The Literary Thematic Approach, linked with social studies content standards, and coupled with the child development philosophy, to build on a child's prior knowledge base, is a good thing. Every student brings some powerful ability and varied learning style to the classroom. Integration of subject matter, collaborative learning, and organized investigative methods are all processes to help children assimilate information. This is seen clearly when students' reflection on books about slavery and the Civil War causes them to reflect on their own being as it relates to historical knowledge. Major elements in any literature/language arts program are that children are listening to books being read to them, reading good books themselves, talking about them, and writing about them. Whenever a classroom is rich in printed material and lots of talk is going on, rewards are plentiful to all children. Those who can orally express themselves but find reading a laborious task have wonderful things to say in a discussion group when the reading is shared.
As children develop methods for ascertaining skills to learn, my premise is not to teach them what to believe or think, but how to think. Exploration of literature that evolves around the issues of slavery and Civil War facts develops knowledge and awareness of characters, settings, and events. However, it isn't easy to get them to talk beyond these basics, especially the complacent or reluctant ones. I will present some strategies that have been successful for me in getting kids to talk comfortably with me and other students.