, her M.Ed. from Northeastern Illinois University, and her Ph.D. from the University of Illinois at Chicago. She currently serves as a Distinguished Professor of Research at National Louis University. She travels worldwide as a professional development consultant and a sought after speaker in the fields of adolescent literacy, inclusive classrooms, Common Core State Standards, Interdisciplinary literacy, and integrating technology in the 21st century classroom.
Flood, J., Lapp, D., Squire, J. R., & Jensen, J. M. (2003). Handbook of research on teaching the English language arts. Lawrence Erlbaum Associates, Inc., Publishers, 10 Industrial Ave., Mahwah, NJ.
McKnight, Katherine S. (2014) Common Core Literacy for ELA, History/Social Studies, and the Humanities: Strategies to Deepen Content Knowledge (grades 6-12). San Francisco: Jossey Bass.
Monte-Sano, C., De La Paz, S., & Felton, M. (2014). Reading, thinking, and writing about history: Teaching argument writing to diverse learners in the common core classroom, grades 6-12. Teachers College Press.
Shaver, J. P. (1991). Handbook of research on social studies teaching and learning (pp. 83-95). New York: Macmillan.