Skip to main content

Welcome, Kate Brandt! Discussion on Integrating Reading & Writing using Social Studies Content

Welcome, Kate! We are delighted to have Kate Brandt, developer of CUNY's HSE Curriculum Framework for ELA/Social Studies, with us this week to lead us in discussion and share many practical teaching strategies for integrating reading and writing instruction using social studies content.

I'm looking forward to a rich discussion this week with Kate!

Click here to check out the LINCS Review and access the CUNY HSE Curriculum Framework on ELA/Social Studies.

Kate Brandt's Bio:

Kate Brandt has 28 years of experience teaching ABE/HSE in New York City. She has served as a Professional Developer for the CUNY Adult Literacy/HSE Program since 1995, writing numerous guides, manuals and curricula using CUNY’s content-based approach to HSE instruction, including the CUNY HSE Social Studies/ELA Curriculum Framework.  Currently she provides resources and workshops to BE and HSE teachers throughout New York City and State.  

To get us started, Kate, it would be great to hear a bit about your program at CUNY. I understand that several years ago you and your team at CUNY decided that a content-based approach to high school equivalency instruction was the direction you wanted to go. Could tell us what you mean by a "content-based approach" and give us some concrete examples of what that looks like? Why did your institution choose a content-based approach?  What are its advantages, and how have you refined it over time?

Cheers, Susan Finn Miller

Moderator, Teaching & Learning CoP

Comments

KateBrandt's picture
First

 

Hi, Susan,

First of all, let me say what an honor it is to be invited to this community discussion.  Thank you for inviting me!  I'm really pleased to have this opportunity to "talk shop" with fellow adult educators.  

To answer the very first part of your question, The CUNY Adult Literacy ( HSE / ESL ) Program has been a cornerstone of CUNY’s Division of Adult and Continuing Education for more than thirty years. Funded since 1984 through combined New York City and New York State Education Department resources, the The Program operates on 14 campuses of the University in all five boroughs, and enrolls nearly 10,000 students a year, offering classes in ESL, literacy, math and HSE preparation.  The Program is coordinated centrally at the Office of Academic Affairs by a University Director and supported by a staff of professional developers with expertise in Adult Literacy, High School Equivalency (HSE) preparation and English for Speakers of Other Languages (ESOL) I'm the Professional Developer for ELA/Social Studies.

About content-based teaching:  To us at CUNY, a content-based approach in ABE/HSE instruction means that reading and writing skills are taught in the context of courses designed to help students master a certain academic content domain, such as “the Civil War” or “Earth Science.” Students read, write, and practice certain skills such as map-reading, making inferences, summarizing and essay writing while learning about these topics.  They are guided through lessons that start with basic concepts and move to more complex understandings; in the process, they also improve their abilities to comprehend a variety of texts and write for a variety of purposes.

An example might be having pre-HSE students spend one morning or evening per week taking part in a course called Genetics and Heredity.  Students would begin by writing about which, if any, character traits they feel they have inherited from their parents, an activity that would pave the way for a whole-class discussion of the nature-nurture debate. They would follow up by reading an article on identical twins separated at birth and then reunited, looking for evidence that would support either the “nature” or “nurture” side of the debate, and using the information they find to write an argumentative essay supporting one side or the other.  Subsequent lessons would involve them in looking at pictures of cells and reading middle-school science textbook excerpts on the structures and functions of cells, taking notes on different cell parts in graphic organizers, then creating analogies for the functions of each part.  This gives them practice with identifying important information in a text, and also introduces them to a foundational concept in biology: the relationship between structure and function.  In later lessons, they read about sexual and asexual reproduction and look at pictures of the key structures in cells that govern heredity--DNA, genes, and chromosomes—in order to build detailed knowledge of how sexual reproduction and inherited traits work on the molecular level.   The concept of recessive and dominant traits would be introduced by looking at pictures of different dog breeds as a way to understand how organisms can be selected and bred for various traits. They might end the unit by learning about inherited diseases such as sickle cell anemia.  Skills practiced would include note-taking, summarizing, essay-writing, reading different text types, matching diagrams and text, sequencing steps in a process, among others.

