Abstract 10, Volume 10, Number 2, Summer 2015

Historical Thinking, Reading, and Writing about the World’s Newest Nation, South Sudan

John H. Bickford III

Eastern Illinois University

Molly Sigler Bickford

Tolono Junior High School


State and national education initiatives have significantly increased expectations of students’ non-fiction reading and writing. These initiatives provide the space for potential interdisciplinary units in English/language arts and social studies/history centered on content area reading and writing. To do so, teachers must locate age-appropriate, historically representative curricular materials and implement discipline-specific writing prompts. To guide elementary teachers’ instruction, we select a novel, underused topic: the birth of the Republic of South Sudan. Age-appropriate children’s trade books are coupled with diverse informational texts—oral histories, current event news articles, and artwork—to extend the trade books’ narratives into the realm of current events. We suggest content area literacy strategies, share anecdotes from their application in the classroom, and recommend engaging, inquiry-based writing prompts that induce students to revisit understandings derived from close readings of the trade books and informational texts. In doing so, all texts and tasks explicitly are connected to different elements of the state and national initiatives in order to help teachers meet the rigorous standards.

Keywords: Children’s trade books, South Sudan, historical thinking, content area literacy, informational texts

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