Weaving a More Complete Tapestry of Truth with Multiple Perspective Texts in the Social Studies Classroom

This blog is written by Katie Kelly to remind us how and why to teach a more current and accurate history curriculum. Read more about Katie at the bottom of her post.

Looking Back

For far too long, social studies has been taught (if taught at all) through a teacher-centered model comprised of lectures, note-taking, and task-oriented textbook reading. Students are assigned chapters with questions to answer and are later tested on the content. History becomes rote memorization of key dates and figures without meaningful context or deep learning. Therefore, we should not be surprised that many students lack understanding of significant historical events and find social studies both boring and irrelevant. A 2020 survey of adults under forty revealed that ten percent of respondents were unfamiliar with the Holocaust, and sixty-three percent of those surveyed did not know that over six million Jews were murdered in the Holocaust (Pew Research Center, 2020).

This is frightening and concerning. Not only do we need to ensure that young people are learning history but also that they are learning about it from multiple perspectives in order to weave a more complete tapestry of truth. Dr. Gholdy Muhammad (2020) reminds us to consider how our curriculum and instruction help us understand power, equity, and anti-oppression. Our teaching practices must be responsive to the historical events that shape the present if we aim to help students understand content from marginalized perspectives (Muhammad, 2020).      

Teaching Today

Textbooks remain the primary source of social studies content in many classrooms (Brophy & Alleman, 2009). One problem with relying solely on textbooks is that they are designed as an overview of vast periods of time and lack depth and breadth on specific topics. As a result, textbooks often convey oversimplified information and are frequently told from a single perspective that omits the voices and stories of historically marginalized groups (Yearta & Kelly, 2021). This results in a narrow, biased, white-washed curriculum. Sanitized versions of history induce a sense of patriotism while ignoring the complicated past and present (Demoiny & Ferraras-Stone, 2018). As James W. Lowen writes in Lies My Teacher Told Me: Everything Your American History Textbook Got Wrong (2018),“The stories that history textbooks tell are all predictable; every problem has already been solved or is about to be solved… Textbooks exclude conflict or real suspense. They leave out anything that might reflect badly upon on national character.”  

We cannot ignore our complicated and difficult past if we seek a better tomorrow for future generations. To foster increased engagement in learning a more complete and accurate history, we must build our capacity and willingness to include multiple perspectives and acknowledge that every perspective is true and partial (Hamilton et al., 2020).

Moving Forward

In order to teach a more complete and accurate history, we can incorporate multiperspective text sets including books, articles, primary sources, multimodal resources, etc. featuring the stories and perspectives that have traditionally been silenced or marginalized. Multiperspective text sets help students layer their learning about complex history to develop a more nuanced and accurate understanding of how it influences the present. When students have opportunities to connect the past to the present, history becomes more relatable and relevant to their lives (Kelly et al., 2023).

In our book, Critical Comprehension: Lessons for Guiding Students to Deeper Meaning (2023), we offer a multiple read framework to help students move beyond passive acceptance of information towards a deeper critical analysis of text by questioning the author’s intent, the information included/excluded, how the text positions the reader, and who benefits or is harmed by it. The return read seeks to disrupt and interrupt widely accepted narratives, the writer’s intention, and the reader’s stance to uncover hidden truths. This return read, or critical read, is necessary when examining the ways in which history is presented. As readers deconstruct texts, they think critically about historical and current events to examine power relations revealed in text and mirrored in society (Jones, 2006; Vasquez, 2010).

Sample questions for critical reading:

  • Whose story is being told?
  • Whose stories are being left out?
  • Who benefits? Who is harmed? 
  • How does this perspective position the reader? 
  • What does the author want the reader to think or know?
  • How does the text perpetuate stereotypes?
  • How do your assumptions and associations position you to interact with text?

These questions serve as a framework to help students move beyond the dominant narrative to explore counter narratives and expand their perspectives and understanding of our country’s past and present. History textbooks often center the stories of the victor, the hero, the white male. For example, we think of our founding fathers and our first president and general of the Continental Army who led us toward independence. The Declaration of Independence stated that all men were created equal. We celebrate the Fourth of July with displays of patriotism from waving flags, red, white and blue clothing, parades, and fireworks displays. Yet, history textbooks rarely explain that neither women nor people of color had independence and freedom. In fact, slavery was not abolished for another 86 years when Abraham Lincoln signed the Emancipation Proclamation. Even then, it took three years for this information to reach enslaved people in Texas. On June 19, 1865, federal troops traveled to Galveston, Texas, to bring the news of freedom. This day has been commemorated as Juneteenth, and though Black citizens have long celebrated it, it has largely been overlooked until recently. Juneteenth became a federal holiday in the U.S. in 2021 amidst continued activism and the momentum of the Black Lives Matter movement. Teaching about Juneteenth is one way to help students bridge the past to the present to learn the nuanced and more complete truth of this part of U.S. history. This Book Buzz blog post offers a sample text set to help students deepen their understanding of the importance of Juneteenth.

Our country has a long history of centering the power of dominant voices. This perspective is privileged in the curriculum in our schools as well. Therefore, we must work to ensure that multiple perspectives are included when teaching social studies. Consider your own school experiences. What were you taught? What weren’t you taught? Whose stories were included? Whose were left out? How did that shape your beliefs about the world and your place in it? (Kelly et al., 2023).

Critical comprehension requires deeper reading to consciously question the text, the world, and the stories we’ve been told. Critical readers seek a more nuanced understanding by uncovering silenced voices, omitted narratives, and multiple perspectives needed to weave a more informed and complete tapestry of truth.


Brophy, J., & Alleman, J. (2009). Meaningful social studies for elementary students. Teachers and Teaching, 15(3), 357– 376.

Demoiny, S.B. & Ferraras-Stone, J. (2018). Critical Literacy in Elementary Social Studies:

Juxtaposing Historical Master and Counter Narratives in Picture Books. The Social Studies, 109(2), 64-73. 

Hamilton, D.M., Wilson, G.M., & Loh, K.M. (2020). Compassionate Conversations: How to speak and listen from the heart. Boulder, CO: Shambhala.

Jones, S. (2006). Girls, social class and literacy: What teachers can do to make a difference. Portsmouth, NH: Heinemann.

Kelly, K., Laminack, L. & Vasquez, V. (2023). Critical Comprehension: Lessons for Guiding

Students to Deeper Meaning. Thousand Oaks, CA: Corwin Press.

