Integrating the Content Areas and Reading

There is a lot of push and shove these days for Math and Literacy over the content areas of Science and Social Studies. I have refused to cut them out like some teachers have been forced or "urged" to do. This is one of my favorite things to teach and so I have found ways to keep them in my daily plans.

One thing I have been doing for this Science Unit on Animal Adaptations is using the textbook to teach all about text features. We discussed headings, subheading, pictures, captions, diagrams, etc... We filled out a text feature chart as we read through the section and wrote how that text feature does for us while we are reading. Here is the chart we used. You can adapt it however you want. You can also choose to discuss the table of contents, index, and glossary.

Another activity you can do is use the textbook to help students learn how to summarize. Teach students to pick out the most important word or words in each sentence and write those down. I would start with short paragraphs that students already have a good knowledge about to help scaffold their learning of the strategy. Then move to the textbook and do small sections. After they have written down the heart of each sentence, have them use the words to summarize that part.

This strategy takes a lot of work and practice. I wanted to give up after the first couple of times, but I promise you that the practice will pay off and be worth the wait. My third graders were experts at this by the end of last year. Once they have mastered doing a single paragraph, have them practice with multiple paragraphs. Teach them to pick out the most important words or ideas from each paragraph and then use those to summarize the main idea of each paragraph. There is no miracle amount of time that it takes. One day, it will just make more sense. Have them continually turn to a partner and summarize using the important phrases. I model alot and do it with them alot at first. Then, turn it over to them and let them start working on it.

You can also have students work on their ability to ask questions while they are reading. Many of you are probably familiar with the QAR model for questions. This model says that there are four types of questions you can ask. Here is the breakdown.

As students are reading, model asking questions and then have students try. I always like to start with Right There questions because they are the easiest. Teach one type of question at a time so they don't get overwhelmed. Once they have mastered one type, then move on the next. Here is a bookmark I give my students to use whenever we are reading to help them ask questions. It has great prompts for each type of question.

Of course these aren't the only things I do to teach the content. We do experiments and other fun stuff as well. But I think Science and Social Studies lend themselves well to learning strategies for reading. The material is also often more interesting than reading nonfiction from basal reading texts. There are tons of fun fictional stories that you can find to go along with whatever content subject you are learning about.


  1. These are all excellent teaching practices and I wish more teachers would use them! It's not fair to science and social studies to cut them out!!

  2. We use these same four question types in sixth grade to really parse out what's being asked in the way of a response. For some students, they absolutely need this discrete examination of questioning in order to answer well.

    Good thoughts!


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