Literacy Strategies in Social Studies Courses
Literacy was never a big concern for Michael Manderino when he started his first teaching job as a social studies teacher at Joliet West High School in Joliet, Ill.
But Joliet West’s practice of immersing new social studies teachers in literacy strategies fundamentally changed Manderino’s views on the value of reading and writing in his own social studies courses and changed his career path as an educator.
Today, Manderino is an assistant professor of literacy education at Northern Illinois University in Dekalb, Ill. and a graduate of the UIC College of Education’s PhD Curriculum and Instruction: Literacy, Language and Culture program.
“Coming out of my undergraduate work, creating curriculum for the social studies department that integrated literacy transformed how I looked at teaching history,” Manderino said. “I saw the value of literacy and literacy practices in my teaching of social studies.”
Manderino first came to UIC to earn his Master of Education degree in Literacy, Language and Culture and re-enrolled in 2005 in the doctoral program. He studied with Cindy Shanahan, PhD, professor emeritus of curriculum and instruction with a thesis focus on how children read history.
“There are a lot of studies that indicate students and adults struggle with synthesizing multiple texts, and I experienced that in my own practice teaching,” Manderino said. “Not just using printed text, but looking at a map or political cartoon, an audio recording or watching a video clip, I became really interested in what happens when kids try to make sense across that combination.”
For his study, Manderino set up students with eight documents about the Gulf of Tonkin incident in 1964, a video clip from 60 Minutes, a clip of a movie serving as a retrospective, an interview with former Secretary of Defense Robert McNamara, political cartoons and a recorded phone call between McNamara and President John F. Kennedy.
Manderino’s current research at NIU continues to bridge how students comprehend literacy texts. He is engaged in examining how seventh-grade students interact with a blog run by preservice teachers of English literature, who pose different questions on the blog seeking student responses. The blogging allows preservice teachers to examine how the students think about the discipline of English.
The UIC grad also is researching how preservice teachers learn to write digitally so they can teach their own students to write digitally, a project funded by a grant from the International Reading Association.
Manderino is maintaining his ties to high school education by serving as a literacy coach at the high school level, studying how secondary literacy coaches provide literacy instruction across multiple disciplines—science, English and social studies.
“A lot of what I do is an extension of what I started at UIC,” Manderino said. “I’ve had wonderful chances to work with great faculty like Cindy [Shanahan]; in terms of preparation coming out, I can’t say enough.”