Lowen, J. W. (2018). Lies My Teacher Told Me: Everything Your American History Textbook Got

Wrong. New York: The New Press.

Muhammad, G. (2020). Cultivating Genius: An Equity Framework for Culturally and Historically Responsive Literature. New York: Scholastic.

Pew Research Center, Jan. 22, 2020, “What Americans Know About the Holocaust”. Retrieved from

Vasquez, V. (2010). Getting beyond “I like the book”: Creating space for critical literacy in K-6 classrooms. Newark, DE: International Reading Association.

Yearta, L. & Kelly, K.(2021). Digital Storytelling to Enhance Social Studies Content Knowledge, Explore Multiple Perspectives, and Advocate for Social Justice. In J. Tussey & L. Haas (Eds.). Connecting Disciplinary Literacy and Digital Storytelling in K-12 Education. IGI Global.

Katie Kelly is an Associate Professor at Furman University in Greenville, South Carolina. As a former teacher and literacy coach, Katie’s teaching and research interests include engaging children in meaningful literacy experiences and practices to foster lifelong literacy, equity, and justice. She is widely published in several peer-reviewed journals and has co-authored four books. She can be contacted on Instagram/Twitter @ktkelly14 and by email

Action! Growing Historical Writing Skills with Video Essays

This blog is written by Tori Young and shows us how to scaffold written essays resulting in a video essay. Read more about Tori at the bottom of her post.

Have you ever caught yourself in the never-ending rabbit hole of online video essays? Conspiracy theories, movie plot analyses, theme park history and so many more topics are explained in a thorough manner with research and analysis weaving together ideas and backgrounds you never would have put together. Even if you have not stumbled into this online phenomenon, I can assure you that your students have. Whether hour long YouTube deep-dives, or short TikTok synopsis series, students are being presented with researched information about a wide range of topics even if they do not recognize it. After noticing this for myself, I asked “why aren’t more essays like this?”

Research papers and argumentative essays are the primary form of essay writing used in my history classroom. I want my students to know how to be informed citizens and communicate their ideas and beliefs in a way that is grounded in historical truth and facts. I typically scaffold this process throughout the year using activities based on the content. Typically, I start out with an exit ticket asking students to pick a side on a tough topic (no in between!) and tell me why they chose their stance. Nothing formal just to get them to practice how to take a stance. Slowly I will make them add facts from a document we read in class to back up their positions and eventually start teaching the research process by having them look for reliable sources of their own to support their side. Eventually, all that information can be used to organize and create a well-written paper for social studies.

The broad goals of this process are to teach students how to make informed decisions and communicate their ideas effectively. While a traditional essay is an excellent way to practice those skills, many teachers like me have seen the difficulties for students that come with that ultimate step of writing the paper. For many students, the formal language or length of the writing assignment can be daunting to approach, causing them to shut down before trying. But we look at them confused; they have already practically written the paper with their summaries and research. Why can’t they just fill in the gaps with just a few sentences?

I found myself asking these questions every year. When I asked my students to verbalize their answers, I got great insight and connections to the content from them. They know this content, in fact many of them get passionate about it when it is time for them to argue. As I pondered this, I concluded that most of my students will only share their research and findings about topics verbally in their futures. Why am I not adding a verbal layer of assessment to this process?

This is where the wonderful world of video essays came into play for me and my classes. A video essay takes on the same structure as an essay but uses visual aids and commentary to present the information. Just like a good historical essay, it begins with background information on the topic and a clear thesis. It is then followed by key points that are supported by examples. And lastly, the video concludes with the creator’s main idea and the topic’s historical impact. Video essays help students practice research skills, organizing ideas and examples, but instead of writing, they are practicing presentation skills! 

An example of this in my high school US History classes is during our unit on the Antebellum era. There are a lot of names of important people during this period; abolitionists, women’s rights activists, and politicians. I let my students pick from a list of key figures to research to share their life story. I give loose parameters on the assignment, asking students to provide the background of the person’s life, their contributions to Antebellum America, and their lasting impact on the United States. Some students may need more guidance, so it may be helpful to provide examples of information you are looking for such as their birthplace, career, and writings to name a few possibilities. I then ask students to record a two-minute video using WeVideo or Screencastify to present their findings using media to support their discussion. 

I have seen my quietest students speak without hesitation in these videos, presenting on topics with great care and speaking skills. The key is that I do not show them in front of the class. Once the fear of being judged by their peers is taken away, students become comfortable with the process. They also begin to get creative with their media. Many will create a PowerPoint to display and follow along with for their video. However, I have seen animations, skits, and eulogies come out of this assignment as students begin to find their creativity with this medium. 

Students are still practicing all the skills I need them to learn for my goals, but by incorporating video essays I have seen higher levels of engagement with historical content. This is not meant to take away from the importance of formal writing. While not all our students will go on to university and academia, they will still need to write important emails and apply for jobs. Formal writing is an important skill, but if you also notice students needing an extra step in scaffolding the writing process in social studies then consider video essays. Students will even surprise themselves with how much they know!

Images courtesy of Pexels

Tori Young is a high school social studies teacher in Anderson, South Carolina. She is currently working on her Master’s in Instructional Design and Learning Technology at Anderson University.
Collaboration Teaching

Learning about the Events of September 11, 2001, Through Story

This blog is written by Lesley Roessing suggesting that a variety of texts can be used to teach historical events still impacting the world today. Read more about Lesley at the bottom of her post.

No historical event may be as unique and complicated to discuss and teach as the events of September 11, 2001, the day terrorists crashed planes into, and destroyed, the Twin Towers of the World Trade Center. At the time of this event, no child in our present K-12 educational system was yet born, but, in most cases, their parents and educators would have been old enough to have some knowledge of, and even personal experience with, these events, making this a very difficult historic event for many to teach. However, with the devastation and impact of these events on our past, present, and future and as ingrained a part of history these events are, they need to be discussed and understood as much as possible.
An effective way to learn about these events is through story. Powerful novels have been written about this tragedy, for all age levels and, fascinatingly, each presents a different perspective of the events. Some take place during September 11, some following the events, some a few years later or many years later, and a few include two timelines. Many take place from the perspectives of multiple characters.
On September 11, 2021, YA Wednesday posted my guest-blog “Novels, Memoirs, Graphics, and Picture Books to Commemorate September 11th.”  In this blog, I interviewed authors and reviewed and recommended 24 texts and six picture books.
  Since then, I have read two additional texts:

Yusuf Azeem is Not a Hero by Saadia Faruqi
“Suspicion of those unlike us is common human behavior. We don’t trust who we don’t know. But yes, 9/11 was terrible, and it really fueled the fire of hatred in this country.” (184-5)

Sixth grader Yusuf Azeem was born in Texas and is an American; his mother was also born in America and his father was a Pakistani immigrant who runs the popular A to Z Dollar Store in town (and a somewhat a local hero after capturing an intruder threatening his store and customers). The family is Muslim, but, understandably, Yusuf is shocked when sixth grade begins with threatening notes in his locker. When one says, “Go home,” he is hurt and confused. Frey, Texas is his home. Surely the notes are meant for someone else.

