By Emily R. Smith, Teacher Created Materials

Every year, I tell my students that by the end of the year they will all love social studies. One year, David, my natural-born scientist, rolled his eyes and looked at me like I was crazy. (This is the student whose history museum exhibit included mummifying a teddy bear.) At the end of the year, David wrote a letter to me that said, “I didn’t believe you when you said I’d love social studies, but you were right. It’s my second favorite subject now!”

Why am I so confident that I make social studies exciting for my students? I know that using primary sources and encouraging student questions makes all the difference.

My father was an archivist at a time when no one even knew what an archivist was. I grew up surrounded by the stories and artifacts of history. I remember seeing Pat Nixon’s dresses from when she left the White House. I saw artifacts from the assassination of Robert Kennedy. I even heard stories about my dad helping President Gerald Ford clean out his garage! My dad encouraged me to think like a historian and ask questions. How could I not love history with a childhood like this? These experiences make me an ideal social studies teacher. My love of history is contagious and primary sources are the key!

Primary Sources Are the Key!

When I wrote Phillis Wheatley for the Thirteen Colonies series (published by Teacher Created Materials), I knew the best way to tell her story was through her words and images of the world at her time.

Primary Sources: Phillis Wheatley

But, I also wanted to build student skills, so I included engaging standards-based content, strong academic and content vocabulary and text features to support comprehension. The series offers topics and insights that support inquiry-based teaching and relay history as an engaging, dramatic story that deserves to be told through the eyes of the people who lived it. Phillis Wheatley is a real and fascinating person who comes alive through the primary sources relevant to her life. I wanted to bring that to readers, so that even reluctant students, such as David, will grow to love social studies.

Teachers can integrate all of Teacher Created Materials Social Studies Resources into balanced literacy within guided reading groups, during shared reading time or through independent reading opportunities. Students can explore texts, gathering evidence to draw their own conclusions about social studies. And teachers and students alike can sit down with books such as Phillis Wheatley to bring the past fully present in one enjoyable and riveting read.

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