CUNY began using this approach to GED instruction in the 1980s as an alternative to a skills-and-workbook-based approach.  At that time, as now, we had a very limited time in which to cover the five subject areas of the GED test.  Instruction seemed very fragmented as we hopped from science to social studies to writing.  We felt pressure to teach everything students would have missed in a four-year high school education, but doing so meant that we had to rush through all the content, which was why we started with a theme-based, cross-disciplinary approach. Because our programs were housed at a university, we thought of ourselves as preparing students for college, and we wanted to emphasize critical, cross-disciplinary thinking.  The message about learning we wanted to convey to students was that good readers read and write in order to answer questions they have.  We realized we could help students develop the literacy skills they needed in the process of reading and writing about key content. 

What we found was that both teachers and students really liked the approach.  It gave teachers a focus for their classroom planning, and students a sense of continuation from class to class.  In particular, it was a good choice for our extremely diverse classrooms, where students of various ages, linguistic abilities, backgrounds, and educational levels were all coming together for a common purpose.  Immigrants who had a sound education in their own countries but many language needs could be partnered with native speakers who had never learned the content, or had forgotten it.  

This approach is supported by research on the role of background knowledge in reading comprehension, especially the research done on schema theory.  A schema, as articulated by Fisher and Frey in their book Background Knowledge: the Missing Piece of the Comprehension Puzzle

represents a hierarchical representation of knowledge connected to other related information.  For example, your knowledge of pizza includes its characteristics (food, round, dough, red sauce), types of pizza (cheese, vegetarian, pepperoni), and pizzas that don’t fit all the usual characteristics (square pan, BBQ chicken) In addition, your schema for pizza is connected to other schemata (food, sports events, restaurants, Italy)…nested within other schemata, variable, and acted upon by the learner.

Fisher and Frey go on to say:

You can easily retrieve your useable knowledge of pizza because it is organized and connected to other facts.  An important factor in your ability to maintain this organizational structure is the fact that it is clustered around a big idea rather than simply a bunch of isolated facts. 

It’s exactly this big idea, or broad question, that lies at the center of content-based course, and which we hope will help students not only to build the academic background knowledge they need, but also learn how to proceed in building academic knowledge in other areas, while honing the literacy skills they need to do so.  

One way we refined our approach over time was to move from theme-based, cross-disciplinary courses to content-based courses.  We had started out with themes, such as “women,” or “transitions” that lent themselves to all the content areas and allowed us to touch on all the GED subtests. For students engaged in a theme-based course about “women” for instance, the science focus might be on reproduction and female anatomy while the social studies readings would focus on demographics, providing the opportunity for a lot of graph reading.  Eventually, we decided that students weren’t making the cross-disciplinary connections and their knowledge remained too fragmented; therefore we’ve shifted to content organized in a somewhat more traditional way. We wanted students to retain the content knowledge they were learning because it would help them with reading comprehension and further learning.

The Fisher and Frey quote above illustrates that an essential feature of schema is that it represents organized knowledge—knowledge that is presented in an organized way is much easier to retain, and therefore more useful to a student who is trying to add more knowledge to what he or she already knows.   One of the hallmarks of the content-based approach is that it can’t just be thrown together before class; it requires careful planning.  If you had a chance to look at the CUNY HSE Curriculum Framework before reading this post, you saw that the curriculum map is designed in this organized way.  The “backbone” of the full-year course outlined in the Framework is a timeline of important events in U.S. history.  There are columns in the chart for the history/geography, civics, and economics topics that connect well to a particular event or era, as well as suggested reading and writing texts/activities.  The Framework shows how we have evolved at CUNY with respect to content-based instruction.  We now think very carefully about what building blocks need to be in place for students to get to a point of understanding a complex concept such as genetics, evolution, judicial review, or supply and demand. 

CUNY has used this approach with great success for decades now; both students and teachers do well with it.  While it was challenging in the beginning, we now have about one hundred teacher-developed content-based curricula.  These are a great resource for the teachers at our campus-based sites.  They also provide evidence of its popularity! 

 

Susan Finn Miller's picture
One hundred

Welcome again, Kate. Thanks for giving us an idea of how CUNY's approach to content-based teaching started and how it has evolved. I have a couple of questions for you. I'm curious how HSE students move through the courses at CUNY.   Can I assume students sign up for classes based on the content area they need to study?  I'm wondering if you still try to integrate some math into social studies and science.

I'm curious how many of our members have drawn upon your materials in their HSE classes. I'm guessing we'll hear from some!