This is a novel that may benefit from some background on the events of September 11, 2001, since the action takes places in 2021 but, read individually, Ausuf’s uncle’s journal helps to fill in information. The importance of this particular novel is that it demonstrates that, for some of our citizens and students, “Twenty years. So much time. But things haven’t really changed at all.” (48) One of the major events in the story—when a little computer in his backpack beeped and, instead of questioning him and investigating, Ausuf is thrown in jail for twelve hours—is based on a real event from 2015 where Ahmed Mohamed, a Muslim 14-year-old, was arrested at his high school because of a disassembled digital clock he brought to school to show his teachers [].

It is vital that our children learn about 9/11 because, as Yusuf’s mamoo says, “History informs our present and affects our future.” (81)

In the Shadows of the Fallen Towers by Don Brown
Don Brown’s graphic novel recounts events following the 9/11 attacks on the Towers and the Pentagon from the moment of the “jetliner slamming into the North Tower of the World Trade Center” to the one-year anniversary ceremonies at the Pentagon, in Shanksville, Pennsylvania, and at Ground Zero. It also covers the fighting of U.S. troops in Afghanistan and the capture and interrogation of prisoners from an al-Qaeda hideout in Pakistan.
The drawings allow readers to bear witness to the heroism of the first responders, firefighters, and police as they move from rescue to recovery over the ten months following the attacks and learn the stories of some of the survivors they saved. It is the story of the nameless “strangers [who] help[ed] one another, carrying the injured, offering water to the thirsty, and comforting the weeping.” (23)
We learn and view details that we may have not known, such as “Bullets start to fly when the flames and heat set off ammunition from fallen police officers’ firearms,” (11) the “Pentagon workers [who] plunge[d] into the smoke-filled building to restore water pressure made feeble by pipes broken in the attack,” (36) and former military who donned their old uniforms and “bluff[ed their way] past the roadblocks” to “sneak onto the Pile” to help. (50, 52)
For more mature readers this book adds to the story of 9/11 in a more “graphic” way.
I have taught a unit on NINE ELEVEN through book clubs in multiple schools from grades 5 through 9 in both ELA and Social Studies classes. Children and adolescents have felt comfortable these sensitive and challenging concepts and examining these troubling events and some of the ensuing difficulties, prejudices, and bullying, through the eyes of characters who are around their ages, some readers sharing personal stories in their small collaborative groups. I am thankful for the authors who have allowed our children to experience these events in a safe and compassionate way. I have presented these novels and strategies and lessons for reading through book clubs at local workshops and national conferences. I included my 9/11 Book Club unit as a chapter in TALKING TEXTS: A Teacher’s Guide To Book Clubs Across The Curriculum.

Condensed and reproduced with permission from posted on September 2, 2023.

Lesley Roessing was a public-school teacher in eastern Pennsylvania for 20 years where she taught high school and middle school ELA, Humanities, and Gifted Studies. In 2010, she founded and directed the Coastal Savannah Writing Project at Georgia Southern University where she also taught pre-service and in-service teachers. The year prior to her retirement, she served as the Literacy Consultant (Coach) for a K-8 charter school. Upon retirement, she continued writing, visiting classrooms to facilitate reading and writing lessons, and posting all things literacy! 

Follow her website, created to support educators—teachers, librarians, and parents, at


Look closely: Strengthening students’ visual literacy

This blog is written by Rebecca G. W. Mueller and is about the powerful effect of images as an instructional tool. Read more about Rebecca at the bottom of her post.

Let’s do a quick exercise.

Take a moment to revisit several recent blog posts.

How many blogs included visuals? What type of visuals? Did you pay much attention to the visuals as you read the blogs? Did you think about how the visuals interacted with the text and communicated their own meaning?

We are surrounded by visuals – from emojis and selfies to infographics and data charts. Visuals are an important communication tool that we must read just like we do text, but readers do not always bring the same critical eye to visuals as they do words. Readers often deem visuals as objective depictions of information and forget that, for example, a photographer makes many decisions about how to best capture a moment just as a speech writer carefully selects their words. 

A key facet of literacy in social studies classrooms is strengthening students’ abilities to critically engage with visuals (Callahan, 2013; Roberts & Brugar, 2017). Because students’ worlds are often saturated with visuals, teachers may presume that students have the skills to read them, but one’s ability to select the most flattering filter does not necessarily transfer to considering a political cartoon’s symbolism. Critically engaging with visuals requires substantial vocabulary and background knowledge, particularly around symbols, artistic conventions, and statistics. Below, I introduce some tools teachers can use to scaffold students’ work with visuals and discuss how building this capacity supports disciplinary literacy.

Useful tools

The Stanford History Education Group (SHEG) has an extensive array of resources, lessons, and assessments that support content and disciplinary literacy. SHEG recently turned its attention to civic online reasoning and has developed materials that address skills necessary for sense-making in a visual-filled digital world, including evaluating photos and evaluating data. All visitors can view student-friendly crash course videos, but a free-account is required to access some resources (e.g., assessment tools, rubrics, sample responses), most of which are most appropriate for middle or high school students. Using the three-question scaffold Who’s behind the information? What’s the evidence? and What do other sources say?, students develop the disposition to encounter visuals with healthy skepticism.

