Don’t you wish there was one reading strategy that would unlock the secret to reading comprehension? In a perfect world, there would be – but instead, we teachers continuously strive to find and learn new ways to help our 3rd-grade students improve their reading comprehension. In the absence of that one reading strategy, I have found a few activities that work for most of my students, especially when reading Social Studies content.
Table of Contents
One of the ways that I have found helps my students when reading Social Studies content is to pre-teach the vocabulary. Vocabulary can be a huge stumbling block for young readers. It’s hard to comprehend what the author wants us to know when we don’t understand important vocabulary. This post shares how I pre-teach vocabulary with a Civics and Government text in guided reading.
Use Close Reading Strategies
I’m a massive fan of using close reading strategies with Social Studies text. Giving students specific strategies helps them understand their purpose for reading the text. In the post, How to Use Close Reading Strategies with Social Studies Text, I share the steps I use to prep my students for their 1st reading of the text. These include:
- Setting a purpose for reading
- Using guiding questions
- Circling Unknown Vocabulary
- Getting the Gist
2nd Reading Comprehension Strategies
When my students are reading a complex text like Social Studies, multiple readings make a big difference in reading comprehension. That’s why I like to set up students for the 2nd reading with a different set of guiding questions that help them understand the topic deeper.
The first read is designed to help students get the gist by taking notes and asking questions. The second read is focused on what the author wants the reader to know about the topic. As with the first reading, my students must use a pencil and jot notes and underline essential details. Being an active reader makes a difference!
Check for Understanding – Reading Comprehension
Of course, we want to know if our students have comprehended the text after reading it. One of the best ways I have found is to ask open-ended questions that require students to use text evidence to answer. (I save the multiple-choice questions for quizzes!)
The questions I use for this purpose are reading skill-based for the most part. Here are a few examples:
- What is the main idea of this text?
- Which text features does the author use and why?
- What is the author’s point of view about….?
I also include content-specific questions:
- What are the steps a citizen must take in order to vote?
- In what paragraphs does the author explain who reviews the laws?
- Why did the founding fathers establish the three branches of government?
Citing Text Evidence
One of the best ways I have found to help students with reading comprehension is to include text evidence in their answers. This way, they eliminate the guessing but also learn to use the text as a source of information they need.
Here is an example of a student using text evidence:
In this example, the student uses a sentence starter or frame to refer to the text evidence. This gives students a way to explain where they found the information and that it is text evidence – NOT their opinion.
If you need a FREE resource to teach students how to cite text evidence, click here to get this reference chart.
Although there is no magic reading comprehension strategy, we can pre-teach vocabulary, set a purpose for reading, and require multiple readings to help most readers. Add to that checking for understanding using open-ended questions, and I know you will see improved reading comprehension, especially with Social Studies text.
If you want more details about the first two blog posts I mentioned above – here are the links:
CLICK HERE to see the Social Studies Civics and Government Close Reading Pack resource used in this post.