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Using our Nation’s Library to Teach Writing with Primary Sources to All Students

Primary Investigator(s): Chauncey Monte-sano, Mary Schleppegrell

Funding Agency: Library of Congress

Period: 10/1/2016 - 10/1/2018

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Dr. Chauncey Monte-Sano (PI) and Dr. Mary Schleppegrell (co-PI) will work in collaboration with a local school district to develop curriculum materials for middle school students who are learning to write arguments from primary sources. Achieving the main goal of proficient argument writing relies on developing students’ analytical reading, historical thinking, and academic language. We focus especially on students who read below grade level or who are English learners, with materials designed to challenge all students. We are also developing resources to support teachers as they learn to teach writing with primary sources using an inquiry approach to instruction. As we pilot the curriculum, we conduct research on teachers’ implementation and student learning through analysis of video-recorded instruction, students’ written work, interviews with students, and discussions with teachers.

These data show us that students are learning to read and analyze sources, develop claims, and support claims with relevant evidence and reasoning. Students have also become more persistent and confident as readers, writers, and thinkers in their social studies classrooms. We will continue to refine and improve the curriculum and teacher resources, based on our research findings.

Looking ahead, we intend to build an open-access website to share the curriculum materials more broadly. The site will include the curriculum materials, writing assignments, and disciplinary literacy tools, including supports for teachers to work with diverse students, videos of classroom teaching with the curriculum organized around core teaching practices, and samples of student work with commentary on them.