Teaching and Learning History - 052416

Classroom Applications


Using the Four-Person Summary

by Linda Morse

I have been teaching social studies courses since approximately 2000.  The dramatic changes in the numbers of students who are English Language Learners has had an impact on Massachusetts educators in both the classroom in which they teach and the classroom in which the teacher is a student.  The RETELL course (http://www.doe.mass.edu/retell/) has become a new requirement for all Massachusetts educators and the responsibility for being certain that all ELL students can access social studies curriculum at any age is changing how we teach. Fortunately, many strategies that may have been previously used in the classroom can also increase understanding for students who are struggling with the academic language of history or any of the other social studies courses.

One method that I used with great success in a college course containing many football players was a four person summary activity.  In order to begin this activity, the teacher may either choose four students of similar level, have students count off in order to create groups of four, or have a variety of academic skills in each four person group.  Generally, I just have students count off to create a random group of four students.  Students then take out one sheet of paper per group.  Once a topic is provided - for example, reviewing the causes of the Civil War - have one student write a sentence that explains a cause of the Civil War.  Once that student has written his/her sentence, have student pass the paper to the right and the next student reads the sentence and then writes a new sentence explaining a cause of the Civil War.  This student then passes paper to the right and the next student writes a sentence, with the fourth student also writing a new sentence.  This cycle then repeats until there are eight sentences per group.  Each group will then choose a reader who will stand and read the summary "paragraph."  Since each student must read the previous student's sentence and then create his or her own, it is an effective way to review academic language, review key concepts, read a variety of sentences and build communication skills.  The website below contains information about English Language Learners (http://www.edweek.org/tm/articles/2014/01/07/ctq_pillars_ela.html)


About NCHE

The National Council for History Education promotes historical literacy by creating opportunities for teachers and students to benefit from more history, better taught.