Techbook Articles, Reading Comprehension, and the Factors Factor in Social Studies

Ever noticed that some students struggle with the Social Studies vocabulary of “factors?”  Or is just me who has quit assuming that kids just get this crossover term from math? Last week, I did something different that might become a new format. Last week we explored What it meant to practice one of the monotheistic faiths.  This week we used Techbook Reading Passages to delve deeper into a student’s question–”Why did people gravitate to religions like Judaism, Christianity, and Islam?”   Not a bad question to study for a week–What factors contribute to a  new faith becoming a World Religion? I allowed the students to choose from four Techbook Reading Passages…Life of Paul, Constantine’s Conversion, Life of Muhammad, and Christianity and the Roman Empire.  We performed a close, read, wrote section-by-section summaries, and then presented in a “30 Second Expert” format.  The whole goal was to explore ways in which religions become more popular…not that I forced the question…we just did some Exploring and Explaining about the  content of the articles. For Elaboration,  I had the students create game cards for board game called the “Symbol on the Hill.”  (Our town has a mesa with a forty foot cross on it…so our kids could get the idea of a board game where the goal is for a religion to work its way up to the top of the hill.)  I told the student to work in groups with students who had read different articles.  The goal was to create lists of factors that helped religions become more or less popular.    I told them to make a list based on their articles, and put them in the “spin cycle” to take out all of the Proper Nouns.  We created lists of verbs–and then I gave them a Mad Lib style list of persons places and things for the setting. It took us two class periods to warm up and read, another to explain and start on a list of factors from the article.  Then in two days we made game cards, changed seats and played the games of our classmates.  We had fun–and we’re going to get an artist so we can compile our best cards and share this game online. After playing our classmates’ games, we shared positive feedback and constructive criticism on our classmates’ game boards…