An analysis of writing assignments in selected history textbooks for grades seven and eleven
Current research in English/language arts advocates the incorporation of writing in content areas across the curriculum as a means of learning content as well as a means of evaluating content mastery. Focusing on the content area of social studies and acknowledging the importance of the text as a teaching tool, this study examined to what degree and in what manner selected social studies textbooks incorporated writing. Texts selected for the study were nationally published history textbooks which had been adopted for use in the state of Virginia at grades seven and eleven, where the teaching of United States history is mandated in Virginia.
Accompanying the basal textbook as a primary tool of instruction is the complementary teacher manual or guide. Using Britton’s categories for functions of writing (i.e., Expressive, Transactional and Poetic) and Donlan’s four categories of writing particular to the social studies (i.e., Reporting, Exposition, Narration and Argumentation), an analysis was made of writing assignments offered via selected social studies textbooks and their accompanying teacher manuals. Text packages selected for the study reflected those U.S. history texts adopted for use in Virginia at grades seven and eleven.
The treatment of writing in the selected textbook packages was examined to determine the reflection of current research and theory in the area of composition. Findings paralleled the national Applebee study of 1981 finding that most writing required in secondary schools was of a Transactional nature, most often requiring students to report or explain information, seldom requiring creative writing as with Narration. Moreover, examination of state and national social studies professional journals revealed relatively little support in instructing social studies educators on how to include writing in this content area.