In this post, I’ve shared a few of my favorite ways to teach reading and writing through social studies and science content.
In all my years teaching and working with teachers, I’ve never once heard a teacher say that it was easy to teach all standards within the year. Trust me, I’m not judging. In fact, I’m a lifetime member of the I Don’t Have Time Club.
Our reality is that we don’t have enough hours in our school day or enough days in our school year to teach everything for deep understanding and mastery. This is one of the many reasons it’s so important for teachers to integrate as much as possible.
Answering Explicit Questions
In Reading Unit 1, students spend an entire week learning to answer explicit questions. This is a fundamental skill that is essential for students to master. In the unit, there are reading passages and comprehension questions for students. However, I highly recommend replacing those passages with texts that are related to what you’re teaching in social studies or science.
- Social Studies-I love using Studies Weekly for students’ informational text. Students can use a paper copy of the newspaper or a digital version. When tailoring the lessons to meet reading standards, you can quickly write your own explicit questions that are directly from specific articles.
- Science-I absolutely LOVE the Kids Discover magazines for teaching science. There is a huge range of topics, and the magazines are also available digitally. Once again, I write my own text dependent questions from the articles.
- There are plenty of other options if you don’t have access to either of these resources. You can even use old textbooks. I try to have plenty of nonfiction books in my classroom library, but this type of task is much easier when students read the same text, so you can be very intentional about the types of questions that are asked.
I like to have students highlight where they found their answers in the passages. This can be done digitally or with a highlighter. The only problem I’ve run into is with my magazines. Since I reuse those, I don’t want anything permanently highlighted. I JUST discovered erasable highlighters! I plan to test them out over the school year, and I’ll be sure to let you know if they work.
You can also give students bookmarks with a color-coding guide so students can color-code their answers. You can download that bookmark here. You may find that the color coding helps keep students a little more focused on the task.
Interactive notebooks are another amazing way to integrate reading with social studies and science. I always liked using my Social Studies Interactive Notebook, but I didn’t particularly enjoy using up class time for cutting and pasting, and it did eat into my copy limits. However, when I shifted to a digital notebook, that changed everything! It’s so much faster to prepare and for students to complete, so you have more class time. Plus, you don’t have to worry about prep or supplies.
Through the interactive notebook, students can apply what they’ve learned in reading. This is a little more challenging than the explicit questions above, because students will need to read and locate answers from a variety of places within a text. It’s not quite as word-for-word, but that allows students to take their reading comprehension to the next level.
One of the best parts to using the digital version of the interactive notebooks, is that you can link informational texts to each individual page. You can get a free version of the state research page here.
Students can click on the icons to be taken related books on GetEpic. If you don’t already use that site, please check it out! It’s amazing! If you want to assign different books or different video clips, that’s totally editable. Just type in what you’re looking for, and there’s almost always a huge selection to choose from.
Regardless of how you use the interactive notebooks, it’s a great way to allow students to apply informational reading strategies.
Once students have a solid grasp on informational reading standards, paired passages are a great way to teach text students to respond to an informational text, compare and contrast technical writing, and integrate information.
One great resource for this are these Science Paired Passages. Students read two passages that are based on the same general concept. For example, one passage may be on stars, while the other passage is about the Moon. Students complete word work for each passage by circling prefixes, suffixes, homophones, synonyms, or antonyms. Students also use context clues to determine the meaning of more technical words.
The students answer three text dependent questions for both passages. This is in a multiple choice format.
Students then answer questions about the text structure and nonfiction text features for each passage. The following questions have students identify the main idea from a paragraph in each passage. You can see below how this is can also be completed digitally. Students can type directly on the Google Slides.
Finally, students answer to extended response questions. The types of questions require students to integrate text from both passages.
These paired passages review all of the informational reading standards, so I don’t try to use these early in the school year. I also would not recommend trying to complete an entire set in just one class period. That would be a lot for students.
One great way to improve students’ reading fluency is through reader’s theater, so why not incorporate social studies and science!? I’m always on the look out for reader’s theater scripts that can correlate with my social studies and science. I’ve found some sets on Teachers Pay Teachers, as well as Teacher Created Materials.
My favorite resources for fluency practice and reading homework are my fluency passages that integrate with common third and fourth grade social studies and science topics. The fluency passages have made a tremendous impact on my students’ reading fluency, and I love the fact that my students are also reading information that we are studying in social studies and science. These passages are what my students take home as homework to read to their parents, or adult, every night.
I only assign the repeated reading homework to students who need to work on fluency, because I don’t want to overly encourage excessive speed reading, where students blaze through a passage and have no idea what they read. I emphasize all year that we read for meaning. I check students’ cold read of the passage on Monday morning, and then they are to read the passage out loud to an adult three times a day Monday through Thursday and record the number of words read per minute. I reassess students to Friday, and they are always so amazed by their progress.
While I still make teaching social studies and science a priority, these strategies are so helpful when it comes to saving time and combining subjects and standards!