Abstract 3, Volume 10, Number 3, Winter 2015

Tackling Controversial Topics: Developing Thematic Text Sets for Elementary Social Studies


Christina M. Tschida

East Carolina University

Lisa Brown Buchanan

University of North Carolina Wilmington


Increased integration of the social studies into language arts instructional time in elementary schools, has led to a common practice of covering social studies content through use of children’s literature. Though the two content areas are covered in tandem, the primary foci are the language arts objectives. The authors suggest teaching with themed text sets, developed using carefully selected social studies topics and inquiries, not only addresses English Language Arts standards but also allows for authentic and meaningful social studies instruction. A four-step process for developing themed text sets is presented. These are: 1) identify the big idea to be explored, 2) recognize the multiple perspectives needed for a more complete story, 3) locate qualifying texts, and 4) select texts to be included. Each step is demonstrated with three controversial topics in the elementary social studies curriculum: family (Kindergarten-1), civil rights (grades 2-3), and slavery (grades 4-5) and resources are provided for locating texts. The authors illustrate the importance of developing text sets that include multiple perspectives, particularly those lesser-known stories of historical events or themes, to serve as windows or mirrors for children in developing historical content knowledge.

    Key words: elementary social studies, text sets, controversial topics, children’s literature, interdisciplinary, families, civil rights, slavery


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