Tuesday, April 20, 2021

How social studies and English relate

Are you a middle school student or high school student that loves social studies, but not so much English? Read on. I may have some suggestions for you.

Recently, I started tutoring a middle school student in several subjects. He absolutely loves social studies (history, civics & government, economics, you name it), but isn't much of a fan when it comes to English. He finds that he doesn't enjoy many of the novels and short stories he has to read and write on, and, because of this, he's not getting much out of the class.

I offered him this advice, which I offer to you, as well: If you're not really enjoying your English class, for whatever reason(s), but you really enjoy social studies subjects, use your love of social studies to get more out of your English class. Here's how - for the stories and books you're reading and writing about in your English class, do some additional research about the various time periods, cities/countries, cultures and customs, etc., etc. that these books cover. YouTube is full of great interviews, documentaries, news reports, historical footage, etc. Movies that are based on true stories or real events may be fun and helpful. And of course, there's plenty of reading available on the Internet. 

Doing this additional research can help you better understand the context and vocab used in the English stories, as well as help you develop a bigger, more complete picture of the world. Additionally, there's always the benefit that you may be learning and developing an interest in subjects that you can turn to for future papers and projects, not only in English or social studies, but in other classes, as well.

This student recently started reading the play A Raisin in the Sun for his English class. I won't get into all the details of that story here (you can read these great summaries on SparkNotes and CliffsNotes), but, in order to get more out of this story, he could research 1950s Chicago, the Civil Rights movement here in the United States, history and cultures in Africa, and African-American history more generally.

Other stories recently read in his English class include Night and The Outsiders. For these, he could have conducted outside research on the Holocaust, World War II more generally, and Europe in the 1930s and 40s (Night); and Tulsa, Oklahoma in the 1950s and 60s, social cliques and the social hierarchy in high school, and socioeconomic conflict between groups (The Outsiders), as a few examples.

Hopefully, utilizing these simple tips and strategies can help you develop a greater appreciation for what you're learning in your English class, with the ultimate goal of getting more out of this class. English and social studies subjects often intersect with each other. They're both about people, places, events, conflicts, histories, cultures, and communities.

What are your thoughts and observations? Feel free to share in the comments section below.  

1 comment:

  1. I love this suggestion! As an English teacher, we pull so much history into our literature lessons! Another helpful way to think about literature is as a personal account from that historical time period. Even if the story is fictional, it can still help readers to understand what life was like for an individual or group during a particular time. After all, that's what's at the heart of literature: stories that communicate what it's like to be human.