Definition of DL in Social Studies

Authentic opportunities to learn and practice literacy are important techniques through which we engage students in thinking deeply and critically about social studies.

In January, 2010, National Council of the Social Studies and the Civic Mission of Schools (CMS) convened a meeting of national organizations in civics, economics, geography, and history, to discuss working together on Common State Standards for Social Studies. That meeting concluded with agreement on a common definition of social studies that acknowledges the importance of the individual disciplines, affirms how and why they are connected, and includes the “literacies” outlined by the Partnership for 21st Century Skills.

The social studies is an interdisciplinary exploration of the social sciences and humanities, including civics, history, economics, and geography in order to develop responsible, informed and engaged citizens and to foster civic, global, historical, geographic, and economic literacy.”  (from NCSS)

The Wisconsin Department of Public Instruction defines disciplinary literacy as the confluence of content knowledge, experiences and skills, merged with the ability to read, write, listen speak, and think critically in a way that is meaningful within our content area.  


The following foundations, taken from the DL Foundations document, shape disciplinary literacy in the social studies classroom:

  1. Academic learning begins in early childhood and develops across all disciplines.
  2. Content knowledge is strengthened when educators integrate  discipline specific literacy into teaching and learning.
  3. Literacy skills including reading, writing, speaking , listening and critical thinking improve when content-rich learning experiences motivate and engage students.
  4. Students demonstrate their content knowledge through reading, writing, listening and speaking as part of a discipline literate community. 

Suggestions to add to the above definition of DL in Social Studies (received from classroom teachers):
  • Social Studies needs to be first or it won't drive the curriculum.
  • using their skills to think like a historian, such as...
  • Must include:
    • -Cause and effect

    • -Change and continuity

    • -Turning points

    • -Using the past  
    • -Through their eyes 
    • -bias
    • -Stereotyping
    • -double-talk 
    • -primary and secondary source analysis
  • This definition does not thrill me.  It sounds superficial.  What does it mean?
  • Making connections as wella s drawing conclusions from the events, behaviors, and pattens of the past and present to prepare for the needs of future societies, local, national, and global.
  • ·         Research, discussion and response are authentic opportunities through which we engage students to make connections to social sciences

    ·         Definition should include doing social studies. Needs active verbs. Making connections to texts.

    ·         Students must have hands on experience working with (reading, analyzing, debating…) relevant texts and responding to them.

    ·         Real world purpose – writing and other applications

    ·         Creative problem solving with a real world application exhibited through readers, writing, speaking, presentation and listening skills.

    ·         Techniques to learn and practice literacy involvement: argumentative writing, analysis of primary sources, research, reading for purpose

    ·         Unpack: “authentic opportunities”; Unpack: Techniques; Unpack: engage

    ·         Engage – what does it mean to engage? Hands on opportunities

    ·         “Situational Opportunities”

    o   Contextualization

    o   “Creating the foundations of informed deliberation