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Given that the question asks about social studies, I am assuming you are looking for reading comprehension strategies at an elementary or middle school level. One of the most common reading comprehension methods employed with social studies is called SQRRR (or SQ3R). It stands for Survey, Question, Read, Review, Recite. The first two steps are pre-reading strategies, the third is the reading strategy, and the final two steps are post-reading strategies. This method is especially effective because it is so adaptable and each step can be employed in a number of creative ways.
A typical elementary or middle school social studies class uses a text book. The following are examples of how a teacher could guide students through SQRRR in one chapter of a social studies text:
- Survey (or skim): read through the section titles aloud; skim through each reading section and look for bold vocabulary words; have students look at pictures (and captions), sidebar information, timelines (if present) and the review questions at the end of the chapter; have students note anything they think they recognize from a previous lesson. This gives students a preview of what they are about to read, peaks interest, and also allows them to make connections to prior knowledge.
- Question: have students form open ended questions based on anything they notice in step one; what are they curious about? Does anything look interesting or confusing? Create a question out of the information from the section title. This trains students to "think like a teacher" or begin to train themselves to notice what is important in a text versus what is not as important; it also helps to focus their reading.
- Read: read through the text, section by section, and seek answers to the open ended questions created; more questions can be created while students read.
- Review: Can be done after each section or at the end of the entire chapter; have students discuss answers to the open ended questions created in step two.
- Recite: students close their books and the teacher (or another student) poses open-ended questions from the chapter, and students recite answers from memory.
You can see how there is certainly room for adapting each step above to be student-directed, teacher-directed, group or individual oriented, oral or written. I like this as a reading comprehension method because it is a simple version of the basic steps involved in outlining, which is a critical organizational skill for high school and college, both in writing and studying.
One pre-reading activity that bodes well with Social Studies is a anticipatory set, where the students can answer questions before--and then after--the lesson. Both the student and the teacher can see the growth of the student.
I also have had succes with "What's My Question?", where you show a picture related to the content and have them ask a "why" or "how" question as a prediction about what the content will be. For example, you might show a picture of the USS Constitution. A student might say, "How did this ship change America?" Another might add, "Why was this ship important to the U.S.?"
A third pre-reading might be to bring in a mystery item (or several) to give hints and have the students predict its importance to the lesson. For example, to intro a unit on Native Americans, you could place a paper bag for each group of students. Inside the bag, you could have a mixture of items and pictures, different ones for each group. Some items could be feathers, a piece of leather, pictures of wigwams, teepees, long houses, different clothing items. You would let the groups explore the bags and discuss. After the lesson, let them discuss again to review learning. The next day, you could bring the bags out again to activate prior knowledge.
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