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Ways to Teach Reading in Social Studies

Your time as a classroom teacher is limited. You want your students to learn everything they possibly can in your social studies curriculum, but you want them to be able to read and apply their knowledge as well. Reading comprehension skills are necessary in every subject area including social studies. These ways to teach reading in social studies will not only maximize your time in class but also help your learners apply reading skills in all content areas!

Go on a Comprehension Quest

What is a Comprehension Quest? Students read and examine comprehension passages multiple times in order to complete six tasks and "race" to the finish! A little bit of competition helps your students learn and grow as readers and historians! Each quest includes the following:
      • Fill in the Blank Reading Passage
      • Vocabulary Practice
      • Crossword Puzzle
      • Text Marking
      • True or False Word Scramble
      • Summary and Supporting Details Graphic Organizer
      • Student Completion Sheet
      • Teacher Answer Key (when applicable)
      • Teacher Directions
Study American history events perfect for grades 4-8. Although students may complete the comprehension quests independently, I like to use them for friendly competition in pairs or teams to increase engagement. As students complete each task, they will have you do a quick check. Next, they color in the box on the completion sheet and repeat the process for each activity. Comprehension Quests help students practice vocabulary skills, reading in context, comprehension questioning, and summarizing. It's a perfect way to bring reading practice into social studies! Here are some of the comprehension quests your students can go on! Check out all the American History Comprehension Quests to use with your students!

Nonfiction Book Reading

Have your students choose books on a Social Studies topic of their choice. Silent, free reading is proven to increase comprehension! Sometimes you don't even have to have a task involved. Just explore the school library or give your students a list of books to choose from. Here are some American and World History categories for your learners to explore! Let your students read and informally share their nonfiction history books insights during social studies!

Escape Rooms

One of my favorite ways to reinforce and teach reading in Social Studies is with Escape Rooms! What are escape rooms? Escape rooms are a series of puzzles and codes that students must solve after reading reading passages. When they solve the puzzles, they "escape" the room. Each Escape Room requires students to read the comprehension passages in order to solve the puzzle. Passages are differentiated to make sure all learners can participate! Four activities come with each escape room, each including a reading passage and quiz.
      • Cryptogram
      • Maze
      • Cipher
      • Jigsaw
The variety of puzzles help students stay engaged. There are so many topics and units to explore in Social Studies with Escape Rooms! Escape Rooms and other digital breakout activities are a great way to teach reading skills in social studies!

Tagging Text

Even if you are using a required social studies textbook in your classroom, you can help students increase their reading and comprehension skills by encouraging them to interact with the text. Since most schools don't allow students to write in textbooks, give your learners some sticky notes and have them mark up the sections as they read.
You can make your own symbols or have the students use these:
      • ! = Surprising
      • * = important
      • Circle = words I don't know
      • X = contradicts something I thought I knew
      • ? = a question I have
      • ?? = I don't understand this!
Tagging text is a great way to monitor understanding as students read. I even use it as an adult! Try this technique out with your students.

Integrate Interactive Nonfiction Activities

There are so many ways to bring reading instruction to the forefront of social studies class! Use interactive nonfiction activities to make reading an active rather than passive endeavor! In addition to Comprehension Quests and escape rooms, your students can explore other puzzles, ciphers, interactive notebooks and presentations, Boom cards, and more! Check out cool ways to make nonfiction interactive. Teaching reading in social studies should be a natural pairing, but it doesn't have to be the standard taught by the textbook. Use games, competition, and ways to interact with the text to help your students become strong readers and historians! How do you teach reading in your social studies classroom?
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Grab a Free
Growth Mindset
Escape Room for grades 4-8
and other freebies too!