Excavation & Elevation

In our book, Social Studies as New Literacies in a Global Society, we introduced two metaphors – excavation and elevation – that we thought were useful for using inquiry in classrooms. When working with information sources or texts of any kind, excavation includes getting students to “dig in” to do careful analysis, interpretation, and evaluation of source content while elevation points to the need for students to consider the broader contexts of the source’s production, dissemination, and consumption.

Excavation involves strategies like predicting, visualizing, asking questions, determining main ideas, making inferences, summarizing, evaluating claims and evidence, distinguishing fact from opinion and specific details from generalizations, identifying inconsistencies in a text, detecting errors in reasoning or logic, and discerning the credibility of a source. Excavation strategies also involve critical investigations of a text, such as identifying included and omitted perspectives and identifying techniques authors, illustrators, and web designers employ to influence readers (e.g., loaded words, use of images, etc.).

Elevation situates a text in broader contexts. These include the disciplinary, cultural, historical, ideological, social, and economic contexts that shape the ways a text or collection of texts is produced, distributed, and consumed by readers. Carmen Luke (2003) helps capture elevation practices, describing how this kind of reading entails developing “connection codes” that help us see or understand a particular text in relationship to one’s own beliefs, values, and knowledge, to other texts and ideas, to different contexts, and to different disciplines and genres. Elevation also has readers consider how and why different people might be affected by the text (e.g., who benefits, who is marginalized, etc.) or find the text compelling for particular reasons.

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