Cheers, Susan Finn Miller

Moderator, Teaching & Learning CoP

KateBrandt's picture
First

Hi, Susan,

Thanks for your question about how HSE students move through CUNY classes.  In fact, students do not sign up for classes based on content area.  Students come to our programs, test into an HSE-level class, and then each teacher designs a content-based course that will teach students some of the social studies and science content they need. At CUNY, we feel it's impossible to teach all the science and social studies students will need for the TASC, so we choose topics that are high emphasis, such as U.S. history and government for the social studies test, and life science for the science.   Reading and writing skills are taught within the context of this course, and math is always taught separately.  We have found that math, in particular, which is the most-often-failed TASC subtest for our students, needs dedicated classroom time.  While most of our HSE teachers in the past have been generalists, the difficulty of the math subtest led us to the decision that we needed dedicated math teachers for this section of the test. 

That said, CUNY reading and writing teachers try to incorporate a lot of work on graphs and charts into their work with students, since many of the TASC test questions make use of these.  The math professional developers I work with, Mark Trushkowsky and Eric Appleton, have developed some great resources and approaches for scaffolding students' understandings of graphs and charts, and I've been able to benefit from those.  Mark and Eric have developed an impressive array of resources for both HSE math teachers and for students; maybe you will ask them to share at some point in the future!

Best,

Kate

 

Susan Finn Miller's picture
One hundred

Thanks for clarifying the structure of the CUNY HSE classes and how math is handled, Kate. It would be wonderful to have Mark and Eric share their work with us!

Cheers, Susan Finn Miller

Moderator, Teaching & Learning CoP

Leecy's picture
One hundred

Kate, I appreciate your description of transitioning into content-based instruction at CUNY. I remember traveling along similar paths starting with the 80's forward, using best practices from interdisciplinary, intradisciplinary, theme-based (legacy from K-12), and content-based approaches. In fact, two college colleagues and I created ESL texts at different levels that used content-based instruction connecting language skills with math, social studies, and science. Students loved the materials, and we had a ball creating them!

In my view, the contextualized and integrated approaches currently emphasized by WIOA are really content-based, with the content relating to occupational preparation. All of those useful terms and practices, of course, support what Knowles told us long ago: adults learn to the extent that instruction relates to their interests, needs, experiences, and goals. That's why they work! Thanks for sharing. Leecy

Leecy Wise
Moderator
LINCSReading and Writing  CoP

KateBrandt's picture
First

Hi, Leecy, and sorry for a belated reply.  I'm so glad you mentioned that contextualized learning also lends itself well to learning about careers.  My colleague Ellen Baxt is the creator of the NYSED/CUNY Career Kits, a free resource that takes exactly that approach.  The Career Kits are designed to be used by ABE/HSE and ESOL teachers to help students learn about different career sectors while also improving their reading, writing, graph interpretation and internet research skills.  Ellen has done a great job of putting together highly engaging and informative readings so that students can learn about the healthcare, tech, human services, education and childcare,hospitality, recreation and the arts, food service,  transportation and warehousing, construction, and retail sectors.  It's a giant project that really has something for everybody, and I'd recommend anyone working in this field to take a look.  They can just google "NYSED CUNY Career Kits," or they can look for them at our website: literacy.cuny.edu.

Best, Kate

Susan Finn Miller's picture
One hundred

Thanks for mentioning the NYSED Career Kits, Kate. I wanted to share the link here in our discussion. These are amazing resources! 

Cheers, Susan

Leecy's picture
One hundred

Looooove it, Kate and Susan. Thanks. The links are extremely timely, isn't it, considering the "newly-dressed kid" on our AE block? Leecy

Susan Finn Miller's picture
One hundred

Could you tell us what you think needs to be in place for content-based instruction to be successful? If programs wanted to consider this approach, what would be good for them to keep in mind?

Cheers, Susan Finn Miller

Moderator, Teaching & Learning CoP h

KateBrandt's picture
First

That's a great question, Susan.  At first, creating content-based lessons for students who have adult interests but lower reading levels can seem very daunting.  Where can we find the texts that are an appropriate reading level, but teach the content in a way that will engage adults? Before the internet, I used to look in the children’s library; now I have found quite a few websites that have great content-based reading materials for adults.

Finding reading material isn’t the only challenge, though:  teachers have to think about what information to present in the beginning to build a foundation for understanding, what information should come next, etc.  And of course, skills appropriate to the texts being introduced must be practiced as well.  