Both the Library of Congress and National Archives have document analysis tools and support materials to guide students’ work with visual sources. Both sites provide a general guide and specific guides that are tailored for particular source types, including charts and graphs, maps, photographs, and political cartoons. For example, the Library of Congress’ basic tool prompts students to observe, reflect, and question. The analysis tool modified for use with political cartoons includes guiding questions such as What do you see that might be a symbol? What was happening when this cartoon was made? and What methods does the cartoonist use to persuade the audience? These documents, which include versions appropriate for different readiness levels, prompt students to utilize core literacy practices while also emphasizing the influence of form and function on how we create and read visuals.Project Zero’s Thinking Routine Toolbox includes an array of strategies suitable for various disciplines and ages. The Toolbox has identified strategies that are well suited to exploring art, images, and objects. One of my favorites is See, Think, Wonder because it stresses the importance of looking closely before drawing conclusions and identifying additional information that will strengthen those conclusions. This simple, flexible strategy demands similar practices as the scaffolds described above but with language accessible to all ages.

Retrieved from

See, Think, Wonder can be paired with Zoom In, which prompts students to consider increasingly larger portions of an image and revise their conclusions based on new information. In both cases, students build the dispositions to root conclusions in evidence, be open to revising conclusions based on new information, and reflect on how their personal experiences and biases may influence the way they interpret visuals.

Ford, E., photographer. (1957). Tennis talk Althea Gibson, U.S. and Wimbledon tennis champion, gives some pointers on the game which has brought her international fame. Some 500 students attended the tennis clinic yesterday at Midwood HS, directed by Murray Eisenstadt, varsity coach // World Telegram & Sun photo by Ed. Ford. New York, 1957. December. [Photograph] Retrieved from the Library of Congress,

Visual literacy as civic literacy

Researchers affiliated with SHEG’s Civic Online Reasoning project have argued that “the health of a democracy depends on people’s ability to access reliable information” (Breakstone, et al., 2021, p. 505). Because so much of the information we encounter is visual, building students’ visual literacy is fundamental to civic literacy. Utilizing the tools discussed above strengthens students’ awareness of the constructed nature of visuals and their ability to apply disciplinary sourcing practices to better understand how context and intention influence the way we create and read visuals.


Breakstone, J., Smith, M., Wineburg, S., Rapaport, A., Carle, J., Garland, M., &

Saavedra, A. (2021). Students’ civic online reasoning: A national portrait. Educational Researcher, 50(8), 505-515.

Callahan, C. (2013). Analyzing historical photographs to promote civic competence.

Social Studies Research and Practice, 8(1), 77-88.

Roberts, K. L., & Brugar, K. A. (2017). The view from here: The emergence of

graphical literacy. Reading Psychology, 38, 733-777.

Rebecca Mueller is an Associate Professor of Social Studies Education at University of South Carolina Upstate. Before entering higher education, Rebecca taught social studies at Bryan Station High School in Lexington, Kentucky. She enjoys integrating photographs, political cartoons, data charts, and other visual sources into her instruction.

Teaching Uncategorized

On the Hill: Literacy Awareness for Multilingual Learners

Tbis post was written by Jamie Fletcher and is a reflection on her visit to Capital Hill advocating for the literacy needs of multilingual learners. Read more about Jamie at the bottom of her post.

As educators, we are often compelled to go beyond lesson plans and grading assignments to help students learn standards-based material. Sometimes, we make classroom accommodations or modifications to the content so students can connect with the instruction. Sometimes, we go beyond the classroom and attend their extracurricular events to connect with the children. Sometimes, we advocate for them and insist on equitable opportunities in the public education system. None of this is new news to those in the education field, however, some students will soon need more than just the effort of dedicated educators.

One of the largest growing demographics in South Carolina is identified as Multilingual Learners (MLs, formerly called English language learners or ELLs). “By 2025, 1 out of 4 children in classrooms across the nation will be an English language learner (ELL) student” (, July 2020). Across the US, the growth of MLs has risen exponentially. According to the Office of English Language Acquisition (OELA), from 2000-01 to 2019-20 school years, there has been more than a 400% increase in ML students in South Carolina. As of April 13, 2023, there were 71,727 current or monitored MLs in our state. This means they may receive services from ML educators. Students in SC who are monitored may have met the minimum program exit requirements, but must be monitored for up to four years to determine if services are still needed. Of all these ML students, less than 38% are immigrants, meaning over 62% are US citizens. Meanwhile, from 2012-13 to 2021-2022 school years, there was a 206% increase in vacancies for certified licensed multilingual learner instructors, leading to a possible decline in services and/or an increase in long-term MLs (students who remain in the program more than five years).

One maxim states that “a teacher never knows where his or her influence stops.” So, what happens when teachers unite their voices and ascend Capitol Hill? On June 21, 2023, educators from across the United States met in the offices of US Senators and US Representatives to collectively and positively affect change. The decisions made in those offices and through the votes on the Senate and House floors have a direct impact on funding and policy that trickles down to every public school classroom in America.

Prior to meetings in Washington, DC, TESOL International held their annual Advocacy and Policy Summit in Georgetown, reviewing the policy focus and explaining the impact that personal stories and sincere conversations could have. TESOL (Teaching English to Speakers of Other Languages) educators from Hawaii to Maine and Florida to California collaborated to learn how our states are different and alike and what is needed to offer equitable educational opportunities to all public school students. Carolina TESOL, representing North Carolina and South Carolina educators, attended the summit and met on the Hill to learn more about the process and to develop relationships with the offices of our senators and representatives.

As the SC Advocacy Coordinator, I started contacting DC offices to set up meetings two months prior to the TESOL International Advocacy & Policy Summit. Meetings with elected officials were requested, but sometimes staff members who specialize in education are delegated to speak with visitors. It is important to remember that these staffers are the ones who help advise the senators and representatives when it comes time to vote on policy and appropriations. Once on the Hill, 2023 Carolina TESOL President Tanya Franca and I traversed tunnels and congressional buildings to meet in different offices to share stories about education in South Carolina.

Did you know that South Carolina is one of two states with a complete ban on undocumented students pursuing higher education in public colleges and universities (technical, 2-year, and 4-year schools)? During the meetings on the Hill, Franca and I requested review and support for the 2023 Dream Act (S 365) and US Citizenship Act (HR 3194) to help immigrants seeking a pathway to citizenship, thus providing them with an opportunity for higher education.

