Effective Reading Scaffolding Strategies for Social Studies

Teresa Morrison
Teresa Morrison
8 Nov
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With the ever-increasing rigor and expectations in reading and comprehending expository text across all grade levels, many teachers often feel overwhelmed when trying to teach content to their striving readers. So, what’s a hard working and dedicated teacher to do? Try a few scaffolding strategies, of course!

When we first think of the word “scaffolding,” what immediately comes to mind? Whether or not you are an educator, you may first think of construction scaffolding–tall ladders and structures outside of buildings to help construction workers safely access and mediate high and seemingly dangerous areas. Without those construction scaffolds, their work might be impossible! Just as construction workers have scaffolds to help them gain access high areas, educators can also employ (educational) scaffolds to help their students gain access to social studies content.

Request a sample of Pearson High School Social Studies today.

Let’s explore a few effective ways that a social studies teacher (YOU!) can impact the lives of her/his striving students by helping them mediate their text through reading scaffolds. It is imperative that you use the gradual release of responsibility (I do, we do, you do) when implementing any type of new strategy with students.

  1. Pre-teach Vocabulary: By frontloading domain specific vocabulary before you begin a new chapter or lesson, you are helping students preview potentially challenging words and terminology. Then, when they see the word/s in their text, they’ll have an understanding of its/their meaning. Pre-teaching vocabulary might include creating word cards with each word printed on one card (pronounce each word for students, have students sound out the words and pronounce them with you, discuss known word parts, make predictions, create student-friendly definitions, place the word cards in a bag and have students draw one and pantomime what the word means {kinesthetic muscle memory and visual}); and providing pictures or illustrations that exemplify the word. You can also encourage students to draw their own pictures for key terms that are vital to their understanding of the word. Students can reference and practice their words via the word cards during and after reading, as well.
  1. Chunk Text: Full chapters and page long text in thick textbooks can often intimidate striving or reluctant readers. Help students better manage the text that they are reading, by chunking the text into smaller amounts of reading. You can easily chunk by paragraphs or columns. Model for students how to use a marker or a plain sheet of paper to block out the text on the page that they aren’t reading. This helps students to retain their focus as they are reading the chunked text. Reading a little bit of text, then checking for understanding through a quick comprehension, connection or reflection question along the way aids in overall retention and successful completion of reading tasks.
  1. Graphic Organizers: Who doesn’t love a great graphic organizer? Using graphic organizers are effective tools to help students organize their thinking and “hold their thinking” while reading, summarizing or planning for writing assignments or project-based learning and activities. When you first introduce a graphic organizer, it is often helpful to fill in a few of the areas for students and leave other areas on the organizer blank for students to complete. This is scaffolding at its best!

Keep in mind that reading scaffolds, just like in construction, should be temporary. The whole point in using them is to provide help, guidance and structure. But, in order for our students to flex and build strong their reading comprehension muscles, those scaffolds should be slowly pulled away so that our students are self sufficient in their learning and achievement.

What are some ways that you’ve been able to help support your students’ learning through effective reading scaffolding strategies?

Request a sample of Pearson High School Social Studies today.

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