Many CUNY teachers have risen to this complex challenge.  As a result, the CUNY Adult Literacy program has a rich collection of content-based curricula that have been developed by teachers for both ESL and BE/HSE students.  These are lessons that have been carefully designed to teach skills and content in a way that builds from basic to advanced, using engaging materials and effective learning activities. 

Of course each class and set of teaching circumstances are slightly different, so while teachers may draw from existing curricula, they also tend to design new lessons.  Here are some key principles I believe are important to keep in mind when planning content-based learning for adult students: 

--Choose content that is directly applicable to students’ needs.  Pretty much any content can be contextualized to foster skill development as long as students are reading and writing; however, most students enter our classrooms with the goal of taking and passing one of the HSE exams.  There is plenty of content to choose from on these exams, as they represent an entire high-school curriculum.  Students are motivated when they know that what they are learning is “on the test.” 

--Once they have chosen a content area, teachers should study it.  They should start with what they know, read deeply, ask themselves questions, look for answers, and review their understandings. This will help them build expertise in the content and also allow them to sample the experience their students will have as learners.  What questions are they asking and how are they finding answers?  What seems confusing?  What knowledge or concepts seem to be foundational?  

--Think about the building blocks of the content area.   What do you need to understand the Civil War?  For many adult students, it may require starting with the map. We all know that northern and southern states were fighting, but our students may have a very hazy concept of what this means.  Looking at a map will give students a mental representation of the United States—a big picture understanding.  They can locate themselves on the map by finding New York and other northeastern states they may know, then expand their knowledge by learning about the directions north and south before applying this to a historical map that shows slave and free states.  Likewise, for students learning about genetics and heredity, the first step would be understanding cells. We hear talk of DNA, chromosomes, and genes.  How are these similar and different?  Where are they located in the cell? 

--In the excitement of teaching a content, teachers must not let go of the need to teach skills in a way that allows students to practice developmentally appropriate skills multiple times over the course of the semester.  This is a challenging part of content-based teaching: there is a tendency to get caught up in the content, but teachers must always think about the skills students need too, and must provide opportunity for repetition and development. When teaching a class of pre-HSE students, what skills should be prioritized?  How and when will they be introduced, and how can the lessons provide for repeated practice with less and less support as the semester goes on? How will teachers make students conscious of the skills they are working on and how they are advancing?

--Finally, even with content that is very engaging, it’s essential to design instruction that requires students to be active learners.  Activities like map-reading, writing true statements about graphs, sorting vocabulary words into categories, writing, filling in graphic organizers, and quizzes should be built into lesson plans so that students know they are responsible for their own learning and have the chance to hone their skills.  

The truth is, even though the process of creating rich content-based curricula is challenging, it's also a lot of fun!

Susan Finn Miller's picture
One hundred

Kate, You've emphasized how valuable a content-based approach can be by going deeper into content to enrich learners' understanding rather than trying to cover a wide range of topics. You also pointed out how as teachers we need to carefully integrate the skills students need --not only to pass an HSE test -- but to build the skills to readily transition to post-secondary as well as on the job.

Could you say more about integrating reading skills? How is reading taught in this content-based approach?

Cheers, Susan

KateBrandt's picture
First

Hi,Susan, thanks for that question.

In my mind, reading is really the foundation of all of my content-based curricula.  Put simply, we have questions in our minds, and we read to find the answers.  One way I make the complex task of creating content-based lessons a little easier for myself is that I think of each lesson in terms of pre-reading, during-reading and post-reading activities.  Pre-reading activities are designed to build and activate student background knowledge.  They start with what students most likely know and pose questions, giving students a purpose for reading.  Post-reading activities give students a chance to reread and process the text, and in some cases apply what they have learned in a different format, such as filling in a chart, creating a class presentation, or writing.

An example would be in Lesson Four, Activity 7 of the Social Studies/ELA Curriculum Framework.  When I taught this lesson, I wanted to introduce students to the concept of federalism, a concept they need for the TASC test (and also a good concept for any informed citizen to have under his or her belt!).  Students were asked what politicians they could name, and received pictures of president-at-the-time Obama as well as the New York governor and NYC mayor along with a sheet listing governmental powers.  They worked together in pairs to predict which powers belonged to local, state and federal governments; then once they read a connected text that outlined these powers, they re-sorted the powers based on evidence from the text.  The pre-reading activity gave them a question to read for, and the post-reading activity gave them a chance to revisit the text, correct any misunderstandings, and reinforce the learning. 