We spoke about specific programs that the appropriations would be used for, including after-school programs and professional development for educators of MLs. We also discussed the limitations of higher education in South Carolina. On a federal level, voting for legislation that would provide a pathway to citizenship for undocumented students would improve college and career statistics, as well as graduation rates. Specifically, one student of mine who always planned to attend college moved with his family here in 2013. Beginning his junior year of high school, we were talking seriously about the SAT, ACT, and college applications and that is when we reviewed SC admissions policies. He was offered athletic scholarships and would have received academic scholarships if he was here legally. In 2020, he was accepted to North Carolina Central University where he is a starter on the football team, has the highest GPA of all players, has been nominated and earned many accolades, and is graduating in three years with a Bachelor’s degree in Business. He plans to start a Master’s program next year, but will have to remain in NC to earn the degree. This is only one example of the limitations placed on students in our state and across the country.

During our meetings, our requests for appropriations concerned ESSA Title I to support students from low-income communities; ESSA Title II, Part A to support professional learning for educators and school leaders, and ESSA Title III to improve English language proficiency and academic achievement. Other priorities for the 118th Congress include passing the Reaching English Learners Act (HR 3779) to address the critical shortage of English language teachers, as well as passing the Supporting Providers of English Language Learners Act (HR 460) to increase loan forgiveness for English language teachers.

The summit and Hill visits were meant to provide experience and build relationships. Some meetings were attended by staff members who knew the need for funding and policy updates in education; but in some meetings, we went on to explain connections between the money and the classroom, between investing in education and the cycle of poverty. The opportunities to speak with members of Congressional staff were exciting, but nothing moves quickly in DC. Carolina TESOL will continue to reach out to their offices to offer “boots on the ground” experiences in hopes of positively impacting education for Multilingual Learners. For more information about Carolina TESOL’s federal and state-level priorities in South Carolina, visit Carolina TESOL is committed to advocating for Multilingual Learners (MLs) throughout the Carolinas by informing educators of national, state, and local research, issues, and policies affecting MLs and advising its membership of advocacy resources and opportunities.

Mrs. Jamie Fletcher has been teaching for over twenty years but has served the last and happiest  seven as a Multilingual Learner Program Specialist in Anderson, South Carolina.

Photo by Kenny Eliason on Unsplash

Photo by Kenny Eliason on Unsplash


Navigating Education, Policy, and Advocacy in the Face of Anti-Truth Legislation

This post was written by Ian O’Byrne. You can read more about Ian at the bottom of this post.

In recent years, there has been a growing trend of anti-truth legislation being introduced at the state and local levels. These bills often target discussions of race, gender, and other sensitive topics in public schools. While framed as bans on teaching Critical Race Theory (CRT) or LGBTQ issues, legislation such as this is ultimately a ban on truth and history that impinges on K-12 educators’ First Amendment rights and threatens to upend the structure of education law and policy. As educators, it is important to be aware of these bills and to take steps to advocate for the right of all students to learn about the full and accurate history of our country.

A recent example

This past year, the South Carolina Transparency and Integrity in Education Act (H.3728) sought to prohibit “certain concepts from being included in public school instruction and professional development” and to provide a means for addressing violations. The bill wanted to prohibit the teaching and training on concepts related to race, religion, politics, gender, gender identity, and sexual orientation. Supporters suggested it’s a way to stick to state education standards while opponents say it opens the door to censorship. 

It is important to note that this is one of many anti-truth pieces of legislation that we’re seeing across the country.    

This legislation is organized and funded by groups like the Heritage Foundation as they provide templates to allow lawmakers and copy/paste into bills. Review the CRT legislation tracker from the Heritage Foundation here.  

Anti-Truth Legislation and the First Amendment

Anti-truth legislation refers to laws that restrict or prohibit the teaching of certain historical or factual information, which can be seen as a violation of the First Amendment rights of K-12 educators and students.

The First Amendment to the United States Constitution protects the freedom of speech, religion, press, assembly, and petition. In the context of this post, the First Amendment applies to the constitutional protections afforded to K-12 teacher speech and the potential violations of those protections by anti-truth laws. Anti-Truth laws impinge on K-12 educators’ First Amendment rights by restricting or prohibiting the teaching of certain historical or factual information, which can be seen as a violation of the freedom of speech.

I understand that legislation such as this serves as a chilling effect on educators and students. Not many educators at this point are challenging these laws on First Amendment grounds. This may be due to teachers not wanting to test these boundaries, due process, or established legal precedents.

In the tumultuous landscape of modern education, book bans, stifling class discussions, and curtailed written work have emerged as alarming consequences of anti-truth legislation. As educators grapple with navigating these challenging times, the very essence of intellectual freedom is put to the test. Book bans, often driven by ideological agendas, limit students’ access to diverse perspectives and critical thinking, hindering their ability to develop a well-rounded understanding of complex issues.

Likewise, stifling class discussions on controversial topics suppresses the exchange of ideas, hindering the development of open-mindedness and empathy. Concurrently, stringent restrictions on written work can restrict students’ creativity and force self-censorship, stifling their growth as independent thinkers. In the face of anti-truth legislation, educators and advocates must unite to safeguard the fundamental pillars of education, fostering an inclusive, truth-seeking environment that empowers students to become informed, engaged citizens ready to navigate a complex world.

What can you do?

One of the most important things that educators can do is to stay informed about anti-truth legislation in their state and local area. There are a number of organizations that track this legislation and provide resources for educators, such as the Education Law Center and the American Civil Liberties UnionThis spreadsheet from PEN America helps keeps track of these bills. Once you are aware of the bills that have been introduced, you can take steps to educate your community about the importance of these issues.

Another important step is to interact with policymakers, school boards, and parents. This can be done by writing letters, attending public meetings, and speaking out at school board meetings. It is important to be respectful and to present your arguments in a clear and concise way. You can also encourage your students to get involved in advocacy efforts.

It is important to remember that the First Amendment protects the right to free speech. This means that schools cannot censor discussions of race, gender, or other sensitive topics simply because some people find them uncomfortable. If you believe that your school is violating your First Amendment rights, you should contact the American Civil Liberties Union, The ProTruthSC CoalitionSC United for Justice and Equality, or another organization that can provide legal assistance.

This protection extends not only to educators but also students in schools. Students could challenge these broader laws by arguing they have a First Amendment right to take in lessons and information from schools.

Advocacy and activism can be challenging, but it is essential to protect the right of all students to learn about the full and accurate history of our country. By staying informed, interacting with policymakers, and educating your community, you can make a difference in the fight against anti-truth legislation.

