Third-grade students are caught between learning to read and reading to learn when they start the school year. By mid-year, we need to move them into reading to learn because now they must learn important and complex Social Studies content. One way to bridge that gap is to teach Social Studies content in guided reading groups.
This is one of my favorite ways to teach and interact with students! There is something special about small group reading instruction that bonds teachers and students. Not only that, in my opinion, it is the ideal way to teach reading. If you want to differentiate reading instruction – guided reading groups are the easiest and most effective way to do it.
Using Social Studies passages as your non-fiction guided reading content can help you cover essential concepts and critical reading standards.
So, what do Social Studies reading lessons look like?
Where to Start: Social Studies Vocabulary
With complex content such as Social Studies, vocabulary can be a big obstacle for students – especially English Language Learners. That is where I start the lesson.
In this lesson, I am using this Social Studies passage called Purpose of Government.
The first thing I do is pull out the vocabulary that I want to pre-teach. Knowing the content vocabulary is key to reading comprehension, which is the ultimate goal for this lesson. In the text set that I am using: Civics and Government, there is a lot of vocabulary for students to learn, so this may take 2 days of my lesson. But if we want them to succeed with non-fiction – vocabulary instruction is essential.
The vocabulary words for this lesson are:
- Preamble (this is a content specific word that I will explictly teach)
Steps for Pre-teaching Vocabulary
Step 1: Introduce the vocabulary words. After showing the word to my students, I ask if anyone thinks they know what the word means. Getting students talking about words activates prior knowledge. I post the words on my bulletin board so that we can revisit them all week.
Step 2: I choose one of the words that I consider easier or more recognizable for my students to model with a vocabulary map. In this case, I think most students know and understand what the word “rules” means.
Step 3: I model filling out the vocabulary map using the word “rules”.
- Write what you think the word means: model thinking aloud what you think the word means to you
- Draw a picture: this cannot be overestimated. Kids express their thoughts best in pictures. It’s a highly effective way for them to define the word to themselves.
- Look up the word in a dictionary to check the meaning.
- Give examples and non-examples
Step 4: Next, I coach them as they fill out the graphic organizer for the word “law”.
Step 5: Finally, I put students in pairs to complete a vocabulary map together for the words “government” and “services”.
Many times these activities take more than one session, so I just continue the next day. I don’t rush the process because it’s going to pay off for students when they begin reading the passage.
Vocabulary Practice in Literacy Centers
During the week that I am pre-teaching these words, I place these vocabulary cards in a center along with vocabulary maps. Working with these words throughout the week will strengthen my student’s vocabulary muscles and cement them into long-term memory.
Here are some ideas for using these vocabulary cards:
- Play a game of matching the vocabulary word with the definition
- Play a game of Concentration
- Students draw pictures
- Have students quiz each other
- Brainstorm synonyms and antonyms
- Use the words in sentences
Doing vocabulary activities is how I begin guided reading lessons with Social Studies content. In my next two posts, I share how I use close reading strategies to help students read and comprehend complex non-fiction text.
The resource I’m using in this lesson is:
Grab this Civics and Government resource if you need Social Studies content for your guided reading group lessons.