My approach to reading instruction is strategic in that strategies for comprehending different kinds of texts for a variety of purposes are highlighted.  I preview the texts my students are to read, asking myself what strategies most fit those texts, and what I myself am doing as a reader to understand them, so that I can demonstrate this for students.  Because I am working with developing readers, I need to think about the kinds of scaffolding they need, and what strategies I want to model.  For nonfiction text, I want students to pay attention to subheads that help them preview and subsequently locate information in a text, and I want them to be able to identify the most important information, through underlining or note-taking. I will do a think aloud while I underline or take notes, then ask them to try it.  This is a really essential skill—you can’t learn from text if you can’t identify what’s most important; otherwise you will feel you have to remember everything.  Adult students often struggle to separate “big” or “main” ideas from details, so the curriculum will be designed to allow us to work on this skill again and again throughout the semester with different nonfiction texts.

 By contrast, if my students are reading a map, I would model how I use the key to identify what various markings mean.  For memoir, fiction, and poetry, I might model the process of making inferences about a character based on his/her actions or statements, or I might demonstrate how I make sense of a metaphor or an allusion. 

                --Choosing texts is key.  Texts need to be an appropriate level; otherwise students will get bored and give up.  They must also be highly engaging, teach the content very clearly, and include essential information needed to understand concepts.  Not any text that teaches the content will do; I often find that test prep books either contain too much complex vocabulary or skip over parts of an idea that are necessary to understand the whole.  The same is true for many internet texts.  The other thing I look for in a text is teachability—what strategies does it lend itself to practicing? 

It’s also important to vary texts so that students are exposed to, and have a chance to practice with, a variety of text types.  Graphs, charts, maps, primary source texts, political cartoons, poetry, memoir, and nonfiction articles all appear on HSE tests.  Students need exposure to these as well as support in comprehending them.  One of the advantages of a content-based approach is that students have built up knowledge in a particular content area that they can draw on when tackling new text types.  Political cartoons, in particular, are an example of texts that rely heavily on background knowledge.

                Finally, even though the focus is on content, there needs to be a balance between acquiring and retaining academic knowledge and awareness of skills.  Now that you have understood a graph about growth in the number of Native Americans with college degrees, let’s look at how we transfer that knowledge to a line graph about the build-up of munitions during World War II.  And on a more personal level, what have you noticed about your own ability to read more, summarize, and paraphrase what you have read? 

 

Susan Finn Miller's picture
One hundred

Kate, Modeling the strategies you engage in as a reader for learners is so important. Much of what you describe here reminds me of what I have learned about teaching reading from the text Reading for Understanding: How Reading Apprenticeship Improves Disciplinary Learning in Secondary and College Classrooms by Ruth Schoenbach, Cynthia Greenleaf and Lynn Murphy. There is a strong focus on making content relevant to learners and teaching reading strategies, such as the ones you have described. (Some members might be interested in checking out the book study of Reading Apprenticeship that we had a few years ago on LINCS.)

Cheers, Susan 

Susan Finn Miller's picture
One hundred

Hello Kate, You've explained in rich detail how you approach teaching reading. In my experience, teachers often struggle with teaching writing. Writing is hard work for most of us, and writing instruction demands a lot from teachers as well as from learners. How do you approach writing in a content-based approach? Do students write in response to the content they are reading? Do they practice writing essays for the TASC? What are your thoughts about mechanics? What about providing feedback to learners on their writing?

I'm sure everyone is eager to hear your thoughts about teaching writing! It would be great to hear from others about their approach to teaching writing, too.

Cheers, Susan

KateBrandt's picture
First

Hi, Susan,

I'm glad you asked about writing, which is so fundamental to students' literacy development.  The Framework reflects CUNY’s approach to writing instruction, which emphasizes the writing process and the long-term goal of helping students express themselves clearly and confidently in writing.  Students write often and in response to a variety of prompt-types. They may be asked to free-write, to write in response to a text, to write a persuasive essay or a summary.   No matter what type of writing they are doing, the emphasis is on learning how to articulate their ideas, and convey them clearly to a reader.  The goal is for students to enjoy writing and understand that they have something to say.    By focusing on a certain content, students develop expertise in it, and can write better essays on questions related to that content, either informational or argumentative.  Although they may encounter almost any topic on the HSE test, the fact that they have written a successful essay on a topic they know well gives them a mental model of how an effective essay is constructed which they can then apply to other topics. 

