Strategies To Teach Reading Comprehension In A Social Studies Classroom

Bryn Bonino
4 min readJan 8, 2019

I think back to my first years as a social studies teacher, and I have so many wonderful memories. Though, as I referenced in my last article, my 11th-grade students, on average, read at a 4th-grade level. This meant that there was an all-hands-on-deck initiative amongst all academic departments to teach reading comprehension skills. I got the feeling that I needed more training as a reading teacher, so I did some investigating. In this post, I address some of the strategies that I used successfully and some resources that I’ve recently researched.

Vocabulary To Scaffold Knowledge

It is pretty magical what happens when a lesson scaffolds what students need to know. The learning seems effortless, and the results can be big. One way that reading can be scaffolded is by building student’s vocabulary base before they tackle a lesson. I like to have students find visual representations of vocabulary words so that they can come “alive” beyond what text can do. A gallery walk can be used to get students chatting about vocabulary. I described gallery walks in this post on language learning. Another strategy for teaching vocabulary, referenced in this article by Amy Menzi, is teaching the roots of words so that students can relate a word to something they already know. Making connections to previous knowledge helps with every academic area.

Teach How To Read Like A Historian

Any time students can read primary sources, this gives them practice in identifying bias and propaganda. This is valuable for understanding present-day society, and is the crux of the curriculum called Reading Like A Historian, designed by the Stanford History Education Group. With this, and similar materials, students can analyze posters, speeches, and newspapers for point of view and underlying messages. This type of lesson, and investigating primary documents usually engages students because of the strong applications to real life. This also allows students to see the complexities beyond the surface of any secondary source.

Close Reading Process

As Amy Menzi explains, close reading is a process that most students become familiar with in elementary school…

Bryn Bonino

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