Curious Teaching
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Curious Teaching

5 Ways Social Studies Teachers Can Support Reading Comprehension in the Classroom

Photo by Santi Vedrí on Unsplash


  • Teach learners how to deal with unfamiliar words by using context clues, the dictionary, or prefixes and suffixes.
  • Encourage learners to regularly circle, highlight, or underline unknown words. Have them demonstrate that they learned the definitions of the words in order to ensure they understand the sentences in which the terms appear.
  • Tailor vocabulary quizzes and assessments to terms that learners have identified as difficult.

Previewing Texts

  • Teach learners to preview texts by noting the title and any subheads, reading the introductory paragraph, scanning any pull-quotes or vocabulary terms, and looking at any images or graphics. Help learners get in the habit of thinking through what type of text they will be reading and predicting what it is likely to teach them before they actually start reading.

Main Ideas

  • Many learners have a “skip and skim” approach to texts. When given a text, they immediately skip to the questions at the end of the document, and then skim the text to find keywords they think will help them answer the questions. When learners do this, they often fail to grasp the overall purpose or meaning of the text.
  • One way to combat this is to ask learners to identify the thesis or topic sentence for the entire text, or for particular paragraphs. When learners can successfully accomplish this, you can have confidence they understood what they read.


  • Another way to ensure learners actually digest what they read is to ask them to summarize the facts, main point, or argument in a specific text. This will give them practice discerning the main ideas of texts, and it will help you to notice if they are missing the point.


  • When asking comprehension or critical thinking questions about a text, ask learners to specifically cite evidence from the text that supports their answer. Have them cite the evidence by paragraph number, circling the evidence, or quoting it. This can help learners get in the habit of engaging the text deeply. It also gives them practice backing up their assertions in meaningful ways.



Curious Teaching is a blog by Jared Kaltwasser, a longtime journalist who in 2016 traded in his notebook for a gradebook and became a teacher (and a blogger). He currently teaches middle school Social Studies and ELA at the Best School in the State and the Nation.

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