Ian O’Byrne is an associate professor of literacy education at the College of Charleston in South Carolina. His research focuses on the dispositions and literacy practices of individuals as they read, write, and communicate in online and/or hybrid spaces. His work can be found on his website ( or in his weekly newsletter (

Photo by Rod Long on Unsplash


Classroom Libraries: What is In? What is Out? Why does it Matter?

This post is written by Brooke Hardin. Read more about Brooke at the bottom of this post.

Let’s Get Personal

I am a white female who began school in the mid-eighties and entered a mostly white, suburban, blue ribbon-winning elementary school at the precocious age of five and a half. To my knowledge, no one had conversations with me about any differences in my family, and I had no reason to think there were. That is until I entered kindergarten and was met with weekly stories in books and readers where the families portrayed were white (or peach colored as the illustrations showed) and comprised of a mother, father, son, daughter, dog, cat, and possibly a goldfish. No big deal, right? The problem was that by this time, my father had not lived with me since I was two years old, and I had both a mother and a stepmother, both of whom I adored. Let’s not forget, I did not have a dog, cat, or goldfish; in fact, I had had two hamsters, both of which escaped their caged confinement, chewed holes in our carpet, and somehow disappeared. My family dynamic – made up of my mother and me in our townhome, my father, stepmother, half-brother and half-sister in another home that I visited every other weekend, and two stepbrothers that lived out of town – was not found within the pages of the books read to me by my teachers or those that were available for me to read as I moved through the elementary years. In fact, it was not until much later that I saw someone “like me,” the youngest child in a blended family, in a book.

While my story is innocent enough and did not impact my love of reading or success with it, it could have, and it is reflective of what so many students face today in their own classrooms. Their stories, culture, historical backgrounds, family dynamics, and more are absent from the texts in the libraries of classrooms where they spend hours learning each day. Moreover, educational policies limit what is possible for teachers to include in classroom libraries and how they can teach certain topics. At the same time, authors are publishing texts that portray a vast array of stories, online resources covering multiple viewpoints are abundant, and students have access to more information than ever before, given their proclivity for digital engagement. How does a teacher provide a wide-ranging classroom library while following a state or district’s policies on instructional materials and literature? While this is a real challenge, teachers might consider some seminal theoretical and research-based ideas that support the need for diverse classroom libraries.

Why Do Classroom Libraries Matter?

In the last several years, the hashtag #WeNeedDiverseBooks has gained momentum and attention. Books and teaching have the capacity to change lives. Still, to do so, teachers must have the professional freedom to reflect regularly on the literature landscape shaping their classrooms. They must consider the narratives found in their classroom libraries:

  • How does the library shape students’ collective memories of their own + ‘others’ histories?
  • Whose voices seem valued + whose are not?
  • Whose stories are absent or silenced?

Theories like Rudine Sims Bishop’s (1990) idea that texts can act as “mirrors, windows, and sliding glass doors” and Rosenblatt’s (1978) transactional reader-response theory show educators how the use of diverse texts has the power to increase content learning and empathic responses. However, both theories center the reader in the text. Another way to think of literature is to center the reader along a continuum with any text; it either reflects a lived experience or presents the opportunity to show a new or different experience. This then presents an opportunity to learn, think critically, and gain understanding.

Let’s take the following example of a teacher using adolescent historical fiction literature to provide instruction about the American frontier and pioneer life in the early 19th century. A teacher might reach for a classic like the Little House series published by Laura Ingalls Wilder in 1971. While entertaining to some, the series contains racism and portrays an incomplete story of what life was like on the prairie. A more comprehensive unit of study might include Louise Erdrich’s (1999) The Birchbark House, which reverses the narrative of 19th Century Native Americans and shows the life of an Ojibwa family in 1847. Additionally, a teacher might include the book Prairie Lotus, written by Linda Sue Park in 2022, which features the story of Hanna, a half-Asian girl who wants to go to the one-room school, make a friend, and help in her father’s dress-goods shop. Additionally, teachers would include images, diverse primary source documents that impacted people’s lives, informational pieces, and more.  In this way, we do not abandon all classic literature but expand the approach to literature selection (Zapata et al., 2018). This example shows how teachers might think about building their instructional classroom library; that is, the library from which they pull resources for teaching skills and content.

Teachers must also be intentional about the literature students have access to in the greater classroom library, the bookshelf, or the space in the room, where students can personally select texts to read during independent reading time or at their leisure. As shown in research regarding school-aged pupils, there is a direct correlation between reading skill growth and sustained time spent reading (Allington, 2014; Locher & Pfost, 2020). Thus, the classroom library needs to contain literature that appeals to students’ interests, represents a variety of lived experiences, and connects to contemporary issues. Given this, it is likely that the exact controversial topics (i.e., race, sexuality, culture, history, etc.) keeping space in policy headlines will be present in some of the classroom library literature. So, how does a teacher advocate for these materials to remain?

Policy’s Effect and Advocacy Moving Forward

Recent proposed legislation in headlines and bills aims to limit or ban literature that is based on what is deemed as controversial topics, including American history, family, race, and more. However, banning literature and these topics is detrimental to the engagement, critical thinking, and overall learning possible in today’s classrooms. Certain bills go so far as to be explicit about how teachers can and cannot teach certain topics, prohibiting some ideas and prescribing the verbiage for others. For example, teachers in some districts have been told they cannot use literature that talks about race or could be deemed Anti-American. In this way, teachers are being told to teach prescribed content that is likely not wholly accurate and more importantly, is not culturally inclusive of all students.

More than ever, teachers must be wise about advocating for their students’ learning and “following the rules” while also providing thorough instruction and helping students become thoughtful global citizens. When teachers are selecting classroom library literature and instructional materials, they must be critical consumers themselves. Look at your class roster; whose culture is present in the materials? Whose is missing? Does every student have ample opportunities to find a book that represents them in the classroom library? Using interest inventories (Williams, 2022) at the beginning of the school year and using the information gathered to add new texts to instructional libraries and the larger classroom library is another option. Viewing instruction and the selection of materials through the argument presented here might provide teachers a way to build inclusive units of study that task students with critical considerations and keep teachers out of local headlines.