Just as with reading, writing instruction is scaffolded, with more support in the beginning of the semester and less as time goes on.  At the beginning, brainstorming activities, graphic organizers, and models are key pieces of the approach.  Models help students understand what is expected of them, and provide the opportunity to deconstruct the type of thinking (big idea? Detail?) that is appropriate at various parts in an essay.  Models created by professional writers can work, but it’s often helpful to have a teacher or student-written model that represents an essay that is within students’ reach.  Giving students a chance to look at the anchor essays and scoring rubric for the test they are going to take, and working with them to analyze the characteristics and components of essays that received various scores, helps concretize the writing task they face.  When they write their own essays, graphic organizers help students transfer their own ideas into an organized format or outline.  

Constructive feedback is absolutely essential in helping students develop as readers—both over-the-shoulder conferences while students write in the classroom, and written feedback when they have turned in an assignment. Students need to know what they have done well in responding to a prompt, organizing their thoughts, and developing ideas, and should be encouraged to fill in missing information through questions that express curiosity about what they are trying to say.  Most students lack confidence in their own writing and think that good writing is writing that is grammatically correct.  Constructive feedback helps students understand which of their ideas resonate and how they might express their ideas more effectively.

In addition to practice with essay writing, students need instruction in the grammatical structures tested on whichever HSE test they will take.  The TASC test, unfortunately, emphasizes grammar over the essay.  In teaching the grammar students need for the test, I try to teach in increments, emphasizing basic knowledge such as what constitutes a sentence, before moving on to increasingly more complex grammatical structures, such as compound and complex sentences and passive voice.  If you’ve had the chance to review the lessons in the Framework, you’ll see that different grammar structures are introduced incrementally from lesson to lesson, and also that grammar is mainly taught through sentence-combining, so that students are active.  By using sentence stems that are about the content students have learned, sentence-combining provides a way to review that content while also giving them practice with the grammatical structure that has been introduced.  

Leecy's picture
One hundred

I received an email from Tom Sticht supporting the comments posted to date in this activity and sharing more thoughts on the practice.

Many years ago in her 1920 (or 1922?) book Cora Wilson Stewart said that her Country Readers integrated the teaching of literacy with the teaching of important content needed by country folk where she lived. In World Wars I and II literacy instruction was integrated with important military content knowledge (then called functional literacy). So the ideas of "functional" or "content"-oriented instruction are venerable ones in adult education. In 1997 I wrote a paper for NCSALL's Focus on Basics journal that I describe below. The full paper is available at: http://www.ncsall.net/index.html@id=433.html.

I hope this is of interest to you and your fellow discussants. Tom Sticht

More grist for our mill? Leecy

Susan Finn Miller's picture
One hundred

Kate, You've shared so much helpful information with us about how you've contextualized your teaching around social studies content. Thank you! Could you tell us about any resources that are available for teachers who want to use the approach that is demonstrated in the Framework, but move on to other content areas?  What advice do you have for teachers leaning in this direction? 

Cheers, Susan

KateBrandt's picture
First

Hi, Susan,

That is a great question, since obviously teaching in this way requires a lot of resources.  

I would like to mention here that the Curriculum Framework was made possible through support from both the New York Department of Labor and the New York State Education Department (NYSED).  NYSED in particular has been pivotal in supporting CUNY’s content-based work in two important ways: (1) through funding the NYSED Teacher Leader Institutes, through which a cadre of adult education teachers from every region of New York State have learned to use the Framework to prepare HSE students for the TASC and to provide turnkey training in their regions; and (2) through support for CollectEdNY.org, the CUNY-administered website that provides reviews of quality teaching resources found on the internet that have been vetted by adult education instructors. CollectEdNY launched in 2014.   

