Reading Strategies That WorkOver the years, teachers have developed a number of strategies to help students overcome the difficulties associated with reading social studies text. The following techniques are part of the best practices of many classrooms.
- Demonstrate How to Use Helpful Features of Expository Text Many students fail to use expository text features that promote understanding and learning. Draw students' attention to helpful features, and model how to use them. For example, you might show a class how to use chapter titles, overviews, and headings to determine main ideas, make predictions about content, and set specific purposes for reading. If study questions are interpolated within the text, encourage students to use them to monitor their comprehension of a section of text. If questions are at the end of the entire text, discuss the questions in class before students read the text.
- Provide Advance Organizers Certain patterns of organization are key to understanding expository text. Those patterns include cause and effect, problem and solution, comparison and contrast, and descending order of importance. Before giving a reading assignment, determine which structure is key. Then provide an "advance organizer" by defining the structure in class. On the board, list common "signal words" that provide clues to the structure. (For example, point out that cause-and-effect relationships are often signaled by words like because, consequently, and as a result.) Finally, distribute copies of an appropriate graphic organizer and direct students to use it to take reading notes. You could also organize students into post-reading groups and direct group members to complete the graphic organizer together.
- Use Word Webs and Word Walls to Teach Vocabulary Before students encounter an unfamiliar term in text, distribute copies of a word web with these labels: "what ____ means," "what ____ is like," "examples of ____." Define the term and give examples of how it is used. Together with students, begin filling in the blanks in the word web. Then direct students to continue filling in blanks on the web when they encounter the word in the content of a reading assignment. Follow up by creating a word wall. Post students' webs on a classroom bulletin board, or have students create other types of visual aids that help make abstract concepts concrete, such as montages of magazine pictures that relate to the concept.
- Use Role Plays and K-W-L Charts to Activate Prior Knowledge Before students encounter an unfamiliar term or concept in print, have them role-play a situation that will help them connect the concept to familiar experiences. For example, to teach treaty, compromise, or arbitration, have students role-play situations in which family members who disagree use different techniques to resolve disputes. As an alternative, complete a KWL chart with your class.