Additionally, consider speaking before policymakers; educators can use the theories calling for diverse books and relevant, multi-sided texts to sustain their pleas for professional freedom and all-encompassing classroom libraries. Finally, teachers facing book challenges or desiring more support for instructional freedom might consult some of the available resources such as the National Council for Teachers of English (NCTE)’s Intellectual Freedom Center ( and the We Need Diverse Books website (, which is full of resources for teachers, parents, and librarians.


Allington, R. L. (2014). How Reading Volume Affects Both Reading Fluency and Reading Achievement. International Electronic Journal of Elementary Education7(1), 13-26.

Bishop, R. S. (1990, March). Windows and mirrors: Children’s books and parallel cultures. In California State University reading conference: 14th annual conference proceedings (pp. 3-12).

Erdrich, L., & Littrell, N. (1999). The birchbark house. New York: Hyperion Books for children.

Locher, F., & Pfost, M. (2020). The relation between time spent reading and reading comprehension throughout the life course. Journal of Research in Reading43(1), 57-77.

Park, L. S. (2020). Prairie lotus. Clarion Books.

Rosenblatt, L. M. (1988). Writing and reading: The transactional theory (No. 416). University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign.

Wilder, L. I., & Williams, g. (1971). Little house on the prairie. 1st Harper Trophy ed. New York, N.Y., HarperTrophy.

Williams, K. (2022, October 31). 12 reading interest survey questions to ask students and sample questionnaire. Survey Sparrow.

Zapata, A., Kleekamp, M., & King, C. (2018). Expanding the Canon: How Diverse Literature Can Transform Literacy Learning. Literacy Leadership Brief. International Literacy Association.

Brooke Hardin is an Assistant Professor of Elementary Education at the University of South Carolina Upstate. Her research interests include writing development and instruction for intermediate and middle grades students, teaching and learning through technology and new literacies, literacy professional development and teacher education, and interdisciplinary approaches to reading, writing, and the utilization of Children’s Literature. Her years of experience as an elementary and middle grades classroom teacher and curriculum literacy specialist frame her research interests and commitment to teacher education.

Photo by Darren Richardson on Unsplash


The Impact of Educational Policy on Secondary History

This post is written by Tori Young. Read more about Tori at the bottom of this post.

As educators, we are masters at adapting to new scenarios and thinking on our feet. Whether it is behavioral challenges in the classroom, changing grade levels or content areas, or being told a new acronym that will guide our students to academic achievement. While the patterns stay the same, change remains the one constant in our world. In a time of attention on literacy policy in our public schools, what do we do as educators when our curriculum is criticized, and our livelihood is on the line? And how do we engage students in the process of not only understanding the necessity to examine policies but also how to do this and why?

In secondary history, many communities have questioned the intentions behind the curriculum presented. Talks of Critical Race Theory and indoctrination have instilled fear in parents and policymakers for the minds of students as they become passionate voices in movements for climate change, women’s rights, and racial equality. As teachers, the impact we have on a student is apparent, and sadly there are few enough instances of teachers abusing that role to teach their own agendas. In a time of great societal change and political bipartisanship, parents have expressed their concern for their children’s beliefs being influenced. As teachers, a lot of this skepticism falls upon us, even though forceful influence is very rare to see and is quickly reprimanded. Yet, we fall victim to the fear for our careers when discussing important, yet sensitive issues. Fear is valid, even if it is a small number that has created cause for concern. Fear should not prevent us, however, from doing our job of teaching true history.

True history is based on facts and first-hand accounts. Primary sources are the best accounts we have of our world before modern media, but a good historian is aware that these diaries and newspaper articles are just as full of bias. Our role is to teach students how to spot perspectives through context and draw their own conclusions based on facts. This skill is what makes not just a good historian, but a great citizen. Evaluating the world and the policies that impact our lives through an unbiased narrative is nearly impossible. Teaching students how to maintain their own beliefs, while also educating themselves with facts and truths is far from indoctrination. Instead, it is the foundation of a true democracy. Our republic is made up of diverse cultures, lifestyles, and needs. Raising a voting population that can make change for their communities while respecting the various opinions and preferences of other citizens is what makes a democracy free and fair. When teaching tough subjects such as religion, slavery, and civil rights, have students follow up the lesson with reflection. Depending on the classroom environment, it may be good to have a discussion so that students can hear and learn from each other’s perspectives. In some cases, it may be beneficial to have students write down their beliefs and receive unbiased feedback from the teacher to ensure that they understand the content while knowing that their views are validated and safe in the classroom.

Photo by Ivan Bertolazzi:

As policies in schools change, students do not always have the context. By pointing out instances in history where similar changes have occurred, showing the verbiage of standards and indicators, and creating discussion in the classroom about policy that impacts students directly, they are practicing this critical thinking skill.  By questioning the “why” behind literary policy in our social studies classrooms, students can come to their own conclusions based on the facts and their personal beliefs. This may look like having students recall a previous reading from a social studies or ELA class and having them reflect on the overall message of the author. Then, students can share with a partner what they found and try to spot context – why the author thought the message would be important. Lastly, students can analyze the impact if that message was never received. For example, if George Orwell’s 1984 was never written, would there still be people who believed that the government was completely trustworthy? Why would it matter to question the government? Where do we see examples in history where questioning the government has created change? How might the world be different if governments were never doubted or challenged? Our curriculum may be judged and altered to fit the new narrative of society, but it does not have to be a hindrance. We are always living in history; the context just looks a bit different.

Davis, W. (1925). Tennessee v. John T. Scopes [Black and White Photographic Print]. Smithsonian Institution Archives.

Schools have been at the forefront of societal change several times in United States history. Challenging separate but equal through Brown v. Board of Education, questioning religious influence in curriculum with the Scopes Trial, or providing equal opportunities regardless of gender with Title IX, schools have been an environment for questioning society and legislation as the new generation learns about the world that they live in. Having schools targeted and subdued for speaking true history is not a new phenomenon, and it is not a purely American phenomenon. That does not make the changes and adapting any less scary for educators, but it does follow a pattern. Studying history helps us learn from patterns, so don’t panic. Instead, acknowledge the signs of the times, and help your students connect the dots for themselves just like you have been doing all along.   

Tori Young is a high school social studies teacher in Anderson, South Carolina. She is currently working on her Master’s in Instructional Design and Learning Technology at Anderson University.

Cover Image CC0


A Case for Music as Mentor Text Across the Disciplines

This post is written by Melissa Wrenn. You can learn more about Melissa at the bottom of this post.