In looking for websites to review, we’ve discovered some great materials for teaching the content needed for HSE tests.  A few I would mention in the area of social studies include Word Generation (wordgen.sermedia.org) social studies units such as What are Governments Good For, Who Gets to Say What I Need to Know, What is the Value of Your Citizenship, and How do we Right the Wrongs of the Past?  I like these units because they are short, highly engaging, and focus on contemporary issues while exposing students to key foundational knowledge.  In addition, students learn a set of important academic vocabulary words from each unit, with the words reused in every text they read in the unit.  Another go-to resource for me is HERB: Social History for Every Student.  (herb.ashp.cuny.edu).  Here, teachers will find great collections of propaganda posters, primary source materials, political cartoons and more categorized by era.  I also like Annenberg’s “America’s History in the Making” series (learner.org) for its classroom materials and descriptions of some of the important themes in each time period—these historical summaries are very helpful for deepening teachers’ knowledge about particular time periods. For reading materials, I especially like New York Times Upfront, a high school newsmagazine available on many public library databases, for its articles that are short and connect history to the present, and for their pro/con series which provide great source texts for argumentative essays.  

Probably my main go-to resource for readings is Newsela.  If you are not familiar with this website, become so. There are articles on many of the aspects of social studies students need to know for HSE tests, and the articles have several advantages: (1) they are available at a variety of reading levels; and (2) the quizzes that accompany the articles use questions that are very similar to the question types on the TABE and TASC tests.  For this reason, students get a real bang for their buck: learning the content through a text that is readable for them, and also getting the test practice.

CollectEd now offers, in addition to reviews of online teaching resources, a set of resources called Framework Posts, that extend the work begun by the existing Curriculum Frameworks.  Framework Posts run the gamut from math to reading, grammar, and science and social studies topics emphasized on the TASC test.  They include lessons, student readings, problems and content guides organized by TASC domains and sub-domains. I would encourage any teacher interested in this approach and in the Framework to peruse the Framework Posts on CollectEdNY.org.  You had asked about resources for teachers interested in subjects other than social studies.  Framework Posts include resources for teaching all of the subjects.  And I’ll just add here: for any teachers looking for additional materials for math, the Math Memos section is an excellent resource where adult educators share non-routine math problems, samples of student work, and practical suggestions for bringing the problems to life in your classroom.  Another section of CollectEDNY, entitled Career Posts, offers supplementary materials and activities for the NYSED/CUNY Career Kits.

In an earlier post, I emphasized the importance of an overarching organizational structure for teaching content.  One of the resources I developed after the Framework was a lesson and materials that can be used by students to create a class timeline of key events in U.S. history.  Students work in groups or pairs to read about different events, then summarize the event for a class timeline that is hung on the wall for the semester.  I do this because it’s impossible to “cover” all of U.S. history during a semester, but also because I feel it’s so important for students to have an overall picture in their heads so that they can fit what they learn into that larger frame.  The timeline can be used for a variety of extension activities, such as studying key vocabulary, looking at images and political cartoons, and taking quizzes using test practice questions related to particular events.  Anyone who would like to receive those materials can email me at Kate.Brandt@cuny.edu.  

In addition, I’ve developed two curricula with other CUNY teachers that focus on high emphasis topics for the social studies TASC: the Reconstruction era and the Great Depression.  Teachers who would like to sample those can email me at the address above.  

In closing, I’d just like to thank you, Susan, for giving me the opportunity to share some of CUNYs work on LINCs.  Both you and Leecy have asked such great questions and added insightful comments to the discussion.  I hope that this has been helpful for any adult education teachers interested in trying out a content-based approach. 

Leecy's picture
One hundred

Kate, you have certainly provided rich ground to nurture new practices to help our adults develop better and better reading and other skills. Thanks for the ideas, examples, models, and resources you've shared. I hope that the dialogue that you've initiated continues as readers here share how they are applying what they've learned. My hat's off in your direction with deepest thanks! Leecy

KateBrandt's picture
First

Very grateful for the opportunity!

Susan Finn Miller's picture
One hundred

I want to extend a huge thank you to you, Kate, for sharing your valuable work with all of us here on LINCS. The contextualized approach you are using and the materials you have created and made available to all teachers are superb. I have been recommending the CUNY HSE Framework to teachers for years, and I'm sure many more instructors are now interested in drawing from these exemplary materials for their instruction. We deeply appreciate your sharing your time, talent and resources!

Cheers, Susan Finn Miller

Moderator, Teaching & Learning CoP

KateBrandt's picture
First

Susan, thank you for the opportunity to share the work we have been doing here at CUNY.  I appreciate your kind words about the Framework.  It's my pleasure to share with other practitioners.

Kate