Johns Hopkins University Secondary Support Initiative (JHUSSI)  

Methods in English & History


The English and social studies curriculums promote critical thinking in children by discussing, analyzing, and synthesizing a wide range of ideas and arguments. Through these content areas, students study the cultural, social, and historical ideologies of both familiar and unfamiliar societies. Students are exposed to a variety of texts and are expected to generate opinions and arguments based on their background knowledge and the information they glean from reading and researching (National Council on the Social Studies, 2010).


In a cohesive English curriculum, students read texts from a variety of genres, including but not limited to drama, poetry, non-fiction, fiction, and science fiction. Students must learn to use their fundamental reading skills to efficiently tackle texts from differing genres (Cox, 2012). Similarly, when studying social sciences and history, students must learn to read to gain factual information about ideas that differ from their own knowledge. The ability to research, analyze, and use primary and secondary sources to support objective ideas and personal opinions is a key learning objective for students across grade levels (Common Core State Standards Initiative, 2015). In both content areas, students need to develop strategies for acquiring new vocabulary, organizing their thought process and ideas to generate opinions, and supporting their arguments with evidence from texts and research (National Council on the Social Studies, 2010).


The following lessons describe strategies that can help students be successful when studying texts of various genres. The lesson contain strategies relevant to decoding unfamiliar multi-syllabic words, vocabulary acquisition, comprehension and note-taking strategies, and creating persuasive written arguments.