In recent years, I became a music student. I don’t mean in the way I took piano lessons through middle and high school, but something else. I study the craft—the process of writing songs, creating music, publishing, etc. This is a multi-genre effort. I have watched documentaries about Eric Clapton, Linda Ronstadt, Christopher Wallace (The Notorious B.I.G.), The Avett Brothers, Jason Isbell, Tina Turner, Joan Jett, Tupac Shakur, Bob Dylan, Taylor Swift, Selena Gomez, The Bee Gees, and countless others. I couldn’t even begin to count the hours I have invested in listening to podcasts about music development and music history. I follow the paths of the writers, the producers, the record labels, and the ranking process, not just the artists. In short, I am a student of the discipline.

Music offers classroom teachers powerful tools for foundational literacy skills when used as a mentor text for writing (e.g., rhyme, figurative language, genre, tone, mood, word choice) and reading (e.g., fluency, author’s purpose, inference). As a discipline, music can also be used to teach students about community, belonging, history, and advocacy. I vividly remember getting a set of CDs with the new social studies curriculum that my district adopted when I was a fifth-grade teacher. The CDs had songs that were written at various points in history and included diverse perspectives and voices.  As I explored the things I could do with them, I began to integrate the CDs into my literacy lessons. Thus, I found that music was a way to help students make abstract ideas more concrete and to say things they didn’t know that they also had the power to say. This shouldn’t be surprising, as adults use music for the same reasons, which can be heard in music across genres or seen in any music documentary.

The most recent documentary I watched was Jelly Roll: Save Me1, which aired on May 30, 2023, via Hulu. In this documentary, I saw one of the most transformative disciplinary literacy practices I have seen or heard about in my extensive music studies. Jelly Roll donated $400,000 to be used for youth projects, including music studios at the juvenile detention center, where he spent several years of his adolescence2. In the documentary, Jelly Roll talks about the detention center’s proximity to the music industry, and the importance of supporting young people on the path to success instead of returning them to the streets without skills. Music speaks to people of all ages, including those who are creating, sharing, and consuming music within the prison system.

The same can be said for people who are experiencing the push and pull factors of other forms of trauma. Tina Turner3 and Nina Simone4 repeatedly performed immediately following domestic violence. In a 1985 documentary, John Bailey5, captured Amir Mohammad’s experiences of creating, sharing, and consuming music as an Afghan refugee. More recently, Amanda Shires6 explored the trauma that she experienced, which became the lyrics for the song, “Cover Me Up,” which was written by her husband, Jason Isbell. This song was re-recorded by Morgan Wallen, and his album with the song about Amanda Shires’ trauma spent more than 100 weeks on the Billboard charts7. There are probably as many examples of this type of relationship between the impact of trauma and music as there are artists.

For classroom teachers, elevating music as a discipline for students to use when sharing their experiences and knowledge may be a powerful, yet under-utilized tool. When I was a fifth-grade teacher, I had a student who needed support with reading, and he was a devout Avett Brothers’ fan. He had worked so hard and made so much progress that I reached out to the Avett Brothers’ manager (you can literally find anything online). About a week later, Grammy-award winning Seth Avett recorded a special, encouraging message for my student, who had developed fluency by reading Avett Brothers’ lyrics.

So, as we are all reeling from the COVID recovery and other global and local tensions surrounding what education means, Jelly Roll serves as a disciplinary literacy model. He illustrates the connection between industry and community in the acts of creating, sharing, and consuming music. His efforts to build the musical disciplinary literacy capacity of youth who are incarcerated, those who may be at their lowest points, and those struggling with mental health, addiction, and more, highlights what one needs to be successful, and sometimes that starts with someone who gives us the tools and models to help us tell our stories in the discipline that speaks to our hearts.


  1. Pearlman, B. (Director). (2023). Jelly Roll: Save me. [Documentary]. Hulu.
  2. Newman, M. (2023, June 1). From prison to no. 1: Nashville rising star proves that ‘losers can win.’ Billboard.
  3. Lindsay, D., & Martin, T. J. (Directors). (2021). Tina. [Documentary]. Home Box Office.
  4. Garbus, L. (Director). (2015). What happened, Miss Simone? [Documentary]. Netflix.
  5. Bailey, J. (Director). (1985). Amir: An Afghan refugee musician’s life in Peshawar, Pakistan [Documentary]. Documentary Educational Resources.
  6. Jones, S. (Director). (2023). Jason Isbell: Running with our eyes closed. [Documentary] Home Box Office.
  7. O’Connell, M. (2023, January 8). Two years ago: Morgan Wallen releases record-breaking ‘Dangerous: The Double Album.” Country Now.

Melissa Wrenn, PhD, NBCT

Melissa has been an educator for over 20 years. She is a faculty member at East Carolina University in the Elementary Education and Middle Grades Education Department; she studies disciplinary literacy, teacher education, and classroom discourse. Melissa is also a fan of great documentaries and great coffee.

Cover Photo by Erik Mclean on Unsplash


Utilizing Disciplinary Literacy Mentor Texts

Literacy in the Disciplines, 6-12 (LiD) is pleased to announce our next webinar.

One of the greatest challenges secondary educators face is supporting students as they navigate challenging disciplinary texts. In this webinar, we make the case that being more intentional with selecting mentor texts aligned to meaningful disciplinary purposes. We will clarify our definition of “text”, consider what it means to apprentice students into the disciplinary text, and define a process for intentional text selection in service of a problem frame. Resources will be provided to support the application in participants’ contexts.

This webinar was held on June 15 2023. Cost: Free. LiD6-12 is funded by the South Carolina Middle Grades Initiative.

The video for this webinar is available here or embedded below.

This webinar featured Jenelle Williams, Oakland Schools, Michigan.

Jenelle Williams is a Literacy Consultant at
Oakland Schools, Michigan. She joined
the organization in 2017 following 18 years
of experience in public schools at the
elementary, middle, and high school
levels. She has served as a classroom
teacher, International Baccalaureate
Middle Years Programme Coordinator, IB
Educator and Examiner, and adjunct
professor. Jenelle recently stepped into
the position of co-editor of the Michigan
Reading Journal. She holds an Education
Specialist in Leadership and a Master’s
degree in Reading and Language Arts.
Jenelle works with teachers, building
leaders, and central office administrators
throughout Michigan as Co-Chair of the
statewide Disciplinary Literacy Task Force.

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