Meagan’s Story

Photo of Meagan.

Social Studies Needs Literacy Too!

Meagan’s husband often asks her, “Don’t you have enough to do?” Her response is usually a chuckle, followed by, “No, I need more!”

Outside of her day job — teaching high school social studies for the past eleven years — she runs a farm, raises her child, and writes on her blogs.

Initially, Meagan thought teaching social studies would involve focusing solely on the historical content rather than teaching her students reading and writing skills. So when she was “volun-told” to attend the Literacy Design Collaborative four years ago, she was not sure how it would help her teach history. Yet now, she reflects on how it “revolutionized everything” she thought about reading, writing, and literacy. “It actually caused me to pursue a second master’s degree as a reading specialist!”

Many of her students actually exclaimed, “This is the most I’ve ever written in any of my classes!”

Now, Meagan is adamant about weaving literacy skills into her social studies instruction. At the end of the school year, many of her students actually exclaimed, “This is the most I’ve ever written in any of my classes!”

Her students really enjoyed the CommonLit articles because they provided new twists on familiar topics. Her female students, for example, loved reading about “Female WWII Pilots: The Original Fly Girls” because, as they said, “we don’t hear a lot about women in history.” Because students were engaged with interesting articles, they were excited to incorporate evidence into their writing.

Black and white photo of group of women pilots during WWII.
“Group of Women Airforce Service Pilots and B-17 Flying Fortress” by U.S. Air Force is in the public domain.

That particular article really resonated with her students when they later visited a WWII museum. They impressed the museum director with their knowledge about the Fly Girls. Meagan recalls how “they were making deep connections on the field trip with what they had learned from CommonLit!”

Throughout the school year, she made it a top priority to prepare students for the rigors of college writing. She recently reflected on her new instructional strategies with her former writing professor. The professor told her how far too many students come to college without the skills necessary to explain their thoughts in writing. This made Meagan even more committed to focusing on literacy in her classroom.

“Even though we are in social studies, we still do literacy. Just because we write in English class doesn’t mean we’re not going to do it in here.”

Meagan is excited to use CommonLit next year to enhance her literacy instruction in her history classes. She knows it’s critical for students to get exposure to literacy across the disciplines. She wants her students to understand that “even though we are in social studies, we still do literacy. Just because we write in English class doesn’t mean we’re not going to do it in here.”